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ESH151 Children's Literature Studies
Transcript of ESH151 Children's Literature Studies
The very cranky bear
Pearl Barley and
Meller, Richardson and Hatch (2009, p.76) note that critical picture books 'prompt children to think and talk about social issues that impact their daily lives initiate critical conversation'. The very cranky bear can be seen to address issues of social importance to children. For example, the story deals with group dynamics, something which students are likely to be experiencing themselves. Zebra, Moose and Lion make imperative statements, for example, Zebra says 'we should give that bear some stripes' (Bland, 2008, p.7), Moose says 'let's give that bear a pair' (p.8) and Lion says that a mane 'would cheer him up for sure' (p.10). In contrast to this, Sheep uses interrogative statements: 'excuse me, Bear...Would you like a pillow for underneath your head?' (Bland, p.20). The very cranky bear provides opportunity to explore different types of social interaction and communication.
The purpose of this strategy is to teach students about
describing words. It would be appropriate for a Prep class,
as it would enable students to expand their vocabularies
and learn new words to express themselves with. The method
of teaching the strategy is discussing, drawing and writing.
The strategy is linked to language features.
After reading the book aloud to the students, begin a discussion
about the characters in the book. Together, make a chart of words
that describe each character. Ask the students to draw a picture of
their favourite character, and underneath, assist them in writing a
word that describes their chosen character.
Figurative language is used throughout Pearl Barley and Charlie Parsley. For example, simile is used when Charlie makes Pearls hands 'warm as toast' (Blabey, 2007, p.15), and idiom is used when Pearl 'dances up a storm' (Blabey, p.22). Such figurative language engages readers and enhances the meaning of the text. At the beginning of Pearl Barley and Charlie Parsley, a question
is posed to the reader - 'Why are Pearl Barley and Charlie Parsley
friends? They are just so different!' (Blabey, p.2). Beginning
with a question immediately engages the reader and gets them
thinking. The word 'different' is then repeated a further six times
throughout the book. This repetition creates tension, and also
emphasises the theme of the book and reminds the reader of the
initial question -if Pearl Barley and Charlie Parsley are so different,
why are they friends?
The visual elements of Pearl Barley and Charlie Parsley add meaning to the text
and develop the characters. The illustrations include actions and details that are not described in the written text. For example, when the text states 'You see, while Pearl Barley is very loud, Charlie Parsley is very quiet', the illustrations go further, depicting Pearl banging a saucepan and Charlie reading a book (Blabey, 2007, pp.4-5). Another important visual feature of Pearl Barley and Charlie Parsley is colour, which is used to express mood and emotion. The negative situations Pearl and Charlie find themselves in (for example, when Pearl is cold and forgets her mittens), are depicted in shades of grey (Blabey, p.14). The dullness of the illustrations accentuates the negative emotions of the characters and mood of the book. When Pearl and Charlie help each other overcome their problems (for example, when Charlie warms Pearl's hands), the colour returns to the pages, accentuating the positive emotions of the characters and mood of the book (Blabey p.15).
Pearl Barley and Charlie Parsley is an extremely interesting book to consider from a critical literacy perspective. The book challenges what Rowan (2001, p.47) describes as 'mythical norms'. In particular, it challenges stereotypical gender roles. For example, Pearl likes to run amok, is strong and brave (Blabey, 2007). Charlie is shy, has a good bedside manner and likes to knit. (Blabey, 2007). This reversal in what are often considered to be typical gender roles could provide great opportunity to discuss gender stereotypes in the classroom.
The purpose of this strategy is to promote acceptance of differences and positive relationships with peers. It would be appropriate for a year three class, as student's relationships, particularly with their peers, are changing and developing significantly around this stage. The method of teaching the strategy is class discussion, and the strategy is linked to visual literacy.
Read Pearl Barley and Charlie Parsley aloud to the students, asking them to take careful note of the illustrations. Go back through the book, focussing on what the illustrations tell the audience about the characters Pearl Barley and Charlie Parsley. Together, make a Venn diagram to explore the differences and similarities between Pearl and Charlie that are evident in the pictures. For example, ask students 'what does this illustration tell us about Pearl? How does this illustration show that Charlie is different to Pearl? What are some similarities between Pearl and Charlie that this illustration shows?' Emphasise that even though Pearl and Charlie are unique, they also have similarities and are great friends. Then ask students to brainstorm ways that they can connect to the text and the idea of same/different on an individual or community level (for example, gender, race/culture, socioeconomic status).
In The Island, Armin Greder uses language deliberately to
position the reader. The Island contains minimal text, however,
the language is complex and multifaceted. One particularly interesting
language feature is the use of a third person narrator. Coupled with
the use of short, simple sentences, (for example 'The people stared
at him. They were puzzled.' (Greder, 2007, p.3),'So they took him in.'
(Greder, p.8)), this gives the reader the impression that the narrator is
objective. However, looking more carefully at the language reveals that
the narrator is not merely stating objective facts. For example, the narrator
states 'He wasn't like them' (Greder, p.1) - this is not a fact that the
narrator is reporting, but a value laden statement. The use of a third
person narrator positions readers to accept such statements less critically.
Another deliberate language choice Greder has made is to leave all
characters nameless. Characters are objectified as 'he' and 'they',
which allows the story to be relatable to the reader.
The visual elements of The Island are powerful, and vital to the meaning of the book. The size and angle of the characters suggest a clear distinction between the two types of people on the island. The islanders are portrayed as larger than the outsider, and their size is further emphasised by the use of low angles. This suggests their dominance in relation to the outsider, who is portrayed as smaller than the islanders, and several times from a higher angle, so that the reader is looking down on him. Colour is also an important visual element of The Island. The use of dark shades sets the mood for the book, and the limited palette reflects the limited perspectives of the islanders. Space is also used effectively in The Island. For example, on page 2, the outsider is surrounded by white space, accentuating to the reader his emptiness and isolation (Greder, 2007, p.2). The textless pages are also important, as they provide time to reflect.
Assessment Task Two
In The very cranky bear, author Nick Bland uses language to deliberately position readers. A wide range of descriptive words are used in the book, including 'marvellous' (Bland, 2011, p.1), 'golden' (Bland, p.1), 'fantastic' (Bland, p.1) 'plain' (Bland, p.1) and 'cranky' (Bland, p.4). Such language encourages readers to think about characters in certain ways. The very cranky bear uses mostly simple language, but includes some less well known words, such as 'gnashed' (Bland, p.6) and 'fetched' (Bland, p.11)'. The combination of simple and complex words challenges children without overwhelming them, and provides an opportunity to expand vocabularies. The very cranky bear also uses both rhyme and alliteration, for example, the story opens:
'In the jingle jangle jungle on a cold and raining day,
four little friends found a perfect place to play' (Bland, p.1).
This enhances the book by making it enjoyable for children, allowing them to experiment with words and sounds as they try to predict what will happen next that will fit with the patterns.
Size, angle and the positioning of characters are powerful
visual elements used in the illustrations in The very cranky bear.
The bear is always larger than the other characters, and takes
up most of the page. Further, the bear is positioned as looking
down on the other characters. These visual elements portray
the bear as a powerful, intimidating figure. In contrast to this,
the sheep is portrayed as smaller than the other characters in the
story. She is also depicted several times as hunched over and cowering,
and is often distanced in position from the other characters. These
visual elements reflect her quiet, shy and considerate nature. Colour
is another powerful visual element in The very cranky bear, and is
used to add meaning to the characters. For example, the bear is
illustrated in dark shades of brown and black, suggestive of his
dark and cranky mood. The colours used to depict the Zebra, Moose
and Lion are bright and vibrant, and stand out on the dull background,
reflecting their strong personalities. The sheep is illustrated in soft, warm
tones, reflective of her kind and gentle nature.
Share feelings and thoughts
about the events and characters
in texts (ACELT1783)
Draw connections between personal experiences and the worlds of texts, and share responses with others (ACELT1596)
The Island constructs a particular view of the world. For example, the book presents certain beliefs about issues such as the 'other' and gender. Although The Island is narrated in third person, the voices of the islanders are heard throughout the book when the narrator retells their speech. For example, the narrator quotes the fisherman, the innkeeper, the carpenter, the carter, the priest and the school teacher, as well as other various islanders (Greder 2007). In contrast to this, the voice of the outsider is not heard at all. Gender is also an issue in The Island. Men are depicted as strong and in charge of all the decisions regarding the stranger, while women are depicted in stereotypical roles: 'women stayed in their kitchens', 'mothers warned their children not to go near the goat pen' (Greder, 2007, p.17).
The purpose of this strategy is to give students an understanding of the ways in which texts position readers to accept certain values and beliefs. It would be appropriate for a year eight class, as students are being exposed to an increasing range of texts and it is important for them to be able to determine the ways texts are trying to position and manipulate them (Winch, Johnston, March, Ljungdahl, and Holliday, 2007). The method of teaching is discussion and creative writing, and the strategy is linked to critical literacy.
Read The Island to the class and discuss the ways in which Greder (2007) is deliberately positioning the audience (for example through the use of language and visual elements). Ask students to produce a creative piece from the perspective of another character in the book (for example, the outsider, the fisherman, the innkeeper, the priest, the school teacher or one of the children depicted in the book). The piece should present the view of the student's chosen character in relation to the arrival of the outsider on the island. Encourage students to think about the positioning techniques used in The Island, and emphasise that the aim of the piece is to persuade the audience to accept the character's beliefs about the situation.
Understand and explain how combinations of words and images in texts are used to represent particular groups in society, and how texts position readers in relation to those groups (ACELT1628)