Tag Archives: elements of an A+ picture book
elements of an A+ picture book: no such thing, a guest post from Bethan Woollvin
In my last post, I broke down why I think Little Red by Bethan Woollvin is A+. And now, she’s stopping by to do the same with a picture book she admires! Hooray!
She’s chosen No Such Thing by Ella Bailey. It may be a Halloween-themed book, but it’s got spring written all over it with that color palette! I love seeing what Bethan’s book and Ella’s book share. Aside from both being A+ and lovely to look upon, they also feature little girl protagonists who aren’t afraid of what might scare someone else.
Over to Bethan!
I first laid eyes on Ella Bailey‘s No Such Thing a few months back and instantly fell in love. It’s a real pleasure to be able to write about why it’s such a beautiful book.
(click image(s) to enlarge)
Something you will notice before you even open the book is Bailey’s brilliant eye for design. The front cover features muddled shelves of toys, trinkets, and Halloween related items. In the foreground stands a slightly concerned young lady under some of the most delightful hand drawn type I’ve seen to date – ‘No Such Thing’…what a clever title, I was instantly curious. No such thing as what?
INTRODUCES THE PROTAGONIST’S MAIN QUALITY RIGHT AWAY
For those who haven’t read No Such Thing, its main character is a young girl named Georgia who is demystifying the strange things occurring around her home in late October and most importantly, isn’t scared one bit!
Georgia is introduced to us on the first spread and by the second we already have a good idea what her personality is like. In these vignettes we see not only a brilliant observation of childlike body language, but a hilarious range of facial expressions that can be seen throughout the book.
As the story continues we begin to realise there is absolutely no fooling Georgia. This is something I really loved about this book: Georgia is smart, brave, and slightly suspicious, character traits you rarely see of a female lead in picture books. Georgia is a great role model for young readers and teaches them that there’s no need to jump to conclusions.
A RETRO SETTING AND RICH VISUAL DETAILS
Something that really catches your eye when reading No Such Thing is the quirky colour palette. Although Bailey mainly works digitally throughout her work, she’s still managed to master a vintage silk screen style (which I applaud because I’m terrible at Photoshop)! The colours are unusual but really complement the charmingly cluttered areas of Georgia’s home that Bailey has worked so hard to create. My favourite example is Georgia in her 1950s-esque salmon pink kitchen, a strong composition giving us a view into her jumbled fridge! There is so much detail hidden in the pages that every time I open this book I see something I didn’t notice before.
LETS READERS DECIDE FOR THEMSELVES
The narrative is told in hilarious rhymes beginning to end which I have a real soft spot for. The text and illustrations work perfectly together, retelling small anecdotes about spooky things happening in Georgia’s home. These are usually done by her cat, dog, or her mischievous little brother – or so we thought! There’s another level to this book that the protagonist isn’t aware of, is there such a thing as ghosts? This gives the reader something to think about. They can decide for themselves whether they think the little ghosts are the ones responsible for all the incidents in Georgia’s home.
HAS AN INTERACTIVE (DID YOU SPOT IT?) ELEMENT
The book ends on lots of small (insanely cute) ghosts having a little party in Georgia’s front room and a note from the author: ‘Did you spot the ghosts? Turn back and see if you can find the ghosts on every page.’ Among the gorgeous artwork and witty story, a fun game begins! I love this idea. It gives the book more mileage and engages readers to pick the book up again and again.
Bailey has created a gorgeous world for Georgia, from the furniture and wallpaper to the food in the fridge. Every bit is pleasing to look at. The text is playful and ever-so-slightly sarcastic, which appeals to all different audiences. Georgia’s character is so important in this book because she is a strong female role model. She doesn’t remotely believe in ghosts, that would be irrational! No Such Thing is definitely an A+ book, one that every young reader should have in their collection.
Big thanks to Bethan for sharing her insights!
And thanks to Flying Eye Books for images as well!
elements of an A+ picture book: little red
Little Red by Bethan Woollvin (April 2015).
This book is a super smart stunner. In fact, I’ve chosen it to be the second in my Elements of an A+ Picture Book series.
Let’s have a look at what makes it stand out!
The bold graphic illustrations in red and black and white really pop (see also Louise Loves Art). Here it’s mostly black and white with dabs of red on each spread—usually it’s Little Red herself, but if she’s not present, it’s other red bits to remind us of her. It could be said those dabs of red also reminds us of fierceness in the face of trouble.
Something else I love visually is how the forest is non-traditional (I spy cactus-type shapes) and feels Matisse inspired.
(click image(s) to enlarge)
STARTING THE STORY BEFORE IT STARTS
Just look at that title page! It serves as a portal of sorts into the world Red is about to enter. As she puts on her boots, we’re in a sense putting on our reading boots/eyes/minds. Not only that, but there’s something about Red’s tongue here that tells me she’s determined. That’s an efficient character signal done with just a circle at the line of her mouth!
By the time the story proper starts, Red is already out the door and on her way.
TURNING A FAMILIAR TALE ON ITS HEAD
In this telling, Little Red answers the wolf’s questions, but not because of naiveté. Because of strength and fearlessness. Because she can always come up with a plan should she need to. This version has Red knowing she can outsmart the wolf versus not even knowing she should need to. And that grandma-get up that never feels believable in the original tale? Little Red sees right through it.
REPETITION OF AN IMPORTANT PHRASE THREE TIMES FOR EFFECT
“Which might have scared some little girls. But not this little girl.”
Little Red’s main quality is not being scared. Not because she can’t see the need to be but because she knows her wits will win. And so Woolvin tells us this three times. The last time, the reader will anticipate the phrase—it’s even spread out over a page turn—and it serves as denouement.
VISUAL DETAILS AND CLUES TO HUNT FOR
That axe! it almost gives me a shiver!
There are so many visual details to spot in this book: bunny, ladybug, hedgehog. But that integral axe stuck out to me as a storytelling device, a foretelling, a reassuring clue. When Little Red makes her plan, we can guess that axe might be key (but we’re never told!).
NOT SHYING AWAY FROM THE DARK OR GRIM
This page proves the point, right?! Wolf eats grandma and Woolvin does not back away from that fact. And yet there’s a comic effect in there as well, a playfulness that helps the reader cope with those jaws. I find the funny in the angle of Grandma’s feet and legs, a wink to tell us all will be well.
There’s even a scene of Red wearing the wolf’s fur. We know what that means! It’s also the first time we see her smile. In my reading she looks more mischievous and wild thing-esque than cruel. She’s celebrating her win in a savage way, but in a sense she’s also playing at this savage stuff.
KEEPING KEY STUFF OUT OF THE TEXT (+ WORDLESS SPREADS WORK)
We’re never told Red uses that axe or how. (Thank goodness!) Instead, we’re told what happens around it. “And the wolf leaped forward. Which might have scared some little girls…” That’s followed by that wonderful spread of Red’s eyes only. Those eyes with all the qualities we think of for a wolf: calculating, clever, and cunning.
Readers fill in the gaps themselves by following the visual story and clues. It’s not a trick per se, but in my mind it makes reading that much more fun when you’ve got a part in connecting the dots.
Big thanks to Peachtree Publishers for images!
Where Bear? by Sophy Henn gets my A+ on what makes a picture book tick too! Come see why.
And stay tuned for a guest post from Bethan Woollvin on a picture book she thinks is A+! Cannot wait!