Why Picture Books Are Important by Paul W. Hankins

by Dianne on November 13, 2016


Why Picture Books Are Important by Paul Hankins
We should get something out of the way before we begin to explore how I have come to celebrate picture books. Those picture books that meant something to me as a child and those picture books in which I still found delight as as a young adult and those picture books that captivate me now.

I tear the pages out. I hold them up to the light. Recto and verso to be sure that nothing is missed in the inspection.

I cut them up. I cut close to the lines left to me by the artists who bring the images to the words of the story. Sometimes, the author and the illustrator are the same. But, the one who cuts is singular.

When I am finished with these treasures, there is very little left but the remnants of the dust jacket and the flimsy, page-less case with its binding glue exposed.

I came into remixing by accident. I receive a lot of F&Gs of picture books and I cannot keep them all. But I wanted to see if I could create some wall art from the pages of these advanced reader copies. After a couple of interesting starts–smaller collages that let me practice with arrangement of images–I decided that I wanted to try creating poster board-sized collages of picture books with the following conditions:

• I would only use the one picture book and its elements within for the “remix.” This means I have to know the book, cover to cover. I have to make decisions as well as sacrifices as I find images that must be part of the remix on the facing page of another that might work just as well.

• The remix must–in effect–retell the story within the composite of the picture book in a singular panel to the best of my ability. There is no artistic retelling or manipulating of the story. The viewer should be able to see the elements of the picture book coming back through the collage. They should be able to recall the treasure as they might have read in within the way that I have remixed it.

• Attribution must appear within the remix to include the title, the author and illustrator, and the publisher. This is how I give credit to the original creative team for the book as I come in as the remix artist to create something new.

• I would only remix those picture books for which I had a companion title. This self-imposed rule became, “One for the remix; one for the room.” In this way, if the remix drew curiosity from the viewer, I could easily share the book from which it came with a reader.

To date, I have up to forty picture book remixes. I have remixed books published prior to my birth, books from my childhood, books from my young adulthood, and, now, picture books that strike me as visually-arresting, practically begging for the remix. What began as a simple, “Might I render this in collage-style art?” has become a sort of “I must remix this book.”

I hope that what I do by way of the accidental artist is to bring more attention to picture books. To book titles I find on the shelves of thrift stores back on the reading radar of the people who see these remixes as I share them. I have had fans of the “remixes” remind me that a “warm supper” should appear within a remix of Maurice Sendek’s Where the Wild Things Are. I have had an author invite me to use the original photographs found on her website that inspired a Caldecott honor book and classroom treasure. A poet uses one of the remixes as postcards she shares with family and friends.

More than anything, I continue to be inspired–captivated–by the synthesis of image and text that come from picture books. I continue to believe in image as text. . .in the way that a story can be told back through a series of images–artfully arranged–to the delight of those who originally read them when they were together. When they were whole.


About Paul W. Hankins
Paul W. Hankins teaches English 11 and AP English Language and Composition at Silver Creek High School. He calls southern Indiana home and shares this his wife, Kristie, and two children Noah (16) and Madalyn (14). He also calls books his home and he opens them up to anyone who would hear and answer the invitation. Paul blogs at These 4 Corners on a variety of subjects including education, reading, and creativity.

Literacy Activity
November 13 – Mice

“Picture books are specifically and technically crafted. Due to the concise and simple nature of the genre, word choice and structure is extremely important.” (from Picture Book Month Teacher’s Guide: Why Picture Books Belong in Our Classrooms by Marcie Colleen, 2013).

After reading a picture book, ask students to draw their favorite character, event, situation or object of the story. Color and cut their drawings to make a class collage representative of their appreciation or understanding of the story.

Suggested reading:
A Wilcox and Griswold Mystery: The Case of the Missing Carrot Cake by Robin Newman, illustrated by Deborah Zemke
If You Give a Mouse a Cookie by Laura Joffe Numeroff, illustrated Felicia Bond
The Lion & the Mouse by Jerry Pinkney
By Mouse and Frog by Deborah Freedman

Be sure to download the Picture Book Month Teacher’s Guide: Why Picture Books Belong in Our Classroom for more engaging ideas and activities to bring picture books into the ELA, Math, Science, and Social Studies curriculum!

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