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Visual Presentation Lessons in Children’s Books

Natty Moore, BrightCarbon

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Overview

What can children’s picture books teach us about good visual presentations? How can you tell a story (or communicate a lesson or give a sales pitch) with just handful of pictures and a few words?

Good picture books can tell complex stories in 20 pages and often in only 100 words. How do they do this? By using compelling pictures and illustrations to help create a deeper understanding of the story. In just a few images (or sometimes just one image), picture books can tell us setting, mood, character traits, advance the plot or show patterns. Good illustrations aren’t just pretty; they fill in the blanks and give details that the minimal text cannot.

We all know the best presentations are not filled with text-heavy slides. Instead, good presentations are visual, using images like graphs, charts, photographs and other visual tools to support the speaker’s message. Effective presentations don’t just use visuals to decorate the text, but instead use visuals to keep the audience engaged and deepen their understanding of the message.

In the article Use visual presentations to get your message across, author Natty Moore examines pages from children’s picture books to illustrate effective use of visuals to communicate a message. Through the examples, she shows how visuals can illustrate:

  • Setting
  • Characterization
  • Plot development
  • Different viewpoints
  • Patterns

From the Article

The brevity of text in picture books often limits character development. We get a sense of how characters think, feel, and appear through illustrations where characters are brought to life through facial expressions and body language.

sequence from a picture book showing a bear, fox and shifty-eyed rabbit
Sequence from I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen

Illustrations help to develop characters by depicting situations and emotions that are relatable. This sequence from I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen shows a very suspicious looking rabbit. Through his shifty eyes and nervous posture (not to mention what’s on his head), we can guess that he may be responsible for Bear’s missing hat. His facial expression provides a narrative cue for the reader, revealing much more than the text alone.

Reflection

  • What is your favorite children’s picture book? How does it use illustrations and visuals to help tell the story? Think of the same book without the illustrations. How much of your understanding of the story would be lost without the visual cues and details provided in the pictures?
  • How can you use this information to improve your next presentation? What visual tools can you use to tell your story and support your message?

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