One-Minute Book Reviews

November 5, 2007

Deeper Into ‘The Garden of Abdul Gasazi’ and Other Magical Realms: Perry Nodelman’s ‘Words About Pictures’

How do the pictures relate to the words in children’s books? Do they clarify the text? Do they complete it? Or do they do something else, such as moving the text forward?

Canadian scholar Perry Nodelman explores these and other questions in Words About Pictures: The Narrative Art of Children’s Picture Books (University of Georgia Press, $22.95, paperback), perhaps the best book in print on how pictures relate to stories in children’s books. Nodelman deals at least in passing with hundreds of well-known picture books. But he pays special attention to 14 that have helped to define the field, including Beatrix Potter’s The Tale of Peter Rabbit, Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are, Peter Spier’s Noah’s Ark, Chris Van Allsburg’s The Garden of Abdul Gasazi and Paul Heins’s Snow White, illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman.

Nodelman’s central argument – developed with skill and insight — is that it’s a mistake to view picture books like though the narrow lens of their moral, ideological or educational correctness. Rather, he says, they are a serious art form that deserves the respect we give to others.

© 2007 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.


  1. I’d like to think that Nodelman is correct. An illustrated children’s book is something Miki and I are hoping to complete in the future, and I think it’s a difficult art form to do well. I’m sure its easy to fall into the trap of putting a picture in because it looks good, as opposed to helps/complements the story. I’ve seen a lot of derision directed at Graphic Novels, that curious hybrid of Book and comic, but I think they should all be critiqued to stand or fall as a separate art form.

    Comment by kevmoore — November 7, 2007 @ 11:22 am | Reply

  2. I think graphic novels should be taken on their own terms, too, and hope to do some of these soon in this space, especially manga.

    Comment by 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom — November 7, 2007 @ 1:13 pm | Reply

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