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