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Picture books | class #1, fall 2016


For our first class on October 12, we will be reading two picture books and three articles.

Where the Wild Things Are is a classic now, but when it was first published in 1963 it was controversial. If you knew this book as a child, what did you notice this time that you might not have picked up before? Can you see why it could be problematic for adults, particularly in the early 60s?

Mirror is a wordless book constructed in a way I've never seen before (or since). Is there a right way to read wordless books? How might you share this one-on-one with a child? What would you do differently if you read it with an entire class?

The great children’s literature specialist Rudine Sims Bishop has written about books for children needing to be both windows and mirrors. Mirror seems to me to be the epitome of that idea, calling for empathy with both story strands, as well as a sharp eye for similarities and differences. There is so much to notice in both of these books.

As you read all the books for this class, try to do so with both your child brain, or lens, and your adult one. Think, too, about the choices made by the books' creators. The three articles we are reading this week will help you understand the picture-book-making process:

Please comment on any aspect of any of these books and articles in the comments below. Blog readers who are NOT in this class, we particularly invite you to comment and help broaden our discussion.

Added October 8: Each week, certain students will be asked to research people and topics related to the week's readings and report their findings in a comment. Carli Spina, one of the teaching assistants, has posted comments about Sendak and Baker below, as exemplars.

Lolly Robinson

Lolly Robinson is a freelance designer and consultant with degrees in studio art and children’s literature. She is the former creative director for The Horn Book, Inc., and has taught 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 blogged for Calling Caldecott and Lolly's Classroom on this site.


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Kate McDonald

“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 • Brown talks about his creative processes and artistic influences that shaped Mr Tiger Goes Wild in this website • Brown is interviewed about creating Mr Tiger Goes Wild • 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)

Posted : Oct 16, 2016 07:01

Joyce Rafla

One more thing: the opposite of Mr. Tiger:

Posted : Oct 15, 2016 07:24

Joyce Rafla

Perhaps it's too late to post this but I'm going to go ahead and post it anyways. My first reaction to Mirror was "wow, this is great... a book in both my languages" and when I flipped through the first pages, I started asking myself some questions. For starters, why did the author choose to juxtapose a city with a village? For children who are probably not good at seriation (knowing the difference between a country, city, village...etc.), they might assume that this is a typical Australian/Moroccan lifestyle. I think the comparison might have emphasized already existing stereotypes. While it's great to use the book to introduce (western) children to different cultures, perhaps we should start with something that is starkly different than their home culture especially that sometimes children are less comfortable with differences than adults. For a Middle Eastern child, s/he might notice -for example- how the man is portrayed as an affectionate husband (by putting his arm around his wife's shoulders) whereas the Moroccan man is portrayed as being a loving father. That might aid to the already-existing message that people should get married for social acceptance and not for love. While some introduction is better than nothing, I felt like I couldn't identify enough with that version of "this part of the world."

Posted : Oct 15, 2016 01:22


I particularly liked the book "mirror". It is quite different from what I had previously imagined, but it made so much sense once I started to read it! The book is so centered on details! The texture of the scenes, the little connections that the author tries to build within - The light shedding through the window on both homes; the carpet; the goodness shown in both cultures. It is absolutely amazing! This book reminds me again how much we are alike, and how we are similar to each other despite the different cultures we live in.

Posted : Oct 11, 2016 02:56


"You may not consciously know it, but when you pick up a book, you are reading its layout and typeface and color palette for clues about the story." While I may have engaged in the process Scieszka describes above subconsciously as a child, I have noticed myself very consciously doing so as an adult. When I walk into a bookstore or a library, I am utterly overwhelmed by all of the options, all of the shiny covers begging to be opened. I rarely go in with a purpose or a specific book in mind, instead I browse. And in browsing, perhaps unsurprisingly, design matters. I find myself drawn to pull books off the shelves based on the bold or simplistic or engaging design on the cover or spine. Logically, I know this could be causing me to overlook many a great book, and I know better than to simply choose a pretty book and walk away without reading the synopsis, but I can't help myself. In a world this noisy and busy, we need something that grabs and focuses our attention initially, that pulls us to a particular flotsam in a sea of information. However, as I read the descriptions of design choices and Scieszka mentioned the use of red text to highlight the hen's annoying voice, it struck me: what is the experience like for those who cannot engage with visual design for one reason or another? What do they lose? What might they gain? How could books be otherwise designed to enhance their experience? Sounds? Smells? Textures?

Posted : Oct 10, 2016 04:22

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