Picturebooks in ELT

Passionate about picturebooks

Welcome to my blog about picturebooks in ELT.

“A picturebook is text, illustrations, total design; an item of manufacture and a commercial product; a social, cultural, historic document; and foremost, an experience for a child. As an art form it hinges on the interdependence of pictures and words, on the simultaneous display of two facing pages, and on the drama of the turning page.” (Barbara Bader 1976:1)

My intention is to discuss picturebooks, in particular the pictures in them! Why? Because, in ELT we tend to select picturebooks because they contain words our students might know. I plan to write something a couple of times a month, sharing what I discover in my readings; describe new titles I come across; discuss particular illustrators and their styles and generally promote the picture in picturebooks.

From January 2008 to December 2011 I benefitted from a PhD research grant from FCT, in Portugal.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

I need a hug

I rediscovered a favourite whilst I was preparing for a talk about emotional intelligence and picturebooks, so I thought I share it with you all.  It's Hug by Jez Alborough.  
Alborough has a wonderful website, with lots of information about his picturebooks, so do click and follow links.  In the picturebook section he actually describes where his inspiration came from, how the story developed and how he made decisions about what to draw and what to write.  The behind the scenes information about Hug is fascinating, and can be read here. And this wonderful description of what it means to be an author and an illustrator, couldn't put it better myself. 
Taken from Jez Alborough's website http://www.jezalborough.com/
What's so very clever about Hug is how Alborough has used so few words, rather like Emily Gravett's Orange Pear Apple Bear, and given each one a different meaning depending on what he shows in the illustration.   So, there's 'Hug', which means 'Hey, that's a hug happening over there!', another which means, 'I want my mummy', another which means, 'Thank you!' ...  oooh and plenty more as well. Reading this picturebook out loud is loads of fun, as you get to dramatise all the different meanings behind one little, three-letter word. 
Our front cover presents us with Bobo the chimp.  Arms wide open, inviting us into the book for  a hug.  There are no endpapers in my paperback edition, but the book opens on a single cameo image of little Bobo, walking happily by himself.   
The copyright and title page are a whole scene, the setting, a Savannah-like wood.  Bobo is happily, chimp chomping along.  He comes across a Mummy and baby elephant, that's where Hug means 'Hey, that's a hug happening over there!'
He comes across several pairs of animals hugging ...
... and his posture clearly shows us how he's feeling.  The next page has no words, but we feel his sadness and we also feel the other animals' sympathy as we look at the illustrations.   Bobo is helped by Mummy elephant and together they begin their quest: a search for a mummy to hug.
They pass a lioness hugging her three spotty cubs, Bobo moans, 'Hug'; two giraffes, their long necks entwined in a hug and eyes closed with pleasure and Bobo moans, 'Hug'; then a baby hippo hugging a hippo parent, both lying in a muddy pool.  Bobo's face is wretched ... 'Hug' he wails, clearly meaning,  'I want my mummy.'
He sits down and cries.  The other animals are all around and you can feel their empathy oozing from the page.  Poor Bobo.  But all is not lost, we turn the page and larger than life, here comes Mummy chimp. She's calling 'BOBO' in a big bold font.  And Mummy and Bobo are reunited.
And they ... HUG.  The other animals unite in breathing a sigh of relief, 'HUG', they all say.  'Thank goodness!', 'Oh, isn't that nice!', 'Yeah, go for it Bobo!' 
Bobo hugs Mummy elephant's trunk - that's 'Thank you!' of course. Then he turns to the other animals and calls for a mass group hug. What a clever chimp he is. 
Lions and gorillas, elephants and snakes, the whole jungle caboodle in one massive jungle hug.  They are delirious with happiness!  And one final page turn sees a cameo of Bobo and Mummy walking towards us, holding hands, happy to be reunited. 
Ahhh... and doesn't that make you want to go and hug the next person you see?  I'll give my husband an extra big hug when he comes in and I'll hug my cats and dogs too.  I'll hug our next door neighbours, and their neighbours, the whole village, and the next one too. I'll hug the world.  Goodness, it's catchy!
In fact that's just what Jez Alborough is after!  If you click on 'Jez says' you'll see that he's very happy for us all to send hundreds of hugs around the world.  Bless! 

You can be sure that after reading this picturebook in class, everyone gets a hug ... well they do in mine! 

This is an excellent example of how picturebooks can help children understand what emotions look like; contribute to developing their ability to understand themselves and others, and to respond appropriately. 
 











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