Working for Children

(Part 5/Words and pictures/Working for children)

Exercise – Working for Children

Children’s book illustrations

I have not been able to go out to shops or libraries to check out current  children’s book. However, I have a personal collection which span 70 years of books for young readers.

The oldest is an Infant Story reader aimed at 6-7 year olds . It is not dated but judging by the content and images I would place it in the 1920’s-1930’s. It was given to me around 1949.

The font is interesting in that it would not be used these days in a book for very young children.
Some of the words such as ‘beautiful’ and ‘laughed’ would be stretching today’s average early readers. It’s good to note all the correct pronunciation is there.
Slightly more up-to-date are a couple of Ladybird readers aimed at the same age group.

Slightly more up-to-date are a couple of Ladybird readers aimed at the same age group.

The ‘hard’ words here are, ‘giant’, ‘field’ and ‘friendly’ – all easy to work out.

I found ‘Baa, I’m a sheep’ for Pre-readers. The purpose of the book is for it to be read by an adult while the child is able to poke the plastic sheep in the middle of the page to experience an audible sensory trigger – it squeaks.
The only pre-school reader I could find in my collection is the Enid Blyton, ‘ABC with Noddy book’.

Enid Blyton was very much ‘of her time’ (probably the 1930’s). This book is from the 1960’s and evident are the xenophobic, racist, sexist, elitist undertones of which she was accused in her later years. Nevertheless, the layout and images are much the same as in some much more recent reading primers.

I have many many books in the next section – the established readers. Many of them have virtually no images at all – these are mainly Puffin books. There are lots of reference books for this age range which have images, both hand drawn and photographic. I have chosen one with hand drawings from a history series. This one is about the Romans.

The text and images are all interconnected with text popping up in/on most of the drawings. There are diagrams which presuppose an understanding of the ‘cutaway’ concept so that we can see what is inside the houses. Many of the scenes are drawn from the imaginary drone in the sky so that the observer can see as much as possible of the life below.

The final age groups are well catered for in both reading matter and reference books in spite of being able to access most things on-line. The obvious ones are the Harry Potter series of which I have them all.
There are many good authors catering for the teenage ‘book trade’ but most novels for those ages groups do not have images in them.

Reference books and encyclopaedia style books use photographs and some images. This is a good example on the right with photo, original source material and drawing.

I have quite a few books in the ‘Gruffalo’ genre which can be read by children at a certain stage of development but which are really intended as ‘story/picture books’ to be read to/with the children together. The Mr. Men series would fall into this category and, of course, the Very Hungry Caterpillar.

For my two groups to choose for the next part of the exercise. I will use ‘Early Readers and Established readers.

For the Early Readers I will develop the concept of ‘growing’.
My first thoughts are on the spider diagram which follows.

I decided to use Growing as my word then chose Cat as a simple animal, easy to identify with by a 5-7 year old.

I thought rather than use Growing in the sense of personal growth, if might be more fun to look at Growing in the sense of being a gardener and growing some food.

I started to plan this aspect of work then glanced at the following Exercise which is, in fact, about growing up.

This is too close and similar and there is no choice with the next exercise so I am abandoning the cat story and personal growth.

I heard an article on the radio today about cuckoos and where they nest. It was very interesting and it occurred to me that this would make a nice factual story about Growing for young children.

Most of them will not know a great deal about birds and cuckoos.
First I did another spider diagram to consider what should be included.

Then started off by writing the text. It is a short piece to be read by very early readers as part of a ‘early reference’ set. It could be a 24 page book with a mixture of images and text, sometimes on the same page sometimes not.

The whole book would require 14 images at least. I have written the story with numbers inserted where an image would be needed. This exercise require me to provide an image of my animal engaged in the activity. I will choose one of the proposed pictures for the exercise.

Story; (as handwritten above)

The Dunnock and the Cuckoo

Mrs. Dunnock lives out of the town.(1)

She lives in a hedge. The hedge is at the side of a field. (2)

Mrs Dunnock has built a good next in the hedge. She has laid four pale blue eggs in it. (3)

Mrs Cuckoo has flown in for a visit. She lives a long way away.. (4)

Look. One of the eggs in the nest is now bigger. Eggs do not grow! What has happened? (5)

Mrs Dunnock does not see the big egg. She sits and waits. Four chicks hatch out of the eggs. (6)

She feeds them. (7)

She does not notice three of her chicks have gone. (8)

She feeds the big one. (9)

The chick grows. (10)

Then it grows some more. (11)

Then it grows huge! (12)

It is bigger than Mrs Dunnock now. (13)

It is a cuckoo. It is flying away to the land where Mrs Cuckoo lives.(14)

Cuckoos lay their eggs in the nest of other birds.

Mrs Dunnock will lay some more eggs now. The Cuckoos have gone. So she will have her own chicks. (15)

I have decided to do two simple illustrations designated at number 2 and number 5.

I am not going to use loud gaudy colours and for a change I am not going to paint. I will use my coloured pencils and create a fairly realistic Dunnock in appropriate colours. I knew little about Dunnocks (Hedge Sparrows) until the other day, so this will be an exercise of interest to me.

Here are my first line drawings.

Here is my finished sketch to go with the line “She lives in a hedge. The hedge is at the side of a field. “(2)

Below is a second image for my book about the Dunnock and the Cuckoo.

“Look. One of the eggs in the nest is now bigger. Eggs do not grow! What has happened? “(5)

Mrs Dunnock looks a little puzzled as she stares at the large egg in her nest. She is not looking at MrsCuckoo who is flying off into the distance. I am pleased with these images. I have not done coloured pencil picture for some time. I think the soft colours are appropriate to the realistic drawing.

The second word I wanted to explore is Scary.

I thought of all the animals noted for being either Scary – alligators, lions etc, or animals known for being scared cats, mice, tortoises, etc.

I decided to approach the word Scary by looking at what might be scary to one of these animals .

That could then become part of an analogous story for 7-11 year olds who have scary things in their own lives which they have to overcome to survive.

I considered my young rabbit and decided that he/she would be scared of people with guns – a farmer for example (my neighbour is a farmer who shoots rabbits). Next I decided dogs, they love to chase rabbits (but in reality rarely catch one). Traditionally rabbits are scared of foxes so they need to be included. As with all animals, small ones can be bullied by older ones therefore a group of big, tough rabbits should also be on the picture.

There will be some background scenery to set the feel of the image – pretty and rural but the viewpoint for the scene will be from the rabbit hole. I will have a scared rabbit looking out towards all the things he/she fears most. There will be no dark scary colours, it will be a bright sunny day. Bad weather is often a cliched setting for scary things but I want to show ‘normal’ life for this bunny rabbit.

This picture again took much longer than I had anticipated.

I thought I would make it simple and drew each animal digitally on a separate layer so I could move them around and make them bigger/small as required. That was not too bad but the colouring in of everything was very time consuming.

I have used bright colours as I intended and limited the palette. There are no shades or shadows. The rabbit looks across to the village where he/she wants to go, to raid the gardens, but in between is a farmer with a 12 bore, two fierce dogs, a sly looking fox and a gang of big buck rabbits.

The idea is, the story will be a basis for discussion about how to overcome one’s fears. It’s a scary world to many children.

With regard to ‘all children’s illustration has bright colours’, I do not agree. Most of it has cheerful colours but not all are gaudy. The classic images for the Peter Rabbit books are not too bright. They have been bright and and sometimes garish for the last ten years but looking through the current best selling children’s picture books I would say there is definitely a trend away from bright colours with lots of soft subtle pictures and tasteful presentation.