Sample Essay On “Playfulness” In Children’s Picture Or Illustrated Books

Type of paper: Essay

Topic: Literature, Books, Children, Family, Writing, Rabbit, World, Education

Pages: 4

Words: 1100

Published: 2020/12/25

Children’s books are the perfect way to establish within them ideas and thoughts. Authors however make use of various methods to introduce “playfulness” to these texts. The aim of using this tool is to make these texts more relatable to children. Beatrix Potter and Anthony Browne are both notable children’s’ authors which used “playfulness” differently in their stories The Tale of Peter Rabbit and Voices in the Park to achieve different purposes through their writing. The aim of this paper is to analyze these stories in context to the concept of “playfulness” in order to understand the concept better. Furthermore, the role of playfulness can be different in illustrated books as compared to the pictures book. It is, however, important to notice here that illustrated books are different from pictures books. Whalley notices this difference in Reader 1 in the following words:
“A good illustrated book is one where the accompanying pictures enhance or add depth to the text. A bad illustrated book is one where the pictures lack relevance to the text, or are ill placed and poorly drawn or reproduced -- these are books with pictures rather than illustrated books” (Maybin and Watson, 2009, pp. 298).
The difference in illustrated and picture books is further in the study guide by saying that “good illustrated books are those where the pictures are of high quality and enhance the story” (Hall and Keynes, 2009, pp. 210). Similarly, Goodman suggests that
“Images in children’s books vary enormously in both style and function – from the primarily decorative, in what are often termed ‘illustrated books’, through to the fully formed visual narrative, the ‘picturebook’, where images and words are inextricably linked and have equally important roles in telling the story.” (Maybin and Watson, 2009, pp. 296).
Some believe that adding pictures or illustrations increase the overall factor of attraction in the children’s books or make them more playful. However, some also believe that the pictures sway the child away from the whole experience of reading and affect the fluency of the reading of the children, thus not making them a confident reader. Goodman in the article “Words and Pictures” says the same in the following words:
“While many parents and educators see the images as a way of increasing the attractiveness of books to children, and thereby developing both literacy and a love of story, some feel that images distract from the verbal text (considered the primary carrier and communicator of meaning) and may impede the development of fluent and confident reading in children.” (Maybin and Watson, 2009, pp. 297)

However, conflicted views exist in this regard and there are many who argue against it. For example, Moebius says that:

“Picture books lend themselves to detailed textual analysis and reward close scrutiny – dispelling the myth that picture books are simple, or simplistic, or aimed only at children.” (Maybin and Watson, 2009, pp. 298).
He further notes that the pictures in children’s books should not be seen in isolation, but the context of the pictures should also be taken into account.
Looking at the children’s books with pictures, along with the context, one can see that the context provides a factor of playfulness, most of the times. Usually, children’s books are filled with deliberate playfulness, whether it is through narrative, characters or the form which an author uses. This “playfulness” becomes the essence of these stories when illustrated through pictures. These pictures then make them viable tools for children. Children are drawn not only to the narrative structure of the stories these books consist of, but often also to the way these stories use images to explain the narrative. For example, the pictures in The Tale of Peter Rabbit tell a different side of the same story as compared to the words (Hall and Keynes, 2009, pp. 227). This adds to the playfulness of the story. At one part, the words tell us how Peter Rabbit’s Mrs. Rabbit was talking to all children saying “'you may go into the fields or down the lane, but don't go into Mr. McGregor's garden” (Potter, 1987, pp. 3). However, in the picture that Peter wasn’t listening to his mother. Instead, he was focused on something else. This picture added to the playfulness of the story and told a different side of the story, the one that wasn’t mentioned in the words.
Another thing to be noted about children’s literature is the way there is not set methodology to its writing. Over time, it has not only been an art form that was derived from writing styles and skills but also integrated various national and international cultures in its folds in order to make statements. There are various beliefs systems which are integrated into these stories to sometimes be the guiding light for children and sometimes provide moral lessons to them. Similarly, “playfulness” through images as well as textual concepts has been used by authors to bring a sense of frivolity, a rhythmic flow to their books written and designed for children. Various methods of making “playfulness” a tool have been used by authors over time and this paper aims to discuss some of the notable pieces by notable authors.
The books analyzed and studied under the context of “playfulness” are The Tale of Peter Rabbit (1902) by Beatrix Potter and Voices in the Park (1998) by Anthony Browne. These books are analyzed on the basis of activities given in the Study Guide (Hall and Keynes, 2009, pp. 224). These books in their own way have used “playfulness” as a means to make the text more enjoyable yet relatable for young readers and old alike. Both these books were published almost a century apart and hence highlight a clear transition between the styles of writing from their own era. Beatrix Potter’s writing is more traditional than modern and hence follows a conventional style of children’s books which build a dream like world for children. Brown on the other hand follows a more “post-modern” style of writing in which a newer way of narration was introduced. He brought with him a mindset that celebrated the use of various narrative structures rather than focus on one single linear narrative. His books appealed to children in an almost haphazard way, demanding attention from them and keeping it maintained within the pages of the books.
Analyzing the stories through the context of “playfulness” a lot of difference can be seen between the ways these two writers make use of it as well. Beatrix potter makes use of images to portray “playfulness” and frivolity, yet the theme for her story is much more threatening. The fact that Peter Rabbit is threatened by a serious entity such as Mr. McGregor is enough proof of it. Even though the images are playful, the story in its truest sense is very serious and has a strong point being made for children. Browne on the other hand uses “playfulness” differently. His characters such as the Santa Claus and the world that his characters reside in are no doubt in their own way frivolous. Yet, the story has a foreboding tone to it as well due to which “playfulness” loses its essence in his stories. His story represents a much more realistic side of the world despite being wondrously imaginative through the use of emotion by him. For example, the mother chimp calling out for her child overseen by dark clouds presents a very morbid scene to the children but does not necessarily do so to scare them. It presents to them a scene which is much more realistic in nature. As compared to Potter’s work which presents to them a vivid world with vibrant images, but consist of an advisory narrative, he has a much more toned down use of “playfulness” in his book Voices in the Park.
If the two stories are compared, it can be seen that Beatrix Potter’s story uses “playfulness” in a much broader sense. Through her imagery, she is highlighting a very serious message for children yet keeps the frivolity alive in her visual as well as textual narrative. She being a much more conventional writer keeps the spirit of the old style of writing alive and maintains a balance between the seriousness of the message and the purpose of her books. Browne on the other hand belongs to much different school of thought. He understands the need to elaborate upon more pressing issues for the awareness for children. He has moved on in light of the era of enlightenment after modernity and wishes to give valuable information to his readers whether they are young or old. “Playfulness” in his stories is almost absent because he constructs a world to make various, strong points for his readers. Goldstone observes in Reading 1:
“In the last three decades, picturebooks have become ‘increasingly experimental, with thematic complexities and sophisticated artistry that have entirely changed their look. These changes have been so dramatic that a new subgenre has evolved – the postmodern picturebook.” (Maybin and Watson, 2009, pp. 321).
This holds true for Browne’s work because he uses it to make various bold statements which one does not expect out of a children’s book but from the school of thought Browne comes from, this is exactly how children are supposed to be given valuable lessons in life. Even though his story is vivid and uses a lot of imagery, it does not play with frivolity. This does not however mean that there is no “playfulness” in his text. He uses “playfulness” to play with ideas in a very successful manner. Halls and Keynes have commented about the specific style of postmodern writing by saying that:
“Postmodern literature breaks the ‘rules’ of literature, and picturebooks can be exceptionally ludic. Everything is up for grabs.” (Hall, W. and Keynes, M, 2009, pp 236)
This in fact can be backed by the style of Browne’s Voices in the Park. Since Browne belongs to the postmodern school of writing, he plays with the messages that he wants to portray and builds a world in order to communicate them to his young and old readers alike. On various occasions throughout his story he makes strong points and statements which he feels are necessary to be made. For instance, the way he writes about the little boy and girl playing, it is evident that he is not only trying to highlight the pointlessness of class differences but also is highlighting the need for gender to be understood by society from the grass root level. At another point, he shows a man who is happily dancing at receiving a painting by his daughter. This shows a clear message of how even though there are those in this world who place importance in wealth and socioeconomic stature, there are those who are content at heart with love. The stereotypes of race, gender and class difference are highlighted in order to educate young and old alike using a simple medium.

References List

Maybin, J. and Watson, N. (2009). Children's literature. Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan.
Hall, W. and Keynes, M. (2009). Study Guide: EA300 Children’s Literature. Glasgow: Bell & Bain Ltd.
Potter, B. (1987). The tale of Peter Rabbit. Harmondsworth, Middlesex, England: F. Warne.

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Sample Essay On “Playfulness” In Children’s Picture Or Illustrated Books. Free Essay Examples - Published Dec 25, 2020. Accessed April 23, 2024.

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