Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Picture Book Workshop #28: Progression of Time

Many picture books are immediate.  The things that happen in the story, happen quickly: boom, boom, boom.  Like MONKEY ONO, for example.  Once the family leaves Monkey Ono behind, it's plan, execute, fail, plan, execute, fail, until Monkey Ono comes up with a successful plan to have a beach day.  It doesn't take place over days or weeks or a year.

This is often the case, but not always.  So today I thought I'd look at how different picture books handle the progression of time.

Let's start with the smaller intervals (hours) and work our way up, shall we?

One way to mark the passage of time is to, literally, count.

In TRACTION MAN IS HERE by Mini Grey, the boy and Traction Man have a car ride to Gramma's house to endure so they count Christmas trees.

On one hand, who wants to write about a car ride, right?  But on the other hand, killing time in a car is something I remember distinctly from my childhood.  And I love the way the author uses this moment to capture how the toy would see it, traveling in the InterGalactic People Mover.  Of course the boy and Traction Man fall asleep, because that's another big part of long car rides for kids. (And another way to pass the time.)

In THE LITTLE RED HEN MAKES A PIZZA by Philemon Sturges, there are plenty of times when the Hen is making the pizza and time is passing.

There is a nice visual progression (beautifully illustrated by Amy Walrod) of the Hen going through all the steps, but there is also a nice bit of text that I like:

     So she chopped and grated and grated and sliced.

The use of and between every activity helps separate the cooking chores and draws them out, rather than lumping them into a list, i.e. So she chopped, grated, and sliced.  Also, by repeating grated, the author gives time to the act of grating in and of itself.  Repetition as a way to pass time.

In THIS MOOSE BELONGS TO ME by Oliver Jeffers there's another lovely example of word and illustration working together to express a passage of time.

Although I should say, this is more of a time jump.  The main character, Wilfred, has fallen down and gotten himself tangled in a large amount of yarn.  He can't move.  It starts to get late, as you can see by the deep blue twilight sky and the text, It was getting late and the monsters would be out soon.

The audience doesn't witness the evening progress with Wilfred lying there.  He falls and the next thing we know hours have passed.  If nothing is happening during the passage of time, why not jump it?  If this had been a story about how Wilfred learned how to be independent, we might need to spend time with him as he figured out a way to free himself, but since the story is about the relationship between this boy and a moose, things don't get going again until the moose arrives.  Insert time jump.

Now let's move on to the passage of DAYS.

Everyone knows the classic THE VERY HUNGRY CATERPILLAR by Eric Carle.

Not only are the short pages a super cute way to show the holes and the illustrations, but Mr. Carle uses a linear list the days, On Monday..., on Tuesday ... etc., which shows the passage of time and teaches the kiddos about the days of the week.

In WINK: THE NINJA WHO WANTS TO BE NOTICED I wanted to show that Wink had been working with the circus family for awhile.

I could have done a series of illustrations showing the days passing, but I hadn't done any small illos in this book so it would have looked out of place.  So I summed it up in the text:

     So Wink came back the next day, and the next, and the next.

Like Little Red Hen, I use the word and and word repetition to show the passage of days.  It illustrates the point a little nicer than, Wink came back for a week. That might be accurate but it's not lyrical, yanno.

Then, in SPRING IS HERE by the fabulous Taro Gomi, we have the passage of a full YEAR.

The book starts off with a calf.  The the illustrations zoom into the black patch of fur as it transforms into a field of sprouts...

The sprouts grow into wheat, and soon people are working and playing in the field as the seasons progress. Eventually, it snows, and as the snow melts and the illustrations zoom out we see that the calf has grown throughout the year and it is now a young bull.

SPRING IS HERE cleverly goes through the seasons in text and illustrations, but it also shows the cumulative effect of a year in a bull's life.  It's time progression and a time jump all in one. 

One of my favorite ways to show time passing is to negate it, as in THE HELLO, GOODBYE WINDOW by Norton Juster and Chris Raschka.

This is the story of a little girl visiting her grandparents.  When she's tired and takes a nap, we the reader know that time is passing, but for her the character, nothing happens at all when she is alseep. 

If a tree falls in the woods and no one hears it, does it make a sound?

If a girl is not awake to have fun, does fun exist?

For the girl, NO!  No, it does not. 
Is this hilarious?!  I just love it.

Thanks for passing some time with me today!  (And my apologies for being a day late.  I have a crazy checklist of things to get to my agent yesterday and I couldn't manage a blog post, but I will try to do these regularly on Mondays.)


Mirka Breen said...

You just tackled one of the trickiest aspects of writing for the very young. It takes imagination and knowledge of developmental concepts to write time progression for the young. Also, flash backs are usually something to avoid unless the PB is for the older readers, around the age of eight.

Lucia Sasaki said...

Hi Julie, thanks for sharing so generoulsy your knowledge about your craft. I liked it very much when you mingle your own books with another's. Some of them I know (mainly the classics, that are translated into
Brazilian Portuguese) but many of them I didn't know.
Thanks again and a awesome week!

Julie_c said...

Hi Mirka - You're right. Flashbacks are a bit of a no-no. Too bad, because I dig a good flashback. Although, that said, I think it could be managed visually with thought bubbles.

Hi Lucia, thanks so much for your comment. I'm glad to share some of the wonderful picture books in my collection (meaning the works of others that I have on my shelves)whenever I can.

Ruth Schiffmann said...

Great subject. Thanks so much for sharing your insights!

Julie_c said...

Thanks Ruth!

Anna Staniszewski said...

Great post! Keeping page-turns in mind can also help with the passage of time--each turn can represent a little jump in time. But I think using repeating phrases is my favorite approach.