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Defining and Evaluating Picture Books

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Defining and
Evaluating Picture
Books
Source: Picturing Books
A website about picture books
http://picturingbooks.imaginarylands.org/
The Picture Book Defined
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Picture books are
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art objects.
books in which images and ideas join
to form a unique whole.
In the best picture books, the
illustrations extend and enhance the
written text, providing readers with
an aesthetic experience that is more
than the sum of the book’s parts.
The Picture Book Defined
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"One night, after thinking it over for
some time, Harold decided to go for
a walk in the moonlight."
That simple sentence introduces Harold, a
pajama-clad boy and his ubiquitous purple
crayon. Harold's wanderings through the
night are deceptively simple, but his
creator's achievement is unmistakable.
The Picture Book Defined
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Crockett Johnson's understanding of the power of
illustration to tell a story is delivered in a series of purple
squiggles and lines.
At the center of the book is Harold's boundless
imagination.
Johnson allows Harold's own creativity to become the
driving force behind the narrative.
The Picture Book Defined
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After Harold has had his fill of
adventure he decides it is time to go
home.
He draws window after window, but
somehow none of them are right.
Finally, he sees the moon framed inside
one of the windows he has drawn and
realizes this window will take him home.
It is the same window we see on page
one of the book. Deceptively
simple...simply genius.
The Picture Book Defined
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Words and pictures. These are the two principle
components of a picture book.
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Beyond the words and pictures are the medium, style,
placement of text, and selection of typeface.
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Sometimes the simple choice of shape or trim size
enhances the experience.
The Picture Book Defined
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The small size of Beatrix Potter's The
Tale of Peter Rabbit was no accident.
She created a small book perfect for
small hands.
Often indistinguishable, these
components are part of the design
process; threads woven through the
book, adding depth and dimension to
the overall visual experience.
The Picture Book Defined
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A universal definition of a picture book is hard to pin
down, but one thing experts agree on is that the
interplay of narrative and illustration is fundamental
to the book as a whole.
Picture books, picture storybooks, and illustrated
books are similar in that illustrations play an integral
role in each format.
These terms are often used interchangeably. The
difference between the three is the degree to which
illustrations play a role.
Picture Storybook
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Integrate words and
illustrations on each
page to tell a story
Pictures complement the
story
The Story of Babar, the
Little Elephant
Illustrated Book
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Text and art are equally balanced.
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Illustrations compliment the story.
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The stark black, white, and gray art in
Tom Feelings' masterpiece The Middle
Passage is an example.
Illustrations capture the despair of
people ripped from their homeland
and forced across the Atlantic ocean,
where they face one horror and
humiliation after another in a harsh
and cruel new world.
Picture Book
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A picture book is a fusion of
words and pictures.
Outstanding picture books
seamlessly meld both
components together, forming
a rich and rewarding reading
experience.
While the illustrations are the
core of the book, the text is
still essential.
Picture Book
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Text inspires the pictures.
Snappy dialogue drives the
narrative.
Caldecott Award
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Annual award distributed by the
American Library Association for most
distinguished contribution in
illustration.
"A picture book for children, as distinguished from
other books with illustrations, is one that essentially
provides the child with a visual experience.
A picture book has a collective unity of story-line,
theme, or concept, developed through the series of
pictures of which the book is comprised."
Elements
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Picture books are a format (form/design)
and not a genre (content).
Evaluate visual aspects of picture books through
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Physical characteristics
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Elements of illustrations in isolation
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Elements of illustrations in the picture book
context
Elements of Picture Books
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32 pages is standard (though titles can be 24-48 pages).
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Illustrations dominate text.
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Illustrations integrate with the narrative to bring the story
to a satisfying conclusion.
Word count is generally less than 500 words, although
picture books can have over 2000 words or have none at
all, as is the case with wordless picture books.
Overall design builds a relationship between the text and
the illustrations; this includes the front matter, back
matter, and the book jacket.
Genre
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Genre designates a type--for example: mystery,
adventure, romance, science fiction, history, traditional
literature, informational, and anthropomorphic (animal)
stories.
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Unlike novels, pictures books have fewer genres.
While they exist, it is difficult to find mystery or science
fiction picture books.
Toy Books
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TOY BOOKS physically
engage the reader.
Include board books, pull-tab
books, flap books, pop-up
books, cloth books, and
plastic books (bathtub
books), textured books.
Toy books can be simple or
very complex.
Concept Books
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CONCEPT BOOKS foster visual literacy
and language development in children.
Concept books introduce children to
shapes, colors, the alphabet, counting,
and more difficult concepts, such as
principles of grammar and time.
ALPHABET BOOKS introduce children to
the ABCs and COUNTING BOOKS
introduce numbers and counting.
Wordless Books
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WORDLESS BOOKS are excellent
tools to help children develop
language and narrative skills.
In wordless books text is absent or
minimal, so children apply meaning
to the story.
The marvel of wordless or nearly
wordless books is the opportunity to
retell the story over and over.
Illustrations in wordless or nearly
wordless books offer a degree of
detail and plot complexity.
Easy Readers
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EASY READERS, sometimes called
beginning books or readers, are
transition books for children moving
from picture books to chapter books.
They are designed to read with minimal
or no assistance from an adult.
Features include larger typefaces, short
sentences, sight words, and extra space
between words and lines.
Animal Stories
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ANTHROPOMORPHIC (ANIMAL)
STORIES are realistic stories that have
animal or inanimate objects as the main
character.
Animals and objects talk, walk, dress,
and otherwise behave like humans.
There is usually little or no magic
because the animals or objects have
human characteristics that render them
capable of extraordinary feats.
Settings can be imaginary or
contemporary.
Realistic Stories
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REALISTIC STORIES feature
sympathetic characters that children
identify and empathize with.
For the last two decades or so
authors have explored timely,
somber topics in picture books, such
as cancer, death, homosexuality,
adoption, and AIDS--to name a few.
Realistic books can have a
contemporary or historical setting.
Magic Realism
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MAGIC REALISM is a fusion of reality and
imagination, with dreamlike imagery that
heightens the experience.
Ordinary activities are infused with a sense of
wonder and promise--anything is possible:
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a boy can take a purple crayon and create a
fabulous dream world,
a board game can come to life, or
a boat can transport a frustrated child to a land
where Wild Things rule.
These tales can have a contemporary or an
imaginary setting.
Traditional Literature
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TRADITIONAL LITERATURE includes
tall tales, fairy tales, folktales, trickster
tales, myths, legends, noodlehead
tales, jataka tales, beast tales, creation
stories, pourqoui tales, Mother Goose,
and fables.
Traditional literature features
storytelling patterns, rich language,
and elements of fantasy.
TRADITIONAL LITERATURE can be set
in both imaginary and contemporary
settings.
Informational Books
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INFORMATIONAL (nonfiction) picture books
are an alternative to encyclopedias and other
reference sources.
Illustrations and/or photographs are bright
and colorful.
Accuracy and timeliness of titles is important.
Look for source notes, bibliographies, indexes,
and a table of contents--the mark of
exceptional nonfiction.
Quality informational books are easy-to-read
and eliminate threat to young readers.
Illustrations and Plot Development
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Illustrations
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emotional level
Expressions of surprise, fear, and consternation express
emotion as well as action. (Blueberries for Sal)
Illustration and Plot Development
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Artwork may show mounting tension by
increasing the size of the pictures. (Where
the Wild Things Are)
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Pictures become larger as Max’s dream
becomes more fantastic.
After the climactic wild rumpus, which is
portrayed on three full-sized spreads with
no text whatsoever, Max returns home.
The pictures decrease in size, although
never down to their original size—just as,
symbolically, Max will never be quite the
same again after his dream experience.
Illustration and Plot Development
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Picture book artists also provide clues to the
future action of a story.
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A close look at the first and second pages of
Where the Wild Things Are shows the
mischievous Max dressed in his wild-thing suit
and stringing up a homemade tent.
A plush toy looking vaguely like a wild thing
hangs nearby.
Later those things appear in Max’s dream trip
to the far-off land of the wild things.
The World of Picture Books
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