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When the Picture Book Makes Silence...

The Original French Version Here




The picture book without text is a type of book that is far from being evident: it puts off parents, troubles librarians and sometimes unsettles children with the silence it imposes. Without a doubt because it requires leaving the comfort of customary reading, literally to construct meaning.


However these picture books of quite specific functioning are not so difficult. Become aware of the kind of book being approached, let the child know, actually give him or her images to read, let them make meaning of them and endeavor to understand what happens passing from one to another; voilà, as simple as that, the key to this reading which surely must not be feared!


Faced with the constant stream of visuals, nothing seems more important than to have children read picture books without text, in order to put them in an active position as amateur readers of images. And there is no reading more universal and more fraternal than that of a story in images.


One has to have seen children take and take up again these picture books, comment on them to those around, proud in showing hidden details, the logical sequences, and above all one has to have experienced the beautiful silence and the sparkling eyes that accompany their reading in order to be truly convinced.


Carried out, until the 2000s, by some remarkable authors - Gabriel Vincent, Raymond Briggs, Istvan Banyai, Sara... - but whose approach remained marginal in the publishing world, the audacity of the collection "Stories Without Words" released by Autrement Jeunesse in 2004, whose title is certainly a homage to one of the silent works of the Belgian xylograph artist from the beginning of the 20th century, Frans Masereel, has experienced a notable development, aided by the initial success of esteem, then public success, picture albums like Le voleur de Poule by Béatrice Rodriguez.


This collection of a constant oblong format has encouraged creators to offer their stories in images to other publishers less and less restive to publish this genre which didn't use to get good press from the public. Antoine Guilloppé excels in this exercise, making use at every opportunity of the cinematic codes in order to offer picture books as clever and playful with readers as they are full of surprises and  happiness of expectations thwarted (thus the Loup Noir, published in 2004 by Casterman, becomes a white dog solely through the magic of the stories in trompe-l'oeil of the creator). Authors have made a specialty of this, like the Canadian David Wiesner, one of the masters in this domain. The sector has developed so much that sub-categories have appeared in their wake, such as promenade books, on the model of those by the Dutch Thé Tjong-Khing or of the German Rotraut Susanne Berner.


This publishing segment shines today on an international level, even if, in France, where its renewal stretched out, it continues to meet with resistance, most often based on misunderstandings and on the deficiency in reading images among many adults troubled by these visual narratives. Upheld by passionate librarians, recognising in this form an exceptional medium for the reading of images and the rallying of children towards active reading, it has been establishing itself progressively with an ever-widening audience.



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