Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Props as Prompts, Plus Chekhov. Part 1

In which I revisit some favorite artistic types 
to illustrate my points

✻      Picture books   ❇    

I loved them then.
I love them now.

I'm still capable of wonder. 
And still capable of being manipulated 
by the illustrator leading the way, guiding the reader. 
MORE by I. C. Springman               illustrated by Brian Lies

For example, Brian Lies created this
from his collection of these. 
☟                      ☟
I'll bet there's a connection behind every Lego, 
token, button, jacknife, fork, pacifier, measuring tape, 
bolt, washer, lock, can opener

and key~~

     ~~connections personal enough to inspire Brian's interpretation of the author's words via his award winning art, yet universal enough to trigger the individual imaginations of young readers.
But then, for every young reader there comes that bittersweet 
elementary school lightbulb moment: 

The higher the reading level, 
the fewer the illustrations to lead the way 
and the reader's imagination is manipulated, not by art, but 
by the author's description of those oh so carefully placed objects.


In GLORY BE Augusta Scattergood plunks her middle grade readers right down in Hanging Moss, Mississippi, during the "Freedom Summer" of 1964.

Her carefully chosen props: 
Love Me Tender, Elvis, Nancy Drew, Dr. Pepper
enhance the 60s setting as she steers a new generation &
prompts them to envision, perhaps question, certainly imagine 
what develops into serious themes & complicated issues.

    Augusta's most memorable prop, like Brian's stash of found objects, springs from her imagination.  JUNK POKER a game she and her sister invented, is only a term in the book. There're no lively illustrations, no photographs of the real Buster Brown shoebox or the blue satin ribbon. 
    Nevertheless, she's masterfully woven the game, the box and the contents into her story. 
These props move the plot, enhance her characters & even build tension.   

    Those lucky enough to see Augusta at a book signing or classroom visit get to glimpse the real thing. That Elvis statue, those pecans! The skate key and wax lips! 

From the setting to the characters moving the plot,
Whether it's a literal, visual depiction or a figurative, written description,
props are meant to trigger the imagination.

When the writer or illustrator has done it correctly, 
the story belongs to the reader. 


Part 2 takes a look at the gun on the mantel, 
or in my case, 
the clock and the ironstone platter. 


Augusta Scattergood said...

Thanks, Leslie! Fun sharing my treasures on your blog.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the post, Leslie. It was fun to see Augusta Scattergood's Junk Poker gear! It feels more evocative than my collection—but then, mine is just my stuff, and so I know the real, prosaic stories behind each piece. Looking at someone else's things creates a sense of the person who gathered it all, which may or may not be "true," but which feels like you're getting a secret peek into that person's psyche.