Visual Elements in Children’s Literature.

11 Aug

“The world of children’s book illustrations, continues to grow and evolve, adapting new forms and expanding levels of creativity … This specialised artistic field is inviting, rewarding and some might say, on the cutting edge.” (Cummins, 1992).


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Wolves is a wonderful children’s literature book written and illustrated by Emily Gravett, with a rather peculiar ending. Gravett’s debut picture book won the United Kingdom’s Kate Greenaway Medal for distinguished illustration in 2005. This text features a rabbit who takes a trip to the library to request a book, about wolves. As the rabbit starts to read about factual evidence of wolves (what they eat, where they live) the story then takes on an unknowingly twist where the rabbit becomes a part of the story he’s reading. As the images become more and more powerful, it becomes clear that the wolf is hungry… maybe for rabbit?!  You’ll have to wait and see…

According to Winch, Johnston, March, Ljungdahl & Holliday (2010) visual literacy may defined as “the ability to make meaning out of visual language.” (p. 623). The illustrations in this text have added depth to the story to help the reader visualise exactly what the author is aiming to communicate in a way text by itself cannot. Through the outstanding creative use of position, colour and expression this book is brought to life with love and attention to detail.

In Wolves, Gravett sets the reader up to be positioned mainly beside or at the same level as the characters, perhaps to increase the perspectival views of the reader. Throughout the text, Gravett portrays a strong visual imagine of the rabbit becoming smaller and farther away, and the wolf becoming closer and bigger – to emphasise the emotions of power and greed. The contrast of the combinations of collages, photographs, and drawing improves this text to become visually appealing to the reader from the beginning. The increasing suspense between the darkening of the images and the movement from distance frames to close up shows the authors ability to build a story without a lot of words, but more expression through visual art.


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Emily Gravett uses the features of colour to develop the tone and mood of the story. Wolves is represented with many dark, subtle images that enhances and holds the suspense for the reader. In reference to the photo below, the creative art technique of sketching has been used to create depth, and communicate emotion and empathy to the reader.  This author has paid attention to every possible detail, even the white spaces in the pictures have been used to a wonderful advantage.

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Gravett also uses emotions on the animals to appear to look similar to how a human’s body language would. As an example, when the rabbit realises the wolf has come to life, the look of anxiety has become evident to have crept across her face. Similarly, when rabbit and wolf finally become friends (in the alternative ending), the joy and happiness that both characters feels is shown through their wide smiles. Although, it may be quite a fierce read for young children, I believe Wolves is an outstanding example of the use of visual literacy in terms of children’s literature.


Cummins, J. (1992). Children’s book illustration and design. New York City, NY: PBC International.

Gravett, E. (2005) Wolves. London, England: Macmillan Children’s Books.

Winch, G., Johnston, R.R., March, P., Ljungdahl, L., & Holliday, M. (2010). Literacy: Reading, writing and children’s literature (4th ed.). South Melbourne, VIC: Oxford University


One Response to “Visual Elements in Children’s Literature.”

  1. Sharon August 19, 2013 at 9:54 pm #

    Mikayla, while this post was not formally assessed, I thought I’d provide you with feedback.

    One of the things I’ve noticed with your blog is your developing voice. You seem to be becoming more familiar and more comfortable with blogging and this shows up in the confidence in your writing. You seem more in charge of the writing … this is a good thing. It’s one of the advantages of writing a little often … it allows you to develop your writing style and your own voice in the writing. This will help in all your assignment work.

    You have chosen a really interesting book for this task and I am now keen to read it for myself! Your analysis is mature and insightful and it is obvious you have drawn from the scholarly literature to inform your understanding of visual literacy.

    A strong post.

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