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ESH 151 CHILDREN'S LITERATURE STUDIES
Transcript of ESH 151 CHILDREN'S LITERATURE STUDIES
The Ghost of Miss Annabel Spoon (2011) by Aaron Blabey uses rhyming language in the text. The use of this language makes the text flow easily. Annabel Spoon is another example of a text that is perfect for sharing out loud in a classroom setting. The subject matter is also exciting for children, as ghosts are traditionally scary, mean and frightening. The cover of the book is very effective in conveying this message. Readers would be enticed to read this book from its title and cover. On the cover Annabel is seen to be sad and alone. I found I wanted to pick up this book and find out why. This is a great example of effective visual literacy.
As well as on the cover, this book uses visual literacy effectively to depict the ‘mood’ of the story and the effect Annabel Spoon is having on the villages. At the start of the story the pictures are dark and depressing, and the characters are unhappy. This is an example of visual literacy reflecting the emotions in the story. At the end of the book the mood of the characters has changed dramatically including Annabel’s and this is evident in the colours used in the illustrations.
The angle of the pictures depicted in the story is as if you are looking through the windows of the characters houses, making the reader feel like they are a part of the story. It is a good example of how effective visual literacy can be, and how it can influence the reader’s point of view.
In critical literacy the reader is encouraged to ‘read with a growing appreciation of how argument and viewpoint are presented and supported’ (Winch et al, 2010, p. 534) It is important to note that the story is told from the townspeople’s view, with little input from Annabel the Ghost. At the start we do not know the reasons behind her behaviour, and it is only towards the end of the story that we find out why she has been coming into the town. The reader is solely basing their opinion of Annabel on the town’s folks views.
The themes raised in this book include the importance of friendship, overcoming fears, and not being afraid to voice your opinion. It is a good example of looking at an issue from another person’s point of view.
Annabel Spoon is aimed at middle primary student’s grades 3-6. An activity that this book could be used for would be an ‘open minded’ portrait. This is where the reader is given a piece of paper with an outline of a head on it, and asked to fill in the space with what a character from the book might be feeling at a certain stage in the text. This could be done for a number of characters, for example Annabel at the beginning, going into the village, or Herbert Kettle, going through the woods to Annabel’s house. This activity aims to get students to put themselves in the characters shoes, and imagine what emotions they would be feeling.
The Watertower (1994) by Gary Crew is a popular picture book that has won the Children’s Book Council of Australia, Picture Book of the Year. This text is a great example of the use of visual literacy and how important it can be to the storyline.
In this text much of the story is communicated subtly through the pictures, with a lot of the narrative left unsaid. The illustrations by Steven Woolman are very effective and in certain places quite unsettling. The framing used in this book is unique in the fact that the pictures are at different angles, and the visual of the watertower in the ‘iris’ pattern is featured on nearly every page of the book. There are pages where there is no text at all, only the pictures to depict the story.
After Spike leaves Bubba alone at the watertower, the written text describes Bubba’s thought process and what is happening at the watertower, and the pictures show Spike’s view as he runs back into town. At the critical stage of the book, the layout of the pages flips the opposite way, making the reader physically change view also. It is a very effective technique and definitely makes an impact.
This book needs a few readings to fully appreciate the story. I believe it is a sign of quality children’s literature that you can get something new out of the story after multiple readings. By having the mystery surrounding the story the reader is compelled to read it again to gain more information. Because so much is left unsaid in this book, critical literacy skills are important as the reader must come to their own conclusions and there are no clear answers provided. In critical literacy the reader ‘examines texts for signs and clues about the author’s intentions’ (Winch et al, 2010, p.535) This is a very important task to do with this text. Each reader may have a different opinion as to what happened to Bubba in the story, and what exactly is happening in the town.
The actual written text in the book is quite straight forward, with little embellishment in the wording. The visual text is the main feature of this book. The watertower is described almost like the main ‘character’ in the book, it is given descriptive language to depict it’s characteristics,
There was a smell. That’s the algae. All rotten and festering
The water eddied and swirled. That’s the wind shifting the tower, it’s old and rickety.
This book is recommended for early adolescents in grade 6, 7 and 8. This text would require a discussion with the students after they have finished reading it. They will inevitably have an opinion on what happened in the book. An activity for the students could be to write a journal reflection piece on what they think happened to Bubba in the watertower, or what he saw there. They could also write about what they think the towns people were thinking as the watched Bubba at the watertower.
The Very Cranky Bear (2008) by Nick Bland uses simple rhyming elements in the text to engage the reader. The written text is designed to be read almost like a song, making it an ideal book to read out loud to a class. It uses humorous language to depict the story. This use of language is fun and engaging for the reader. The text uses words in bold and capital letters effectively to give emphasis to certain words and phrases in the book. An example of this is when the bear is disturbed in the cave he shouts,
‘ALL I REALLY WANT, IS A QUIET PLACE TO SLEEP!’
The illustrations focus on the characters as the main features of the text, with some pictures showing no background at all, only the character speaking. This technique enables the reader to focus solely on the role of the characters in frame. The pictures look to be drawn with pastel or crayon giving a realistic looking texture to the animal’s fur and wool on the page. There is also a clever use of shadows and shading in the illustrations to depict the surrounding environment in the cave.
Critical literacy is the process of looking deeper into a text and really understanding the message that the author is trying to convey. Critical literacy can be described as ‘reading with an awareness of where the text positions the reader’ (Winch, Johnston, March, Ljungdahl, Holliday, 2010 p. 534) . When using critical literacy skills to analyse this text, one point is that the bear’s point of view of the events is not a major part of the story. The story positions the reader to be on the side of the other characters, and the bear is seen as ‘mean’ and ‘scary.’ The visual literacy features enforce this view as even the front cover has the bear looking down at the reader with his hands on his hips.
Traditionally bears are used in stories as the bad and evil character. The bear in this story also starts out this way, but in the end, the bear is only looking for a place to sleep undisturbed. By having the bear as a non-threatening character, the author is challenging social ‘norms.’ This may also start the reader in thinking about other pre-conceived ideas they have about certain characters in the texts they read and how they are portrayed. This line of thinking may be more suited for older children, but it is a good example of this idea.
After reading this book, the main themes I identified were friendship; overcoming obstacles and how everyone has something they can contribute.
The age group suited to this text is early primary. To use this book in a classroom, students could write a friendship poem, concentrating on the rhythm and rhyming of the poem. Because the book uses distinctive looking characters, the students could also draw a picture of their favourite character in the book, and explain why they like this character.
The Very Cranky Bear
The Ghost Of Miss Annabel Spoon
Interview with the Very Cranky Bear