To a Child: A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

I am a artist at heart. I majored in it in college (along with marketing) and ended up on a non-fine arts career path. How? Who knows. Life takes over and that’s that. I regret it often, but I love soaking up everything I can from others who chose the path I didn’t. I am especially mesmerized by children’s book illustrators as they have the daunting task of taking a childlike view of the world and translating simple subjects into pieces of art a two-year old can understand. It is truly amazing. Like magic.

So one thing I stress when reading to my children are the emotions, colors, and actions conveyed by the pictures in each book I’m reading. When the words and illustrations blend flawlessly, a masterpiece is created for all to enjoy. Here are some of my favorite children’s illustrators and the reasons why:

Mark Teague is a genius. Anyone who can make a dinosaur so emotive is brilliant. You just want to hug each and every one of them; despite their size, scales, and claws. Felicia Bond uses white like a pro, by pulling her subjects front and center. A giant moose in a teeny tiny sweater is priceless. Sandra Boynton is the queen of simplistic charm. Placing pupils on eyeballs may seem like a mundane task, but those two black dots speak volumes when illustrating a hippo staring quite uncomfortably at his rabbit friend’s broccoli stew – “ew”. Jan Brett has cornered the market on texture. You can actually feel the finely weaved wool of the mitten scratch your eyes. Dr. Seuss is just plain ol’ fun. Not only are his verses rhythmically light and full of dance, his characters are too. Unrealistically curling furry toes to masterful lengths makes all the difference in the world. David Shannon is a nut, and I love it (so does my daughter who makes me read Alice the Fairy every night), and so are his characters. His wild and crazy offline pen marks and self-styled font superbly matches the storyline of each of his books. Last but no least is Eric Carle. With colors and texture, he boils down creatures of all sizes (not literally – ew) to be palatable (double ew) to a toddler who craves predictability.

A great children’s book can convey the story through pictures alone as well. A superb example of this is the book Hug, by Jez Alborough. He says it all via his emotion filled pictures and by only writing the words, “Hug”, “Bobo”, and “Mommy”. Books like these allow the readers – big and small – to become the writers of the storyline. Another good one along this vein is Good Night Gorilla, by Peggy Rathmann. It is a great accomplishment to say so much without saying much at all.

Add to the “life imitating art” file, when my daughter was 2 1/2 years old, she only spoke gibberish. Speech therapy ensued. But she was able to get her intentions across by illustrating them with her body movements. So the pictures in her books were teaching her how to get along in the world, even more so than the words. These wonderfully talented illustrators provided her with valuable tools when everything else seemed to be failing, including myself. She eventually learned to speak, although pronouns are still kicking her butt, but I’ll always delight in the imprint Sandra Boyton’s hippo illustration made on her from day one. That being, she can make her pupils go “hippo sideways” at any given moment to express disgust and annoyance at anything – even broccoli stew.

Peace.

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About crudolphbarlow

My goal in life is to bring smiles to millions of children through my writing and interactions with every child I meet - including my own. I'd also like to teach adults that kindness and respect are not options, but are must-have tools for a well-lived life. I am, and always will be, an eternal optimist. Peace! View all posts by crudolphbarlow

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