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Reading and constructing Picture books

Nov. 5 Language Arts class by Janice Rahn

A. First Half: Practical Art Criticism
using an encounter with picture books, following Feldmans process of :
1. Description, 2. Analysis 3. Interpretation 4. Judgement
B. Second Half: Studio activity modeled on Eric Carls methods of illustration.
Part A. Art Criticism: Intended Learner Outcomes
Students will increase knowledge and understanding of visual elements,
styles, and materials of book illustrations and be able to describe the
illustrations of selected books using language from art criticism
Students will study the inquiry process of forming questions that move
from description, analysis, interpretation and judgement about specific
pictures in selected childrens books.
Students will understand the importance of association between the text
and personal experience to create meaning.
Interpretation of book illustrations - asking the right questions to guide students
through higher levels of perception and thinking.
15 min. Students are each given a copy of this lesson plan.
Whole class discussion to model questions that provoke students to critique the images.
When beginning a class with a discussion write your questions ahead of time in your
lesson plan in order to go beyond information and description to higher levels of thought.
Jigsaw method:
20 min Pair/share in 7 groups of 2 Each pair is given a book. Using the questions in this
lesson plan as a guide, each partner becomes an expert on one book. Choose the
questions most appropriate for their book and grade level. They make up their own
questions to add to the ones suggested here, following the sequence from description to
30 min. Divide into 2 groups of 7 where each student presents their book. Students will
have to share their book with their partner in the other group. Each partner will present at
a different time.

i ) Description and analysis of individual pages

1. Basic description: How would you describe this image to someone else? Move
through the image and describe what you see without interpreting its meaning.

2. Size and Shape: Imagine the image is being framed by a camera lens. Describe
how it is zooming in or out on the subject. Describe the shape in relation to the frame. Is
the subject cropped? Does it fill the frame, overlap the frame? Describe the relationship
of positive to negative space - the subject (positive) to the space around it (the negative
space.) Do the shapes overlap, fill the page. How do these design decision affect the

3. Color: Is the color homogenous (different shades of a similar color) or

contrasting? How is color used to create emphasis, mood, cultural
references? Why is black and white used in relation to color?
4. Grouping: How are shapes grouped to affect balance or instability? Are they
crowded, evenly space, balanced, arranged horizontally, vertically? Are they arranged to
create a pattern? Is the space flat (2-D) or a real 3-D space?
5. Borders: Describe how borders are used. How do they relate to the story?

6. Juxtaposition of Words and images

Juxtaposition is an important term when talking about the relational meaning created
between two images or texts to create an intertext. Question the decisions made in the
placement of images together and the placement of the text on the page in relation to
images. Encourage the image not as mere illustration of what is already being said in the
written text, but as adding information, mood, or interesting detail to the narrative.
Eg of questions: Describe the style of font and how this changes the meaning. Describe
the placement of the text in relation to the image. What if?...Imagine different styles of
lettering or different placement in relation to image and how this would change the
meaning. How is the narrative interwoven with the pictures? What extra information is
carried by the image that is not being communicated by the written text? What is the
relationship of image to text? If there is no written text, how are images sequenced to
create narrative? What details are important to create a compelling story that holds your
7. How does the composition of images and text direct your eye to create interest and
meaning through the flow or movement of images and text?
8. Point of view - vantage point. In your handouts, you have a definition and
examples of vantage point. In your book, again imagine yourself behind a camera
framing this picture. Where are you located in relation to the image? Is there a horizon
line? Are you above, (birds eye), below (worms eye) or at eye level (standing)?
Analyze the use of vantage point to create changes in the spatial relationship between
you the reader and the action in the picture.

ii ) Whole book Analysis

How would you analyze the authors style? Did he/she have a particular way of
drawing or painting? How did the use of materials hold your interest? How did they
make you feel?
How is spatial movement created between frames or pages? Is there a flow or a jumpcut from one frame to the next? How are different viewpoints used to create variety and

1. Interpretation Where did particular design decisions affect the meaning or mood
of the story? How did the materials used affect the ideas or theme of the book?
2. Judgment What did you find more interesting: the story communicated in written
text or through the illustrations?

Part B. Application of ideas learned in part A in a studio activity

Intended Learner Outcomes:
You will model Eric Carls method of painting textures on paper using various materials
to cut stencils. Fill at least 3 pages. One is to keep for your group and two are to trade
with the other groups.
Center #1. Filling pages with watercolor washes of transparent layers or dry brush
Center #2 Stamping with templates made of sponges and styrofoam on pads of ink and
tempera paint
Center #3 Rubbings to create textures. Table with textured objects and various drawing
tools to cover large pieces of paper with colored textures.
Groups trade prints
Each group is provided with scissors to cut the painted and printed paper into
stencils to collage or print in accordion books.
Due to the lack of time students will be given a different blank book structure. When
doing this with children, have them create their own.
For this workshop each group will be given an accordion book that has 8 pages, including
a foldout, cutout, and pop up. Two different structures will be created to compare how the
structure of the book changes the story.
Storyboard preparation: As a group brainstorm on the board, different ideas for the
books. What characters will be in your book? What setting?
On long strip of newsprint, quickly sketch a rough outline of the design ideas for your
book, trying to incorporate some of the design strategies used in the picture books. For
example, use more then one vantage point, different points of view (close-up to far
away), framing devises, overlapping to create space and shapes, movement, grouping of
subjects, color to create emphasis etc.
Unit outline for studio activity if you were to do it with students in the school.
Lesson one: In three groups, make about 15 pages of washes, printed, and textured paper
as material for the books. Give two away and keep the rest for your group.
Lesson two: Develop a childrens story for that specific age group. This story can be
integrated with their social studies, come from their language arts, or made through
improvisation in a Drama class, moving from improvisation to dialogue or story.

Lesson three: Make an accordion book and create the story with images using materials
generated in lesson one. Keep the first and last page blank. (Students can also use other
collage images from their image bank. An image bank is a collection of images kept in a
shoebox and gathered throughout the year by each student.)
Lesson four: Typography. Show different uses of typography in books to show how type
can be used as a graphic for the purpose of design and personal expression.
Lesson Five: Create a cover for the book by gluing the first and last page of the accordion
on a piece of cardboard that is a bit large then the size of each page of the accordion.
Note: demonstrate craftsmanship, care, and a uniquely finished book that is written and
illustrated by each student.


Carl Eric (2004), Mister Seahorse, Philomel books, New York

Gutierrez, Elisa (2005), Picturesque, Simply Read Books Inc.
Jonas, Ann, (1983). Round Trip, Greenwillow books, New York
Lionni, Leo, Fish is Fish Knopf, New York
Shannon, David, (1999) No David, Blue Sky Press
Shannon, David, David goes to school
Shannon David, (2002) David gets in trouble
Van Camp Richard, (1997) A man called raven
Wiesner David (1999) Sector 7, Clarion Books NewYork
Woodson, Jacqueline, Show way,
Yerxa Leo (1947), Last Leaf First Snowflake to fall, Orchard book, New York