|Christina Booth rough for This is Banjo Paterson|
Welcome to day 3 of our Banjo launch. Today we are talking about This is Banjo Paterson's unusual visual storyline.
Most good picture books have some kind of dual narrative going on--another 'story' that's quite apart from the text. In this way, illustrations should not be simply a direct reflection of the text--they should be much more than that.
The illustrator is (or should be!) equally responsible for carrying the storyline and creating something new and novel from the text. A visual narrative lends depth, scope, emotion, humour, detail and so very much more, but most especially nuance. So much can be gleaned from a picture, and much of it can depend on the viewer and their interpretation.
Illustrator Christina Booth is an expert at this.
When Christina and I created This is Captain Cook, I made mention to Christina that I envisaged the book's characters being played by children. So, basically, kids would take the roles of the real people from Captain Cook's life. She came up with the brilliant idea to set the entire book as a school play, with almost every scene unfurling on a stage.
This worked so very well, not only in terms of allowing lots of extra 'happenings' as the story went along (including a well-meaning rampant chook!) but in terms of allowing modern children to more deeply connect with the story of Cook's life. His world, after all, is achingly removed from how children live today. Children need to relate to the characters in books--it draws them in and keeps them engaged. And the kids playing the roles in a school play certainly did that.
Similarly, Banjo Paterson's life is told in a backyard scene, with kids in full play. Swinging on the washing line, camping outside in a tent, picnicking on a blanket... all things many modern day kids understand and experience at some stage in their lives. These elements allow kids to engage with a storyline that, again, is set back in the age of the dinosaurs (at least, I'm sure that's how they'd see the late 1800s!).
The wonderful thing about working with Christina, is that while (as author) I can suggest or intimate how things might look (this is necessary in terms of accurately conveying the narrative, especially when it comes to historical books like this one), she takes those guidelines and expands on them in ways that surprise and delight me, not to mention our editors and eventual readers!
It's the little things that add visual dimension to a picture book--and help children connect with story. Our optic nerve takes up a whopping 30% of our brain's cortex, meaning 90% of all information we absorb is taken in through the eyes (read my post on visual literacy here).
What children see has an impact on what they enjoy, learn and retain--and picture book images that are clever, entertaining, detailed and beautiful, are the books kids will return to again and again. Kids GET nuance. They really do. Even if they can't outwardly explain what they're getting, and I love that This is Banjo Paterson is resplendent with nuance, thanks to Christina's beautiful illustrations.
I also believe it's important to expose children to the lives of inspiring, uplifting, talented and memorable people. This is Banjo Paterson brings to life the story of a remarkable man in a way that's accessible to even the very young. And a large part of that connection will be found in illustration ... that divine visual narrative picture books rely on.
Stay tuned for Day 4, where illustrator Christina Booth talks about her illustrations. Click here for the full list of launch posts.
Join Tania on Periscope on Friday 17 February at 1pm AEDST, where
she will be chatting about the book live from the National Library,
and showing various priceless Banjo Paterson items,
along with original artwork by Christina Booth!
And for those in or near Canberra ...
Book Launch - This is Banjo Paterson
Sunday 12 February 2017
National Library of Australia