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.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Funny face - funny faces

Front cover
I discovered Funny Face by Nicola Smee while reading an article by a friend and colleague Janet Evans.  
The front cover shows a simply drawn but bold looking face, smiling.  The back cover gives a photo album-like view of the same face demonstrating all sorts of emotions and the blurb reads: 
"One little boy, one big bear.  Many different faces!"
That's it in a nutshell!
Funny Face is a board book, so it contains none of the peritextual features a picturebook can include (like endpapers or title pages), the reader moves from front cover to the story pages immediately. I say story pages because even though this is a concept book, there is a narrative to it.  Each verso page shows the story and each recto the emotion evoked by the happenings in the story.  I find this very useful as it contextualizes each emotion, making it clearly understood by the children you are sharing it with. 
There are seven different faces in all, showing a range of emotions and we start with the happy face:
Opening 1

"I love playing with my ball." ... so I'm happy because that's what I'm doing.   As we read this we can use a light hearted voice expressing happiness, so children hear and see the emotion. 
Opening 2
But what happens next?  "Ooh!  A big bear!", children call out this emotion as soon as they see the illustration, the child in the book is so clearly surprised!   
Opening 3
Oh no!  The bear takes the ball and the children will all call out "he's crying", and he is, but what emotion is he showing us? And his dog too! He's sad.  It's a sad face. 
Turn the page ... Naturally once the feeling of sadness dissipates, anger takes over. The words tell us, "I'm very, very angry".  The pictures show us a cross looking boy and the dog is shaking his fist at the bear as he lumbers off behind a tree. Children will empathize with this change of feelings, they will have felt similarly.  Another page turn ...
Opening 5
Anger moves to confidently being rude!  "Here's what I think of you, big bear!" As the reader you can say this arrogantly, and even blow a raspberry!  That is one naughty face!  Turn the page ... But STOP! "Oops!  I think the big bear is coming back - with more bears!"  The illustrations show the dog and boy looking at each other worriedly. The face shows a clearly worried look.  Let's turn the page again...
Opening 7
The bears are ever closer and the boy and his dog are clearly terrified. As we read the words, "What do they want?", we can slightly stutter and make our mouth quiver.  The children you are sharing this book with will be leaning backwards slightly and their mouths will quiver as they say loudly "He's frightened". 
Opening 8
Why, all the bears wanted was to play!  Hooray!  And so we are all happy again and full circle we come back to a happy face. 
The very last page is a firm favourite showing all the different emotions and a mirror where  children can peer at their own funny faces!  (You'll have to excuse the photo here, my arm and blue sunny sky instead of a child's face is reflected in the mirror!)
Opening 9
Funny Face. Nothing complicated, a simple story and a load of faces, but it works really well and children request this book over and over. Remember that even if the children call out in their own language when you turn the pages, it's OK, they are demonstrating they have recognized the emotion, which is after all the objective of this little book.  It is our job to help them say these emotion words in English, which isn't too difficult, especially if it is re-read many times. Recast and paraphrase what they say and gradually the children's calls should turn into English calls as the pages are turned and they gleefully demonstrate they can recognize emotions and label them in English.

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