Wednesday, February 16, 2011

A picture is worth a thousand words... in a children's book

'A picture is worth a thousand words,' and other such truisms, like 'the camera never lies' ...

Well the first one is still true... The second is unbelievably untrue. Pictures can now do anything, or rather, you can do anything with pictures. Recently, I saw an ad on TV where a mother had achieved (by cutting and pasting), just the right smile on each member of the family for a family picture. Truly scary! Truth disappears into technology...

So far, technology has only enabled the role and place of illustrations in children's books. Technology has not endangered the truth because the truth, as conveyed by illustrations, has always been in the eye of the beholder, created by a combination of the mind of the writer, the eye and skill of the artist, and the ability of the editor to bring together all of these variables.

I have had in mind to discuss the role of illustrations in children's books for some time. However what made me look at it now is that someone commented on one of my blogs, saying that too often illustrations in our children's books seem to be designed to 'break up the text rather than convey the story'. She stated that pictures are as important as the text and that they don't have to be totally true to life either; they can 'evoke or suggest'. This place of illustrations in children's books will be discussed further because one has to consider the type of story, the age level of the target audience, and so on, to fully identify the role of illustrations in a particular type of book, and I suspect that some people may not understand the varying roles. However the person writing is correct about the importance of illustrations in books for young children.

So as we look at this topic, we can start by saying that it is a given that illustrations should be bright and colourful, (unless the desire is to create the dark atmosphere of a dark episode in a scary tale, and young children do not like dark and scary). Bright and colourful carries a message. We will look again at the significance of 'bright' versus 'dark' illustrations.

The next point is that given the importance of illustrations to children's books, it is most unfortunate that we do not appear to have as many artists as we would like who are able to create the movement which is needed in children's illustrations. Because the truth is that children are never still. They seldom just stand about as some illustrators would have them do.

Therefore, I want to share with you some books from our region in which I think the illustrations create their own excitement, where they do play their rightful role in books for young children.

This one is from Barbados. It's Cricket is My Game, written and illustrated by Jason Cole, 2006.

Look at the little girl on the cover. Her expression invites you into a story which you know is going to be full of fun. The artist has captured her personality. The illustrations inside this book are all movement and hilarity. The writer/artist has been able to create a story where illustrations and text go hand in hand to tell a story about spirited children having fun with cricket.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Diane,

    Good post as usual. Thanks for the images, I love them! I suppose Jason Cole did his own illustrations. I think he is one of the most stand-outish and interesting illustrators in Barbados right now, perhaps in the region.

    You're right about the movement aspect of children's illustrations. If you read review of children's books in Publisher's Weekly or Horn Book, you'll find that the reviewers always highlight and praise illustrations that convey a sense of movement. You'll also notice a difference in terms of how children respond to more lively pictures.

    Thanks for this!