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 14, 2013

Splat and a story about friendship

Sooty and the Splat book
I've chosen to write about Splat and the Cool School Tripa picturebook created by Rob Scotton. There are seven Splat the cat books, and a whole section of Rob Scotton's website is devoted to this furry black cat.  He's a character and his best friend is a mouse called Seymour. An unlikely friend in the animal world, but that's what makes a good story! 

Scotton's illustrations are a wonderful sort of life-like cartoon.  Splat really is hairy and so is Seymour. The illustrations ooze colour, texture and style. They sometimes cover whole pages, other times appear as cameo illustrations against stark white backgrounds, and other times, in frames as though part of a comic strip. The Splat books enable us all to experience the trails and tribulations of life and it's easy for the children we share these books with to make connections.
Front cover
The front cover gives us lot to talk about: we are shown the two main characters, Splat and his friend Seymour. Splat is wearing a school t-shirt and cuddling a penguin. Seymour is sitting on a yellow school bus, which is heading for the zoo.  Yellow buses are very american and I wonder how many children living outside the States would connect the bus to school. Seymour looks a little sad and Splat, quite the contrary, a very excited cat. Already we are being given lots of clues about what we will find inside the book. Where do you think Splat is going on his school trip? What are the clues that help us answer this question?
Close up of endpaper illustration

The endpapers are all white except for a small illustration in the top right hand corner of the recto page.  It's Seymour! He's skillfully flying a paper plane. I wonder why? 
Close up of illustration on copyright page

The copyright page has an illustration with Seymore in it too.  He's sitting sadly on a pile of books, Making stuff from paper and Flying for Dummies. Rob Scotton is giving us yet more clues about what's going to happen later in the book. 
Opening 1
The opening spread conveys Splat's excitement super well. A wide-eyed cat, surrounded by swimming penguins. The words tell us he is waking from his favourite dream, the pictures show us what that dream is. Splat is off to the zoo, did you guess correctly?
Opening 2
The next spread visually reinforces the friendship between Seymour and Splat. They wake up together and even have a bath together (Splat is no normal cat!).  The words tell us that Splat really is mad about penguins. There's humour in both texts: In the illustrations we giggle at Splat in his pjs! In the words we see poor Seymour being told yet again about the penguin traits Splat so admires. 
Opening 3
But in Opening 3, Splat remembers something his teacher told him, elephants are scared of mice, so Seymour can't come on the trip. Seymour is looking very disappointed.  Poor Seymour.  But he's no fool.  The last image there, on bottom recto shows us a very happy Seymour... "He had a plan." Can you guess what it is?
On the bus to the zoo, the cats from cat school are very excited. Their teacher asks them about their favourite animals and each gives an opionion. We know which animal Splat likes, don't we?
Opening 5, verso
Penguins!  If you look closely you can see he's drawn four penguins and each has a name, Percy, Pickles, Paul and Popsicle!
At the zoo Splat couldn't wait to see the penguins. He saw, giraffes, monkeys and elephants and just then... Seymour arrives, on a paper plane. But as in all good stories something terrible happens. 
Opening 8
Oh dear, Seymour crashed into the elephant. "'Uh-oh!' said Splat." Of course the elephant reacted loudly and wildly! "He was so frightened he trumpeted, ran away, and jumped over a wall." We are shown Splat in the foreground, thinking about the information his teacher had given him about elephants and mice - the elephants bottom is in view as it leaps into an animal enclosure to hide. Can you guess where the elephant hid?
When Splat arrived at the penguin enclosure, he found that that was where the elephant had hidden.  And he'd broken their pool in his rush to get away from Seymour. There were no penguins to be seen anywhere.  Splat was disappointed. But Seymour was even sadder. It was all his fault. The illustrations show both Splat and Seymour looking very forlorn.
But Seymour was a good friend and so he thought about what he could do. Seymour peeks into the penguin house, and that's when he had an idea. Can you guess what Seymour did?
Opening 11
"Follow me" said Seymour and the penguins did just that! Zig-zagging out of the zoo and bumping along on the top of the bus, back to cat school. Splat doesn't notice, he's so sad. 
Opening 12
Splat doesn't notice anything... The words tell us what Splat does, the pictures show us what happens. He plods home miserably, he eats his dinner glumly. And all the while the penguins are following him and somehow managing to climb up into the second floor of Splat's home. Can you see them in the window there?
Opening 13
As Splat watches TV, the penguins climb up the stairs, escorted by Seymour. Simple written descriptors are accompanied by very detailed illustrations. And yes, once in bed, Splat just couldn't sleep, he could hear noises from the bathroom, so, "He decided to investigate."  Can you guess what's there? There's more build up ...
Opening 14
With Hitchcock-like suspense, Splat opens the curtain! 
Opening 15
What fun! It's the penguins. And so it turns out to be a "Penguin Day after all."  Lucky Splat. And how nice of Seymour to make sure that Splat got to see the penguins after all. 
And ... it hasn't finished. Turn to the back endpapers, and hidden under the dust cover flap is an illustration of Seymour with the elephant at the zoo. 
Close up of bak endpaper illustration
Looks like elephant and mouse have made peace. 

The illustrations in this picturebooks enable lots of opportunities for discussion, prediction and interpretation. Children will notice all sorts of details and enjoy sharing their discoveries. It's a book that shows us what friendship can do. It's a silly book, but primary children will love it, and all of the other Splat books too. And if you want to make penguin connections, read Lost and Found by Oliver Jeffers too... that's got a penguin in it!  And it's about freindship

This post is dedicated to a lovely group of teachers I'm working with on an online course run by the Ministry of Education in Portugal. They've just watched a webinar given by a colleague about using this picturebook for developing critical thinking in the primary classroom. So I thought I'd feature the book so they could see what it looks like, get to know it better and maybe consider using it with their students.

1 comment:

Joseph Rodman said...

Hi, there! Congratulations for winning the best blog. You deserve it. I'm looking for short stories for my ESL students. Glad to have seen your blog. Keep up the good job!