Monday, February 17, 2014

Adding Details to our Writing

This week we will be focusing on adding details to our writing.  Here are two of the lesson that I will be teaching.

Crafting Background
Read “The Trouble with Dogs” Said Dad by Bob Graham. Point out that the illustrator approached each background with a different variation. In just two page turns you see a whole range of background possibilities. First, in one illustration the much larger dog, Rosy, lies asleep on the floor with the smaller dog, Dave, lying across her back. The only background is a bit of the floorboards stretching out to either side. On the other side of the same spread, the mother, father, daughter, and two dogs are gathered around a blue couch. The floor is pictured again, with some shoes beside the couch and a yellow pillow. A little more background, but nothing beyond the couch-no walls, no windows, no other furniture. The room is really not there. When you turn the page, what you see is very different. There is a wide panoramic view of a park with lots of green grass and straight rows of flower beds, and trees and people all about. Dave, who has cut himself lose from the family walk, is just a tiny figure in the midst of all that background.

Teaching Point:
Today I am going to teach you that the central image in an illustration may have lots of background behind it, just a little or hardly any at all.

If I were making a how-to book about dog grooming, I can imagine that I wouldn’t need much background in my illustration of the bathing process. I could just have the sprayer, the soap, a towel, and some sort of floor or ground underneath. But on the page where I described taking the dog for a walk in the warm sunshine to help its hair dry (not what they do at the groomer’s, but what we do at our house), then it would be good to include background in order to capture the feeling of taking a walk on a sunny day.

Crafting Physical Details of Characters
Read Rattletrap Car by Phyllis Root. Point out Poppa and how he is dressed in overalls. In choosing overalls with no shirt underneath for Poppa, illustrator Jill Barton seems to have captured the good father’s personality perfectly. He matches his rattletrap car, a car that falls apart, piece by piece, as the family travels to the lake on a hot day. Poppa ably fixes it along the way. Barton also gives Poppa spiky red hair, rosy cheeks, kind eyes and a prickly stubble on his arms and legs. The illustrator has crafted the physical appearance of Poppa with great intention, lending great appeal to him as a character.

Teaching Point:
Today I am going to teach you the details in your characters tell the audience about the character.

If I were making a book about our assistant principal, Mrs. Thomas, it would be just plain weird to draw her in sweat pants, don’t you think? She never wears sweat pants. She always wears great dresses or skirts. He hair is almost always pulled back in a ponytail. These are details that would be really important to include when you draw her. 

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