In ‘Olivia forms a band’ we are introduced to Olivia a young female pig who wants to make a band to play at the fireworks she is going to view later that night. Olivia’s world while removed from our normal world is still in sync enough with ours due to the anamorphic characteristics of the characters. This book’s target audience is a lower primary school level, grades Prep to Three and the book focuses on things that they would find entertaining. Picture books can look at different themes, issues and ideas; in ‘Olivia forms a band’ the story really focuses on the nature of childhood and the dynamics of living in a family. Ian Falconer really captures in this book the behaviour of children, it shows how particular children can be when at the start of the book Olivia is trying to find a second red sock and she is so particular about what sock goes with the one that she is already wearing even though she has rejected lots of other red socks when all the socks that she has already rejected look like they are the same. It also shows how children have amazing imaginations and the way that they like to create things which is shown in the way that she forms the band, going around and finding things from around the house. Also how they are consumed by their own world and don’t always consider others as we can see when she takes her father’s suspenders which as a result make his pants fall down. It also shows that children after spending so much time and energy on something can decide not to go through with something the way that Olivia decides not to take the band that she spent all day putting together to the fireworks after all. As well as the themes, issues and ideas in picture books other things such as point of view are important. Books are set up so that we feel sympathetic to the protagonist, so that we like them and encourage them ‘Olivia forms a band’ is told from a third person point of view with Olivia as the protagonist, the main focus of the book. Setting is also very important in picture books, it shows you the location and the time that the story takes place in and can also be symbolic or used to create the mood of the story. In this particular book the mood of the story is often humorous.
The illustrations in ‘Olivia forms a band’ are mainly black and white with the occasional bit of colour red or blue which are used to focus the audience’s attention to things that the author considers important. The book’s illustrations and limited dialogue and narration really demonstrate the point that the story is about Olivia as a character rather than the plot in the book. This is shown in the way that the author’s uses minimalism in his illustrations keeping the focus on Olivia and the characters by not having a detailed setting. Using this technique really emphasises that this story is all about Olivia and her world. We can see through the fact that the only setting in the illustrations are props that the characters are using such as the kitchen bench that Olivia does not consider her surroundings to be important. This is changed however when they go out to see the fireworks then the whole page is filled and more colours are introduced through the fireworks and the colours of the setting sun which shows that this is something that Olivia considers important. The same is evident in the illustration of Olivia’s room at the very end of the book when she is going to bed. The whole page is used in the illustration showing that Olivia considers her room to be important and part of her own world.
Different books uses different techniques to tell the story but Nodelman (Hill) comments that “each speaks about matters on which the other is silent” referring to the writing of text and illustrations and Hunt (Hill) points out that “illustration alters the way we read the verbal text”. Illustrators use different artistic devices such as line, texture, colour, perspective and point of view as well as the design and overall layout and format of the book. Authors use similar techniques which are theme, character, setting, plot, point of view, format and layout and language style. All of these things together work to produce a good quality book.
A good quality children’s book can be used as a touchstone text which is a text that ‘are full of curriculum potential’ and that teachers can use to teach a variety of lessons. Isoke Nia (Wood Ray) wrote an article called ‘units of study in the writing workshop’ in which she discussed criteria for choosing a touchstone text. One of the criteria is that ‘the text is a little more sophisticated than the writing of your best students’ which is something that fits in with Vygotsky’s(Hill) zone of proximal development which states that a child has two levels of performance, one that they can reach independently and one that they can reach with assistance from an adult. The distance between these two levels is what he called the zone of proximal development. Through the use of the text the student’s level of performance can improve. As well as utilising the zone of proximal development the teacher should be structuring the students learning and using the four roles of a reader as developed by Luke and Freebody (Hill).
Good quality children’s literature is a book that you can read time and time again because you love it, a book that teaches you something and you can learn lots of different lessons from and it is age appropriate, it is a book that has a good relationship between the illustrations and the text and they rely on each other to tell the story.
Hill, S (2006) Developing early literacy Assessment and teaching, Prahran Victoria, Elanor Curtain Publishing
Katie Wood Ray, What you know by heart letting authors co-teach the curriculum. Touchstone texts
Emily Dickinson,(1995) There is no frigate like a book, The Poems of Emily Dickinson, Cambridge, the Belknap press of Harvard University Press