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Picture books are examples of how illustrations may play a significant role in understanding the plot and the meaning. For children, it may be especially significant, as some of them may have difficulties in understanding the moral and the main idea of a story. This paper elaborates on the role of illustrations in books, analyzing Rot, the Cutest in the World! by Ben Clanton. It provides the examples of how pictures allow children to work with the book and comprehend its ideas.
The Role of Pictures in Books
Pictures in books may play a vital role for children as they are designed to convey the author’s idea by using the language that people of a young age can understand. They stimulate children’s imagination and strengthen their visual learning capacities. Russell notes that very young children, less than two years of age, respond to books primarily through pictures (23). In addition, children between two and seven years old start to understand the concepts of color, shape, and form, which means that visuals can support the author’s idea effectively. It is necessary to add that, in general, picture books introduce individuals to the world of literature and reading even if they cannot read yet.
In picture books, the narrative is presented through the written and illustrated languages. The meaning is conveyed through the interactions between illustrations and words (Bianquin and Sacchi 2). In children’s books, visuals can be considered as significant as text from the perspective of the narrative. Young readers understand the author’s ideas through both pictures and words by moving back and forth between these tools to comprehend the meaning fully. Illustrations can help children to develop their understanding of self, other cultures, and communities.
Analysis of the Book
Rot, the Cutest in the World! is an example of how pictures work with words as the author’s strategy to convey a plot. This book features a discussion on various significant issues, such as self-confidence, the concept of beauty, and making judgments. These notions may be challenging for a child to understand and Clanton uses visuals along with humor to address them in a simple and honest way. The reviewed book presents crayon-like illustrations, which may allow young readers to connect them with their own drawings.
The first notable trait of Clanton’s work is that the book includes little text compared to illustrations. The written form of the narrative is presented in short sentences, usually, one per page, while the rest of the space is dedicated to pictures. The book is designed to concentrate on the reflection process of the characters; the reader can clearly understand their emotions and thoughts. This point can be illustrated on the example of when he sings a song about being the cutest in the world (Clanton 8). The character’s words are written in big letters, his face shows excitement and joy. For a child, such an approach to the design of the book can be vital for the understanding of its meaning.
Another notable trait of the book is that the illustrations look like children’s drawings. The possible purpose of this design is that young readers may unconsciously relate to the pictures, as they look familiar to them and similar to their own ones. The font of the text follows the same theme and pattern; the author uses onomatopoeia to elaborate the notions of the words used by the narrator. For example, when Rot considers eating other contestants, illustrations provide additional meaning to his thoughts, allowing the reader to imagine the scene in detail.
It is necessary to mention that in Clanton’s book, words and pictures do not work separately but complement each other. It is possible to say that the author’s text, being clear and easy to understand, conveys the general idea, while illustrations provide additional details on every scene, allowing the reader to capture characters’ mood and emotions. In this book, words are used as a skeleton for the story and are not its main part.
At the same time, Illustrations convey all of the information regarding feelings and thoughts; they reflect the characters’ irritation, joy, and anxiety. They are designed to allow a child to understand the idea associated with the text even if they cannot comprehend the meaning of words. It is possible to say that this book can teach young readers to assess other people’s emotional state and reflect on their own.
The last vital point that should be analyzed is the author’s use of colors. Young children are sensitive to this visual tool as it may stimulate their minds and help them to learn about the world around them. Bright colors may allow children to become dedicated to reading and learning, as they may gain their attention. Although the book is presented in a simple color scheme, which cannot be considered radiant, it plays on the contrast of used shades.
For example, most of the pages have the color white as a background, while the characters are drawn in beige, pink, and blue. At the same time, for some scenes, the author makes the whole page colorful, which gives the reader the idea that the event may be significant. In addition, Clanton’s illustrations are consistent and presented within the same color range; it allows even very young children to follow the plot and identify each character throughout the story.
How a Child Creates Plot Through the Book
This book is an example of how even a young child can create a plot with the help of illustrations. In this work, the narrative is fantastic but can be applied to real life. Pictures support the plot through its development, allowing the reader to see how the main character proceeds from excitement to a lack of confidence and experiencing various emotions during the story.
It is necessary to note that the book has a moral, which very young readers may not understand, as it is based on the significance of self-awareness, being yourself, and paying attention to a person’s inner traits as opposed to the outer ones. At the same time, although these ideas may be difficult for understanding at a young age, a child can follow the plot with the help of illustrations.
As mentioned above, pictures in this book reinforce the text and provide a detailed elaboration on its meaning. The book introduces the main character first and draws individuals’ attention to his thoughts and concerns during his journey to the victory in the contest. For example, a child may clearly understand that contestants do not like Rot’s appearance by the expressions on their faces, although the narrator does not add any comments to the scene.
A young reader can also see that the main character tries his best to make others like him by trying to be like them and behave similarly. Then, when Rot wins, the author does not use the text to explain the characters’ opinion on it; illustrations become the main source he uses to convey their disappointment. As this book focuses on showing emotions rather than presenting the idea directly through the text, it may be easier for a child to see different parts of the plot as a single piece with a particular meaning.
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It is necessary to mention that the book draws children’s attention to the main events of the plot without outlining them directly. For example, a reader can see that some parts of the story, such as the announcement of the winner, have larger illustrations than other ones; the author dedicates two pages to them. Moreover, there is a trend for large font and bright colors associated with significant events of the story. Through such visual tools, Clanton translates the concepts of exposition, climax, and resolution into the language that children can comprehend. It allows young readers to work with other books in the future, identifying their main ideas and significant points.
Rot, the Cutest in the World! is a good example of how words and illustrations can interact to convey the meaning of the story. In this book, the author uses colors and a particular style of pictures as opposed to exclusively textual expression to outline the significant aspects of the plot. This measure allows young readers to learn from the book and understand its morals and ideas.
Bianquin, Nicole, and Fabio Sacchi. “More than Just Pictures: Using Picture Books to Broaden Young Learners’ Disability Understanding.” International and Interdisciplinary Conference IMMAGINI? Image and Imagination Between Representation, Communication, Education and Psychology Held 27-28 November 2017 at Brixen, Italy. Web.
Clanton, Ben. Rot, the Cutest in the World! Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2017.
Russell, David L. Literature for Children: A Short Introduction. 8th ed., Pearson, 2014.