Cap O'Rushes

A Folkloric and Literature Resource

for Teachers and Librarians


Framing the Picture, grades 2-3

This lesson asks children to look at the way an illustration is presented on the page and to talk about how the presentation affects the way you feel about the picture. We are concerned with whole page illustrations and how they are framed (or not). The shape of the white space around the picture, the lack of it, or the presence of a distinct and decorated frame affect how you see the picture.

You will need to gather a selection of picture books to illustrate the different ways pictures are framed on a page. After examining and discussing the different frames, read the 1987 Caldecott award book, Hey, Al, by Arthur Yorinks, illus. by Richard Egielski (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1986).

You need to find:

Books in which the illustration bleeds off the edge of the page, that is, there is no frame. Examples: Arrow to the Sun, by Gerald McDermott (Viking, 1974), Snow White, illus. by Trina Schart Hyman (Little Brown, 1974), The Talking Eggs, by Robert San Souci, illus. by J. Pinckney (Dial, 1989).

Books in which the frame is a regular white border, like a matte on a framed photograph or painting. Examples: Van Allsburg's The Wreck of the Zephyr, and The Garden of Abdul Gasazi (Houghton Mifflin).

Books in which the frame is soft or diffuse. Examples: Beatrix Potter books, such as Peter Rabbit, (Warne) or Pumpkin Moonshine by Tasha Tudor (Simon & Schuster).

Books in which the frame is decorated and adds information to the story. Example: several books illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman: Saint George and the Dragon, retold by Margaret Hodges, (Little Brown, 1984) and Rapunzel, retold by Barbara Rogansky (Holiday House, 1982). Also Goldilocks and the Three Bears, illus. by Lorinda Bryan Cauley (Putnam, 1981).

And finally, a book which plays with the frame, breaking it, Hey, Al. This is a delightfully sophisticated book, both in story and illustration. Note the visual reference to the story of Daedalus and Icarus as the dog falls into the sea. Another book which teases the frame is Lon Po Po, by Ed Young (Philomel, 1989). Since Lon Po Po is a Chinese Red Riding Hood story, Young not only plays with the frame, but suggests Chinese scroll panels by his vertical separation of the illustrations.


If you have questions or comments about any of the material offered here, please email Carole at carole at slattery dot com .