Saturday, May 18, 2013

John S. Goodall - a wordless wonder!

John Goodall's books are unique, unlike any other wordless books I've seen. Most wordless or near wordless books seem to be intended for the pre-reading set. My two-year-old daughter was quite thrilled the very first time she came across one of these books, T. T. Khing's Where is the Cake?, and could "read" a story to her dad!

But Goodall's books seemed to be aimed at an older age groups with most of his wordless books (he has written quite a few). He has a series of The Story of... titles that tackle "an English Village," "the Seashore" and "a Castle," and in each the lack of words leaves readers, or rather viewers lingering over each picture. So it isn't wordless to make it accessible to the very young - its wordless to bring the focus to the pictures, and the impressions left by them.

For exampled, In The Story of a English Village Goodall starts us with a picture of 13th century castle under construction on a large hill, and then in the following two-page spread he shows us this same setting in one hundred year leaps, until we arrive near our modern day. These are picture to linger over, then flip back to, to compare the next century with the last.Goodall also makes creative use of single half page stuck between each two page spread. This is a bit hard to describe, and apparently was unique to Goodall - he may have invented this technique - so let me try to explain a little better: image a book with a picture spanning both pages, and right in the middle there is a half page - it spans the height of the book, but is only half as wide as the other pages - and when this page is flipped from the left side of the page to the right, we get an entirely new version of events in the middle of the spread. If you didn't follow that let's just say, it is pretty cool, and you should track down one of these books in your local library to check it out.

Though the books have 40-50 pages, they are very short reads, so even though they are brilliant they aren't books to return to again and again. That makes them less than ideal for home libraries, but very good choices to get out of your local library, or to purchase for a school library. The four titles shown here would be great for any teacher involved in English history.

Most of Goodall's books seem worth checking out, the exception being his "Naughty Nancy" series about a an obnoxious little girl mouse. It was his attempt at making a wordless book for the very young, but Nancy is more nasty than naughty, and I have no idea why a parent would want to introduce this character to their children.

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