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Maria Salvadore

Reading Rockets' children's literature expert, Maria Salvadore, brings you into her world as she explores the best ways to use kids' books both inside — and outside — of the classroom.

Showing to tell

July 30, 2015

A graphic novel takes me much longer to read carefully than a text-only book does. Why? I think the pictures slow me down. I need to examine them carefully in order to make meaning from them, what they’re saying, how they interact with the words (if any).

The artist is telling a story. And how that story is told is intriguing.

I was reminded of this notion when I read a Nerdy Book Club blog by Jason Griffith who attended a panel discussion at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. The panel included the Met's drawing and prints curator, Nadine Orenstein, public radio host and writer Julie Burstein, and Brian Selznick, Caldecott Medal winning children’s book illustrator.

The talk was titled "Showing to Tell" — interesting title with lots to consider.

In essence, isn’t this what which is what all artists strive to achieve: telling a story when presenting an image to a viewer? But getting story from art requires understanding a different language. Rather than taking the story in little by little then stepping back to gain meaning (as we do when we decode words), with image we take it in all at once then must stop to reflect on what we see. And how the artist tells the tale is part of the meaning.

Selznick recognizes that illustration in his books provide a vantage point for the reader/viewer much like an art gallery provides a visitor with a particular view of a painting. Because Selznick is aware of this, he wants to showcase the detail of his art in order for the reader/viewer to be able to actually see it. Griffith reports that the artist "first draws his illustrations on index card-sized paper, but he does so with the awareness that the illustration will be blown up to the size of the book page and then even to the size of a movie screen for presentations."

books by Brian Selznick

The Invention of Hugo Cabret, or Wonderstruck, and I look forward to reading and returning to The Marvels.

Selznick’s newest title will surely slow me down. After all, I want to understand what he’s showing to tell.

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