Because of work, I can't make it to the eleventh lesson of the Stone Soup club given by Mr. Tu on children's poetry and sci-fi. I'll skip directly to the 12th talk hosted by Ms. Tsao on Reading Images Everywhere in Life.
Ms. Tsao starts the talk by asking a question worth thinking about: When you first read a picture book, do you start with the text or the images? In fact, by simply reading one of them will lead to different interpretations of the same story. In a picture book, text and images can tell their own stories independently. Some illustrators might tuck in many details in pictures, which might not be part of the text.
We were born with the ability to read images. Children are capable of reading pictures, but their capability is weakened after the intensive training in word literacy at school.
How to tell a story with simple shapes? Ms. Tsao gives examples designed by her father, who is a famous Taiwanese illustrator. Black is a circle, but it transforms itself into various kinds of shapes on different occasions. In fact, this is a story on the mathematical concept of division. When Mr. Tsao was writing the book, he tried cutting black circles into parts to see what objects they can represent.
How to tell the story of Little Red Riding Hood with geometrical shapes? The teacher asks us the shapes and colors we would like to choose for each character and setting and explore the possible visual effects. For instance, if the mother of Little Red Riding Hood is a bigger red triangle like her, does it evoke the feeling of mother? What if we soften the edges and change red to purple, which is a mixture of red and blue? I'd say this process is very helpful for illustrators.
Next the teacher takes out an exquisite wooden box, which is called kamishibai. It is an oral story-telling tradition from Japan.
The vendor carries the box filled with drawings and tells stories to people on the streets. For works not printed, this is a superb idea. Since there is no text, everyone can tell their own version of stories.
Ms. Tsao drew stories based on nursery rhymes and picture books. At the end of the lesson, she invites us to tell stories. See, this is such a brave little girl!