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.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013


I have a lovely sister-in-law who buys me picturebooks for Christmas. Lucky me.  Boy + Bot was one of these Christmas's gifts. Written by Ame Dyckman and illustrated by Dan Yaccarino.
back and front covers
The front and back covers ... literally the front and back of the boy and the robot.  Love it! The illustrations are crisp guache, and have that sort of retro feel to them.  The inside front flap of my hardback issue says, "They are alike in many ways ..." The cover is showing us they both have a front and back, stand on two legs, have two arms, two sticky-out ears, a smiley mouth, a button nose and two black eyes. How alike they are! 
Endpapers are covered in chunky images all connected in one way or another to these two friends. 
Front (and back) endpapers
The title page comes before the copyright and dedication, which I find a bit weird, breaks the flow... but the illustration is a cutie ...
Title page
... Boy at the beginning of his story, his and Bot's story.  This is how they meet.
Opening recto
The words of the story are trimmed to a minimum.  Nothing flowery or lyrical.  Almost robotic here and in many places elsewhere. The illustrations are all loosely framed in white, sometimes filling a page, other times a whole spread, other times in multiple panels across the opening. The narrative tells and shows us how they become friends and overcome a little misunderstanding. 
Opening 2
Bot uses fun robot language, "Affirmative" ... which is great for reading out loud! In true picturebook style the illustrations, here in opening 2, show us what actually happened, how they played. As we move through the book, we discover that by accident, Bot's power switch gets switched off, and the boy thinks he is sick, so he takes him home and ...
Opening 4
... looks after him! Here the words and pictures show and tell pretty much the same thing .  But we can also see that Boy likes robots - see the toy robot by his bed? It just so happens that Boy's parents open to the door to say goodnight and accidentally  turn Bot back on again. "What-is-wrong?" Bot asks the boy (great robot talk again!), who is fast asleep in bed. "Did-you-malfunction?" ... and yes you've guessed it, Bot takes the boy home ...
Opening 6
... and looks after him!  There's a lovely mirroring of actions shown in the illustrations, the sun is replaced by the moon, bright colours by darker ones. Bot feeds the boy oil and reads him an instruction manual.  Thankfully the inventor appears just as Bot was going to give Boy a new battery! "'Stop!' the inventor shouted. 'That is a boy!'" 
Opening 8
Boy says, "Bot! You are cured!" Bot says, "Boy! You-are-fixed!" and every one is happy.  The inventor takes Boy home.
Opening 9
Their two homes are so near, yet so far and so different, separated by that pine forest where they met at the beginning of the story.  At home they say good bye ... "Want-to-play-tomorrow?" asks Bot.  "Affirmative!" answers Boy!
Opening 11
Lovely spread here, full of multiple panels showing us just how they played.  Do you recognize the photo booth strip? (Do they still exist?) Our final verso shows the two friends hand in hand walking together in the pine forest, bringing us back to where the story started. 
Final verso
Love it! Great story for middle primary with space for talk around friendship. What do our friends look like? Why do we chose our friends? Does it matter if we are different? 


Carin Bramsen said...

I adore this book! Along with everything else you say in your excellent post, I love that it conveys its important message about respecting different needs with such a light, witty and creative touch.

Mrs Brown said...

This looks great! I'm a big fan of Dan Yacarino and I like the themes of friendship highlighted here.