Skip to 0 minutes and 3 secondsImagine different illustrated versions of Aesop’s Fables. They might be pretty books, and in each version, the pictures would, of course, add to the Fables. But the Fables might work without the pictures too. It would be a predominantly verbal narrative. On the other hand, here’s a famous wordless picturebook, The Lion and the Mouse. It’s also drawn from a fable by Aesop. But as you can see it’s got no text, or barely at all - in order to follow the story, you need to make sense of the sequence of pictures.

Skip to 0 minutes and 45 secondsThis is an example of a mostly visual narrative.

Skip to 0 minutes and 53 secondsAnd here’s a picturebook in which you have enhancing or complementary relationships. It’s called Shackleton’s Journey,

Skip to 1 minute and 0 secondsand it’s what we’d call creative non-fiction: you can see how much the drawings enhance the solely factual descriptions. For instance, look at this beautiful collection of minute vignettes that show you

Skip to 1 minute and 13 secondswhat the team take on board: the exact number of dogs, the precise number of clothes.

Skip to 1 minute and 22 secondsEverything is tidy and in its place: an ideal expedition. Of course, this is not like the messy reality of what all these dogs would be like. The picture presents the dreamed idea of the expedition, a fantasised orderliness.

Skip to 1 minute and 44 secondsLater on, as the boat becomes rocked by the ocean, it looks tiny and fragile on the page, and the picture mimics paintings or engravings of big epics – the Odyssey, Milton’s Paradise Lost – to make the expedition look like something of Homeric proportions ; another facet of the same fantasy.

What does that look like?

In this video, we have looked at picturebooks characterised by predominantly visual narratives, and complementary or enhancing relationships between words and pictures.

What kinds of literacy skills would you say such picturebooks encourage?

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This video is from the free online course:

Pictures of Youth: An Introduction to Children’s Visual Culture

University of York