Monday, April 12, 2010

Pictures and Words

In addition to the exhibition Curious George Saves the Day: The Art of Margret and H. A. Rey, the Jewish Museum also offers a series of related lectures, workshops and tours.

I attended both a lecture given by author Louise Borden about the Rey's flight from Paris as well as an afternoon workshop for educators.

For the workshop I put on my best George attire - a Curious George tie depicting George "holding tight with both hands" to a bunch of balloons and my hand painted, one-of-a-kind, specially designed Curious George sneakers.

The ticket included a tour of the exhibition. However, the tour guide ended up checking her facts with me as we went along so that was disappointing (and kinda cool too).

The workshop portion focused on the seamless blending of pictures and words in children's books. Among the techniques employed by the best illustrators are subtle ways the art encourages the reader to turn the page.

Or the way the words are placed to mimic the action (as in the above picture).

In children's books the pictures and words support one another by telling the full story only when one considers both (as in Pretzel by the Rey's).

They appear in many different variations. Sometimes the words appear at either the top or bottom of the page and at others they are thoughtfully embedded into the art.

And it is when pictures and words act as one unit that the power of both can be realized.

Our presenter then questioned us, elementary school teachers, as to why we ask our students to write words at the bottom of the page with the drawing above. If we don't explicitly do this we are not actively encouraging our students to try to integrate both.


We were then given 15-20 minutes to create a page that would do both. I am certainly no artist but I am a good student so I took to it with utter seriousness.

Notice if you will how the word "AHHHH!!" is incorporated into the illustration while the words "Perhaps not the best idea" encourage you to turn the page. No?

How about how the words and pictures must be taken as a unit in order to fully understand what is happening?

I don't think the presenter saw this either but his point was well stated and received. The best workshops give us something to take back to the classroom and this one certainly did.

Vive Le Monkey!

Update: Several weeks after publishing this post I came across this quote in the New Literacy Standards for writing in NYC. "The special thing about the picture book is that it's a combination of both words and pictures, and the two of them work together to tell a story. I write with the illustration and with the words as well and try to make the two of them dance together to tell the story. So they're both equally important to me when I'm putting one of my books together." - Steven Kellogg


willow said...

My oldest son LOVED Curious George. In fact, we still fondly call him Monkey Boy, on occasion. He would love your shoes.

(sweet little note from your student on your sidebar)

Gary said...

Willow - I have a friend whose son used to associate pancakes with Curious George (because he loved the book where George makes pancakes). Whenever he wanted pancakes he would just say "monkey". Too cute! Oh, and if you want to get these sneakers for your Monkey, click on the link in the post for more information.

lacochran said...

I love this idea. We have two parts of our brain, why not use them to fully incorporate a concept?

Plus, great shoes.

mouse (aka kimy) said...

love this!!!

best george attire!!!!

and gary, brace yourself, you are an artist!



Mickle in NZ said...

Brilliant Sneakers!!! And what an incredible workshop to take part in.

My workplace is moving soetime this month to a street that is very near the main Public Library in Wellington - I'll be able to check out their "Curious George" books (which I'd never known about until reading your blog). Fingers crossed that the library has some.

Hope you left some of your Spring Break for yourself too,

Sending care and huggles

Michelle and a once more snoring Zebbycat

Gary said...

Thanks Lacochran. Comments like yours will keep this geeky middle aged kid wearing interesting footwear.

Well Kimy, I don't hear that too often. Even the kindergarten children make fun of my attempts to draw. Especially after Lauren, a true artist, has sketched something flawless. My m.o. is to surround myself with folks who can elevate my game. Maybe it's working?

Mickle - Wow! Please let me know what you think of Curious George when you get an opportunity to read some of these books. They are for children of course but that never stops me. I am thrilled to have brought a little 'george' into your life. Huggles to you and Zebbycat. xo

Nf1andprek-whisper said...

nice shoes, how long is the museum open and running this exhibit I want to bring my son to see this is it kid friendly I hope LOL

Gary said...

Nf1 - It runs through August 1st. I think some of the exhibit is more geared towards adults/older students but they do have a cool reading room - it is designed as an 'under the pier' type situation where the ceiling has Curious George fishing. We are the fish below. I liked that. Here is a link to some more information


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