Children's Literature

Instructor: Chi-Fen Emily Chen, Ph.D. 陳其芬

Department of English, National Kaohsiung First University of Science and Technology, Taiwan


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Poetry for Children
Picture Books
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Picture Books

 Please read Chapter 6 and Chapter 7 from Russell, D. L. (2009). Literature for children: a short introduction.

Introduction Types Storytelling Elements Artistic Elements Design Media Styles Examples

Artistic Styles

A wide variety of sophisticated artistic styles can be found in children’s picture books. Although an artist’s works seldom fit neatly into one single art style, facets of these styles may be merged into the artist’s personal expression of the world.

A.  Realism

  • Realistic or representational art portrays the world with faithful attention to lifelike detail. A few artists aim at almost photographic realism, but many prefer to approximate reality.

  • It is particularly suited to illustrate realistic stories with serious content or themes.

  • Example: “Make Way for Ducklings” written and illustrated by Robert McCloskey (1941)

B.  Cartoon Art

  • Cartoons consist of exaggerated caricatures that emphasize emotion and movement. They possess no subtlety, but are simple and straightforward.

  • It is often chosen to illustrate humorous stories, nonsense, and comical satire.

  • Example: “The Cat in the Hat” written and illustrated by Dr. Seuss (1957)

C.  Expressionism

  • Expressionistic art conveys an inner feeling or vision by distorting external reality. The influence of expressionism is found in children’s picture books in the form of distorted shapes and provocative use of color and line.

  • Expressionism flourished in France toward the end of the 19th century. Painters such as Vincent van Gogh sought new freedom of expression, rejecting traditional uses of line, color, space, and so on. Therefore, we see much distortion and experimentalism in this art.

  • Expressionism is quite versatile and can be used to create fresh perspectives in both serious and humorous stories.

  • Example: “Madeline” written and illustrated by Ludwig Bemelmans (1939)

D.  Impressionism

  • Impressionistic art depicts natural appearances of objects by giving fleeting visual impressions with an emphasis on light. Color is the most distinctive feature of this school, especially the interplay of color and light, often created with splashes, speckles, or dots of paint as opposed to longer brush strokes.

  • Impressionism is also a 19th century French movement. The most influential impressionists were Monet and Cezanne, who wished to convey more of the artist’s emotional responses in their paintings.

  • The effect is dreamlike. It evokes a quiet, pensive mood (expressive of melancholy thoughtfulness).

  • Example: “The Tale of Peter Rabbit” written and illustrated by Beatrix Potter (1902)

E.  Surrealism

  • Surrealistic art often presents incongruous dream and fantasy images. It creates unnatural juxtapositions and bizarre incongruities.

  • The most famous practitioner of surrealistic art was Dali. Surrealism is a very intellectual response to a subject (The expressionist and the impressionist make us feel, but the surrealist makes us think).

  •  It is suited to strange, unrealistic, or humorous tales.

  • Example: “Willy and Hugh” written and illustrated by Anthony Borwne (1991)

F.  Folk Art

  • Folk art is associated with a specific cultural or social group and is reminiscent of the style prevalent at the time the story events occurred. It is usually decorative in nature, providing ornamentation for everyday utilitarian objects.

  • Since it is culturally specific, folk art is favored in illustrating folktales.

  • Example: "Millions of Cats" written and illustrated by Wanda Gág (1928)

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