Monday, July 2, 2012

Genres in Children's Literature, La Trobe University, Lecture 4: Author and Illustrator Devices

 Genres in Children's Literature is a course taught by David Beagley at Australia's La Trobe University. Lectures from the Spring 2012 semester are available for download on iTunes U. As I listen to the lectures, I am recording my reflections and responses here on my blog. This post focuses on Lecture 4: Author and Illustrator Devices.

Beagley's remarks in this lecture echoed some of the things he's already said, but then applied them all to an Australian picture book called Norton's Hut. The book seems to be out of print and unavailable these days, and it's not familiar to me at all, but Beagley's analysis of it seems like a pretty good blueprint for analyzing and reviewing books with illustrations.

Here's a list of the details Beagley discussed as he went through Norton's Hut:
  • The visual effects of text (conversation bubbles, capital letters, etc.)
  • Endpapers 
  • Symbolism of setting 
  • Framing of the illustrations/story
  • Figurative language (alliteration/metaphor/personifcation/simile)
  • Characters' expressions 
  • Lighting and contrast 
  • Intertextuality
  • Use of cinematic technique in illustrations
I think it would be silly to assume these are the only things to look for in a picture book, but I think this list is a great starting point. If a reader is looking closely enough to notice these elements, there can be no doubt that he or she will start to notice many more. I find it difficult sometimes to think of books as constructions, with deliberate stylistic choices. It's like looking at the man behind the curtain; Oz loses its magic once you see how he works. But I also think that, in great books, seeing how they work is actually another part of the magic. Seeing how authors put together these great reading experiences can be a real treat.

Want to listen along? Click here. Read about David Beagley here. Read my previous lecture responses here.

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