Since the beginning of the 21st century, the picturebook market has been flooded with books about children's emotions and psychological reactions to traumatic events. This psychological turn has been connected with the notion of the competent child. The Nordic countries in particular have become famous for viewing the child as a competent actor, a view that is substantially integrated into early years education legislation and curriculums for early childhood education. This article discusses the idea of the competent child in relation to an ever-growing discourse on children's citizenship. A thorough analysis of Lisa Aisato's picturebook Fugl (Bird 2013) will lie at the center of this discussion.
Children's literature is increasingly being published on various media such as computers, tablets and smartphones, and this digital development calls for new analytical approaches to explore both the physical manifestation of children's literature – its materiality – and the way in which it operates among various aesthetic strategies and medialities – its intermediality. In light of this development it becomes essential to examine both the relationship between various art forms in specific works of children's literature, and also to draw on other fields of research; for example, media science to explore the transgressing of media-specific borders. This article explores how an intermedial-analytical approach can shed light on the formation of meaning in a specific app: Tavs (Camilla Hübbe, Rasmus Meisler, and Stefan Pasborg 2013). The aim is to understand how the app integrates various art forms and sensory appeals – such as visual-, audio- and tactile dimensions. The analysis, which explores intermedial relationships within the specific app, is examined from a media-critical approach (Bolter and Grusin), an art-critical approach (Elleström), and a literary approach (Rajewsky).
This article focuses on the relation between maps, mental representations, description, and narration in picturebooks. It is shown that maps are cognitively demanding, since they presuppose the development of cognitive abilities and the comprehension of complex visual codes, including recognition of the specific combination of signs and names representing land- and cityscapes, geographical abstraction as well as the symbolization, highlighting, and suppression of information. After a survey of findings from cognitive psychology and geography literacy about children's map acquisition, the article gives an overview on some types of maps in picturebooks that are interesting from a narrative point of view, before turning to the pictorial character of maps. Three outstanding picturebooks with maps, Drei Jungen erforschen eine Stadt (1933) by Friedrich Böer, The Story of the Little Red Engine (1945) by Diana Ross and Leslie Wood, and My Place (2008) by Nadia Wheatley and Donna Rawlins, have been chosen to demonstrate the diverse types and functions of maps. Finally, the article focuses on the relationship between picturebook story and map, thus showing that maps are not merely illustrations, but constitute relevant aspects of the overall narration.
Children's literature is rife with lying characters. The identification and fabrication of lies both in the actual world and in literature involves socio-cultural factors (including ethical and ideological factors), discursive factors (semantics and pragmatics) and cognitive factors (related with the development of Theory of Mind). This latter factor may account for the coincidences between the development of the ability to produce and identify lies and the development of narrative in children suggested in this paper. The first part offers examples of how different ideological contexts have conditioned the reception and production of the cautionary fable “The Boy Who Cried Wolf” in its classical version and in the version of Tony Ross's picturebook. The second part analyses several portrayals of characters lying in picturebook narratives (by Eva Eriksson; Jenny Wagner and Ron Brooks; and Rindert Kromhout and Annemarie van Haerigen), showing how the interplay of words and images helps the reader recognise lies, characters’ intentions and unreliable verbal statements, and providing arguments for the role of fiction in socialisation and, specifically, for the role of picturebooks in training mindreading. Cognitive science (developmental aspects of Theory of Mind), cognitive criticism, narrative theory and picturebook theory are used as a framework to understand the demands that the identification of lies places on the implied readers of these stories and, consequently, the opportunities these stories provide to children to develop literary reading and intersubjective social skills.
Ida (2011), written by Jørn Hurum and Torstein Helleve and illustrated by Esther van Hulsen, is a non-fiction picturebook for children with an ambitious objective. It presents a fossil, the findings from the study of this fossil, and the dispute over the validity of the results. The composition of the text is threefold: the book opens with an illustrative story about the life and death of the primate that ends up becoming the fossil in question, subsequently introduces a lexicographical section ensuring the credibility of the scientific results of the primate's research group, and finally provides instructions for appropriate activities that offer the child reader ownership of the presented knowledge.
This article discusses the ambiguity within the book. The discussion has a primary focus on the constraints within the illustrative story that is jointly ruled by scientific aims and the traditions of children's literature. The purpose of the protagonist is to die, which is rather rare in a children's book. Nonetheless, the protagonist's life and death takes place in the jungle environment which, according to Marilyn Strasser Olson “apparently reduces the tension” (Olson 2013: 55). The intertextual use of Christian mythology adds a solid cultural background to the story and the artwork calls to mind Henri Rousseau's jungle cosmology. It will nonetheless be argued that the literary traditions embedded in the book ultimately blur the validity of the scientific message.
Contemporary picturebook theory has produced a wide range of concepts and terms for the analysis of the various aspects of conventional picturebooks. However, as picturebooks are rapidly entering the digital age, there is an urgent need to keep picturebook theory up to date. The multimodal nature of picturebooks, that so far has predominantly implied a combination of the verbal and the visual modes, is expanding to include auditory, tactile, and performative dimensions. This article explores the ways that digital picturebooks, or apps, demand not only new approaches, but also new terminology to describe features characteristic of the new medium, as well as conventional picturebook features acquiring a new significance in digital picturebooks. These include materiality, paratexts, page layout and performance modes. Special attention is paid to the ways app developers employ the spatio-temporal affordances of digital visual texts. The article also investigates the various levels and types of user participation, in a range from merely swiping between screens to co-creating the narrative. The predominantly theoretical argument of the article is illustrated by a selection of digital picturebooks, where relevant in comparison to printed versions.
This article proposes a metacritical analysis of the concept of the “readerly gap” in picturebooks, as theorised by scholars of picturebook research—whether theoretical or empirical. In contemporary picturebook research, gaps are both a descriptive and a normative feature of picturebooks: they both define this type of literature and are seen as guarantees of its aesthetic quality and sophistication. They are also a crucial aspect of studies of young reader's responses to picturebooks, many of which are concerned with how children manage to navigate and “fill” gaps in iconotexts. Readerly gaps are perceived, it seems, as spaces belonging mostly to the reader, somewhat outside of the picturebook; in particular, they are seen as at least mostly protected from adult influence. I argue that the concept of the readerly gap is an interestingly paradoxical creation of adult scholars. Both empirical research on children reading picturebooks and theoretical picturebook studies reinforce the assumption that children are better “gap-fillers” than adults and that they can on occasion become teachers to adults as to how to interpret picturebooks. This optimistically child-centred epistemology stands in stark contrast to contemporary theoretical approaches to children's literature, which insists on the aetonormative quality of such texts. However, the readerly gap, which I prefer to call a didactic gap, remains a space surrounded with and controlled by an adult injunction. It is beyond the picturebook, beyond even the experience of reading and of exploring children's experiences of reading, that the fundamental indeterminacy of the picturebook gap can be truly said to dwell.