The Enchanting Power of Picture Books for Children

Categories: Snow White

There is the so-called “magic” in the use of picture books. Children delight not only in the essence of the story being conveyed by the book, but they are more captured because of the pictures and illustrations that abound children’s picture books. A picture book, as defined, is “a book in which the illustrations play a significant role in telling the story” (Bennet n. p. ). According to the Vermont Center for the Book (n. p. ), the illustrations in picture books “spark innumerable conversations tying the story to children’s lives.

In the picture book illustrator Shaun Tan’s website, he connoted that “the text and illustrations could operate as narratives in isolation, but happen to react in similar ways, [thereby] opening new meanings from each other’s context. ” He is fascinated with the idea that a reader’s ability to superimpose thoughts and feelings could turn a visual (and even non-textual) experience to make happen. The process of looking into particular details of a picture book could really give a lot of insights to the reader.

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It is not merely the text that is important, but there are also ideas transformed and depicted into the images and illustrations which give new meanings, interpretations, and representations to the text. In Kay Vandergrift’s article tackling the fairy tale Snow White and its various illustrations made globally, there are several points that could deepen the reader’s cognition of the story. For one, the illustration may differ in terms of cultural values and settings.

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While Snow White was portrayed to have white skin complex in the North American and European literature, a North African version may disentangle the notion of having white skin complex of the protagonist, as in the adaptation Eric Kimmel’s Rimonah. Also, it is important to take note of the objects placed alongside the characters. These objects may be associated with physical appearance or beauty, as in Snow White’s evil stepmother’s mirror and other surrounding objects.

Sometimes, these objects of beauty may also make a contrast between the non-beautiful (the evil queen) and the beautiful (ornate objects inside the queen’s room). The clothing or costume used by the characters also relate to the typecasting effect: the queen’s clothing are lacy and expensive, while Snow White’s clothes are patchy. The costumes could be a means in identifying the status of the character. Further, the relative size of the characters depicted in the pictures could also influence the interpretation of the reader.

Characters that occupy a sizeable amount of the page may be considered as a point of interest, if not the focus, in the story. The size of the characters, even the auxiliary objects, may give virtue to the focus of attention of the reader; henceforth, acknowledging a probability of its vital part in the story. Similarly, the spatial arrangement of the objects and the subjects in the illustration may also give value to their importance in the study. The positioning and movement of the caricatures may contribute to the reader’s foresight of the sequential events.

An example from the story of Snow White could be the evil queen’s positioning in the secret room where she was concocting a poison that is to be injected in the apple that she would give to Snow White. Relatively, as the readers may have known about the story even before looking at the book, the illustrations largely pays for the other details that may not be existent in the text itself. Moreover, there is the sense of time in every picture book illustration. Time and age are very significant in the overall interpretation of the story.

They correlate to the longevity of the story, and therefore, the depth in which the transitions have occurred. Most importantly, the readers should observe that the hues and tonal qualities used by the illustrator could be a turning point in terms of the fore perspectives of the reader. It is because these hues and tones predict the mood of the story, sometimes even articulating the general setting. For example, the dark illustrations of the forest (where Snow White escaped through before finding the Seven Dwarfs’ little house) depict dark and horrible scenic possibilities.

There could be wild beasts hanging around that could possibly make Snow White their prey. Or it could also be that there is an evil queen’s twin who might be lurking somewhere in that forest, ready to pounce on Snow White and kill her. Another dark episode could be the death of Snow White, where she was laid inside a coffin while the Seven Dwarfs somberly cried. The darkness illustrated may not be equally evil in effect, but this time it could mean gloom (because of Snow White’s death).

Generally, the lines, shapes, colors and the other elements used in the illustration of picture books aim to convey emotions to the readers and are meaningful in acquiring the story’s essence. In the various depictions of Snow White, what is prevalent is that perhaps all of us already know about the characters, the settings, the sequence of events, etc. But then again, as Nodelman puts it (in Vandergrift’s Snow White Illustrations): “what differs is the character of the people these events happen to, the reason they happen, and the relative amount of information we are offered about where they take place and about what they mean” (n. p. ).

Updated: Apr 29, 2023
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The Enchanting Power of Picture Books for Children. (2020, Jun 01). Retrieved from

The Enchanting Power of Picture Books for Children essay
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