Multimodality in Children's Literature:Engagement, Enlightenment, and Enabling through the Arts
Over the past two decades multimodality has become a frequently used word in the professional arena as educational forums call for more options beyond texts for students to express themselves and comprehend within varied disciplines. A concept whose history goes back to ancient times, multimodality brings to mind a diversity of meanings inclusive of the visual arts, music, dance, enactment, and in contemporary times, technology. When we shared the call for this issue of Bookbird, we were curious as to the different perceptions and experiences around multimodality that potential authors might offer through their scholarship. We realized they most likely shared the agreed-upon notion that the power of picturebooks lies in the "interdependence of pictures and words" (Bader), and that other communicative modes are often shared as a focus or within the narrative content of different genres, in both picture and chapter books.
Indeed, we received a variety of scholarly topics that extended understandings of multimodality in children's literature--topics reflective of the diversity of our Bookbird community and the scholars that inform them. We proudly share a celebration of these many ways of knowing reflected across the contents of this issue.
"Repackaging Chinese Culture through Diverse Visual Arts: A Multimodal Approach to Contemporary Chinese Picturebooks" by Xi Chen explores how early Chinese culture is repackaged in contemporary Chinese picturebooks through visual narratives with emphasis on multimodal representations of Chinese culture through three typical Chinese visual art forms: paper cutting, Chinese painting, and clay sculpture.
"Mismatched Yet Perfectly Puzzled": Collage and/as Black Girls' Literacies in Piecing Me Together" by Karly Marie Grice, Rachel L. Rickard Rebellino, and Caitlin Murphy examines Renée Watson's Piecing Me Together (2017) as a text that celebrates art and Black girls' literacies, in particular multimodality and criticality. Their analysis focuses on how Watson uses collage—the action, the artwork, and the conceptual metaphor—to address identity and history (re)making in the Black diaspora for Jade, her protagonist.
Although cooking may not be often considered a modality for communication, [End Page 1] Roxanne Harde in "'The Flavors Mix Together Slowly': Cooking Connections in Picture-Cookbooks" explores picturebooks that offer stories about cooking, with a focus on the commensal connections these cookery narratives make between generations and communities. These picture-cookbook examples reveal the embeddedness of the narrative and the recipe, thus building community through connections within the text and among readers while communicating values, emotions, and unique cultural experiences.
A historiographical examination of the development of multimodality in Bengali children's literature is the focus of "A Revolution in Print: Multimodality in Bengali Children's Literature and Its Challenges" by Stella Chitralekha Biswas. Since the turn of the nineteenth century, technological and textual developments paved the way for cosmopolitanism as well as greater engagement of the target readership and the subtle reformation of child-rearing and pedagogic practices within the home. This article provides examples of key literature in this process.
"Who Came First, the Lion or the Bear? The Translation and Rendition of We're Going on a Bear Hunt into Spanish" by Catalina Millán-Scheiding addresses thirty years of commercial success of the book We're Going on a Bear Hunt (originally published in 1989) and considers it a contemporary example of a historical trend: the transformation of oral texts into publications. A textual analysis of the Spanish-published translation Vamos a Cazar un Oso and a musical analysis and qualitative survey of the use of Spanish in the oral rendition "Voy en Busca de un León" illustrate four different elements entailed in the translation of a children's rhyme.
The multimodal focus of this issue continues beyond the five featured articles as Hirak Bhattacharya gives insights about book creator Sukumar Ray in "Rethinking Sukumar Ray's Abol Tabol as a Multimodal Text," and Susan Corapi shares her students' reading engagement and responses in "Language Learning with the Novels of Thanhhà Lai." Two articles take readers to places where multimodal expressions abound: "A New Slovenly Peter World" by Antje Ehmann, translated by Myriam Halberstam, and "'Europe Illustrates the Grimms' or 'A Magical Time at the International Youth Library'" by Katja Wiebe.
Finally, Focus IBBY directs our attention to the back cover of this issue, where this year's International Children's Book Day poster is featured—a collaborative work between artist Roger Mello and poet Margarita Engel that celebrates "the music of words." And, look closely at the cover that features a scene from Cloth Lullaby, The Woven Life of Bourgeois with colorful text and musical notes streaming from the diary of the child, Louise Bourgeois, an artist whose sculptures were influenced by the tapestries of her mother. The story extends even further our notions of multimodality through the art of Isabelle Arsenault and the text of Amy Novesky.
The informative and inspiring resources in this issue remind us to acknowledge and value the many ways of knowing and communicating that contribute to our understanding of people, places, and the natural world, as well as enhance the power of literature to create experiences that can be life- and mind-changing as well as pure enjoyment for readers. [End Page 2]
Correction Note: In the table of contents of issue 58.4, there was a misspelling of the name of the author of "The Giving Trees: Elsa Beskow, Ecocriticism, and the Benevolent Forest." The correct spelling is Rachel Sakrisson.
Janelle Mathis is a professor of literacy and children's literature at the University of North Texas, where she teaches both graduate and undergraduate courses centered on international children's literature and its applications in research and instruction. She presents regularly at international children's literature conferences, including IBBY Congresses and IRSCL, and has served on award committees, including the Outstanding International Books Award of USBBY. Janelle publishes on children's literature studies and recently co-edited with Holly Johnson and Kathy Short Critical Content Analysis of Children's and Young Adult Literature (2016) and Critical Content Analysis of Visual Images in Books for Young People (2019).
Petros Panaou is a clinical associate professor at the University of Georgia, Department of Language and Literacy Education, where he teaches children's literature and literacy courses. He chairs the annual Georgia Conference on Children's Literature and has also chaired the academic committee for the 36th IBBY Congress. Petros has also served on the Newbery Awards committee and USBBY's Outstanding International Books committee. He has authored a book and several articles and book chapters on international children's literature. He has translated two academic volumes and led multiple international grants. His unpublished novel for children and teens To Kinito (The Cellphone) was awarded a CYBBY honor in 2017.