Picture Books – Reading For Life

Apple Wang 
Planning Consultant of VW Link Life Reading Store
MDiv 1998

 


As a storyteller of picture books, my readers include children, adults, young and old. You will have different understanding by reading stories at different stages of life. As long as life does not reach its end, the story goes on and the surprise is always on the next page. When we encounter a good picture book, we can often discover the purpose of our own life. All we need is to pause, think and hit the road again.

Picture books are children storybooks containing many illustrations. Illustrations in each page, including front cover, back cover, title page, endpaper and content, are integral to the development of the story plot. Illustrations and text should work together in picture storybooks, rather than a direct translation of each other. Not only do they complement each other, but they also leave space to allow readers for imagination. The authors and illustrators try to find a sense of rhythm for each picture book, sometimes even allowing no text in some pages. Such pause creates a stopping sign for readers to feel the turning point, which is also a portrayal of life.

Even if children is the primary readership of picture books, adults with rich life experience often resonate with it more and more. The beauty of picture books can open your eyes to new worlds. The humor of picture books allow you to discover that life can make a turn with new possibilities. The imagination of picture books creates a small adventure in the brain and creativity is freed from the rigid thinking. The message of picture books brings forth profound images and metaphors, which shed lights and bring self-healing power at a certain point of your life. In appreciating good picture books, adults and children learn to see life with a broader perspective and to experience a richer narrative of life. A good picture book may not answer all the questions of a child perfectly, but it can facilitate him/her to share the feelings and express opinions as he/she is touched by and resonated with the story. Therefore, reading for life of picture books is also reading for a meaningful life.

You can find in picture books various life issues that authors would concern, such as life and death, self, citizenship, environment, suffering, and dreams. A good picture book does not only portrait a sweet fairy tale with positive energy, such as “the prince and princess lived happily ever after”. For example, Mr Huff describes that moods can be shown authentically, without having the sun shining every day. A genuinely good picture book is rarely hard selling happiness or a morality tale. In fact, what attracts a child usually is not “how to be a good kid” or “we should love one another”, but I Wish My Brother Was A Dog, The Princess Who Picked Her Nose or My Dad Is a Heel Wrestler. It is just adult’s wishful thinking that “only moral stories are helpful”. Many picture books depict human nature. For example, a Japanese picture book Cat Mino Goes Shopping tells whether a cat can restrain the desire of eating fish and complete the task of buying fish for grandfather. On the way home, he had a fierce struggle. In Leo the Late Bloomer, the tiger father, who was so anxious about the blooming signs of his son, finally learned to let go, knowing that “In His Time” is beyond human control. Ultimately, it is he himself get bloomed. Good picture books can nourish your heart for a long time. For instance, The Carrot Seed describes a little boy who plants a carrot seed. Everyone tells him that the seed would not grow, but he still waters his seed and pulls the weeds every day. The time came and the small seed grew up to be a giant carrot. The book was published in 1945, the year that marked the end of World War II. The author used only 101 English words and some fresh illustrations to encourage people to restore confidence and plant the seed of hope. Stories allow children to understand the real world and leave rooms for them to imagine a world that can be changed differently. A picture book can also illustrate the Words of Life, although it is not a direct evangelism. Just as Jesus is a great storyteller, a good story is like a window letting the sunshine in. The Death in La Visite De Petite Mort met a sick but happy girl. She is not scared, and she talks to Death and they have fun. Finally, she chooses to stay with the Death as the angel of hope, holding his hand and performing the task together. She warms the heart of those who are dying.

Reading a picture book with children is a gift of life to the adult. Through the children’s eyes and mind, the inner child of the adult would be awaken and the dialogue of life would begin. Adults who often reflect on life, emotions and values would have better interpretation and provide better guidance. I am deeply convinced that there is no expert on nurturing kids. Only nourished adults can nurture our next generation.

 

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