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.

Friday, October 04, 2013

The fly's story

I found the book I'm going to blog about today in the famous Hay Cinema Bookshop in Hay-on-Wye, one of the lovely places my husband and I visited while on holiday this year.  Can you see me in the background looking at books? An amazing place, just so full!

Petr Horácek (PH) is one my favourite picturebook creators.  I've blogged about him before. The fly is hilarious and perfect for helping us see the 'other side of the story'! IThe illustrations are typical of PH's style, containing bold collaged shapes, good deep colours and lovely lines.  There are also some ingeniously cut pages. Wonderful stuff. 
Front cover
From the front cover we can see that this fly really is very intelligent, he can even write his name! 
Back cover

On the back cover, he is speaking directly at us, inviting us into the book... "Hello! It's me - the house fly. Open my book and take a look inside. There's never a dull moment."  This is the fly's story - let's find out what he has to show and tell us. 
Front endpapers
The front endpapers are just covered in flies (and the scribbled price from the Cinema Books Shop is still there!) 
Copyright and title pages
I love this deep red copyright page - I wonder why PH chose this colour?  Quite stark alongside the white title page, where we can see that clever fly practicing his lettering skills. PH has dedicated this book to William, I bet William hates flies!
Opening 1
Presentations first: and the house fly introduces himself. Written in the first person, this really is the fly's version of his story. That big speech bubble, (the same red as the copyright page!) emphasizes his personal description of a life that contains never a dull moment. Right from the start our hero is clear and plain ... "But people don't like me being in the house." Where is he I wonder? On the wall? That textured background is lovely. Turn the page and ... 
Opening 2
The fly swat comes flapping down.  Yes, house fly, I see what you mean.  (I have a fly swat just like this and my husband uses it often). But this is just the beginning.  
Opening 3
No! This page is not upside down, don't forget, it's the fly who's telling this story. It's breakfast time and already he's risked his life. Next, that is after breakfast, our hero does his exercises, "156 times around the lamp keeps me fit", he says as he is seen zipping around that red lamp shade in opening 4. Then it's time for a snack, but oops, another FLAP! So off he goes to visit the cows. Something he always does as he loves their smell!  But ...
Opening 7
He's flicked away by their skillful tails! That is such a nice cow and the words neatly follow that boney cow's bottom. Lovely! Fly tells us that once he was nearly eaten by a frog, then by a bird. He's bemused. Animals don't like him. "Why?".  But food is more important so, he goes back home for  lunch.
Opening 9
"I like my meals on time." And we see he has a sweet tooth! But watch out... 
Opening 10
As we turn the page, cut in the shape of a fly swat, the fly just manages to escape as he mutters, "Whoops! here we go again!" Fly really can't understand what all the fuss is about, the constant flaps and smashes.  For even when it looks like he's found the best place to rest ...  (can you see him on the boy's forehead?)
Opening 11
Opening 12
There's no place that's trouble-free. We're at the end of the book, that's opening 12, but let's just see what the back endpapers are like. 
Back endpapers
Ooo! Nothing like the front ones! One little fly - the fly - with a plea.  "... please be kind." But that's not all, he's worried that if we shut the book, we'll squash him.  Suddenly we are not just the readers but we are in his story.  Can we end it? Do we close the book?  Ask the children you are reading the story to!

So, how about sharing this picturebook with a group of 8 year olds who learning about daily routines? Not only will they enjoy the fly's story, and the fun page-turns (SWAT!), they'll have enjoy continuing the fly's day, inventing all sorts of close-to-death encounters till he goes to sleep at night. Great picturebook Petr Horácek! 


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