Thursday, 14 November 2013

Poppies and downpours

I am revisiting this post so I can share it through the Storybook Sunday linky at Paula's Place.  

Summer is well underway in Queensland and with that afternoon and early evening storms.  Remembrance Day is honoured on 11 November (during Summer) in Australia and it is when we remember those who lost their lives in war to protect us. As such, my post today involves poppies, the symbol of Remembrance Day for our ANZACs and fallen soldiers and also rain, as we have so many storms during Summer, which is great to ease the heat.

By now, if you have been following me, you know I love text sets with companion texts that help students develop intertextuality through text-to-text connections, as the students in my research project told me these were harder connections to make than text-to-self connections.

My first text to feature is called "Downpour" by Emily Martin (2013).  I love the review of the picture book that you can find here on the Design of the Picture Book blog.  I just love poppies, but I also love the illustrations by Mara Shaughnessy in this picture book .  (28.11.13 - I am thrilled to say I just received an email from Mara as Emily had read my blog!!! I am so thrilled as my blog is only relatively new...check at Mara's blog here where she writes about "Downpour".  Hearing from Mara has totally made my day!).

This would be a great text for exploring visual literacy and the use of colour, with simple black and white drawings which feature red.  You can view the book trailer by clicking on the cover of the book below and scrolling down.  The book is written in a poetic style and could also be used to study the use of rhyme and prose.

A great companion text for critical visual literacy would be "Earl the Squirrel" by Don Freeman (2005).  Don Freeman is the well-known author of the much loved "Corduroy" series and similar styles of illustration are used in both "Downpour" and "Earl the Squirrel", so they could be compared and contrasted - the use of black outlines and the red colour through the pages to add emphasis - very exciting visual critical analysis work :) 

One of my favourite websites is Teaching Children Philosophy.  This website contains book modules with lesson ideas and philosophical prompts to encourage critical reflection, higher order thinking and philosophical inquiry using picture books.  Click on the image below to view the lesson ideas using "Earl the Squirrel" and some images from the book.

Another mentor text that could be used in a similar way to examine visual literacy and the use of black and white line drawings with the impact of red, is "Little Red Hood" by Marjolaine Leray (2011).  You can read reviews of the book and view one of the illustrations on the publisher's website.  I think the simplicity and impressionistic style of the illustrations add power to this simple innovation on the original story.  In this version, the wolf is still big and viscious looking, but actually quite dumb. Little Red questions his hygeine and uses her initiative to trick him. With very little written text, the power is in the illustrations, so it is a great mentor text for analysing visual literacy.  You can read a further review of this treasure at the 32 pages A Passion for Picture Books blog   

In contrast to the simple black and white pencil drawings with the red featuring promenance in making meaning in the text, "The Black Book of Colors" by Menena Cottin and Rosana Faria (2010) uses black as the feature colour, with black pages, white text and embossed black illustrations (with braille above the white text).  It features the braille alphabet on the end pages.  This is a really innovative approach to a picture book, because even though the text talks about what colours may taste and feel like, the whole picture book is printed on black paper.  The picture book was actually written to convey the experience of a person who can only see through the senses.  The text is translated into braille so the sighted reader can begin to experience what it might be like to read and "see" by touch.

Free teaching notes are available from Walker Books. 

These four picture books used together could frame up a really dynamic exploration of visual literacy and the way illustrations add meaning to text.

Click on the link at the top of the page to hop on over to Paula's blog to check out the other wonderful picture books that have been shared in her Storybook Sunday linky :)


  1. Enjoyed your post, Kylie. Very interesting instructional approach for making connections.
    Carla @ Comprehension Connection

    1. Thanks Carla - These are new picture books in my collection and I can see the connections and the potential for teaching visual literacy through simple black and line drawings with the impact of red...powerful :) Kylie

  2. Loved the books - thanks for linking up this post
    Paula from Paula’s Place and iSURF Maths

  3. You are more than welcome Paula - it's a terrific idea and I hope others will hop over to your blog to learn about other picture books :) Kylie

  4. What a great post, I came over from Paula's Place. I love Don Freeman, but never heard of Earl the Squirrel. Thank you!!
    I am your newest follower!
    Fern Smith's Classroom Ideas!
    Fern Smith's Pinterest Boards!

  5. Thanks so much Fern! I love finding books that fit together as companion texts as I find it really helps kids to learn how to make text-to-text connections :) I will be sharing more soon on my blog (when I get a chance!) I'm am sure you know that feeling :) Kylie

  6. Thanks for sharing all these great resources! I look forward to you linking up to Paula's Place Sunday Story Book linky again!

  7. You are more than welcome Tara...I just fell in love with these books the moment they arrived in the post :) I hope you enjoy them too!