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Analyzing Literature

Analyzing Children’s Literature – 1. Introduction

This page is dedicated to analyzing children’s literature by covering, why we share, literary elements, awards, the anatomy of a book, picture books, traditional literature, poetry, historical and realistic fiction, nonfiction, fantasy/science fiction, and graphic novels.

2. Why Do We Share Literature with Children?

What I Know:

We share literature with children to teach them how to read. The earlier they start reading, the better readers they become. We also share because books teach them about the world around them, as well as creativity. I also firmly believe that it makes them more aware and knowledgeable as children and adults. Lastly, it is very enjoyable.

What I Learned:

Reading just reading 20 books a day highly increases their vocabulary. One great goal is for parents to share a thousand books with their children before Kindergarten. It also teaches empathy as well as values, such as not stealing, and understanding the feelings of others. Plus, if you start young, you’ll likely develop a reader for life. Children are also exposed to characters like themselves, and find solace, as well as self-awareness, as they read. Lastly, it fosters solutions when children ask, “What if” (Dr. Perry, 2016).

What I Still Need to Learn:

How to write more aesthetically, as well as recognize more aesthetic, beautiful, language, as well as imagery in illustrations.

Ways to Share:

Teachingbooks.net is a great place for various resources, such as finding diverse books.

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Perry, K., Dr., & Lessesne, T., Dr. (2016, February 23). Why Do We Share Literature With Kids?

[Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dOkoQcLadsw

3. Literary Elements in Children’s Books

What I Know:

Antagonist – the character or force that is against the main character by hindering their goals. Character – any person or animal in a story that moves the story along. Conflict – any issue that prohibits the main character from achieving their goal; like roadblocks. Mood and Tone – The mood is the atmosphere the writer creates while the tone suggests the authors feelings – angry, jubilant, etc. Plot – is the events in a specific order that take place in a story. Protagonist – is the main character that readers identify and usually root for. Setting – is where the story takes place along with the visual aesthetic it provides. Theme – is the overarching message of the story, like: If you waste food, you’ll be hungry. Hyperbole – is an extreme exaggeration used to make writing more visual. Deus ex Machine – is when the heroine, main character is spared or saved just in time by an unknown force, apart from anything they did; it’s like God intervened. Metaphor – is when you compare two different things that are similar by saying something is another thing; Her love is a burning candle. Point of View –  usually refers to 1st, 2nd, or 3rd, even omniscient styles of telling a story: I, you, he/she. Simile – is comparing two things using the word, ‘as;’ She is as beautiful as a corpse. (Thanks Neil Gaiman – you’re wearing off on me.) Allusion – is the referring to of another story or event by denoting a similar topic, persona.

What I learned:

Symbolism is generally images used to convey ideas. Archetype is someone who represents a certain type of person, emotion, or even theme. I generally think of the villain in any story who has no good characteristics or proper motivation. An allegory is very large metaphor, usually a story, that is used to convey a real-world issue or situation (literary-devices.com, 2010).

What I Still Need to Learn:

I always forget what an archetype is; I need a better way of remembering it. And even though I understand Allegory, the words to define it always fail me.

Ways to Share:

My favorite ways to teach literary elements are with Aesop’s Fables on YouTube. Depending on the grade you teach, they’re cute, engaging, and effective. I think I enjoyed it more than the kids. One of the videos are below:

4. Awards

What I Know:

I’ve reviewed awards in the past, but do not have a working memory of each one and what they represent apart from Children’s Choices, Young Adult Choices, and Teachers’ Choices.

What I learned:

The Newberry Medal is awarded per year to authors/books whose content is deemed a “distinguished contribution to American literature for children,” (ALSC, 1996-2018).

The Caldecott Medal is awarded for the “most distinguished American picture book,” ALSC, 1996-2018). Can’t say I wouldn’t love that one day.

The Children’s Choices award is includes “children’s recommendations of approximately 100 titles,” (International Literacy Association, 1996-2018).

Knowing the various awards and what each one stands for, allows for parents, students, and librarians to know where to look for distinguished works.

What I Still Need to Learn:

How does the International Literary Association gather the recommendations for the children. Perhaps it is by online submittal.

Ways to Share:

Displays of books with various awards would be a great way to draw attention to the fact that there are many awards to strive for. As a professional, one can join the International Literary Association, or others, for membership.

5. Anatomy of a Book

What I Know:

I am aware of the spine, front and back covers, as well as the binding, title page, dedication, copyright, and content pages. I’m also aware of the gutters and margins (egh). I know what a mock-up is; they’re great for marketing before your title is available.

What I Learned:

Another name for the spine is “backbone.” Doesn’t sound as professional, though. The headband is a “small, decorative strip of textile at the top and bottom of a casebound book to decoratively fill the gap between the spine and cover,” (Homen, 2017).

What I Still Need to Learn:

There is a saddle stitch, “used to fasten booklets by stitching through the middle fold of sheets,” (Homen, 2017), but I’d like to know some other stitches.

Ways to Share:

Check out, “Chronicle Books Blog,” to see more information about a books anatomy. As for a class project, if it could be made to fit academic standards, making a “hard-cover” book in class would be fun.

6. Picture Books

What I Know:

Theme is usually always present, and illustrations should always show more of the story, as well as even tell parts that the words don’t. For me, illustrations are very important to catching my attention and engaging me. I LOVE Tony DiTerlizzi’s work as an illustrator and by his ability to show mood and tone. As a growing illustrator, I was aware of the two-page spread as one flowing picture and believe that also enhances the story when glancing at the cover, spine, and back.

What I Learned:

This no doubt helps English Language Learns understand the context of the story. There is also a lot of stylistic affects that go into making a great picture book, such as size and spacing of pictures, creating contrast. I never really thought about using cursive in a picture book – it makes sense that you wouldn’t due to familiarity for the student/child.

What I Still Need to Learn:

I would love to learn how to illustrate the end-papers as a self-publisher… I’m not sure if IngramSpark accommodates for that. Also, checking reviews for quality, will help to ensure that purchases are of good quality.

Ways to Share:

I love the idea of removing the dust jacket and using it as promotional artwork.

I really like this page showing, “A Brief History of Children’s Picture Books and the Art of Visual Storytelling.”

The Nerdy Book Club: Click here.

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7. Traditional Literature

What I Know:

Myths are generally steeped in history, and when I think of myths, I generally think of Roman history. Really, I just enjoy them like I do any other fiction. I’m pretty sure a fable tells a moral. What I love about myths, is that there is sometimes magic and the unusual, that of which has always sparked my interest. Think of Medusa with snakes for hair. On another note, repetitions in various stories are very common; they make something stand out and signal to the reader that this thing that is being repeated is important.

What I Learned:

However, I forgot that myths were used to explain events and other questions of life. I also always forget the differences between legends, folk tales, and fables. It appears that legends are also steeped in history, but have been exaggerated on. A myth appears to be completely made up, while a legend could be part of something in the past, and is believable because some of it actually happened. Folk tales appear to have many types, but generally it is just a story from a people passed on. I’m learning to be on the look out for more archetypes, those that are the same type of character, though different due to personal traits; basically, they serve similar roles, such as a wise mentor. You can see what I’m talking about, here. (Shmoop, March 2015).

What I Still Need to Learn:

I think of Aesop’s fables and immediately draw a link between a fable having the purpose of some moral or theme. Unfortunately, folk tales and legends have never really interested me, but I think they would be good to learn more about so that I can use them when coming up with story ideas, as well as using them to tie in with curriculum as a teacher/librarian. I’m never aware of motif’s, at least not when pairing one with it’s actual name. Although, I suppose a mirror is a very common motif; think Cinderella and the book, Reckless, by Cornelia Funke.

Ways to Share:

It would be neat to find a legend and share it with a history class, or a fable and tie it in with theme in an English class. Why not bring stories and examples of past literature to really make deep connections?

8. Poetry

What I Know:

Unfortunately, though I generally understand the various elements of poetry, it doesn’t do that much for me. I know what a rhyme, stanza, and meter is, as well as rhyme scheme and various popular poets. I know to look for imagery and symbolism, as well as other literary elements, as well. I generally only appreciate it when used for children and when it rhymes. Poetry that doesn’t rhyme, though I am well aware that it is widely accepted, just isn’t fun or enjoyable for me. Sometimes I can enjoy it, but not for the most part – it should at least have a strong rhythm, which focuses largely on syllables. I’m also aware, as a teacher, that sound such as alliteration and onomatopoeia can make poetry enjoyable, and more so for me, when it’s read aloud.

What I Learned:

“Narrative poetry is great for having a dramatic play. Children can create plays for what happens after the poem,” (Literature for Children, July 2004). I’ve always enjoyed it when students acted out plays, why not have them act out poetry, too. That should be engaging.

What I Still Need to Learn:

I would like strategies to find ways to make poetry more interesting to teens, apart from how it relates to them, and apart from showing song lyrics. Perhaps having them write and perform them would be neat.

Ways to Share:

I love the video, “Vincent,” by Tim Burton. It’s so fun and easy to remember due to it’s rhythm and rhyme. Sharing videos like this helps students to visualize what they’re reading/hearing.

 

9. Historical Fiction

What I Know:

Historical fiction are stories that heavily rely on actual events from the past. I think some of the reasons why people or kids don’t like historical fiction is because it doesn’t seem relevant. This is easily fixed by telling a story that is full of action and relativity, while tying in the past, as well. I like to think of theme as the identifying factor in being relatable. I’m also aware that historical books should be heavily researched, as the reader will rely on the author to be giving them factual information.

What I Learned:

What is history for some is relatively recent for others, (Perry, 2018). It makes sense to check reviews for factual information when reading a historical novel/book. What I became more fully aware of is the fact that historical fiction depicts the values of a past generation or time period which can be quite insightful.

What I Still Need to Learn:

One of the biggest things to look out for is consistency when reading about a different time, as the culture may have changed, as well as what was the norm, and what wasn’t.

Ways to Share:

Novels like, “Fever,” by Laurie Halse Anderson are good books when trying to teach children about a time past, while still appealing to their emotions.

10. Realistic Fiction

What I Know:

I really like realistic fiction because it’s a great way for readers to live vicariously, as well as develop empathy. The characters, settings, and events are realistic, but not necessarily real, because it is still fiction. In other words, a character named Darcie who buys a red Toyota is completely realistic, but fictional, because it never really happened as far as the author knows, unless the author actually pulled a true fact from his/her life. Realistic fiction does not have to be contemporary fiction; a reflection of today’s times, but rather ten years ago. This is so recent, that it is not necessarily historical, but it’s culture and norms are different from today. Realistic fiction both can, and may not be, an accurate depiction of today. For example, there are novels that reflect the 90’s, but they are not considered historical fiction – and that is why it would be classified as realistic fiction, compared to contemporary fiction. Just like with all good stories, a theme should be present. The theme is what stands out so strongly to the audiences reading realistic/contemporary fiction. It is true that Realistic fiction “tackles sensitive and tough topics:  death and loss, sexuality and sexual orientation, changing family structure, and so many others,” and that, “Topics which used to be taboo are now becoming the subject matter of books for young readers,” (Perry, 2018), but it does not strictly have to cover “taboo” subjects, either. In large, a lot of the “taboo” subject matter it covers today is due to society changing so much in accepting that which was once not acceptable. However, it is only a part of realistic fiction, as could be expected, as it also covers much material that isn’t “taboo.”

What I Learned:

Sometimes there is more than one large, overarching theme.

What I Still Need to Learn:

It would be beneficial to be able to recognize more distinguishing factors of contemporary fiction and realistic fiction, as they are the similar, but still different.

Ways to Share:

This can be done in creative writing by allowing students or writers a chance to reflect on the world around them by fictionalizing it in one to two pages.

Here is a children’s book illustrating the elements of life that we can relate to, while still being imaged (fictional) by the author. It shares the very rough day that Alexander experiences, making hard times for children and adults relatable. It aids in a sense of not feeling alone.

11. Non-fiction

What I Know:

Non-fiction is writing that is entirely based off of facts and is usually intended to share this information with readers in order to educate them or enrich their lives. Such examples include books on the various types of plants in a garden, or books on how to develop meaningful relationships. For me, non-fiction is something I rarely read, apart from the Bible. The reason for this is because non-fiction rarely tells a compelling story unless it is some part biographical, autobiographical, or memoir.

What I Learned:

Non-fiction, however small it seems, is actually quiet broad, even including poetry. Also, it never dawned on me that non-fiction books are written at different reading levels, such as elementary, middle, and high school levels. Some non-fiction has become more fun and engaging over the years, such as, “How They Croaked,” by Georgia Bragg. Plus, more authors are using humor now, which makes non-fiction more enjoyable and relatable, as well. I was never aware of narrative non-fiction. I also think it makes since to fact check for non-fiction books that you are really trying to glean on. I also believe that books with visuals in non-fiction are very important to capturing a readers attention, as well as giving even more insightful information.

What I Still Need to Learn:

I need to look into narrative non-fiction and give it a try. Also, as a writer, I never thought about writing non-fiction for children. What about teaching the elements of English through fun, illustrative, non-fiction books? That could be fun. I would like to broaden my personal collection of books to include more non-fiction.

Ways to Share:

It would be fun and insightful for students to fact-check non-fiction authors, discovering if the author is reliable or not, offering a presentation with their findings. It would be fun to have students make a documentary and record themselves, (Perry, 2016).

12. Fantasy and Science Fiction

What I Know:

Most of these books deal with magic and what if situations. I enjoy this genre the most, as it is usually very unique, peculiar, creative, and full of adventure and danger, as well as all of the other norms such as love, friendship, etc. A general rule is that books with magic usually have a magic system set up. Settings in fantasy and science fiction are usually similar but still very different from ours. There is urban fantasy and epic fantasy, the latter which is usually very long due to detail and world building.

What I Learned:

For some reason, I didn’t really think of apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic as fantasy, but rather, I suppose, it’s own genre. However, I definitely see how it falls under the fantasy umbrella. I was reminded that, even though fantasy is much more fantastical in the setting and events, they still deal with common themes as seen in realistic fiction, and they too often have strong themes, as well as symbolism.

What I Still Need to Learn:

I would enjoy reading more dystopian fiction. Not only are these books highly creative, they’re also very ingenious.

Ways to Share:

The greatest way to share is by telling a story, or sharing information about how much we loved it and why. Students should be used to reading, but often do not read as much as we think or would like. By creating a slide show with several diverse fantasy/science fiction books and relaying how they relate to today and our situations, as well as some brief video clips, if available, you might just find some students’ interest sparked.

13. Graphic Novels

What I Know:

Graphic novels are books that are primarily composed of images, sometimes with text, and sometimes not. They are great books for those who love visuals and illustrations, as well as for those who learn text better with images. Yes, it’s true that English language learners and those who struggle to read have a better experience with these, but others like them as well. For example, there are young adult graphic novels, such as, “Twilight,” by Stephenie Meyer.

What I Learned:

Students without reading difficulties can also benefit and enjoy graphic novels. I didn’t realize many adults liked graphic novels, but I can see how a few might. While I enjoy them from time to time myself and I know how to generally follow them, usually left to right and down and left and right, as well as am aware of the use of thought bubbles and text boxes, I didn’t really reflect on captions. Scaffolding using graphic illustrations is an expression I didn’t consider, though I knew that the images helped with meaning/context. They also have symbolism and themes, just as other formats do. Another aspect I didn’t consider is that some students won’t care for graphic novels because of over stimulation of images.

What I Still Need to Learn:

It would be beneficial to visit a comic book shop to get an idea of more graphic novels, as well as the graphic novel section in the public library to see what really stands out.

Ways to Share:

I think the images are a great way to capture students’ attention. And while drawing may be difficult for some, providing an online template and allowing them to choose images to storyboard will building interest, as well as understanding the how-to and intricacies of graphic novels.

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