“The pure visual perception [of picture books], freed from concerns with function […] and labels, is perhaps the most highly sophisticated sort of seeing that we do” – W. J. T. Mitchell
In todays society, picture books are commonly assumed to be the province of the young or pre-illiterate child; their simplicity in form promises an easy access into the narrative for youthful readers. However, I intend to show that picture books are so much more than this as a form of literary-visual art, and here’s why!
- Picture books are not ‘dumbed down’ versions of ‘adult books’; many of the plots of children’s literature map the similar themes of pursuit, discovery, freedom and forgiveness which function in our own literature.
- The singular tag-lines which accompany these images take on an almost poetic function, concisely indicating the action of the scene without endangering a loss of coherence that may stem from a novel-length narrative.
- Picture books, as is universally recognised, are some of the easiest narratives to follow, however we should not overlook this simplicity. This provokes a dualistic fusion between the image and the words on the page; the choosing of a certain image can make even the simplest of sentences appear more sophisticated.
- This form of literature improves our decoding skills as writers/readers; what does the image say? Why did the author choose this image to best represent their story?
- Picture books allow their intended audience to learn how to respond to the world and how to see themselves and others; they become an important means of integrating younger children into our culture and society.
We must not forget, the audience of picture books is only half children. As it is usually the parent who selects the book, it thus must appeal to both the parent and the child in equal measure, which is greatly important. From my own experience of my father reading these same books to me as a child, an intimacy is shared between you as a pair – as if you are both within the story amongst the action, but also in your own individual world together.
Picture books create a partnership between the parent and child that is intimately connected by this form and, if the literature succeeds fully, unites its pair of readers in a special bond.