Books are for More Than Just Reading!

Picture book art has come a long way.  Back in the day, publishers could only afford to do black and white or 2 to 3 colors.  Modern day picture books are an explosion of rich details and colors.  Through paintings, drawings, photography, mixed media and collage, picture books have become works of art.  They can be used as a tool to develop observational skills and art appreciation in children. 

Here are some sample questions to ask toddlers, preschoolers, and grade school children:

  • What colors did the illustrator use? 
  • What do you see in the picture?
  • Does it look realistic?
  • What do you think the artist used to create the picture?
  • Why do you think they chose to do it that way?  When comparing picture books you can observe how one illustrator drew an alligator with purple squiggly lines and another illustrator used the color green and short straight lines.
  • How would you have drawn that picture?
  • Is that a happy or a sad picture? How can you tell?

Here are some examples of books that use different illustration techniques:

Smoky Night written by Eve Bunting and Illustrated by David Diaz .
This book won the Caldecott Medal (an award for outstanding art in picture books)  in 1995.  Smoky Night is the story of how a riot affects a  young boy and his mother.  Diaz created and photographed collages and paired them with acrylic paintings.  The highly detailed collages relate directly to the story on the page.  The intensity of the illustrations match the intensity of the story. As things are resolved the illustrations become less intense.

Not A Box written and illustrated by Antoinette Portis. 
In direct comparison to the detailed illustrations in Smoky Night, Not A Box uses simplicity to stimulate children’s imagination.  There are only five colors in the book and Portis used simple line drawings to show children that a box could become anything they want it to.  Even though the book is simple it is done in a way that was thought about carefully.  The cover and end papers look and feel just like a cardboard box.

My Dadima Wears Saris written by Kashmira Sheth and illustrated by Yoshiko Jaeggi
Two young girls learn from their grandmother about the beauty and art of wearing a Sari.  The illustrations are beautiful watercolors that fill every inch of space on the page.  At one point of the book the full color illustrations become sepia to show that the grandmother is remembering the past.

Ellsworth’s Extraordinary Electric Ears and Other Amazing Alphabet Anecdotes by Valerie Fisher
Fisher brings the alphabet to life with whimsical photographs of toys.  One of my favorite pictures in the book is of the letter F.  “Fancy Feathered Fashions were favored by Floyd’s Farm Friends.”  Toy pigs in tutus wearing feathered hats hang out with frogs, foxes, and other fun animals.  For some reason one of the frogs has a microphone.  The creativity and bright colors pop off the page while encouraging children to pour over the pictures so they can find all of the elements that start with a certain letter.




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