Friday, 22 March 2013

Illustrated Fiction - "Princess Betony and the Unicorn"

Peta Jinnath Andersen is an Online Consultant for Walker Books Australia. Her absolute, forever-and-ever favourite children's books are Guess How Much I Love You, A Bit Lost, Howl's Moving Castle, A Wrinkle in Time, A Monster Calls, and Winnie-the-Pooh.

One of the many things I've come to love about picture books is that even within the general umbrella of "picture book", no two are the same. What I define as a picture book - quite simply any book with photos, illustration, or art work which enhance the story - is often quite different to how others define the genre. In other words, for me, Princess Betony and the Unicorn is as much a picture book as an enchanting story for older readers.

Princess Betony's mother is a dryad and misses the Wild Magic of the Dark Forest. When the princess sees her mother running into the Dark Forest, Betony is worried she will never return. Humans are forbidden to enter the Forest. Betony doesn't care. She has to find her mother, no matter what. But first she must catch a unicorn!

Sampled here are two pages from the first chapter of Princess Betony and the Unicorn. The prose is longer than anything in a "regulation" picture book; the text makes what is happening quite clear. And yet the illustration of Lady Pineal and Princess Betony is striking, so much so that I cannot imagine reading the passage without it.

As an adult, I'm quite adept at forming mental images to accompany the words I read; many of us are adept at this from a young age, particularly if lucky enough to come from a family of readers. And yet, illustrations such as these allow us a sort of shared viewpoint, so that when I read a book like Princess Betony with my son, we see the same gorgeous illustrations, and can more easily understand one another when talking about the story. Besides, who could resist this picture of Lady Pineal grasping her nose so determinedly?

There are many reasons for illustrated story books, chapter books, even young adult and adult books. We'll be exploring a few of these over the course of We Believe in Picture Books. Right now, though, I'm off to read Princess Betony and the Unicorn again; after all, the next volume, Princess Betony and the Thunder Egg, is out now!

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