A Brief Comparison of Picture Books

“The book that is illustrated from cover to cover is a lively complex phenomenon. Complex because of the integration of text and picture to the point of interdependence; lively because of the diversity of styles, designs, compositions, etc. … which suggests ti the child that he be flexible enough to want this diversity.” (Schwarcz, pp 14)

Schwarcz goes on to highlight how words and pictures work together in various functions of the illustration. Although there were many picture book version of Chicken Little and Henny Penny (even a Christmas version) I felt that including them all would be too repetitive. Instead I focused on books whose story or characters were a departure from the original tales, or books whose words and text together were unique from the originals.

In some of the books the pictures are congruent with the text. They go along with the word. But the text is the primary factor in driving the story and moving the plot forward like in Vivian French’s version of Henny Penny. The illustrations are very rich and colorful giving the reader visual cues and extra information like what Henny Penny looks like etc. but they do not depart from what is written in text. The pictures do not always take up the whole page, sometimes there is white space filled with the narrative of the story. This suggests that both pictures and words are working simultaneously with neither of them moving forward without the other.

Contrast that picture book with Kellogg’s version of Chicken Little where the pictures often take up all of the space, and each part of the page is filled with an extra detail unmentioned in the text. This is a good example of how pictures can help to elaborate the text. The illustrator extends the situation further than the text and both of them are important to driving the continuation of the story, moving the conflict forward into a resolution. This is especially important in Kellogg’s version because the plot is much different than the original tales (see comparison chart). The illustrations suggest more to the reader than what the text reads and we gain insight into the motives of the characters, in Kellogg’s version mainly the fox. However, although it is entertaining to see the fox’s plotting play out in pictures. The focus on the fox (there are more pictures of the fox and his shenanigans than there are of Chicken Little in this version) takes attention away from the original purpose of the tale (see Disney’s version for more).

Wattenberg’s Henny Penny and Scieska & Smith’s Chicken Licken from “The Stinky Cheese Man and other Fairly Stupid Tales”, are best described as post modern picture books and are good examples how pictures and sometimes the text itself deviate from eachother and the storyline. Wattenberg’s illustrations are dynamic and fluid because she uses every part of the book to put together collage images that represent the story. The pictures and text are disjointed and better if “read” separately. Scieska & Smith’s Chicken Licken is interrupted by “the narrator” who is participating from outside the story and again the illustrator uses all parts of the book to encourage exploration. These are the books that break all the rules on congruency but the reader still finds enjoyment in exploring the pictures apart from the text. In these versions it’s not about the characters or the plot as much as it is about the experience of them.

Click here to see excerpts from Kellogg’s version of Chicken Little at Amazon reader!

Vist Picture books and acculturation

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