What is the function of verbal and visual narrative, especially with respect to the following picture books:
Princess Smartypants by Babette Cole and The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales by Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith? How do the verbal and visual narrative work together to communicate the story?
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There are not many differences between verbal narrative and visual narrative in terms of narrative goals. Both types of narratives aim to tell a story, and similar devices are used to tell a story: characters, conflicts, and other plot devices. A story can be defined as a series of events that begin a conflict and then resolve a conflict in a way that the story has both a beginning and an ending. The main difference is that visual narratives use images to tell the story, while verbal narratives use words. Aside from picture books, other examples of visual narratives are films, graphic novels, and comic books. Verbal narrative can include both written and oral story telling; both would be used to relay a story through characters, conflict, and resolution for some particular purpose. As there is limited access to the picture books in question, below are a few ideas to help get you started.
In Babette Cole's Princess Smartypants, both visual and verbal narrative play a significant role with respect to the narrative's conflict. The conflict in any story is the struggle that the main character undergoes. Common conflicts are character vs. character, character vs. society, character vs. fate, etc. In Princess Smartypants, the conflict is clearly found in the fact that the princess's parents want her to get married, while the princess wants to remain single. We could characterize that conflict in several ways, including character vs character (her parents), character vs. society (society believes she should be married), and character vs. self (She believes she does not want to marry but struggles when she meets her match, Prince Swashbuckle.). The conflict is also clearly expressed in the sentences, "Princess Smartypants did not want to get married. She enjoyed being a Ms." In these simple, two clever sentences, we see the conflict illustrated through both what she does not want and what she wants.
The image below the two sentences is also very revealing in that it tells a second side to the princess's story. The image depicts her laying on the floor, surrounded by litter and pets, watching TV. The reader feels compelled to ask, is it really due to the princess's independence that she does not want to marry? Or is it really due to her lack of personal character development? Clearly, she is being portrayed as a very lazy and possibly self-centered individual, the type of person who would make a marriage very difficult. To succeed in marriage, one must be fully aware of "other" and willing to make self-improvements. Hence, the illustrator is showing us all of the reasons why the princess is not yet ready to marry, reasons that are not clearly stated in the verbal text. Therefore, both visual and verbal narration work hand-in-hand in this story to develop both the character and the plot respectively.
In great contrast to Princess Smartypants, Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith's The Stinky Cheese Man uses a great deal of verbal narration and only limited visual narration. The true story, complete with all the comedy, is actually told in the verbal narration. The illustrations, or visual narration, only serve to enhance the comedy and provide images that relate to the story. For example, on the first page begins Chicken Licken's story about her belief that the sky is falling. Alongside the long narration, complete with a great deal of dialogue, is a comical and surreal image of what appears to be a green chicken. The number 12 is dropping from the sky, from what appear to be airplanes, and bouncing off of the surreal green chicken's head. Since the chicken is surreal and green rather than real-looking, we can certainly see how the image enhances the story's comedy. On the next page, we have an image of a fox stopping similarly surreal visual representations of a chicken, a duck, a rooster, and a goose, which illustrates the point in the story in which Foxy Loxy stops the characters to tell them he knows a faster way to get to the airport to warn the president. Hence, as we can see, unlike in Princess Smartypants, the visual narrative in The Stinky Cheese Man only serves to enhance the comedy in the story rather than to add to the story.
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