Some Ideas for beginning the Analysis of a Picture Book
If you are having trouble knowing where to start, it may help you to try reading
your book in some different ways, jotting down anything you notice after each
experience. I've added some questions that may be helpful, but don't get stuck
by them. Some ways of reading or questions may not yield any results for you or
your book, others may. You might just try the different ways of reading and
ignore the questions at first.
1. Read the book straight through.
What strikes you as most important?* Try to answer the question: "What IS this
book?" --try for a simple phrase like 'a poetic tribute to friendship', 'a
straightforward tale of death and mourning', 'a wild romp through the first week of
school' (It's OK if you can't do it yet or you are not satisfied, this is just a first try.)
2. Read only the text, ignoring the illustrations.
Can the text stand alone? Do you notice any patterns of story, of language? Is
there a climax, a main character? What literary element stands out in the
composition, if any?
3. Read only the illustrations, ignoring the text.
Now what happens? Do the illustrations tell the story by themselves? What is
missing, if anything, without the words? How would the story be different if it were
told only by the illustrations? What do the illustrations tell you--about character
and setting, for example-- that you cannot tell from text alone? Do the illustrations
change the meaning of the text?
4. Read aloud, listening to the sound of the text.
Is there rhythm or rhyme? Is the language poetic, spare, humorous? What
adjective comes to mind to describe your text? Is it easy or difficult to read
aloud? How does the language enhance or detract from the aesthetic whole? Is
there repetition of certain phrases or sounds? What effect does this have?
5. Read to notice where the text breaks.
Would your experience of the story, of the language be different if the lines were
broken in different places? What effects are the result of the choices that were
made? Do line breaks slow you down? Move you to turn the page? Have a
certain pattern? Are there some pages with more text than others? Some pages
with no text? How does this affect your experience of the story? Do text breaks
direct readers to assume a certain pace in their reading?
6. Read to notice the illustrator's choices.
Exactly what does the illustrator chose to depict in relation to the text on each
page? Does the illustration take place before, during, or after the events in the
text?Do the illustrations comment on a character's situation? Do the illustrations
give us a character's perspective on events, or are we granted an omnipotent
view of characters and events?
7.Read the colors.
What colors does the illustrator use? Are there various hues, saturations, tones
of the same color? Do the colors change with changes during the story? Are
certain colors associated with certain characters or events? Do you find
contrasting or harmonious use of color? How does color complement, expand,
8. Read for the page layout.
Where are illustration and text placed on the page? To what effect? Is there a
consistent pattern or is there variation? Why? Is there any significance in the
choice of typefont?
These ideas may get you started. However, they are not a checklist. Your book
may beg consideration of line, of texture, of comparison to a story about which it
is a spoof, of subtlety or directness or playfulness of language, of character
development, of mood, of. . . .
*If you are immediately aware of one aspect of a book, read the book for that
particular quality--you are probably on to something important.
Consider the Following
What does it say?
Simple, understandable level.
Physical conflict in plot.
Does it make you want to turn the page?
Does it employ any tricks to make you turn the page?
Does it ring true?
Do you care?
More than physical, becomes physical and psychological
Does the work have integrity--not manipulating
Is there validity and consistency in the author's created world
A residue of meaning
"Hey, this is a really important book"
Transcends simple story--usual personal and idiosyncratic
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