Young Adult Lit/Crit

April 21, 2008

Picture Books?

Filed under: Uncategorized — allison @ 7:47 pm

Hi everyone,

There was just recently a post on The Invention of Hugo Cabret, but I wanted to add to it and start a discussion that everyone could participate in, whether you have read the book or not.

Let me start off by saying, it’s a beautiful book with an interesting story and captivating illustrations. I was laying outside in my yard today in the sun reading it. I couldn’t have been happier. It’s not incredibly complex, so it’s perfect reading do to in the sunshine. As I was laying there reading, my mom stopped by and noticed what I was reading. She told me that she had only heard great things about the book, with one exception. One of the librarians that she knows (this lady is a school librarian) said that the book was good enough, but didn’t need quite as many pictures. That the story is rather short and the pictures take up too much of the book. I have to completely disagree with this. Half of the beauty is in this book’s exquisite and provoking drawings. There need to be “so many of them” because they build upon one another. This librarian seemed to miss the beauty of the artistry in this book. I would argue that there can be as much merit in the artwork as the story, as long as the art is well-done and serves a purpose.

So I’d like to bring up a discussion. What do we think of art in the ELA classroom. Can art be “read?” Where do we draw the line for pictures versus words? Do we prefer books without pictures, a hybrid like Hugo, or only pictures like The Arrival? Do pictures in books ever make English teachers, or others, uncomfortable?

Looking forward to some thoughts!




  1. Short answer – yes, art can be read. The beauty of books is the huge variety we have easy access to. I think we are really fortunate to have so much from which to choose. The artwork is HUGO is beautiful, so maybe your point that pictures may make English teachers (and librarians) uncomfortable is well-taken. Here’s my cousin’s response to HUGO:

    I finished The Invention of Hugo Cabret and loved it!!! The story is so different from all the others. From the very beginning of story, I was wondering: “What happened to his father? Why does he have his uncle’s paychecks? Who is that girl, and what is her name?” but it is all sorted out in the end. The plot was so different! A twelve year old boy living with clocks, and fixing clocks. Trying to fix this strange machine that he’s always wanted to fix. I loved the character of Isabelle. She seems brave around stealing and sneaking, but not around confessing. The pictures also wound the story together. Telling the reader quickly and abruptly what was going to happen next. They were also beautiful. And don’t let me forget about the toy seller. Papa Georges seems like an old man who’s been through a lot of painful experiances. But in the center, one can never throw away the love that has to be found. Those are my thoughts on this book.


    Comment by sostrom — April 22, 2008 @ 9:43 am

  2. Sarah, please thank your cousin for the comments! very insightful!

    Comment by allison — April 22, 2008 @ 8:46 pm

  3. I have never been a fan of “picture books”, but I really liked how HUGO was a hybrid version of pictures and text. I enjoyed how there was a lot of text, which I tend to prefer, but also how the pictures seamlessly fit into the story. I think that reading this book was was a good way for me to begin to access the world of graphic novels. I am trying to expand my comfort zone, and I did like American Born Chinese, and I also read a graphic novel about 9/11. In essence, I definitely think that pictures can be read, connecting to the topic of media literacy, an idea that also acknowledges that pictures can be read as text.


    Comment by mandygrl101 — April 22, 2008 @ 9:02 pm

  4. Mandy,
    I’m with you on the “comfort zone” thing. HUGO is definetely outside of my comfort zone, but I’m loving it. I’ve also loved many of the other “graphic texts” I have discovered in the past academic year from professor stearns. It’s making me realize how rewarding it can be to step outside of your comfort zone and encounter something new and exciting. It is refreshing. Now, imagine doing this for our own students someday. Does anyone already have an experience with this to share? I imagine that it is very exciting to see, isn’t it Karen (or anyone else who has achieved this)? Do share!

    Mandy, which 9/11 book did you read?


    Comment by allison — April 23, 2008 @ 5:44 am

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