- Picture books provide children with visual experience that is different from story books.
• Story book
o Puts emphasis on story
* Words carry the story
* Plot development
o Can be fully understood without pictures
* Pictures’ purpose is to enhance words
• Picture book
o Words cannot stand on their own
o Meaning of story unclear without pictures
* Pictures supplement text
* Provide info not contained in the words
* Also may clarify or take the place of text
o Picture books are plot oriented
o Little room for character development
• Story books express both sight and sound through words. Picture books separate the two.
• Sight = pictures
• Sound = words
o Not a matter of number of words or pictures
o Essence is different
o Picture book presents a unique concept
o Both pictures and words are “read”
• Picture books are naturally more dramatic than story books
o No words to interfere
o See and hear directly
o Direct, immediate and vivid
o A lot is happening in the picture
• Picture books require two kinds of interpretation
• Because meaning is generated in two different ways
o Not read the same way as a story book
* Read pictures through the words
* And the words through the pictures
• Unceasing interplay and interaction between words and images
• How words and pictures work together in picture books:
o Two mutually dependent ways of telling a story
• Words drive us forward
o Find out the complete meaning
• But pictures may pull us back to explore illustrations in more detail
• Some terms used to describe the functions of illustrations
* Expands a child’s realm of experience
* Picturing things child could not have imagined on their own
* Extend words by showing details that not included/emphasized in the text
* Pictures can fill in the gap
* May change our responses to the text
• Example: create atmosphere – Fairy Tales
o Romantic to gothic
o Medieval to modern
o Realistic to grotesque
* May amplify words, but at the same time
• Limit theme – offer only one interpretation
• E.g. Where the wild things are – much less frightening than what you could imagine on your own
* Words tell what pictures cannot show
* Provide a soundtrack
• E.g. “roared their terrible roars” from Where the wild things are
* Words can be non specific
• E.g. Text reads: One Monday morning
o Pictures show setting (see below)
* Illustration supported by very few words
* (are they even necessary?)
* Words and illustrations are identical
• Picture books and setting
o Words describe space/setting
o Illustrations show it
o Artist/editor decides what to leave in/take out
o Illustrations act like scenery in a theatre
* May be realistic, symbolic, elaborate, simple
o If no words, reader can interpret more freely
* Provide details
• Setting ...
o Limited visual settings
* Book does not date as quickly
o Setting may determine how we read the story
* Place the story in context
o Setting can create/enhance mood
* Is setting integral or a backdrop?
* Can contribute to plot development
• Creates conflict by moving character out of familiar surroundings
* Are there jokes in the setting
• E.g. Things to be read on boxes, cars, buildings
* Diversion distracts us from the action (e.g. In the night kitchen)
* Takes our attention from words
• Pictures cannot communicate every idea
o Sometimes do not convey information more readily than words
* E.g. – child sitting at a window
* How long? Just sat down?
* Remembering? Planning? Waiting for someone?
o May need words to fully understand the pictures
• But pictures can tell us about the way things look
o Give us information/knowledge of character’s appearance and personality
o Help children with limited linguistic ability
• Pictures show things words cannot convey
o Pictures get our attention
* Demand an emotional response
o Both to the style of picture and how subject is depicted
• Pictures can change the meaning of words by interpreting them in a specific way
o Vague words?
* Pictures provide more specific information
o Children like looking for clues and detail
* e.g. Richard Scarry – like a visual puzzle
• Picture books and characters
o Description can be both visual and verbal
* Can confirm or contradict each other
o Can demonstrate how character relates to setting
o Physical describtion best done by illustration
some internal characteristics can be difficult to illustrate
* E.g. brave, clever, innocent
o Can be suggested through poses, gestures, facial expressions
* Need support from the words
o Emotions and attititudes are easier to illustrate
* E.g. happiness, anger, fear
* May need little support from the words
• Pictures cannot show time passing
o Series of pictures
* Shows only a sequence of isolated movements
* Not the connection between those two movements
o Words describe space and time
* Pictures can show only space
o Double page spreads – no words
* E.g. Where the wild things are
o Further enhance rhythm created by our movement between pictures and words
o Concerntrate our attention on a series of carefully perceived movements of stopped time
o Length of time between pictures?
o How long does the action in the picture last?
* E.g. Where the wild things are
• How is movement depicted in still pictures?
o Blurs, motion lines, distortion of perspective
o Action in progress, action not yet complete
* E.g. character with foot about to step
o Clarify an action, link two pictures together
* E.g. millions of cats
• Growing plump, pond, grass
• How we read pictures
o Scan pictures in Western World
o Read from left to right
o Top to bottom
o If we go from left bottom to top right corner
* Diagonal – creates uneasiniess
o What happens if picture is reversed?
• Some final questions about picture books
o Should pictures be clear, simple and colourful?
o Should not be abstract?
o Should not be large/out of scale?
o Are pictures easier to understand?
o Pictures contain information that allows children to understand the words
o Are children that simple-minded?
o Words are not harder to understand
o Children understand words before they can actually speak
Niklajeva, Maria and Carole Scott. How Picture Books Work. New York : Garland Publishing, 2001.
Egloff, Shelia et al. Only Connect Readings on Children’s Literature. Toronto: Oxford University Press, 1996.