Monday, November 25, 2013

Picture Book Workshop #40: Wordless Picture Books

I have been wanting to "write" a wordless picture book for awhile.  Every time I try, I rarely get beyond 3 or 4 illustrations, though.  I seem to have some kind of block that won't let me dive straight into the sketchbook without having spent some time at the computer hashing things out.

Well, I got an idea for a wordless picture book a few weeks ago, and I finally sat down to type out all the scenes.  Maybe with a solid outline in hand, I'll get further with this project.

But, because I'm not used to this kind of thing, I went into reserach mode and took a look at some other wordless picture books and how they break down the action and art.

One would expect gorgeous, 2-page spreads like these...

From TUESDAY by David Weisner

From CHALK by Bill Thompson

But I was more curious how they showed a character progressing through a scene.

In Jerry Pinkney's THE LION AND THE MOUSE, he uses each page as a panel to show the progression of the mouse escaping an owl.

This gives each illustration a lot of space, and because you see the mouse going into the log in illo #1 and leaving the log in illo #2, it's very clear what's happening.  It's important to note that Mr. Pinkney balances a full page illustration with an illo with a large, white border.  The white space separates the scenes and allows the eye to rest a bit, since the illustrations are very complex and detailed.

In David Weisner's FLOTSAM, he squeezes 13 panels into one page to show a boy dropping off film to be developed.

I think this is successful in it's clarity (and the artistic technique is without flaw) but, to me, this feels a little busy.  Part of that is from having so many panels, and part of it is because the panels vary in size.

I prefer the panels in Barbara Lehman's RAINSTORM.

Six panels show a boy following a secret passage.  Because the panels are all the same size and because there is nice, calming white space between them, I find this page more successful in telling a clearer story, especially for a younger audience.  It's just more visually appealing to me as well.

I also really like how she balanced the six panels of activity with a simple, sparse image of the boy discovering the hidden passage.

It's almost as if there's a pause in time as the boy lifts the lid, then she speeds things up to show his journey.  LOVE IT!

A BALL FOR DAISY by Chris Raschka is all about the unbridled energy of a puppy.  He also does "panels" to show a characters progression within a scene, but there are no black-line borders.

The energy is there in the loose watercolor, but the scenes are clear because the couch and ball don't move. 

This scene (later in the book) is a little more complex because everything in each panel is moving.

Daisy is moving.  The brown dog is moving.  The ball is moving.

It's clear what's happening to me, but the simple fact that the ball is almost out of the panel in #1, then moves backwards to the in the middle in #2 is a little jarring.  This might confuse a younger reader.

In general, you want your action to move left-to-right. 

That said,  I want to make clear that my goal is not to pick apart and criticize these books, but rather to see what appeals to me as a story-teller.  What do I like?  What's closest to my organic style?  And by looking at all these options and analyzing them, it helps me build my story better.

All of these books are filled with GORGEOUS illustrations and fabulously inventive stories.  And the real beauty of a wordless picture book, is you don't have to be able to read to enjoy them.  A two-year old can sit down and follow the story, or just lose themselves in the art.

In other news, it's almost time for the next LITWIT'S LOG!   If you'd like to sign up for the newsletter that I write with my three other critique partners (wonder writers all), then click here and fill out the form.

The winter newsletter should be out sometime next week!

Thanks for stopping in and have a very Happy Thanksgiving!

1 comment:

Anna Staniszewski said...

So interesting to hear about the process of approaching a wordless picture book. I love Lehman's books, for example, but I can't even imagine how she creates them. Good luck with developing your idea!