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, May 20, 2012

Monkey and me ... Monkey and me ...

Monkey and Me is another picturebook by Emily Gravett, but unlike Little Mouse's big book of fears, it's a picturebook for the younger end of pre-primary. It's perfect in every way and so typical of Gravett's skillful, sketchy style, and use of all those peritextual features to a maximum. 
Back and front covers
Front and back covers are connected through Monkey's tail: a jubilant little chap, welcoming us into the book. He is being held up as though in reverence by the little girl. The small cameo illustration of Monkey being dragged away on the back cover reinforces the toy's happiness at being part of her game. 
Front endpapers
I have the hardback version of this lovely picturebook and the endpapers are not only there to keep the book together, but begin our visual narrative: the small girl is getting dressed and struggling with her tights as monkey looks on.  This is our protagonist getting ready for what is to come as we turn the pages. The black-and-whiteness of the sketches also serve as a sort of preamble, as though Gravett is warming up. 
Copyright and title page
The title page shows us our little girl, now dressed, her tights bright red, and we can see from her sketch that she has a stripy t-shirt too. She's glancing across to Monkey who is similarly clutching the dedication and copyright information. 
This picturebook is repetitive in structure, the repetition comes in pairs: a spread with the chanting refrain, "Monkey and me, Monkey and me, Monkey and me, We went to see, We went to see some ... " and illustrations supporting this refrain, the girl pulling her monkey in all directions.  What did they go to see?  Can you guess by looking at the way she stands and walks?
Opening 1
Opening 2
The next spread shows what they see ... Why penguins of course! And here they are larger than life, waddling along, coaching babies and carrying fish. The word "PENGUINS" in big capital letters is as much part of the illustration as the actual birds.  And so this little book continues, our next spread sees the chanting refrain, and the little girl leaping with Monkey stuffed up her t-shirt, the animals she sees are Kangaroos. The font for "KANGAROOS" is also leaping across the spread. I use this picturebook very successfully with 3- and 4-year olds, and they don't take long to realise that on the first spread of each pair the little girl's movements are a clue to which animal comes next. Some children also begin to make connections with the letters, recognising the 'P' for penguin, the 'K' in kangaroo, or other letters they might know from their own names. 
Opening 5
Opening 6
This pair of spreads is a fun one, and the children love seeing the bats hanging from the very letters that spell their names. Some children say they are afraid of bats, but these chaps look quite harmless and together we can all agree that they aren't very frightening after all. 
The little girl takes Monkey to see elephants and then on the penultimate pair of spreads Monkey is smiling broadly, has anybody noticed he's not been smiling much till now? I wonder why?  Can you guess what they are going to see?
Opening 9
Why "MONKEYS" of course! The font fills the spread and the monkeys are in and out of it. 
Opening 10
This spread is a sort of crescendo, for when we turn the page, we see a sleepy little girl, hugging Monkey as she walks slowly across the recto page.  The words tell us, "Monkey ... and ... me, Monkey ... and ... me, Monkey ... and ... me, We went ..." (You can read it slowly, sleepily.) 
Opening 12
"... home for tea:" A tired little girl hugging her toy monkey, she's had chips for tea, with ketchup. An untouched banana lies temping a real monkey who peers over the table top. Her picture lies on the table showing what she's seen with Monkey on her tiring day. So far I've not had one child question the presence of the trespassing monkey, peeking into the child's world... did she really see all those animals? 
And as we close the book, we turn to the back endpapers. 
Back endpapers
Those delightful sketches in black and white again, but this time of the animals marching off out of the book.  Children love labelling them, remembering the animals they saw and pointing to the sleeping bats, hanging from the baby elephant's trunk. Great ending, great picturebook. Don't forget to re-read this little gem, children love remembering all the animals and the feeling the pleasure of getting it right. 

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