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, June 30, 2015

'Pardon?' said the giraffe

Front cover
Pardon?' said the giraffe, is written and illustrated by Colin West, one of several that always make my students giggle! Not surprisingly, some of them are part of a collection called The Giggle Club, 'made to put a giggle into reading'.  Colin West actually says'These books are full of pictures to help you read'.  I have all nine of his picturebooks, and they work because there is always a giggle element which doesn't lean on the words.  You need to understand the words and the pictures together to get the joke - both words and images work together to create meaning. True to great picturebooks considered ideal for helping children learn to read, these books contain repeated refrains, cumulative language, strong sound patterning, rhythm and rhyme, and a fairly rich lexical input, and of course illustrations which carry the narrative, sometimes alongside the words, sometimes not. 
The book is slightly shorter than a normal picturebook, with just 24 pages instead of 32. The front cover introduces us to three of the characters: a frog, giraffe and lion, and if you look on the back cover, there's a lion too. The frog is perched on the lion and elephant's head, something he does in the visual narrative later on. 
As this is a book to get readers hooked, 'Pardon?' said the giraffe, has all those bits a picturebook should have. A neat set of endpapers, same at front and back, but still meaningful in the visual narrative. 
Front endpapers
A decorative motif, but can you see the frog in the midst of all the flowers? 
Title page
The title page has a neat little cameo illustration of an innocent looking giraffe.
Opening 1
And so our story begins with frog hopping on the ground wondering 'What's it like up there?'. Up there is so far away that we can only see the lower part of the giraffe's body, she's so tall she doesn't fit on the page. Children often comment on this. The giraffe can't hear. Is she deaf, or just teasing the frog? But each time she is asked the same question we read 'Pardon?' said the giraffe. 
Miraculously, a lion appears and the frog jumps on his head and asks again 'What's it like up there?' Then along comes a hippo ...
Opening 3
Neither lion or hippo look much impressed by frog using them as a ladder. What animal do you think he'll jump onto next to get nearer the giraffe? Her neck is getting longer! Yep, you guessed it, an elephant. And what luck this brought frog, just a bit clsoer to giraffe and he was able to hop on her nose. Each time of course, frog asks, 'What's it like up there?' and giraffe replies, 'Pardon?' Children love this, they happily chorus "'Pardon' said the giraffe". 
Opening 5
For the first time the animals don't look concerned or worried, look they are smiling at frog who is perching awkwardly on giraffe's nose. Can you guess what's going to happen next?  Well how you you feel if a frog jumped onto our nose?  Ticklish by any chance? Yep!  That's how girafe feels and of course she sneezes.
Opening 7
"Oops!" Down falls frog. Giraffe is equally curious, as you would be if you were tall ... "What's it like down there?" asked the giraffe. 
Opening 8
"Pardon?" said the frog. Everyone but the frog seems to think it's entertaining! Children love it too and eagerly rub their heads and pretend to be a confused frog. Like I said lots of repetition with a lovely twist, which is simple enough for small children to understand and appreciate. Magical Mr West.

Other books by Colin West include:

'Not me' said the monkey
Have you seen the crocodile?
One day in the jungle

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