Focus on Illustration
Since the Caldecott Medal is awarded to the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children, it makes sense to focus on the illustrations of these award winning books.
Examine and Evaluate Illustrations
Explore Caldecott award winners such as Knuffle Bunny Too by Mo Willems. How are they like and unlike other books in your library? What makes them special? Ask yourself:
- What tools were used to create the images (i.e., photographs, collage, oil, watercolor, die cut)?
- Do the illustrations communicate information or ideas effectively?
- How do the images make you feel? What emotions do they convey?
- Do the illustrations reflect the real world or a fantasy world?
- How well do the illustrations match the text?
- Do you like or dislike the illustration? Why? Give examples.
Find a picture book that you like that hasn't won any major awards such as The Three Snow Bears by Jan Brett. Using the criteria above, nominate this book for an illustration award.
Start with Art
Fly Like an Illustrator. Tar Beach is a picture book based on a 1988 Tar Beach Story Quilt at the Guggenheim Museum. The text is recorded in the borders of the book. The pictures are acrylic on canvas paper with fabric borders. In the story Cassie imagines she can fly.
- Where would you fly? What would you see?
- Fly over the world using Google Earth.
- Use your Google Earth virtual adventure as inspiration for your own visual and story.
Art as a Starter. Explore artwork online. Use a piece of artwork as inspiration for your own book.
- Art from Wikipedia
- Virtual Arts Portal from Wikipedia
- Art History: Resources on the Web
- VADS: Visual Arts Data Service
Pacific Northwest Indian Art. Examine the art in books such as Raven: A Trickster Tale from the Pacific Northwest. Then, explore the art of the Pacific Northwest Indians from the Digital Collections at the University of Washington. Do you see the similarity? What are the basic characteristics of this type of art? Create your own visual and write a short story.
Visualize John Henry. Read John Henry. There are many paintings and sculptures of John Henry. Do a Google Images search for examples. Which do you think best represents John Henry? Also, check out examples: 1, 2. Be sure to show the John Henry cartoon.
Imagining Noah's Ark. Each illustrator images something different when they think about Noah's Ark. Compare the images at Wikipedia, Wiki Commons, and other websites. Also compare the images found in other picture books.
Famous Works in Picture Books. Examine the way famous paintings by Pollock and Degas are expressed in Olivia. Write your own story featuring your favorite works of art. Also consider including artwork that you think is silly or confusing.
Design a Stamp. Examine the Children's Book Animals on the US Postage stamp at I'm a Stamp. Olivia is on the stamp as well as other characters you'll recognize. Invent a character and create your own stamp.
Perspective is the way in which objects appear to the eye and plays an important role in the art of picture books. One aspect of perspective involves point of view. The 2006 Caldecott Medal winner, The Hello, Goodbye Window by Norton Juster and Chris Raschka is told through the perspective of a little girl through a specific window. Chris Van Allsburg's drawings often have interesting perspectives such as being drawn for a child's eye height. Perspective also involves how items are drawn. For instance, objects are drawn smaller as their distance from the observer increases. Go to Wikipedia: Perspective (Visual) and (Graphical) to read more about perspective.
- Explore Perspective. Examine images that reflect different perspectives at Wikimedia Commons.
- Identify for Perspective in Picture Books. Explore Caldecott award winning books that contain interesting perspectives such as The Man Who Walked Between the Towers, Sector Seven, Time Flies, and Tuesday.
- Draw Perspective. If you need to learn more about perspective drawing techniques, go to websites like drawing in a One-Point Perspective, Drawing Comics: Perspective, and Perspective Drawing. Then start by drawing a building, street scene, or object in perspective. Use open source drawing software such as GIMP to create your own drawing.
- Change the Perspective. What if the story were set in another time or place? Create your own story based on illustrations from another setting. What if Rapunzel were locked up in the top of a Redwood tree in California or the Empire State Building in New York? How would the story be different? What would it look like?
Illustration Tools and Techniques
An illustration is a visual representation of something. In books, illustrators establish the setting, bring the characters to life, and tell the story in a visual way. Go to Illustration from Wikipedia to learn more about illustration. Read about collage, drawing, painting, photography, woodcut, and gouache from Wikipedia.
- Celebrate Variety. Explore the variety of techniques used for creating illustrations for children's books.
- The Hello, Goodbye Window uses watercolors, oil pastels, and pencil.
- Snowflake Bentley uses woodcut and watercolor.
- Casey at the Bat uses pen and oil.
- Dinosaurs of Waterhouse Hawkins illustrated by Brian Selznick uses acrylic paint.
- Kitten's First Full Moon by Kevin Henkes uses gouache and colored pencil.
- Illustrator Techniques. After exploring a variety of techniques, choose your favorite. Create a PowerPoint scrapbook of you favorite illustrator. Create narration to describe the techniques used in creating the illustrations and background information about the illustrator.
- Favorite Techniques. Explore the techniques used by your favorite illustrators. Create an e-scrapbook of your favorite techniques. Then share a piece of your own work. Download the Techniques PowerPoint (PPT) that students can use to get started.
- Explore Oil Painting. Read about oil painting in Wikipedia.
- Identify Oil Painting in Picture Books. Compare the use of oil painting in this book to other books such as Goggles, Man Who Walked Between the Towers, Time Flies, Swamp Angel, Stinky Cheese Man, Polar Express, Rapunzel.
- Compare Famous Oil Paintings to Picture Book. Pick a favorite oil painting and compare it to your favorite picture book oil painting. How are they alike and different.
- Explore Watercolor. Read about watercolor painting at Wikipedia and explore examples. Read An Introduction to Arts/Paints (Water-based).
- Identify Watercolor Painting in Picture Books. Compare the use of watercolor in this book to other books such as Grandfather's Journey. Also, explore The Amazing Bone, The Big Snow, Free Fall, Madeline, The Little House, Mirette on High Wire, Officer Buckle and Gloria, Noah's Ark, On Market Street, Owen, The Red Book, Swimmy, The Stray Dog, The Three Pigs, Click, Clack, Moo: Cows that Type, Sector 7, So You Want to be President?, Stone Soup, Sylvester and the Magic Pebble, Tops & Bottoms, Tuesday. Which techniques do you like best?
- Create Watercolor Paintings. Watch a YouTube slideshow of watercolor artwork produced by children - Mrs. May's 2nd Grade Class Caldecott Study. Use Microsoft Photo Story or other software to create a slide show of student work.
- Explore Collage. Read about collage at Wikipedia.
- Identify Collage in Picture Books. Compare the use of collage in this book to other books such as Alexander and the Wind Up Mouse, Frederick, What Do You With a Tail Like This?, Golem, Smoky Night, Handmade Paper, Seven Blind Mice, Color Zoo, and Joseph Had a Little Overcoat.
- Computer Collage. Use images from web catalogs and other online sources to create a computer collage. Use Joseph Had a Little Overcoat for inspiration. Retell a story you've heard. Check out Google Catalogs for ideas.
Black and White Images
- Black and White. Why do you think that the illustrator chose to use black and white illustrations rather than color? Explore The Spider and the Fly and Kitten's First Full Moon. Why do you think they used black and white images rather than color? Use graphics software to turn a color image into black and white or grayscale. What's the impact.
Hidden in Plain Sight
Some illustrators like to provide details about people and places through small messages on their page. These may be posters in the background, writing on books in the pictures, or specific references to people or places. It's fun to find the connections:
- What Time Is It? Examine the book Tuesday. Look for the clues that tell the time of day. Create your own visual story with clues.
- Poland. In the book Joseph had a little overcoat, Joseph lives in Poland. Find Poland on a map. Where is it located? Is it large or small? What's the weather like? What cities are in Poland? Look at photographs from Poland. Do they reflect the images in this story? There are lots of clues in story about people and places. Can you find them?
- Harlem. The book Harlem refers to many historical and cultural references related to Harlem. How many can you find? Find a list at Scholastic. Create a list and learn a little about each. Create a PowerPoint show about these people and places to share with those who don't know about Harlem. Now, think about your town. What people and places would you highlight?
Inspiration for Illustration
Photos, interviews, and experiences as well as a lively imagination can all be used as inspiration for illustrations.
- Photos and Artwork of Events. Compare photos at Wikipedia of Philippe Petit with the book The Man Who Walked Between the Towers.
- Photos of People. Read Snowflake Bentley. Compare photos of the real person.
- Photos of Places. Read Tibet. Create a photo journal of Tibet. Collect photos and compare them with the images in the book. Check out Wikimedia Commons: Tibet.
- Historical Documents. Explore primary source documents and visuals related to Galileo from Wikimedia Commons. Compare them to Starry Messenger: Galileo Galilei. Can use find visuals that may have been inspiration for the book?
- Historical Stories. Read Henry's Freedom Box. Compare the images in the book with historical images and artwork. How do they compare? Create your own interpretation.
Photos are often inspiration for picture book illustrations. Use photos as inspiration for your own picture book. Compare the illustrations in the book to photographs of the actual event. How are they alike and different?