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, November 15, 2012

Sharing plorringes

Front cover
Norris the bear who shared is a delightful picturebook by Catherine Rayner, where her beautifully crafted illustrations are to drool over. Norris is a big brown bear represented in chunky brush strokes, Violet is a tiny delicate mouse with a pink tail and Tulip is a fidgety raccoon in black, grey and white. They all love plorringes, but there's only one in the plorringe tree. 
From the title and cover of this lovely picturebook we know that Norris shares, we read the words and we see him giving Violet a piece of orange fruit.  If we look on the back cover, the illustration continues ...
Back and front covers
Norris has also given Tulip a piece of the orange fruit.  This is not a story about learning to share, instead it is one about knowing that sharing is part of what we do.  Small children find sharing difficult and Norris shows them that it's easy.  But he also shows them that sometimes we have to wait for good things.
Let's have a look inside... the half-title page shows us a plorringe, no bear, no raccoon, no mouse, just the object of desire.
Half-title page
The font is orange throughout, reflecting the sumptuous colour of the plorringe, which looks like a mango, cuts like an orange and resembles a guava inside. 
Title page
The title page brings our focus back to Norris, big brown Norris: the bear who shared. When we turn the page, the plorringe and Norris are together for the first time.
Opening 1
Norris stretches across the spread, as though sniffing the fruit.  "Norris was wise..."  he knew that if he waited the fruit would fall.  So he waited. 
Opening 3
Tulip and Violet weren't quite so wise, "They clambered closer to the plorringe and gazed at it.  It looked delicious."  Norris just waited. 
The next spreads use the senses to describe the plorringe. Tulip and Violet sniffed it. "It smelt of honey and sunny days." Norris waited. Tulip and Violet listened to the plorringe and of course there was no sound!  
Opening 7
"Tulip and Violet hugged the plorringe.  It felt soft as candyfloss."  (Yummy!) Norris kept on waiting. This illustration is a delight. I like the balance between the verbal text and the illustration.  Last of all ...
Opening 8
A close up of two very pink tongues and the plorringe itself:  "Tulip and Violet were just about to have a little lick of the plorringe, when ..." Those three dots tell us that something is about to happen! "UH-OH!" "WHOMP!"
Opening 11
"Norris's wait was over." But Violet and Tulip are visibly concerned. "What about Tulip and Violet?"
Opening 12
Do you see that some of the font is slightly bigger, emphasising "Violet" and "Tulip" and the words "wise" and "kind". Violet and Tulip look so forlorn... Of course Norris shared the "delicious, sun-kissed, soft-as-candy floss plorringe" (all descriptors used in previous spreads).  And Norris knew a "special thing had happened under the plorringe tree" ...
Back verso
Ahhh!  Just lovely. Friendship and sharing as well as learning to wait, all important lessons for little ones.  There's not a lot of repetition, so this is probably best shared with children in bilingual contexts, though I've shared it with a group of Portuguese L1 children and used English and Portuguese to get the verbal message across, and gradually moved into English only as I've re-read it.  The children love seeing Violet and Tulip about to lick the plorringe and call out "UH-OH!" "WHOMP!", before I've tuned the pages!  We all agree that Norris was very wise as he knew how important it was to share. 

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