on 23 August 2010
This book is by Quentin Blake, and it won the International Bologna Ragazzi Award in 1996. It is a "wordless picture book", or a "sequenced picture text". As there are no words in this book it allows the reader to tell the story in their own words. According to Rowe, the reader is the universal narrator or oral storyteller. This is how I would read the book (each bullet point is a new page):
* One day an old woman was having a clear out of her house and was getting rid of some old junk she no-longer needed. This included a heap of old toys her children no-longer played with. Some teddies, a rabbit, a parrot and a toy clown. The old lady throws them all into the bin.
* But the bin was already quite full, and the toy clown falls out of the bin. The clown dusts himself off, and starts looking around.
* He looks through the rest of the junk the old lady has thrown out and finds a pair of blue and white shoes which fit him perfectly. So he puts the shoes on and starts running through the town. He runs past the traffic and around the corner where he sees a young girl with her mum. The girls mum is talking to her friend, but the little girl looks curiously at the clown. The clown tries to explain to the little girl about all his toy friends who are still trapped in the rubbish bin, as he wants some help to save them.
* But then the little girls mum picks her up and takes her away, leaving the clown alone again. The clown is lost! He doesn't know what to do? Then a man with an orange and yellow stripy jumper suddenly lifts the clown up and puts him down in what seems to be a children's fancy dress line.
* "Smile... Say cheese!" says the camera man. All of the children in fancy dress and the clown are having their picture taken. After the picture has been taken, the clown tries to explain to another little girl in a fairy costume, about all his toy friends trapped back at the bin. Then a big lady in a green outfit with a hat comes to collect the girl in the fairy costume. So the girl picks up the clown, and they both go with the big lady.
* They arrive home and meet the girl's mummy. She is happy to see her daughter, but thinks the clown is disgusting and throws him out of the window!
* The clown falls down through an autumnal tree on to the ground with a bump. The clown shakes himself clean again and thinks about his poor friends. Then he sees a huge brown dog heading towards him fast. The clown runs and runs as fast as he could to try to get away from the dog.
* But the dog is too fast! So the clown jumps up on to a wooden platform and starts doing some acrobatic tricks. This shocks the dog so much he cowers back and goes to find his owner. The dog's owner is a giant hairy man, and he comes over to look at the clown. The clown is scared of the man so he thinks fast and decides to act dead.
* The dog's giant owner picks up the clown and looks at him curiously. He is an angry giant man and the clown doesn't please him and so he throws the clown as far away as he can. The clown flies through the air, past lots of houses, and heads towards a high rise flats where he goes straight into a flat through an open window.
* This flat is very messy, and in the flat are a teenage girl and a baby who is crying. The clown thinks fast again, and starts doing lots of clown circus tricks and juggling. This amuses the baby and it stops crying. The girl is very happy.
* The clown explains to her about his friends back in the bin, and how they need help. The girl explains that her mum is due back at 7pm and would help the clowns friends if the clown would help her tidy up the flat first. The clown agrees and helps the girl to clean the flat. They start with the floor, then the dishes, then the sweeping, then the table and finally the bed.
* But then the babies' nappy needs changing, so the clown quickly changes the baby, before all three of them head out to try to help the clown's toy friends. It is getting late, so they rush down the stairs, across the town, all the way to the bin.
* The girl takes all of the toys out of the bin and gives them to the baby in the pram. He likes them. The clown also finds a nice blue boy for the girl's hair, and some flowers.
* They rush back home just in time. The mother then returns home from a hard day at work just minutes later.
* The mother is so pleased that the flat is cleaned, she kisses the girl to say thank you and they have a cup of tea on the bed with all the toys and the clown. The clown, and all his friends, as well as the baby, the girl and the mother, all live happily ever after.
* The end.
By analysing my own interpretation of the pictures story, you can see that I used my previous knowledge to understand and gain meaning from the pictures. I implied that certain characters had certain relationships with other characters such as mother/baby, and I also presumed that certain characters were doing certain things e.g. the old woman clearing out junk from her house, although I had no way of proving this as it was simply my own interpretation of the pictures. Finally, I also judged how the characters were feeling, based on the way they were drawn. Everyone will have different interpretations depending on their own views, opinions and experiences.
Moving on to looking at the style of illustration, there is a lot of white space on the page, especially around the clown, this helps to draw the reader's attention to him. Blake used many small pictures on a page to help show events happening, such as the five pictures of the clown falling out of the bin, and six pictures showing the clown helping the girl to tidy up the flat. The way these smaller images are positioned on the page affects the sequence and order in which the reader may look at them. In general I read them from top left to right and then gradually down, the way you would read writing. Again though, it must be noted that different people may read then in a different order.
There are a few speech and thought bubbles in the book filled with more images. The one used by the clown five times is the one of the toys in the bin. From the expression on the clowns face and his body language and the looks of the toys on the bin, I interpreted it that the clown was worried for his toy friends and wanted to help save them.
Some of the images are in frames, drawn freehand. These allow the clown to be drawn in context with a background such as the street, wall, fancy dress picture, tree, town etc. The clown is also in the frame with other characters so you can see the comparison between them. This is important to set the story into context, as well as giving the reader a different viewpoint.
When the clown is drawn on the white space close up, he is with the reader at the same eye-level. At this point the reader can relate to the clown more, and how he is feeling, as they are closer. When the clown is drawn in the frame, it separates him from the reader. You see the clown from a different viewpoint; the reader is on the outside, while the clown is inside. Often, the pictures in the frames show the clown when he is in a dangerous or uncomfortable situation e.g. falling to the ground, flying through the air, being chased by a dog etc. So by putting the frames around these pictures enables the reader to stay safe, and return to the clown when he is back to safety on the white background. The last happy ending pictures of them all sat on the bed is the only larger picture with a background which doesn't have a frame around it. This is because it is a happy scene, so the reader is invited in too.