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A postmodern picturebook: Le petit Chapubron rouge

Watch Clémentine Beauvais tell us about a French postmodern picturebook which puts a new spin on a traditional tale.
This French picturebook by Alain Serres and other illustrators is called ‘Le petit Chapubron rouge’, which is a play on words with the French word for Little Red Riding Hood – le petit Chaperon rouge – and the word ‘pub’, which means advertising. It’s a glorious example of postmodern picturebook. We begin our story with Little Red setting off to see her grandmother. So far, so good… but soon the narrative is interrupted by intrusive fake adverts, like a pastiche of an advert break in a cartoon on TV for children. It will become impossible to read the story without being distracted. This is a postmodern picturebook for several reasons.
It’s self-referential - constantly aware of its nature as a children’s book, playing with the very concept of literary character and of narrative. It’s also graphically hybrid - many different illustrators have contributed, in different styles, giving rise to a kind of collage-like interplay of different types of images. The text, too, is hybrid, spanning the range from advert lingo to classic fairy tale. The result is a highly sophisticated picturebook which can be read and reread on different levels. And there’s social critique in there, of course - the book attacks the colonisation of children’s culture and entertainment by advertisers and brands. But it’s, most of all, funny - a message imparted through playfulness and pastiche.

Do you have any initial thoughts on children’s books such as this?

Feel free to share other examples you have encountered which employ similar playful techniques.

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

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