Picturebooks in ELT

Passionate about picturebooks

Welcome to my blog about picturebooks in ELT.

“A picturebook is text, illustrations, total design; an item of manufacture and a commercial product; a social, cultural, historic document; and foremost, an experience for a child. As an art form it hinges on the interdependence of pictures and words, on the simultaneous display of two facing pages, and on the drama of the turning page.” (Barbara Bader 1976:1)

My intention is to discuss picturebooks, in particular the pictures in them! Why? Because, in ELT we tend to select picturebooks because they contain words our students might know. I plan to write something a couple of times a month, sharing what I discover in my readings; describe new titles I come across; discuss particular illustrators and their styles and generally promote the picture in picturebooks.

From January 2008 to December 2011 I benefitted from a PhD research grant from FCT, in Portugal.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Dogs must be dogs!

I was prompted to write about this picturebook when a friend wrote and told me that the apple pie I had made her as a gift had been eaten by her dog!  Oh yes!  That's happened to me, made something yummy, leave it on the kitchen top and when I get back it's been wolfed: it has happened to birthday cakes, freshly baked loaves of bread, neatly cut cheese waiting to garnish something, cooling pieces of roast meat and whole Portuguese chouriços ready for the pot!  If you have dogs and they are allowed in the kitchen it's what happens! 
Front cover
It's not that dogs want to be bad, they just can't help it, they are dogs and when something smells good, it just has to be eaten!  The dilemma between wanting to be a good dog and following your instincts is the backbone to this wonderful picturebook by Chris Haughton
This is Haughton's second picturebook, I wrote about his first, A bit lost here. Chris Haughton is a designer and a picturebook creator, and this is evident when we look at the picturebook, an object in itself, every single part is to be looked at and read, every bit is there for a reason. Using his distinctive psychedelic palette, purple, pink and orange clash brilliantly on his front cover, with George's black nose weighing down the colours and keeping them together.  George is lovable, round, larger than life, and twice as big as his owner Harris! 
Back cover
... he is loved greatly by both Harry and the cat, as we can see here on the back cover.  It's an important image as George needs to be loved at the end of the book ... 
Front endpapers
The front endpapers give us a stylised vision of Harry's house, and provide a kind of map, for we will see all these areas, surfaces, objects in the following spreads. It's a neat and tidy house, everything in place.  No Harry, no George, just the cat under the table.
Copyright and title page
The copyright and title pages bring us back to the orange colour scheme and show Harry and George, one small the other oversized.  If you have a dog, you will recognize the look on George's face, it's that, "Am I going too look?"   But no ...
Opening 1
Harry is going out and George is staying in. "Will you be good George?" "Yes!", says George, "I'll be very good!".  Harry and George are brightly coloured against a stark white background.  The following page is full coloured again ...
Opening2
A trotting George, who is hoping he can behave!  The alternation between full coloured spread and colour upon white flows through the first half of the book.  
Opening 3
The white background seems to highlight what George sees and thus his dilemma: a brightly coloured cake (and boy it must smell good to a dog!) upon a white background, how could he miss it?  He loves cake, but he said he'd be good... and then the question to the reader in words,"What will George do?" and George himself visibly trying to decide what to do.  The face we saw on the front cover ... a cliff hanger?  a page turner ... why yes, we do want to know what he does don't we?
Opening 4
Back to a full colour spread and a we see George doing the thing we know he should not do.  KIds love it! They gasp, they cry out "George, no!" They cover their eyes or their mouths. Together we can all say, "Oh no, George!" This happens twice more, George sees cat, he loves to play with cat, "What will George do?"; he sees the dirt in the flower pots, he loves to play with dirt, "What will George do?".  We know the answers before we've tuned the pages. Poor George, he just can't help it.  Our rhythmic set of spreads changes and suddenly... 
Harry returns, pleased to see George until he sees what he's been up to.  George is so miserable. 
Opening 10
This great big pink dog, so full of remorse, and the repeated question, "What will George do?"  Dog owners will know... 
Opening 11
And Harry is forgiving, isn't he good?  So off they go for a walk and we are treated to several more spreads, for this picturebook is longer than 32 pages. 
Opening 12
Froliking off into the park, George sees a cake. "Will he eat it?"  No... he runs straight past it!  And past the dirt and pat the cat. What a good boy George is!  But then...
Opening 14
Trash (or rubbish if we come from the UK!), oh my!  George's nose is like an arrow, pointing towards the rubbish bin. George loves digging in trash, and so we are asked that question again, "What will George do?".  Children are shaking their heads they know what George will do, they are calling out and sighing deeply.  They know how difficult it is to be good!
Final verso
But when we turn the page we see that face again and above it the words, "George?"  Has he? Hasn't he?  My kids are convinced he has! But don't close the book yet! The back endpapers ...
Back endpapers
We are taken back to Harry and George's house, but this time everything is over turned and broken... it is the house after George has had a go at the cake, the cat and the plant pots! Can you see that his duck has moved too?  It sort of confirms what happened at the end... George must have gone for the trash can.  "Oh no, George!"

After we've looked at this picturebook once or twice we can ask the children how easy it is not to do something you really want to do!  How do they think George feels and have they ever felt like that?  Controlling impulses is not an easy thing and some 5 or 6 year olds find it very difficult.  Get them to talk about it a bit, even if in their own languages and not English.

A very wonderful picturebook, thank you Mr Haughton, and thank you to Gabriela's dog, who reminded me I had it on my shelf! 

Forgot to mention the Youtube trailer, which is just perfect ... listen out for the sound effects.


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