Analyzing Picture Books

English 355

For all of the questions below, think in terms of Claim-Data-Warrant: Always support your claims with examples -- a quotation from the story or a description of the illustration. And always indicate how the quotation supports your claim or how the illustration works. Why? Well, when you write your paper, each "body" paragraph will have precisely this structure: Claim (Topic Sentence), Data (examples), and Warrant (connections between "Claim" and "Data").

And, no, there really isn't enough room to write your answers on this sheet. So, take out a separate piece of paper.

I. How would you characterize this illustrator's style? That is, what is characteristic of his or her style of illustration?
A. You might think in terms of artistic media and styles of art.
B. But also consider line, space, shape, color, texture, composition and perspective (see Molly Bang). Please note: you do not need to comment on each and every one of these, but focus on the ones you think most pertinent to your discussion.
II. What is the story about? What are its themes?
III. What is the relationship between the illustrations and the text? For example, does the illustration reinforce the text? Or is there a tension between what the words say and what the illustrations depict? Both? When and why? That is, find examples and speculate on their significance: how does this relationship contribute to our understanding of the book?
IV. So what? As your paper assignment tells you, merely noting a difference, a similarity, or observing some themes does not constitute a thesis. A thesis ought to advance a claim about the significance of what you've observed (hence the question "So what?"). You might, for example, consider the effects treating this particular theme in this particular way. Why does Maurice Sendak tell this particular story using these particular visual and narrative methods?
V. If you choose Option #1 for your paper, you'll perform this sort of analysis on each book your paper addresses. Once you can answer these questions for each of the three books, then sit down and figure out a thesis that will allow you to talk about all of them. Do you see a pattern of development over time? If yes, how do the author's books change? If not, then do the author-illustrator's concerns remain more-or-less constant? Consult the "Thesis vs. Topic" handout.


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