Visual Storytelling in Picture Books

© Chloe Yelland
Understanding the importance of narrative in picture books is a key part of development for writers and illustrators. Today, student Chloe Yelland offers her personal perspective on the way pictures and text work together to create stories. 

The thing that fascinates me about picture books are pictures and words as fragments of sequential imagery and language. Picture books not only visualize information, but also bring out meaning to the story as well as entertain and educate the reader. Parents who read to their children help them understand the importance of reading, as well as entertaining them.

In the fifteenth century, Leonardo Da Vinci pointed out that ‘the more you describe, the more you will confine the mind of the reader’, he felt it was necessary to draw and describe at the same time because colour, pace, rhythm and suspense are used to tell a story whether in a painting or picture book. Sequential illustration is an example – though it is mainly imagery with no words, narrative is addressed visually. The child develops the process of reading imagery in visual sequence, from left to right, and top to bottom.

Cover, The Very Hungry Caterpillar © Puffin Books

Some books which tell stories visually have unique ways of telling stories about life-cycles. The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle, first published in 1969, serves as a good example, showing a young caterpillar going through the stages of development into a beautiful butterfly. It educates the reader about the life cycle between a caterpillar and butterfly but also entertains them. By looking at the images and listening to the story, the child is also reading the pictures.

Sequential illustration can be transformed into animated short films or adverts, for example The Snowman, written and illustrated by Raymond Briggs and first published in 1978, a children’s book without words about a boy whose snowman comes to life. The picture book was such a huge success, it was adapted into a 26-minute short animated film in 1982, with new additions such as the snowman taking the boy to see Father Christmas. Also a theatre play was developed based on the book. Both versions became as successful as the book, being shown every Christmas.

Sequential images without words in Raymond Briggs' The Snowman ©Puffin Books

I had experience of sequential illustration during the first semester of my second university year. The task was to make a picture book based on the theme of circus – the storyline was a child attending the circus with her mother. I attempted to adapt elements from everyday life to intrigue the audience, e.g. using fun and humour in the book to promote the circus. After developing this theme in thumbnails and drawings, I researched more about the fairytale side of the circus and created characters, starting off with miniature sketches and then adding larger images with circus surroundings.

Chloe Yelland college project
Picture books are a very important part of the child’s intellectual and imaginative development. They are also educational because readers are learning about something, and through that something, there's a chance they may get to experience it in reality.


Chloe Yelland is studying for a BA (Hons) Illustration degree at Derby University
Her blog is here

1 comment:

  1. Hi Chloe, really enjoyed this article thank you! I dropped you a few lines on G+, wish you all the best in your studies :-)


We love comments and really appreciate the time it takes to leave one.
Interesting and pithy reactions to a post are brilliant but we also LOVE it when people just say they've read and enjoyed.
We've made it easy to comment by losing the 'are you human?' test, which means we get a lot of spam. Fortunately, Blogger recognises these, so most, if not all, anonymous comments are deleted without reading.

Words & Pictures is the Online Magazine of SCBWI British Isles. Powered by Blogger.