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Picture books and easy readers | Class #2, fall 2016

picturebooks_easy_horz

During our first class, we started to look at picture books. For our second class on October 19, we are adding easy readers into the mix. Here’s what we are reading and discussing:

  • Two more picture books
    • Mr. Tiger Goes Wild by Peter Brown
    • That New Animal by Emily Jenkins, illustrated by Pierre Pratt
  • Two easy readers
    • There Is a Bird On Your Head! by Mo Willems
    • Ling and Ting: Together in All Weather by Grace Lin
  • Picture This by Molly Bang (who will also be our guest speaker — lucky us!)

Both picture books feature characters who misbehave. Or maybe they are working out how to be true to their natures while also understanding the expectations of their companions.

Our two easy readers use humor and familiar situations to help struggling readers begin to enjoy reading. Notice how the texts of the picture books are so much more complex, and how their art can tell a story that runs counter to what the text is saying. Easy readers are very difficult to create. The text must be so much simpler, and the art needs to provide clues for readers who struggle with the text. Any Tom, Dick, or Jane can follow those rules, but making them into a book that is enjoyable and entertaining is so difficult.

Molly Bang had already created several picture books when she decided to figure out how pictures work. The result was Picture This, just out in a beautiful 25th Anniversary edition. Molly says she began to understand art and composition better through this exploration. While Picture This was originally written for adults, I know some teachers in later elementary and middle school who use the exercises in the second half of this book with their students.

We hope you will join our online pre-class discussion of all five books.

Note: Students have been asked to research specific book creators and websites and add their findings in the comments.

  • Kate M. will comment on Peter Brown
  • Alex  H. will comment on Emily Jenkins
  • Amanda M. will comment on Pierre Pratt
  • Santi D. A. will comment on Mo Willems
  • Jinwen Y. will comment on Grace Lin
  • Lauren W. will comment on Molly Bang
  • Longy H. will comment on the Seven Impossible Things blog
  • Carli Spina (TF) will comment on the Calling Caldecott blog

 

Lolly Robinson About Lolly Robinson

Lolly Robinson is the creative director for The Horn Book, Inc. She has degrees in studio art and children's literature and teaches children's literature at Harvard University's Graduate School of Education. She has served on the Caldecott and Boston Globe-Horn Book Award committees and blogs for Calling Caldecott and Lolly's Classroom on this site.

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  1. What I noticed about the illustrations of Mr. Tiger Goes Wild
 was the sharp contrast of the colors. The face of Mr. Tiger is in bright orange, which stands out among the grays and browns. The words are so simple and lovely, and the muted colors and the bold orange add so much to the story. The illustrations do a superb job of serving the theme, “it’s okay to be different”.
    In my country, such sharp contrast of color is not so common, especially in children’s books. Oriental cultural encourage the harmonious of all elements; the emphasize is never on individual but the community.
    However, this book introduces a whole new concept to me, which I think should be widely spread. Children today should know they are special and independent human beings, and that they are precious just because of they are different.

  2. Emily Jenkins’ childhood environment influenced her development as an author. Specifically, her father was a playwright and Ms. Jenkins frequently visited her father on set and was able to see the impact of set changes and alterations on storytelling.

    As Ms. Jenkins grew older she began to be influenced by other writers in her own storytelling. In elementary school Ms. Jenkins went through a period where she deliberately wrote many stories in imitation of the style of her favorite authors and in conversation with her favorite authors.

    Ms. Jenkins emphasizes that literary work does not occur in a vacuum but is instead in conversation with other stories on the same topics both future and past. For example, Ms. Jenkins’ stories about toys are influenced by and in conversation with past and future stories about toys.

    Ms. Jenkins emphasized the importance of empowering children by encouraging them to write in conversation with great authors and emphasizes that they can bring their own experiences and emotional life to the imaginary or fantastical.

    Ms. Jenkins also emphasizes to her students that much like artists they have the ability to control the reading experience in their art through highlighting certain things, brightening things up, or leaving things out.

    Source: Reading Rockets Interview with Emily Jenkins (Date and author of interview unavailable, accessed on October 14, 2016)

  3. Sorry! I couldn’t resist adding one more quick comment and wanted to add it separately as I think it is uniquely interesting for the many hopeful children’s book authors in our class:

    When Ms. Jenkins is teaching children about writing she shows them a book and asks them to notice the things that are happening on the page, even the little things and things that are not necessarily part of the main action of the story. Ms. Jenkins finds that the children are very good at noticing and also at thinking about the emotional life of the characters on the page. Ms. Jenkins then asks her students to think about noticing as a pathway to writing. Indeed, Ms. Jenkins uses this same technique in her own creative process.

    Again, my apologies but I couldn’t resist adding this extra tidbit because I think that many students in our class hope to become writers for children and I found Ms. Jenkins process helpful and interesting.

    Source: Reading Rockets Interview with Emily Jenkins (Date and author of interview unavailable, accessed on October 14, 2016) http://www.readingrockets.org/books/interviews/jenkins

  4. Molly Bang had always wanted to be an illustrator, starting from when she was a child. Her parents had always given each other Arthur Rackham illustrated books (he was an illustrator in the early 1900’s, and I have always loved his illustrations for J.M. Barrie’s “Peter Pan”). However, she spent much of her education and early career exploring the world. She became especially interested in Japanese culture and received two masters degrees in Far Eastern Languages and Literacies, one at the University of Arizona and one at Harvard.

    After a number of career moves, she turned again to her passion of illustration. Early in her career publishers said her illustrations wouldn’t match the styles of other people’s stories and that she would have to find her own, so she did. She started illustrating folk tales and her career took off.

    Molly has illustrated and written a variety of books centering on different subjects, which range from folk tales, to children’s emotions, to most recently exploring scientific topics. Molly seems to be very thorough in her exploration of the topics of her books, for instance her book “Picture This” stemmed from loads of research. She explored books and observed classrooms in order to find out how pictures worked.

    Her website contains more information on the books she has written, as well as a more detailed biography. http://www.mollybang.com/Pages/biodetail.html

    There are also a number of interviews with Molly that are posted on Youtube. These provide great insight into what inspires the books she creates. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZXWf5BsjeQY&feature=youtu.be

  5. The colour contrast of Mr. Tiger Goes Wild was also something that I noticed as well. It really complemented his uniqueness as a character stuck in a world of propriety. I also enjoyed how the illustrations gave small clues as to what might happen next. For example when Mr. Tiger is thinking about an incredibly wild idea, he gets shorter and shorter. You only find out what happens to his idea by turning the page, so there’s an element of suspense.
    There are plenty of ways to use comprehension strategies as you read the book with children. I might ask them to predict what is going to happen or infer from the shrinking what Mr. Tiger might be doing. I really enjoyed the book, and as I read it, I saw many opportunities to really engage in dialogue with children.

  6. Joyce Rafla says:

    I really enjoyed reading Mr. Tiger Goes Wild as I can totally relate to the book. I loved how the storyline is so simple and the colors are too yet the message was so powerful. It’s about teaching children non-conformity. Mr. Tiger wanted to be free and wild and to do so, he had to run away to a new land where he would re-create his identity and be true to his own self. It reminds me a bit of Zootopia, the movie. When he is pictured roaming freely on all four legs, I got a feeling that this must be way more comfortable for him!

    The animals are all wearing similar shades of grey suits. He is the only one who is different. When comes back form the wilderness, they’re still wearing their suits but they are one step closer to him: they too walk on four legs now. Pedagogically, this could be a good entry point for the famous Allegory of the Cave where we tell children about people (artists, philosophers….etc.) who think ahead of their time and how they can challenge societies to become more advanced.

  7. Joyce Rafla says:
  8. Amanda MacMillan says:

    Hi everyone!

    I have some information to share with you all about Pierre Prat, a Canadian-born illustrator whose work is featured in one of our readings for this week.

    Pierre was born in 1962 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, where he studied graphic design at Ahuntsic College. Pierre claims that his passion for drawing and art started when he was a young child. He remembers wanting to draw virtually anything in his surroundings! At the beginning of the 1980s, his interest in art began to shift, and he started to draw comic strips. This launched Pierre’s creativity into children’s literature- and, in 1990, he illustrated his first children’s book. Since then, he has illustrated (and written!) over 50 books for children, and has won several prestigious awards, including the Governor-General’s Award of Canada (three times!), a Golden Apple and a Golden Platein Bratislava, a Totem at the Montreuil Salon du Livre in France, a UNICEF Prize in Bologna, the Boston Globe Horn Book Award, the Elizabeth Cleaver Prize, the Mr. Christie Book Award, and the TD Children’s Literature Award. In 2008 he was even chosen to represent Canada for the Hans Christian Andersen Award.

    While the majority of his work is published in French, his art can also be seen in books of many other languages, including English. Pierre’s work has also been bought, sold, and published in many countries, including the United States, Canada, and France. His most recent publication, of which he is both the author and illustrator, is a French book for children titled “Bonne Nuit!”

    Here are some useful links to learn more about Pierre Pratt and his fantastic work:

    His professional webpage: http://www.pierrepratt.com

    “Door in the Air,” a book featuring Pierre’s illustrations, can be seen in this animated creation:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eFp8EpsCNdA

  9. Catherine says:

    I absolutely loved “Mr. Tiger Goes Wild” and agree with what everyone has said about it so far! The use of the orange versus the muted colors to show Mr. Tiger’s individuality, the suspense about what will happen as the story progresses, and the powerful idea Joyce mentioned about how a forward-thinking individual can cause change.

    Young commented on some things you might want to do when using this book with children; I was also thinking about this as I read, primarily because I think kids would get a real kick out of this book. The pages where Mr. Tiger sheds his clothes and appears without them for the first time are genuinely hilarious. In addition, there are moments that can be used to push student thinking and get them to engage with the book on a really meaningful level. For example, I might have students compare the very first spread in the book to the very last spread. What differences do you notice between these two illustrations? Why are they different? On the second-to-last page, why does the author show Mr. Tiger wearing three completely different outfits? What does this tell the reader about how Mr. Tiger has changed?

  10. Carli Spina says:

    Calling Caldecott (http://www.hbook.com/category/blogs/calling-caldecott/) is a Horn Book blog devoted to discussing the Caldecott Medal each year. For the past five years, the contributors have sifted through books that are eligible for the Caldecott and offered commentary on a select list of these titles. Books might be featured because they seem particularly likely to win or because contributors think that they should win or at least be considered. The blog is run by Lolly, Robin Smith (a book reviewer and second grade teacher in Nashville, Tennessee), and Martha Parravano (Executive Editor of the Horn Book Magazines), but others contribute posts throughout the season. The blog is already in full swing for this year and has solicited suggestions of books that should be discussed both on this blog and by the Caldecott committee (http://www.hbook.com/2016/09/blogs/calling-caldecott/welcome-back-september-is-here/) as well as offering up an initial list of books (http://www.hbook.com/2016/09/blogs/calling-caldecott/ladies-and-gentlemen-start-your-engines/). This is a great resource for critical considerations of books that are eligible for the Caldecott and a way to get a peek at the books that are likely being discussed and debated by the Caldecott committee members.

  11. Melissa Christ says:

    I too greatly enjoyed the book, Mr. Tiger Goes Wild, as did my 2 and 5-year-old daughters and 7-year-old son. Today, I’d like to share our experience with the humorous book, There Is a Bird on Your Head! All three of my children and I, giggled as we shared the joy of reading this book together. In my opinion, the cover of the book showing Elephant with a bird on his head and a look of frustration on his face while Piggie over-looks and appears to be sharing with her open mouth, “Hey, you have a bird on your head,” makes this a book that a child would want to pick up off the bookshelf to read and explore.

    As I read the book with my young children, I couldn’t help but notice the stark difference between the white background and simple line-drawn, colored illustrations. Willems did a marvelous job at showing the emotions of Elephant and Piggies through the vivid facial expressions, gestures, and body language. The colored speak bubbles even matched the colors of the characters’ bodies, which made it clear who was speaking. I loved the bold text, and simple sentences. Williams used all caps to show Elephant’s emotions of frustration through the text.

    In addition, Williams uses two-page spreads throughout the book. One of our favorite two-page spreads was pages 10-11, which depicts Elephant running and yelling “Aaaaagghhh!!!” across two pages. Williams effectively and humorously illustrated this by showing dotted humps of lines with triangles at the bottom of the hump to show where Elephant would have placed a foot as he ran. (Sorry, it’s hard to describe that, but check out the pages. ) Elephant’s facial expression and full body language of depicts his emotion. The bird is noticeably flapping backwards and as he looks over to a frantic Elephant.

    My children and I loved this book! It is a book that we will absolutely read time and time again.

  12. Similar to Melissa, I absolutely adored There is a Bird on Your Head! The thoughtful combination of the dialogue-based text and illustrations truly made this book an absolute page-turner. While the text is simple—there is not usually more than a brief sentence on each page—I felt like I really got to know each of the characters’ personalities and temperaments, in a really endearing way. For example, after Elephant has panicked in discovery of finding a bird on his head, Elephant asks, “Is there a bird on my head now?” Piggie says, “No.” But turn the page… and next Piggie says, “Now there are two birds on your head,” beside an illustration of Piggie looking perfectly amused. This is in stark contrast to the clearly unamused Elephant, whose eyes are then drawn glaring towards Piggie in discontent. The subtle yet powerful adjustments of the way the characters are illustrated on each page–in this case, drawing Elephant’s raised eyebrows and disapproving eyes–are so captivating. It is perfect that both Elephant and his speech bubbles are in a muted gray color, while optimistic Piggie and his speech bubbles are drawn in a spirited pink.

    I can imagine this book being used in so many ways. It’s a great book for young readers given its repetition of text, such as when Piggie says, “There is a bird on your head,” to which Elephant responds, “There is a bird on my head?” I also love the use of dialogue, and feel this would be such a fun book to help readers see how writing can convey the differences in characters’ expressions when a sentence has a period versus exclamation mark versus question mark; perhaps readers could even role-play reading the dialogue of the character of Elephant versus Piggie.

  13. Katherine Hu says:

    I have always loved elephant and piggy books! When I used to work at a preschool, it was often the favorite of many children. Like Melissa mentioned above, the facial expressions of elephant and piggy really engages the reader, and I think that is something I never thought about until now. I remember always wondering what made certain books more popular with children than others, and being surprised that elephant and piggy was so popular even though there were other books that I felt were better illustrated or written with a better storyline. Now looking at it critically, I think the way the characters are portrayed, the liveliness and fantastical element of the characters COMBINED with the easy to understand and relatable storyline really makes it attractive to kids! I also think particularly for this book, the white background makes the characters even more central and more alive, and the speech bubbles give it a bit of a comic book feel!

  14. Jinwen Ye says:

    Hello ☺ I would love to share what I learned about Grace Lin.
    During an interview (http://www.readingrockets.org/books/interviews/lin), Grace shared some of her stories. Being as the only Asian student in the class has always been a hard time for her. She tried to forget about the fact that she was an Asian. For example, when she walked by the window and saw her own reflection, she would say to herself “Look, that’s a Chinese girl”, but then she found that the reflection was actually hers– that she was the Chinese girl. She suggested that if Asian American children could have some book about Asian American, they might not feel so lonely. Therefore, she went on to write stories based on her own experience growing up as an Asian American child and published her first book in 1999, talking about a story that the Asian girl felt embarrassed that her family grew vegetables in the garden while people in her neighborhood grew beautiful flowers. She also shared an advice that “if you want to be a writer, you have to be a reader.”
    Reading through Grace’s website, I often found myself laughing. Her blog included many interesting things. For example, the first thing on the list you could click on is a studio tour (http://www.gracelin.com/content.php?page=studio_tables), where you could click on some red dots on the photos and learn about some details of her life, such as having some hard-to-find paint and her notes for the novel ‘s inspiration. She also wrote some stories about her family under each family member’s tab, and the way she wrote about those stories are all very funny. I would recommend our classmates to read some of them here (http://www.gracelin.com/content.php?page=family_mom).

  15. Santi D-A. says:

    Mo Willems is the creator, writer, and illustrator behind the popular characters Elephant and Piggie, the Knuffle Bunny books, and the Pigeon series. He is also a sculpture; the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in Amherst houses his work, The Red Elephant. He currently resides in Northampton, Massachusetts, by way of growing up in New Orleans and both attending college and working in New York City. While in NYC, Willems was awarded six Emmys during his nine years working at Sesame Street. In addition to his Emmys, his works have received multiple Caldecott Honors, Geisel Medals, Geisel Honors, and Carnegie Medals.

    According to The New York Times 2016 article, Mo Willem’s has been influenced by the work of the Peanuts comicstrip creator, Charles M. Schulz. In his April, 2014 interview with CBS Sunday Morning, Willems mentions that he began sketching cartoons in second grade as a defense mechanism to distract the class bully from picking on him. Willems describes childhood as a “terrible time”. He continues to paint the experience of childhood as being one where, “You walk into a room and the room is saying, ‘you, no you’re nobody.’” His books empower children by asking for reader involvement. This level of participation can be extremely engaging for both the reader and Willems himself; he explains, “My goal is to write 49% of the book and then to let my audience create the other 51%. They are my collaborator more than they are my audience.” His collaborative style continues to captivate readers and Willems newest book, Nanette’s Baguette, will be released this month.

    See below for links to more information regarding Mo Willems and his works:

    http://www.pigeonpresents.com

    http://mowillemsfaq.blogspot.com

    http://www.mowillems.com

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dKgnlRivA6U&app=desktop

    https://shop.carlemuseum.org/files/isbn_images/RedElephantPostcard.jpg

    http://mobile.nytimes.com/2016/03/18/arts/design/mo-willems-and-the-art-of-the-childrens-book.html?_r=1

  16. Mo Willems is a long-time favourite of my niece, who can’t get enough of elephant, piggie, and, of course, the pigeon (which features in another popular series of books)! It’s interesting to read the background information provided above by Santi, as it demonstrates that we can often be unaware of the motivating factors behind an author’s choice of subject and approach.

    Like others above, I suppose I’ve always seen the Willems books as a sort of mass-produced set of stories that are adorable and engaging, but perhaps aren’t the paragon of illustration or story line. As we moved this week to understand the function of easy readers, I realized more that these stories have a different function than the books Lolly said last week are really written for adults and illustrated more for children. The stories Willems weaves have clear appeal to younger children, making them smile and laugh and want to come back for more. As others have pointed out, while the illustrations in _Mirror_ are colourful, complex, and staggeringly beautiful to me, in Willems’s characters, there is a lot of nuance in the expressions and pagination.

    I look forward to our discussion this week!

  17. Kate McDonald says:

    “Hello. I am Peter Brown, and it is my professional opinion that everyone should find time to go a little wild.” Peter Brown wrote and illustrated Mr Tiger Goes Wild (2013) and was influenced by artists who inspire him to create the illustrations for this book. For example, Mary Blair (a former Disney artist) influenced his use and range of expressions for Mr Tiger; Alice & Martin Provensen’s work influenced the use of white spaces; whereas Eyvind Earle (former Disney artist) explores adding texture, pattern and elements, allowing Brown to combine lushness and sparseness in his illustrations for this book.

    Brown was born in New Jersey in 1979. Before moving to Brooklyn NY in 2002, he travelled and spent time sketching his surroundings. He was working on animated TV shows when he signed a book deal to write and illustrate his first picture book, “Flight of the Dodo.” He went on to write and illustrate a number of picture books (see below). Brown admits that most of his characters are based on aspects of himself. His illustrations for Creepy Carrots!, written by Aaron Reynolds, earned Brown a Caldecott Honor in 2013. Brown has recently released his first novel for children The Wild Robot. More information about his process to investigate, story map and create this novel can be found on his website.

    Brown has written and illustrated: Mr Tiger Goes Wild; Flight of the Dodo; Chowder; The Fabulous Bouncing Chowder; The Curious Garden; Children Make Terrible Pets; You Will Be My Friend!, My Teacher is a Monster (No I am Not); The Wild Robot; and has also illustrated the following books Barkbelly; Snowbone; Kaline Klattermaster’s Tree House; The Purple Kangaroo; Creepy Carrots!.

    • Brown’s website is http://www.peterbrownstudio.com
    • Brown talks about his creative processes and artistic influences that shaped Mr Tiger Goes Wild in this website https://vimeo.com/80293481
    • Brown is interviewed about creating Mr Tiger Goes Wild http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/authors/interviews/article/58867-q-a-with-peter-brown.html
    • Brown spoke at the Library of Congress 2014 where he read his first book he wrote when he was 6 years old and discusses My Teacher is a Monster (No I am Not) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7VJDFxSOvpk

  18. I thought a lot about the relationship between text and image in There Is A Bird on Your Head!, particularly at how both work to propel forward a plot and indicate narrative. As Emily said, this book really is a page-turner. The plot is very clear and there is a progression of events. This is seen also in the many times thick dotted lines are used to indicate movement, for example when the original bird departs on pp. 10-11 and 12, and then when we see the two lovebirds about to return, clearly headed right for Elephant’s head, on p. 13. This propelling-forward of the plot really helped me appreciate both the words and the text of this book, especially imagining a young reader being able to understand the events and the characters’ dialogue.

    I also looked at the endpapers and really loved the part both play in the plot. The front endpapers have a single bird repeated against a pale blue background. This shows us right away the bird the title already got us ready for. The endpapers at the end of the book show the whole bird family—the same yellow bird, the green bird, and the blue baby birds—also repeated, against the same blue backdrop. What a great visual summary of the action taking place over the course of the book and a real change that we saw happen!

  19. Julie (Jules) Danielson is the mastermind behind Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast (http://blaine.org/sevenimpossiblethings/), a children’s literature blog which focuses primarily on illustration and picture books. The earliest blog entry was August 16, 2006! That’s 10 years ago.

    She is also a lecturer at the University of Tennessee, and the author of Wild Things! Acts of Mischief in Children’s Literature. Her favourite thing about children’s picture books is that they are “portable art galleries” for children. Her favourite picture book of all time is “Big Momma Makes the World” (https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/878261.Big_Momma_Makes_the_World).

    Here is a link to her book: http://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/236875/wild-things-acts-of-mischief-in-childrens-literature-by-betsy-bird/

  20. Like my classmates, I thoroughly enjoyed the readings for this week. I wanted to build on Nell’s comment about the endpapers for There Is a Bird on Your Head!. I certainly notice endpapers when they are distinctive, but after our last class, I was much more committed than I have been in the past to explicitly looking at all parts of the book, including the jacket, the front and back covers underneath the jacket, and the endpapers.

    I was delighted, like Nell, with the endpapers for There Is a Bird on Your Head!, (and enjoyed the brief pigeon cameo on the back endpapers, which I think would delight young observant readers) and also thrilled to discover the detailed design for Mr. Tiger Goes Wild. In Mr. Tiger Goes Wild, the front endpapers depict the bricks/stones like the ones in the buildings throughout the book, and the back shows plants like those in the natural landscape to which Mr. Tiger escapes. The front and back cover of the book do not match the jacket, and instead are tiger-striped with the same vivid orange from the illustrations, with a white strip at the bottom, which makes it look like the book is depicting the tiger’s back and belly (but only if he is on all fours rather than upright!). I think this design fits so well with the themes of transition and expression in the book, in addition to being visually engaging and playful, which also matches the overall tone of the book.

  21. I read “There is a Bird on Your Head” for the first time in class last week and I’m still thinking / laughing about it this week! This a very memorable and humorous book. I agree with others that the illustrations in that book may not be the most sophisticated (compared to Mr. Tiger Goes Wild) but it is so much fun – elephant and piggy’s expressions are priceless! Also, the way the characters almost repeat after each other is a clever technique that emphases what the characters are saying and also encourage readers to anticipate what’s going to be on the next page. The plot twist at the end is as hilarious as it is perfect.

  22. Siyuan Lu says:

    I am also impressed by the several sharp contrasts in the book ‘Mr Tiger Goes Wild’. Except for the color contrast which has been mentioned by many students, I noticed several other interesting things.
    For instance, at the beginning of the book, Mr. Tiger is the only one who has his eyes open while all the other animals’ eyes are closed. The author used this contrast to explain Mr. Tiger’s potential to ‘go wild’.
    In addition, there is a sharp contrast regarding the shape of the animals. At the early part of the book, the author only uses straight lines to draw the animals. The shape of all the animals is close to rectangular, including Mr. Tiger. However, after Mr. Tiger goes wild, the author stars to use curve lines to draw Mr. Tiger. This is a very impressive contrast that helps readers feel the ‘wildness’ of Mr. Tiger immediately.

  23. I have so many random comments and observations to share, but I will discuss the two easy reader books.

    In my past life as an elementary teacher, I loved the Elephant and Piggie books mostly because my students adored them! While they are early reader books that they were picking up to read themselves, they LOVED having all of Willem’s books read to them. My students and I were drawn to the books because of their graphic simplicity, as well as the fun comic-book-like feeling because of how the text is integrated into the page. (Also, did you know the elephant has a name? It’s Gerald!) The simple graphics and text, however, do help build up to the richer theme of friendship (which might be more evident in viewing the books as a collection!)

    I also enjoyed Grace Lin’s Ling and Ting book, which is also one in a series, because of what they say and do in the grand scheme of Asian American media representation. In one of her autobiographical chapter books, she describes how her elementary-aged self couldn’t find books about Asian Americans who just lived “regular lives” like herself, and thus wrote her very first own pictures book, “The Ugly Vegetables.” I enjoy Ling and Ting and many of her other books because they don’t pigeon-hole the Taiwanese-American experience into stereotypes, nor exotify the culture, which I see many “multicultural books” doing.
    Also, final fun fact: when our kinder class did an author study on Grace Lin, we all wrote her some letters, and she sent us all a personalized letter to our class, and bookmarks for each child! We felt so special.

  24. I love what everyone has said on “Mr. Tiger Goes Wild”. It is definitely a very interesting book, and the use of colors and images really adds so much to the book. I like Catherine’s mentioning of the spread of the two pages – it is something I didn’t notice and now make much sense of. I also like Young’s thinking into presenting this book to children. I particularly like “There is a bird on your head!” when it comes to reading with children. I can imagine them giggling and laughing with the expressions of the pig and the elephant. During the story, many parts can be made very interactive – counting together of how many eggs; predicting what is going to happen; role play etc. Even though the pictures are very simple, it somehow expresses the feelings of these animals in such an expressive way! I can tell that the book is helpful to children with numbers, basic grammar, manners(how to make a request politely), and some knowledge on little animals as well. The book has its own humor that really gets me and I absolutely love it!

  25. Liza Raino-Ogden says:

    I absolutely adored Mr. Tiger Goes Wild. It reminded me of Where the Wild Things Are, in that he, like Max, goes a little wild–though this time due to boredom, not anger–and then returns to the “normal land” once he is bored or lonely again. This theme of not only “going wild” but also finding ways to engage in the real world is prevalent in both stories.

    I agree with everyone’s comments about how the simply shapes help to show conformity, and the use of mostly muted colors help to show how Mr. Tiger stands out (especially when he is–gasp–naked!). I also found it interesting that Mr. Tiger is not, in fact, a child. He is a grown up, which makes his wildness even more funny. It is a story of childhood, though told through an adult.

  26. Emily Nadel says:

    I am particularly interested in design this week while reading our course books. I am working on a picture book project for another class and thinking about the coordination and meaning of my words and images together. Design can completely change the meaning and impact of a book, especially a book for young learners who rely on the visual nature of the book to tell the story before they are able to engage with the written text independently. For early readers, the design of the text can clue to its meaning and increase understanding.

    Reading Peter Brown’s, “Mr. Tiger Goes Wild,” the interaction of written text with illustrated images produces a more impactful and engaging story. Initially, I noticed the texture on the cover. This ribbed effect adds a tactile dimension essential for engaging young children whose learning is developmentally hyper-focused on physical sensory information. The next design observation I made was how the text blends in among the images, signaling to the viewer that the words and images are connected, equally valuable.

    The cartoon speech bubbles offer highlighting frames for distinct thoughts and comments. This design emphasizes the importance of the relatively small words and sounds expressed inside.

    On the page where Mr.Tiger and his top hat slowly disappear off the page in a series of illustrations, this series tells the reader that the character is experiencing physical and mental change. When Mr. Tiger jumps into the fountain, the words swim across the fountain pool with him.

    These are just a view examples of design impacting meaning in picture books.

  27. Santi Dewa Ayu says:

    The relationship between the images and the text in There is a Bird on Your Head by Mo Willems creates a sense of urgency and need to turn the page to find out what will happen next. As Nell mentioned, the dotted line used to illustrate the path of the birds also tells a narrative that is aligned with the text. In the day and age of texting and the increased expectation of immediate responses through text messages, it is interesting to note that Willems utilizes text bubbles with colors to indicate the communication between Gerald and Piggie. Gerald’s dialogue is formatted within gray word bubbles while Piggie’s is displayed using pink. (The baby birds have their “Cheep!” sounds within a blended color of muted yellow and green as one of the adult birds is green and the other is yellow.) Although this perhaps wasn’t the intention of Willems, the visual representation of communication between Gerald and Piggie bears a strikingly similar resemblance to text message correspondence and in doing so adds to the urgency of reading the story. The use of colors to differentiate dialogue bubbles also creates a system for being able to identify which characters have the most voice-time within the book.

  28. Monique H. says:

    Reiterating what many of you have said about “Mr. Tiger Goes Wild!”, what a fun and beautiful book! I love the sharp color contrasts between Mr. Tiger and everyone else, between the city and the wilderness, and between the front cinderblock endpapers and the back lush greenery endpapers. Speaking of papers, I really loved the texture of the paper used in this book; I even used the note Peter Brown left about the design of the book to look up what kind of paper it was. It’s woodfree paper, by the way.

    “Ling and Ting” by Grace Lin was such a sweet book. It was a simple set of narratives with easy-to-read font for early readers. I loved the sisters’ relationship and their miss-matched shoes. One thing that I found to be funny was the fact that I didn’t realize the book was literally about the twins being “together in all weather” until the end of Story 3.

    Overall, I greatly enjoyed all the readings for this week and I look forward to discussing them in class!

  29. I absolutely adored the Ling and Ting book! First off, it’s always refreshing to see Asian Americans as main characters of a children’s book, and not one where their “Asian-ness” is emphasized. Of course, there’s always a place for focusing on aspects of other cultures (for example, see the hilarious family anecdotes that Jinwe found on the author’s website!). But here, these girls are simply funny children, like other kids. We don’t even see their family, the focus is just on them and their everyday adventures.

    I also like the design of each story beginning with a title page on the right, inviting you to turn the page to begin the next story. The penultimate page of each story is also on the right, while the last page is on the left. That way, you don’t see the surprise/funny ending until you turn the page. The consistency of color was a nice touch, with each story having a theme color reflected in the illustration borders, page numbers, and occasionally their clothing.

    Lastly, the writing and characterization were reminiscent of the simple, lovable daffiness of Frog and Toad (and as a collection of seasonal stories, the book reminds me of Frog and Toad All Year!).

  30. Nana Seiwaa Sekyere says:

    Like other people on this thread, I had a blast reading ‘Mr. Tiger Goes Wild’. The bright orange used for Mr. Tiger in contrast to the gray of the other animals made me focus on Mr. Tiger and his actions. I guess this was to make readers aware that he is the main character and to pay more attention to him. After our discussion about the pictures in “Where The Wild Things Are”, I paid closer attention to the illustrations in this book. I noticed on the spread that preceded him going on all fours for the first time, his image kept moving lower and lower on the page. This made me wonder what the significance of this was. This made me realize that illustrations can be a great way for kids to make predictions about what is going to happen next. This is a book that can be used with kids who can read and those who can’t. Both groups can still enjoying the story and interact with it.

  31. Phil, I agree that it’s important to portray a wide range of characters in children’s literature. It’s actually super difficult to come across Asian Americans as main characters in books who don’t have overly exaggerated “Asian characteristics.” However, as was brought this up in our first class, it’s something that other forms of media also struggle to do…Like in the Ling and Ting book, the suspense of turning the page was a feature that I also saw in Mr. Tiger Goes Wild. It adds a lot of excitement to the whole reading experience!

  32. Andrea M. says:

    I really enjoyed reading That New Animal by Emily Jenkins and illustrated by Pierre Pratt. I hadn’t read this book before and although at first sight the design was not as engaging after reading Mr. Tiger Goes Wild (which I loved and agree with everyone else’s comments); looking at the illustrations more carefully I really noticed what Lolly told us about how in a picture book the illustrations tell the story too.

    For example, when Grandpa comes to visit, I could make the following inferences just by looking at the pictures: Grandpa must be the father’s father since their noses look exactly the same; Grandpa probably lives out of town because he is carrying a suitcase; mother and father are happy to see Grandpa since they are smiling at him and the father is stretching his arms to hug him; and it’s probably chilly outside since he is wearing a hat and trench coat.

    Something else I noticed about the pictures is that I felt some of them were disproportionate, but then I thought maybe the illustrator wanted the reader to look at the pictures from a dog’s perspective where some things look huge for them.

  33. Katie Stack says:

    I agree with Shuwen about the humor in the books. While student teaching in third grade, we did a unit on books that the librarian indicated were up for the Caldecott in 2014, which included Mr. Tiger Goes Wild. The students were entirely engaged by the story and captivated by the illustrations. It is such a great way to promote individuality!

    Now rereading the book through the lens of this course, I noticed some features that were overlooked before, such as the design, use of color, and amount of text on a page. I also watched a video in which Peter Brown discussed his illustration process, which I’d recommend! For example, he discusses how he wanted to show Mr. Tiger walking on all four legs. To emphasize Mr. Tiger’s horizontal posture, he emphasized the verticality of the buildings and other animals. Just as I appreciated how Lolly revealed the spread pattern of Where the Wild Things Are , I really valued hearing Peter Brown’s thought process that led to his wonderful illustrations.

    link to Peter Brown’s video (scroll to Mr. Tiger Goes Wild): http://www.peterbrownstudio.com/books/#.WAVWufkrLIU

  34. Echoing other’s sentiments, I was also struck by the illustrations in Mr. Tiger Goes Wild. The vivid orange stands in stark contrast to the muted grays and greens and browns of the city, reminding me of the illustrations in the book Extra Yarn, written by Mac Barnett and illustrated by John Klassen. In this story, the main character brightens up the town she lives in by knitting pieces all over town with her extra yarn, similar to the “yarn bombing” phenomenon that spiked in popularity a few years back. I love the idea the Mr. Tiger brings color to the rigid, drab world around him, and I found it powerful that the wilderness he ventured into was also depicted in brighter, fuller colors, juxtaposing it with the muted city.

    In contemplating the power of these images, I wondered, after last week’s reading of Mirror, how this book might have worked without text. I think the breaks in the text and the varying sizes added rhythm and cues for emphasis into the story, but I wonder if a similar story and effect could have been realized without text, relying on just the power of the illustrations. I think commentators above were right that the illustrations subtly suggested what might come next, and while one may not understand the full story line without text at first glance, one perusal from start to finish should spell it out clearly enough.

    Given the traditional dependency on written word in books, I have only recently begun to contemplate the usefulness of textless books for children and adults alike. Reading words can be challenging, especially for children, but lack of words challenges one differently – creatively, imaginatively. This could perhaps encourage children who have a strong sense of imagination and story sequence but struggle with words or language. It is interesting to think about what makes a textless book successful and to image traditional books as textless, and I have a feeling I will be thinking a lot about this as the course progresses.

  35. Mia Branco says:

    I don’t think I have ever come across a Mo Willems book that I don’t like, and There is a Bird on your Head is no exception. Willems has a wonderful way of developing simple dialogue and interaction between his characters that is both straightforward and full of personality. In dialogue created with exchanges made of single words, simple sentences, and facial expressions, Willem is able to show how important and empowering it can be to advocate for yourself as well as how your perspective may change when you are observing a situation versus experiencing it first hand. Best of all, he does so with humor and compassion.

  36. I enjoyed reading Mr. Tiger Goes Wild so much that, after I finished it, I logged onto Peter Brown’s website to learn more about him. I also watched a video about his creative process for developing the story, which was very interesting. He discusses his inspirations for the illustrations, as well as the research he did on Victorian-style art when creating the buildings in the story, and he emphasizes his use of vertical and horizontal in the spreads. That was something that I noticed and appreciated while reading the book. For example, when the Tiger is walking upright, all of the buildings and characters are also vertical. In the same vein, my favorite spread is the one where he gets his “wild idea” and gradually sinks lower and lower on the page until he is crawling on all fours. I thought that was very cool and I imagine it would also be engaging for children reading it. Additionally, as others have mentioned, I love the message, not only of uniqueness but also of balance between wild and proprietary. So great! I look forward to reading more of his work.

  37. Stone Dawson says:

    I agree absolutely with what everyone has said so far about “Mr. Tiger Goes Wild.” The contrast in colors and shapes, the way the pictures urge the reader to turn the page and discover what happens next, and the message of the story are all great for young readers. I also loved how the illustrations use the perspective of the reader to tell the story. As mentioned above, most of the animals in the book have their eyes closed throughout the beginning of the book, while Mr. Tiger stares directly at the reader. This really helps the reader understand just what Mr. Tiger is feeling in a much more substantial way than if he was looking at the other characters. The perspective of the reader is also used when the other animals tell Mr. Tiger to go to the wilderness, placing us in the shoes of Mr. Tiger which is fascinating. Finally, Mr. Tiger, upon realizing his boredom and loneliness in the wild, looks at the reader almost pleadingly, as if we, as the page turners, are in control of what he can do. Overall, a simply wonderful book!

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