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Reading Visual Narratives: Image Analysis of Children’s Picture Books

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Contemporary children’s picture books provide a rich domain for developing theory and analysis of visual meaning and its relation to accompanying verbal text. This book offers new descriptions of the visual strand of meaning in picture book narratives as a way of furthering the project of ‘multimodal’ discourse analysis and of explaining the literacy demands and apprenticing techniques of children’s earliest literature.

Reading Visual Narratives uses the principles of systemic-functional theory to organise an explicit account of visual meaning in relation to three perspectives: the visual construction of the narrative events and characters (ideational meaning), the visual positioning of the reader through choices related to focalisation and appraisal (interpersonal meaning) and the discourse organization of visual meanings through choices in framing and composition (textual meaning). The descriptions throughout are illustrated with examples from highly regarded children’s picture books.

Reading Visual Narratives extends previous social-semiotic accounts of the ‘grammar’ of the image, by focussing attention on discourse level meanings and on semantic relationships created by sequences of images. At the same time, it extends current understandings of how picture books work through its explicit and systematic account of the visual meanings and their integration with verbal aspects of the texts.

It will be of interest to researchers in multimodal discourse analysis, systemic-functional theory, and children’s literature and literacy.

Published: Jan 1, 2013


Section Chapter Authors
Preface Clare Painter, J.R. Martin, Len Unsworth
Acknowledgements Clare Painter, J.R. Martin, Len Unsworth
Reading the Visual in Children’s Picture Books Clare Painter, J.R. Martin, Len Unsworth
Enacting Social Relations Clare Painter, J.R. Martin, Len Unsworth
Construing Representations Clare Painter, J.R. Martin, Len Unsworth
Composing Visual Space Clare Painter, J.R. Martin, Len Unsworth
Intermodality: Image and Verbiage Clare Painter, J.R. Martin, Len Unsworth
End Matter
References Clare Painter, J.R. Martin, Len Unsworth
Index Clare Painter, J.R. Martin, Len Unsworth

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Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty, professionals, and practitioners.
Choice, Vol 50.11

Overall, Reading Visual Narrativesis an important contribution to the field of social semiotics, in general, and to the study of visual-verbal narratives in children’s picture books, in particular. Painter et al. have produced a work that is (almost) as fascinating as the material upon which it is based.
LinguistList, June 2013

This book should be of particular interest to those looking to diversify their work with images in educational contexts, since it offers theoretically sound networks and frameworks to inform analysis at varying levels. The greatest achievements of this volume have been to call further attention to the relevance of images as semiotic resources in their own right, to adapt and extend previous work on visual meaning, thus contributing to the field in a very practical manner, and to provide a framework to deal with meanings that arise from the interrelation between verbal language and images – all of that adding to our understanding that multimodal texts should be seen as indispensable resources in fostering literacy projects that aim to emancipate people to become critical readers in contemporary society.
Discourse Studies

A very important contribution to our knowledge of how meaning is construed in picture books. In addition, the authors develop very good tools for analysing primarily images in picture books, but also for analysing the interplay between the two semiotic systems creating the narrative in picture books. The detailed visual analyses developed especially for picture books inspire the readers to further analyses, and give great help on their way. The many system networks developed by the authors give detailed and insightful overviews of the options that illustrators have when they create images, and a deeper understanding of how meaning is realised in images. It is especially commendable that the authors have not concentrated their presentations and analyses to single pages or spreads; instead every chapter pays attention to how the images realise an unfolding story. The use of good and clarifying examples contributes to their presentation and makes the text easily accessible to both students and researchers in spite of the detailed social semiotic terminology. Thank you for a very good book!
Functions of Language