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BREAKING NARRATIVE BOUNDS:
THE USE OF MULTIPLE VISUAL NARRATIVES IN CALDECOTT MEDAL
CATHLENA ANNA MARTIN
A THESIS PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL
OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT
OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF
MASTER OF ARTS
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
Cathlena Anna Martin
For Mom and Dad
First and foremost, I want to thank my family, for without their love and support
none of this would be possible: thanks go to Tamara and Phillip for encouraging
packages in the mail and surprise Spooky Chicken moments; a thank you goes to my
daddy for all the children's books he purchased during this endeavor and the special
version of "The Three Little Pigs" he wrote; and a thank you goes to my mother, the best
research assistant anyone could ask for. I also want to thank Dr. Kenneth Kidd and Dr.
John Cech for their academic support. And, I want to thank Irene Moody who first gave
me a copy of David Wiesner' s The Three Pigs. Psalms 18:6,16, 18 aptly describes my
final acknowledgment of help throughout this thesis process: "In my distress I called to
the Lord; I cried to my God for help. From his temple he heard my voice; my cry came
before him, into his ears .. He reached down from on high and took hold of me; the
Lord was my support."
TABLE OF CONTENTS
ACKNOWLEDGMENT S .............. .................... iv
AB STRAC T ................ .............. vi
BREAKING NARRATIVE BOUNDS .............. .....................1
Introducti on .................. ..... ........ .......... .. .. ... ...............
Multiple Narratives: Limitations, Techniques, and Possibilities............... ..............
Multiple Visual Narratives: Illustrators Redesigning Space .................. .. ...............18
Split and Double Narratives: Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People' s Ears. ..............19
Quadruple Sylleptic Narratives: Black and White ............... .....__............26
Postmodern Multiple Narratives: The Three Pigs ................. ............ .........28
Conclusion ................ ...............44.................
LIST OF REFERENCES ................. ...............46................
BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH .............. ...............48....
Abstract of Thesis Presented to the Graduate School
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Master of Arts
BREAKING NARRATIVE BOUNDS:
THE USE OF MULTIPLE VISUAL NARRATIVES IN CALDECOTT MEDAL
Cathlena Anna Martin
Chair: John Cech
Major Department: English
Most picture books follow a conventional, continuous narrative pattern presenting
one strand of a tale in linear sequence with pictures illustrating the written text. A
handful of picture books deviate from the traditional narrative style to produce visually
engaging multiple narratives. Multiple narratives can be, as Maria Nikolajeva describes,
either counterpointing with two or more mutually dependent narratives, or sylleptic with
narratives independent of each other. Picture book multiple narratives allow a child
reader to tune out the everyday noise and concentrate on the frozen narratives on the
page, spending as much time as she is able to negotiate the text. This creates an
environment for the child to go at her own pace negotiating between the narratives. This
thesis argues that multiple visual narratives, whether counterpoint or sylleptic, require
more advanced analysis from readers than continuous narrative style, encourage
creativity by breaking traditional conventions, and when used in conjunction with a folk
or fairy tale revision, amplify the retelling' s multi-leveled nature by building on cultural
knowledge. Also, multiple narratives in picture book form allow the child to freeze the
narratives and analyze them strand by strand, learning to integrate and process these
multiple narratives, thus learning a multi-tasking lesson that will be applicable for the rest
of the child' s life.
Allocation of space into picture books using multiple visual narratives may not be
mainstream yet as it is with television and film, but several award winning texts have
already successfully experimented with this technique. Specifically, this visual
exploration predominates among illustrators who have won multiple Caldecott Medals
for retellings, including Leo and Diane Dillon, Marcia Brown, and David Wiesner.
Primarily, Dillon' s Why M~osquitoes Buzz in People 's Ears (1976) and Wiesner' s The
Three Pigs (2002) represent the top Caldecott retellings presented via a counterpointing
multiple narratives technique. However, I also explore one exception that illustrates a
sylleptic quadruple narrative--the 1991 Caldecott Medal winner, Black and White by
David Macaulay. The crux of my analysis will focus on the newest Caldecott winning
multiple narratives text, The Three Pigs, because of its diverse use of multiple narratives
to retell the traditional version of "The Three Little Pigs" and its visual distinctiveness in
diverging from the primary narrative into other narrative possibilities. However, all of
these texts illustrate basic functions and artistic designs of multiple narratives, challenge
readers with cognitive puzzles and create something visually new and stimulating the
Caldecott committees saw worthy to award.
BREAKING NARRATIVE BOUNDS
The twenty-first century has become a technologically advanced era of multi-
tasking, a term first associated with a computer processing multiple independent j obs
simultaneously. While this was once an expression limited for computers, neither adults
nor children can escape multi-tasking, nor can they escape the barrage of visual
stimulation in everyday life. It is reasonable to assume that in our culture children from
even a preverbal age navigate multiple stimuli, particularly visual stimuli. A mother sits
in the kitchen paying bills electronically on her laptop, baking cookies in the oven, and
cutting out a craft proj ect for her son. Meanwhile her son watches cartoons on the
kitchen television, listens to a children's CD playing from his mother's laptop, plays with
his dog, and helps paste the craft cutouts onto a poster board. While this may not
represent every home in American, the one constant factor among Americans is that we
live in a fast-paced society where sensory stimuli from visual narratives bombard us
Life is not a sequential storybook where only one event takes place at a time. Film
and television, particularly sitcoms, have capitalized on the up-tempo, multi-faceted slice
of life by having multiple subplots and narratives intertwine. Children learn to process
and make sense of multiple narratives from a very early age. Even Sesamne Street, that
standard of children' s television, jumps from activity to activity in order to keep the
child's attention. However, one visual medium is beginning to use multiple narratives--
Most picture books follow a conventional, continuous narrative pattern presenting
one strand of a tale in linear sequence with pictures illustrating the written text. A
handful of picture books deviate from the traditional narrative style to produce visually
engaging multiple narratives. Multiple narratives can be, as Maria Nikolaj eva and Carole
Scott describe, either counterpointing, with two or more mutually dependent narratives,
or sylleptic with narratives independent of each other (12). The similarity between the
definition of multi-tasking and multiple narratives cannot be ignored. Both denote a
variety of activity happening at once that the user must process. Picture book multiple
narratives allow a child reader to tune out the everyday noise and concentrate on the
narratives frozen on the page, spending as much time as he or she is able to negotiate the
text. This creates an environment for the child to go at his or her own pace to negotiate
between the narratives. This thesis argues that multiple visual narratives, whether
counterpoint or sylleptic, require more advanced analysis from readers than continuous
narrative style, encourage creativity by breaking traditional conventions, and when used
in conjunction with a folk or fairy tale revision, amplify the retelling's multi-leveled
nature by amplifying cultural knowledge. Also, multiple narratives in picture book form
allow the child to gaze at the narratives and analyze them strand by strand, thus learning
to integrate and process these multiple narratives.
As postmodernism becomes even more mainstream and even approaches being
passe, there will be a growing number of picture books that use multiple narrative
techniques, thus reducing the uniqueness of this visual experimentation but increasing the
need for critical analysis that can maneuver print multiple narratives. At least, this is how
the current trend logically concludes if one looks chronologically at Caldecott Medal
Award picture books as a control group. The picture books of the 1970s begin to subtly
try multiple narrative techniques, but it is not until the 1990s and later that one sees
whole picture books incorporating visually experimental multiple narrative techniques,
not on a spread-by-spread basis, but as the foundation for the storyline and picture book
as a whole. Multiple visual narratives will cease to be ground breaking and exploratory
in picture books as they become an excepted norm, just as continuous narrative is
currently. Picture books will have finally caught up with how people experience
everyday life, popular culture and the visual media of television and film by producing
not just one story line for the reader/viewer to follow but multiple narratives to analyze.
For this reason, picture books with multiple narratives need to be included in academic
discussions of how picture books work and in public spheres such as libraries so that
parents, teachers, and librarians can aid a child reader through the format, thus learning
how to traverse the page's space and hopefully read more thoroughly the multiple
narratives of daily life.
Allocation of space into multiple visual narratives may not be mainstream yet as it
is with television and film, but several award winning texts have already successfully
experimented with this technique. Specifically, this visual exploration predominates
among illustrators who have won multiple Caldecott Medals for retellings, including Leo
and Diane Dillon, Marcia Brown, and David Wiesner.l Primarily, Dillon' s Why
Mosquitoes Buzz in People 's Ears (1976) and Wiesner' s The Three Pigs (2002) represent
SNonny Hogrogian has also won two Caldecott awards for folktales, but prefers a continuous narrative
the top Caldecott retellings presented via a counterpointing multiple narratives technique.
However, I also explore one exception that illustrates a sylleptic quadruple narrative--the
1991 Caldecott Medal winner, Black and White by David Macaulay. The crux of my
analysis will focus on the newest Caldecott winning multiple narratives text, The Three
Pigs, because of its diverse use of multiple narratives to retell the traditional version of
"The Three Little Pigs" and its visual distinctiveness in diverging from the primary
narrative into other narrative possibilities. However, all of these texts illustrate basic
functions and artistic designs of multiple narratives, challenge readers with cognitive
puzzles, and create something visually new and stimulating the Caldecott committees saw
worthy to award.
Multiple narratives differ from continuous narrative by adding a second scene or
episode to the initial pre-text storyline. Both multiple narrative types can be stylistically
structured within a double narrative or a split narrative framework, but on rare occasion
can also take the organization of a quadruple narrative.2 A double narrative COntains two
distinct scenes of character and/or setting within a field of action (the page), whereas a
split narrative includes two different episodes within the same setting and field of action.
Agreed, all picture books are multiple narratives because of the distinction between the
textual narrative and the picture narrative. However, as both Nikolajeva and Perry
Nodelman maintain, to read a picture book with both verbal and visual narratives
SWhile triplet narratives are a possibility, I am not aware of a Caldecott winning picture book that uses
SThe term double narrative should not be confused with Barbara Herrnstein Smith' s discussion of the
"two-leveled model of narrative," which she explores in "Narrative Versions, Narrative Theories." Her
"two major senses of narrative 'versions' that is, as retellings of other narratives and as accounts told
from a particular or partial perspective" focus on research of one story in multiple versions. She
specifically uses Cinderella as an example that has been retold numerous times (211, 227).
effectively, they should be read together for maximum comprehension. Therefore, for
my argument I will not split text and picture, or what W.J.T. Mitchell calls "the
imagetext," into separate narratives, but instead, proceed with the multiple narratives
definition established in the introductory paragraph with text and image creating one
complete narrative. Text and image become inseparable from the narrative strand of the
picture book as a whole.
While this study focuses on the limited multiple narrative examples within the
picture book genre, the most common picture books are symmetrical or complementary,
meaning the relationship between text and image is redundant or fills in each other' s gaps
(Nikolajeva & Scott 14). Both relationships usually create a continuous narrative within
a given picture book. While some picture books create captivating and experimental tales
with these relationships, this thesis focuses on the visual experimentation multiple
narratives perform. Illustrators like Dr. Seuss, Maurice Sendak and Chris Van Allsburg
were and are experimental, each contributing a unique style to the Hield of children' s
literature and producing radical picture books that are now mile stones and classics for
children. However, for this essay, I address the patience and aptitude for assimilating
more than one narrative, while juggling both pictures and text, which gives a distinctive
manner to multiple narratives.
Multiple narratives require more advanced analysis and attention from readers
because of their multi-layered storyline in addition to the interplay of text and image.
Multiple narratives not only require more attention, but also necessitate more time in
reading. Upon reading a text for the second time, which children inevitably do with a
good book, multiple narrative picture books tend to reveal more previously unnoticed
detail or silent characters than continuous narratives reveal. Usually, a continuous
narrative does not divide the reader' s attention up into as many components for synthesis;
it usually retains a cohesive story of complementing picture and text. Some illustrators,
particularly ones that use a comic book panel style, do divide the page up into smaller
chunks, but the overwhelming number of picture books separates text from a singular
picture. However, for reading both continuous and multiple narratives, a reader must
have a learned fundamental proficiency to read imagetext before they can comprehend a
Picture book readers comprehend new material in light of old material already
presented by not only rotating back and forth from picture to text and back to picture on a
single page, but also through a continuous process of turning the page to assimilate the
new page with the previous ones. Picture book readers must balance and incorporate
both the written text and the visual illustrations, into a complete reading. The negotiation
between image and text creates a constant ping back and forth to integrate both into one
rational narrative read by visual literacy. By adding a second, third, or fourth narrative
possibility, the narrative juggling act becomes exceptionally difficult if all narratives are
presented simultaneously on a one or two-page spread, as they are in Black and White.
However, if the second narrative distinctly pulls away visually and departs from the first
narrative, as in The Three Pigs and Blair Lent' s illustrations in The Funny Little Woman,
then the spatial distance helps the reader follow both narratives conj ointly without them
competing for the reader's attention. Also, the reader' s ability to comprehend the
narratives increases if the reader is familiar with the opening narrative. For example, The
Three Pigs original narrative retells the traditional story of "The Three Little Pigs," a
story almost every American reader knows.
Reading multiple narratives successfully can increase the enj oyment level from a
text: "a maj or source of pleasure in picture books is the j oy of discovering a meaningful
aspect of visual information" (Nodelman 20). Visual information in picture books adds
enj oyment to the reading experience while teaching subtle forms of visual literacy a child
may receive through television and film, but may not necessarily know how to
comprehend or analyze. As narrative complexity escalates, the illustrator has expanded
boundaries to create new and original works. In turn these highly creative works are
passed to the reader to process.
Multiple narratives increase the audience's reading level complexity and visual
stimulation as a result of the artist' s intricate narrative arrangement. Multiple narrative
techniques, whether split, double or quadruple, intensify the artistic/creative difficulty of
composition. By adding a second layer of meaning to the visual narrative, the artist goes
a step beyond continuous narrative to create a multi-leveled sequence of events capturing
the reader' s interest and making them linger on the page to pour over the illustrations.
Visual details, particularly ones that break from the traditional continuous narrative style
of most picture books, encourage more audience participation by compelling the reader to
read not only the text, but also the accompanying visuals in an attempt to synthesize the
multiple parts into a coherent whole. Later in the essay we will look at specific
illustrators, analyzing their visual complexity through multiple narratives.
Multiple narratives can be potent when illustrating a retelling or a revision of a
traditional story that the general public knows, like folk and fairy tales. The audience's
foreknowledge of the base narrative helps allow illustrators the ability to visually
experiment by branching off of the traditional tale in unique directions. Also, parents and
teachers are more accepting of texts that have won awards, specifically the Caldecott
Award for picture books. Thus, the union of a traditional tale retold with original
multiple narrative illustrations merges for a winning combination with recognition from
the Caldecott committees.
While retellings seem well suited for experimentation through dual narratives, any
text can also use this technique; retellings are just exceptionally compatible because of
their place in cultural knowledge. Every text analyzed in this essay will be a Caldecott
winning folk or fairy tale retelling, except for one. Macaulay's Black and White creates
an alternative for how retellings generally incorporate multiple narratives. While
retellings give the audience foreknowledge to ground them, Black and White bewilders
and unsettles its reader by creating multiple interpretations for exactly how the story can
be read, thus making the audience actively participate to negotiate the narrative space
with increased opportunities of interpretation. Yet, even with its level of narrative
difficulty, or perhaps because of its difficulty, the 1991 Caldecott committee saw
something unique and distinguished in the illustrations and the text.
Framing this thesis within the context of the Caldecott Medal gives legitimacy and
authority to the texts discussed. Without the label of distinction that the Caldecott Medal
implies, my argument would weaken because the texts would not have the approval of
the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC), which holds responsibility for
awarding the Medal, giving selected texts credence and clout.
My research blends artistic techniques with reader response to formulate the
benefits of multiple narratives within picture books. I posit that multiple narratives, still
scarce in number even though they have been used in Caldecott winners since the mid
70s, possess characteristics that creative illustrators can use to increase reader enj oyment,
time, and level of analysis. When multiple narratives are used in conjunction with
retellings, it makes it easier for the reader to navigate through a traditional pre-text.
However, multiple narratives, particularly in sylleptic picture books, can unsettle the
reader by creating difficult puzzles for the reader to negotiate. This paper analyzes the
visual trend of multiple narratives in texts that both exemplify this technique and have
also won the Caldecott Medal.
Multiple Narratives: Limitations, Techniques, and Possibilities
Critic Joseph Schwarcz in Ways of the Illustrator: Visual Communication in
Children 's Literature, defines continuous narrative the same as Lyn Lacy's split
narrative: "the protagonist of the story being illustrated (or any other figure) appears two
or more times at different places in one and the same picture, while the background and
the other elements of the picture remain more or less unchanged" (24). Rebecca Lukens
in A Critical Handbook of Children 's Literature also defines continuous narrative as the
technique "in which action is depicted through the repeated picturing of the character in
different places or motions all within the same illustration" (42). However, since neither
Schwarcz nor Lukens discuss other visual narrative possibilities, I am going to defer to
Lacy since she elaborates with other narrative possibilities. This is just one example of
terminology dissonance within the discussion of children' s picture books and illustration.
Yet, at least Schwarcz and Lacy discuss multiple narrative possibilities even if they use
differing terminology. Nodelman, even through his subtitle specifies "The Narrative Art
of Children' s Picture Books," does not address multiple narratives past the merging of
image and text.
Scholarly discussion of illustrations and narrative in children' s picture books lacks
a conversation about multiple narratives, creating a void within the overall discussion of
picture books. Schwarcz considers the following questions, "in what ways does the
illustration, an aesthetic configuration created for children, express its contents and
meanings? How do its elements combine and its structures operate so as to carry the
messages to which we are asked to relate?" (4). These questions set up the ideal forum
for a discussion on multiple narratives, but he neglects to proceed past continuous
narrative style in his terminology, while referring to illustrations and instances that break
with continuous narrative to form multiple narratives. Schwarcz does briefly address
"counterpointing," but only as a method for text and illustration to function together, not
necessarily through a larger narrative structure (17).
However, Lacy in Art and Design in Children 's Picture Books: An Analysis of
Caldecott Award-Winning Illustrations defines several techniques of multiple narratives,
including split and double narrative. Additionally, in How Picturebooks Work, Maria
Nikolej eva and Carole Scott mention and even name multiple narratives, yet they
disregard sylleptic narratives except for one or two passing references. Thankfully, they
sufficiently discuss counterpointing narratives giving future scholars and critics at least a
vocabulary to work from, a typology they acknowledge as problematic. The problem
may arise because of inconsistent usage and multiple terminology sources from semiotics
and narratology. Nonetheless, even if scholars do not yet have the exact terminology
with which to discuss multiple narratives, illustrators continue to create picture books
using this technique.
Illustrators use several artistic and stylistic techniques in conjunction with multiple
narratives to amplify a picture book' s visual effect. Artists can employ a variety of
techniques to develop multiple narratives, including: crypthesthesia, which hides images
within other images; reflection, which mirrors images to offer ambiguity of
interpretation; montage, the juxtaposition of interconnected plots, images, or ideas; and
metamorphosis, the transformation of a Eigure in stages within a single setting. Within
picture books, these artistic techniques occur within a single Hield of action, relying on the
multiplicity of images or the twofold purpose of a repeated single image to create a dual
narrative. Narrative fusion between multiple narratives happens within the Hield of action
in the text, which for picture books consist of the physical page, and in the reader' s mind
as they interpret the narrative strands. Yet, some illustrators, like Wiesner, try to visually
break the page boundary in innovative ways to enhance their narratives.
In Words About Pictures, Nodelman explains that the reader must possess a basic
learned competence to read visual narrative and interpret the pictures with any
accompanying text (11). Even simplistic picture books targeted toward babies "imply a
surprisingly sophisticated reader and viewer" because of the "codes, conventions,
assumptions, and interpretive strategies" one must apply to read these texts (35).
Interpretive strategies require negotiation between text and image a constant cycle of
thesis, antithesis, synthesis back and forth between words and pictures, each presenting
narrative information. Nodelman writes, "picture books that tell stories force viewers to
search the pictures for information that might add to or change the meaning of the
accompanying texts" (18). The reader uses the same interpretive strategies with multiple
narratives as with a single narrative; the visual search intensifies, sometimes even
doubling or quadrupling the complexity with multiple narratives in a picture book.
Evelyn Goldsmith writes, "although there is no clear agreement about what
constitutes complexity in visual material, it is generally accepted that human beings of
any age find it attractive" (399-400). A preference for complexity will ensure readers'
return to picture books with multiple narratives, while encouraging illustrators to create
more texts in this format. In visual complexity, a picture book rivals other visual
narrative forms of communication using a print media. It is, as Nodelman describes it, "a
subtle and complex form of communication," whose complexity escalates as narrative
layers are added (20).
Illustrators who creatively break a traditional narrative by illustrating multiple
narratives may also crack convention by adapting puzzle or gaming aspects into their
techniques. Some illustrators use "hidden" images. Marcia Brown illustrates her
Caldecott Award winning retelling .1/trchan-~l with "crypthesthesia--an image hidden
artistically within others to produce a double, 'hidden' meaning" (Lacy 189). .1/trchl~,l's
primary narrative portrays the world of the living in black cutout forms while the second
underlying layer of narrative in translucent white shapes, enhanced through
crypthesthesia, implies the world of the shadow or the dead, a hidden second layer to life.
This produces a backwards shadow effect with the solid figures of the world in black and
the shadows in transparent white, transposing the normal view of a shadow caused by the
sun. While.1/tackso-l is a translated narrative poem, these subtle techniques are usually
reserved for non-sequential, non-narrative stories where the visual game is the purpose,
and the textual clues add little. For example, the Where 's Waldo series or Mitsumasa
Anno' s Anno 's Journey focuses the reader' s attention and action on finding the correct
visual sign with little or no text. A non-linear, print hypertext format may be the next
step if multiple narratives ever become passe. For now, picture books that both
experiment with text and image, while breaking traditional conventions of continuous
narrative, are a rare find.
When parents or teachers discover one of the uncommon multiple narratives in
picture books, they may assume a higher difficulty level or balk at the visual differences
with traditional picture books. Therefore, because of preconceived assumptions, parents
and teachers may not share multiple narratives picture books with children unless the
books are either ALSC approved through the Caldecott Medal or of familiar folk and
fairy tales. Nodelman explains, "guides for teachers about using books with children
most frequently suggest that those books should be chosen on the basis of a child's
previous familiarity with their subj ect and style" (37). This pedagogy builds on previous
knowledge that usually overlooks new and exciting multiple narratives unless they are
teamed with a familiar aspect recognizable to teachers and parents. For example, when
paired with a classic tale, parents and teachers respond favorably to visual
experimentation, as is the case with The Three Pigs. This is particularly true with folk
and fairy tale revisions because of their unwavering place in our cultural knowledge, or to
use Carl Jung's term, our collective unconscious.
One can see the propensity for folk and fairy tales within the Caldecott Medal
winning texts. Even though Caldecott winning illustrations must be original, the
originality of the text is not included in the criteria for the award. Twenty-seven out of
the sixty-six Caldecott Medal winners are retellings. With retellings securing over one-
third of the awarded Medals and countless Honor seals, why, when the Medal rewards the
most distinguished American picture book for children, do we see a predominance of
unoriginal stories? Using revisionist tales creates a common ground between reader and
illustrator, giving the reader familiar footing and the illustrator a shared jumping off point
for visual experimentation. Retelling well-known stories in picture book form allows
parents and children foreknowledge of the story and sanctions the illustrator to
experiment visually with multiple narratives and include more multi-cultural references
and styles within a picture book space. The illustrator may continue to build on a folk or
fairy tale's multi-faceted approach by visually using a double or a split narrative
technique in their illustrations or expand on the multicultural references in regard to the
text' s cultural basis, all aided by the audience's prior knowledge.
Because the audience understands the morphology of folk and fairy tales, the
illustrator may use a recognized storyline as a mechanism to experiment with multiple
narratives, which is what David Wiesner does in The Three Pigs. He or she can do this
freely within a traditional story because the audience will retain comprehension as long
as they have an understanding of the basic narrative story or structure. Wiesner explains
this concept in his Caldecott Medal acceptance speech:
I had ideas for so many neat visual things that could happen. Characters could jump
out of the story. The pictures could fall down, be folded up, crumpled; text could
get scattered about. What I didn't have was a story. Every time I tried to turn these
ideas into a book, I ran into the same stumbling block. If I created a story and then
had the characters leave to take part in a new story, the reader would be left
wondering what was happening in the initial story. To make this idea work, I
realized that I needed a story that as many kids as possible would already know, so
that when the characters took off, the reader would leave the story behind as well
and concentrate on the new j ourney the characters would take. So, I thought, what
are the most universal stories around? In a way, any story would do. "Goldilocks"?
"Hansel and Gretel"? And then, right on cue, up stepped those three pigs. (394)
An illustrator can also effectively use multiple narratives with retellings because of
folk and fairy tales' multi-layered natures. Folk and fairy tales historically transcended a
dual audience of child and adult, usually having one standard moral for children's ears
and an implied moral or level of meaning for adults to ascertain. Writing to a dual
audience helps create situations where multiple narratives are applicable and accessible.
But the duality does not end with audience.
Sometimes multiple narratives can be expressed through culturally influenced
illustrations and stylistic narrative techniques. For example, the Dillons' culturally
inspired woodcuts form double and split narratives that illustrate the primitive West
African tale Why M~osquitoes Buzz in Peopls 'e Ears. Wiesner' s The Three Pigs sets a
revisionist, postmodern American example through the medium of a cartoon double
narrative. The American Dream of rags to riches breaks hierarchical convention by
teaching children class boundaries are impermanent. Children are taught they can write
their own destiny and become anything they want: president, congressman, astronaut.
Similarly, in The Three Pigs, the main characters grow from rags to home owners,
conquer their fears, boundaries, and enemies to write their own happily ever after ending.
Both of these Caldecott Award books use cultural settings or culturally influenced
illustrations to enhance the multiple narrative.
Illustrator Blair Lent explains that while his pictures may be suggested by cultural
Chinese sources, he has "in no way attempted to imitate Chinese painting. These
illustrations are interpretations by a Westerner of a fabled land" (Bader 458). And
interpretations are all the reader can expect, but picture book interpretations and revisions
incorporate the American, or as Lent describes himself, the Western depiction, thus
strengthening the illustrator' s connection to his American audience. Nodelman agrees:
"As in illustrations that evoke the styles of other times and other cultures, the meaning of
those styles for us has more signifying potential than what they meant for those who first
saw them, and for whom, presumably, they so expressed the values of their own culture
that their stylistic characteristics were not remarkable noticeable" (85). An American
picture book retelling is specifically effective after it has been adapted for an American
audience. Nodelman continues, if the readers are "unfamiliar with the conventions of an
alien culture, the remaking of the imagery of that culture in terms we can understand is
inevitably more meaningful than the original" (Nodelman 95). Therefore, even when
other cultural tales are used in American picture books, there must be a blending of
cultures, just like there is a blending or image and text, before the reader can comprehend
the narratives. This merger adds dimension and substance that illustrators can draw from
for multiple narratives.
In support of the genre of picture books for an American audience, the ALSC,
housed under the American Library Association (ALA), created guidelines of merit
through the formation of the Caldecott Medal. The Medal generates a level of distinction
within the genre of picture books with which to judge quality, a quality Frederic Melcher
saw demonstrated in the work of British illustrator Randolph Caldecott, after whom the
medal is named. The ALA awarded the first Caldecott Medal in 1938, sixteen years after
the other prestigious children's award, the Newbery Medal, was established. A selection
committee elects one text a year, brands the chosen text' s cover with a gold medal
signifying artistic distinction among American picture books and rewards the illustrator
with a bronze Caldecott Medal. Honor books receive a silver seal.
The Caldecott Medal is an illustrious honor, which is essentially guaranteed to be a
"distinguished" product. The winners are top illustrators who conform to the guidelines
of excellence that the ALA drafted and set high standards of excellence for other picture
books to follow. As a literary prize, the Medal helps further legitimize picture books
through this created canon of quality. Committee members employ the following criteria
when identifying a distinguished picture book: "excellence of execution in the artistic
technique employed; excellence of pictorial interpretation of story, theme, or concept; of
appropriateness of style of illustration to the story, theme, or concept; of delineation of
plot, theme, characters, setting mood or information through the picture; and excellence
of presentation in recognition of a child audience" (Terms and Criteria).
In theory, the Caldecott Medal helps structure the field of picture books and keeps
the standards of expectation high. Irene Smith asserts that it, "set[s] standards rather than
catering to them; therefore improvements in content and design can be fairy placed in
their direct line of influence" (104). The trend set by Caldecott winners has been one of
conservatism and white middle class mores, however multiple narrative texts like The
Three Pigs and Black and White expand the conservative stance to include more visually
experimental texts. Retellings, like M~osquitoes and .\hadw~,l expand the outmoded
homogenous attitude to include more positive cultural diversity. Whether experimental
or conservative, once the illustrated text has the Caldecott Medal branded to the front
cover, parents assume it to be superior to other picture books.
While the Caldecott Medal exemplifies excellence within the picture book genre,
multiple narratives have the potential to visibly exhibit compositional excellence and
experimentation to break traditional convention and challenge the reader with more
complexity for added enj oyment. By Black and White and The Three Pigs winning the
Caldecott Award, thus becoming recognized as an exemplary picture book, hopefully we
will see more multiple narratives picture books on the market. But, the ultimate decision
begins in the illustrator' s imagination to be transferred onto the page through various
Multiple Visual Narratives: Illustrators Redesigning Space
Within picture books, the illustrator becomes the visual narrator or visual
storyteller: "just as the storyteller' s point of view gave form and direction in ancient oral
tradition so too can the illustrator' s viewpoint give form and direction" (Lacy 16-17).
Several illustrators have capitalized on reworking traditional tales with their original art:
Marcia Brown won three times (1955, 1962, and 1983); while Leo and Diane Dillon
(1976, 1977) won twice with retellings. David Wiesner won the Medal twice, but only
one, The Three Pigs (2002), is a retelling. David Macaulay visually revised architectural
structures in his two Caldecott Honor texts: Cathedral (1974) and Castle (1978), but his
original sylleptic quadruple narrative won the 1991 Caldecott Committee over with its
"udder chaos," creating a groundbreaking moment in picture book multiple narratives.
The next such moment would come with Wiesner' s The Three Pigs.
Standard stories such as folktales, fairy tales, and retold classics create a controlled
narrative space that allows illustrators to experiment with visual forms and also to
explore multi-cultural styles. The traditional pre-text narrative in conjunction with
audience foreknowledge helps create limits and boundaries within which the illustrator
works. Of course, sometimes they work to seemingly destroy these boundaries, but
without these limits disorder would reign and jumble the narrative to incoherency. Each
picture book must retain some semblance of a cohesive underlying narrative structure or
the additional narratives would be chaotic. With retellings, the audience has some prior
knowledge about the story's content or narrative, therefore the illustrator can draw
attention away from the pre-text itself and onto the additional, original narrative.
The recent 2002 winner visually explores space through a double narrative while
retelling the traditional story of "The Three Little Pigs," creating the most experimental
revision to date. However, this is not the first visually experimental retelling. Several
other tales take visual liberties with space to experiment with narrative, breaking
continuous narrative into a split narrative or double narratives and sometimes both. Other
texts than the ones I specifically focus on use multiple narratives. For example, The Fool
of the World and the Flying Ship (1969) illustrated by Uri Shulevitz and retold by Arthur
Ransome uses a split narrative technique to help create a fantasy setting with illustrations
of the flying ship. However, the texts chosen reflect the best use of multiple narrative
techniques for this thesis. For example, the Dillons' illustrate folktales with not one
narrative technique, but several including both split and double narratives.
Split and Double Narratives: Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People's Ears
Leo and Diane Dillon' s use of multiple narratives is a result of the cooperation and
input of the two-person illustrating team. According to their Caldecott Medal acceptance
speech, they consider their collaborative illustrations to be, essentially, done by a third
person, a collective merging of their talents. Together they developed a collaborative
artistic style of woodcutting, which can be seen in their two back to back Caldecott
Medal winners, Why M~osquitoes Buzz in People 's Ears:E~~~~EEEEE~~~~EEEE A West A~frican Tale (1976) and
Ashanti to Zulu: Afr~ican Trad'itions (1977). Their artistic style was influenced by the
"African batik, with its variety of repeated patterns and traditional motifs" (Lacy 186).
The African influence compliments the West African folktale, while according to
Nodelman, block printing, "associates these pictures with the static convention of folk
art, which tends to be more oriented to pattern than action" (72). The Dillons' artistic
style is a direct result of their partnership and cultural influences.
Their style helped them win their first Caldecott Medal for Why M~osquitoes Buzz in
People 's EarsE~~~~EEEEE~~~~EEEE which is unique for both the culturally influence and the multiple narrative
techniques. Lacy writes, "the divergence from the norm in M~osquitoes is, then, not found
in a truly different book layout but in the Dillons' use of the artistic element space and in
their unique, cinematic uses of continuous narrative, split narrative, and double narrative"
(193). Because of the multiple techniques employed, we will disregard the continuous
narrative aspect because of its commonality and begin with their use of double narrative.
Retold by Verna Aardema, Why M~osquitoes Buzz in People 's Ears: A West
Afcrican Tale retells a West African Tale about why pesky mosquitoes insist on flying
around people' ears. One day the mosquito flies over to the iguana and proceeds to tell
the iguana a lie. This irritates the iguana to the point where he puts sticks in his ears so as
not to hear at all. From there, a negative chain of events occurs, which end in the death
of a baby owl. Because the owlet has died, the mother owl refuses to hoot and wake up
the sun, causing a great disturbance among the animals. The lion calls an animal council
to ascertain the lack of day and the story proceeds from there like "The House That Jack
Built," constantly repeating each animal's action and reaction until they discover the
culprit--the mosquito. His punishment is to buzz in people's ears asking, "Zeee! Us
everyone still angry at me?" (25).
The Dillons' illustrate double narrative within the context of storytelling,
specifically at an animal council scene in M~osquitoes. The double narrative elaborates
the animals' stories about what caused the negative chain of events that progress
throughout the book. Black, night scenes of the animal council crowd the left hand side
of the page, while the visual exaggerations of what the animals say are interpreted to the
right hand side of the page. The exaggerations are framed with black, usually by black
trees, but have a background of sky blue, visually distinguishing them from the primary
narrative. Nodelman's reasoning for these scenes' construction centers on the disruption
between the verbal and the visual of storytelling: "this discontinuity between two parts of
the same picture clearly marks off the depiction of the storytelling from the depiction of
the story being told; it provides basic information we need to understand a complex
picture" (Nodelman 131-32).
While the discontinuity between the left hand side of the spread and the right hand
side of the spread does provide crucial information for interpreting the double narrative,
Nodelman neglects to mention the textual inadequacy of the animal's stories creating
gaps that must be filled visually. He also specifically classifies the spread as a whole
picture with two parts, making a passing reference to two distinct narratives, the
storytelling and the story, without classifying the nature of the illustration as a
representation of counterpointing multiple narratives.
However, this lack of classification by Nodelman may be a result of a lack of
terminology with which to address multiple narratives that we have already discussed.
Yet he does use the available terminology incorrectly. Nodelman in Words About
Pictures discounts Lyn Lacy's visual interpretation of a picture book in order to prove her
analysis revealed opposite results than what she concluded (126). But in this example,
Lacy would have an opportunity for rebuttal. Nodelman incorrectly describes a scene in
Why M~osquitoes Buzz in People 's Ears as a "continuous narrative," a term which he cites
from Joseph Schwarcz (166).
Nodelman specifically references the first python illustration as a continuous
narrative: "we also see the same characters twice in different locations and must
understand that the depiction on the left comes first in order to understand the story, but
here the figures are sometimes immediately beside each other and sometimes even
partially superimposed on each other" (167). The Dillons' illustrate split narrative
through the character of the python. He talks to the iguana on one page, while on the
next page he crosses the gutter and slips down the rabbit hole, all on the same length of
tale with two heads. This creates an M.C. Escher visual effect for children to pause and
consider. An effect that is not just a case of images superimposed, but a key use of split
narrative as Lacy accurately validates (193).
Mosquitoes offers examples of metamorphosis, "in which the stages of
transformation for a figure are presented in a single setting" and montage, which is "used
to compress within a scene a set of interconnected plots or ideas" (Lacy 189). Marcia
Brown's Once a2~ouse. .. (1962), a fable from India, also incorporates metamorphosis
to illustrate the physical change of a tiger back into a mouse. Both tiger and mouse are
woodcut on the same spread, showing the same character in two different manifestations,
on the same wordless page spread. The main character, a magical hermit who saved the
mouse and gradually transformed him into a tiger reverses the process because of the
On the left hand side of the spread in Once a M~ouse .. stands the hermit with
arms outstretched toward the tiger and mouse, casting his spell. The tiger's body crosses
the page gutter, but heads away from the hermit into the woods to disappear and hide his
shame. The mouse, at a full gallop, seems to run out of the tiger' s mouth and into the
woods as monkeys and other forest creatures watch hidden in the trees. The use of color
binds all three characters together in their magical moment of transformation. With a red
sunset, maroon ground, and green woods, the only white space on the page encircles the
mouse, defines the tiger's strips, and clothes the hermit, visually determining their
interconnectedness through color.
This metamorphosis visually shows the physical loss of the mouse, which
transforms from a muscular tiger back into a tiny rodent within the same field of action.
However, M~osquito 's metamorphosis with the double narrative of the night storytelling
scene does not depict reality; instead it shows what the animals' perceive. For the
audience to accurately view the animals' perceptions, they need to view the
metamorphosis on the same page spread, playing on the duplicity of a narrative through
the "idea that more than one image can be presented within a single field of action" (Lacy
Another visual addition can come in the form of a visual narrative that has little or
no textual backing. This creates a separate visual narrative outside the primary narrative.
One of the best-loved children' s books of all time, Goodnight M~oon by multiple
Caldecott Honor winner Margaret Wise Brown, added a silent character to fascinate
children. Within each illustration, there is a small, gray, "young mouse" that appears in
different locations about the room. His little whiskered nose points out from odd places,
seemingly to encourage children to play a game of Where 's Waldo? with him. As
Barbara Bader aptly summarizes, "hardly noticeable, he is never unnoticed" (259). The
mouse adds a new visual narrative to the pretext, but retains distance from the continuous
narrative of bedtime rituals.
Similar to the quiet, little gray mouse in Goodnight Moon, the Dillons' created two
animals, a little red bird and an antelope, which silently move independently from the
textual narration, thus creating their own personal narrative, a visual story within a story.
However, in M~osquitoes the little red bird is not as completely separate from the
continuous narrative as it may seem to the casual reader. The bird serves a purpose of
pointing out the significant action or object within a spread with his pointed, triangular
beak; "at one point, for instance, the bird's beak points at the mosquito, which has
carefully hidden itself behind a leaf" (Nodelman 128). The bird flies around, adding a
second visual layer to every spread since he is the only character seen on every spread.
Similarly, the antelope in M~osquitoes creates a narrative all his own apart from the
text. Instead of pointing to important details, he seeks a connection with the reader in a
more forward manner, highlighting his own importance. The antelope's gaze focuses not
on the storyline action like the bird's beak, but on the reader. He continually tries to
catch the reader's attention with his wide eyes and toothy grin, both directed at the
reader. Even when all of the other animals hoot and howl in disgust to punish the
mosquito, we see the antelope in the background, bright-eyed and smiling, the only
animal grinning instead of baring teeth or scowling. Unlike the red bird, the antelope is
textually acknowledged once: "the antelope was sent to fetch him" (Aardema 19).4 This
brief reference adds credence to the character, giving readers a brief textual clue to the
antelope's presence in case they had previously missed him and his showing off.
In Mosquitoes, the red bird functions as a sign pointing to action and the antelope
extends the narrative outside of itself and the animal council to include the reader in a
more intimate connection through gaze. Macaulay's Black and White has a similar
rodent, a small gray squirrel, in "Waiting Game," who imitates and reflects the absurdity
of the character' s actions by mimicking them. If the characters put on newspaper hats,
the squirrel has a newspaper hat on. If the characters applaud, then the squirrel applauds.
He is similar to Wise's gray mouse, dashing about the page, always to be found in a new
Children are taught to read at a young age, but they are mainly educated in school
to read words. Because of the lack of text to identify these unidentified, nameless
characters, the audience must make cognitive leaps to correctly analyze the multiple
narratives presented: visually, textually, and combined. Nodelman explains that without
basic understandings of visual and verbal literacy, "children with little experience of
books scan pictures [. .] and consequently focus their attention on what are meant to be
insignificant details" (7). He is both right and wrong. Yes, children do need certain
skills to effectively navigate a picture book. However, as the little red bird illustrates,
there are very few insignificant details thrown into picture books, especially Caldecott
winners. And sometimes, the details and additional characters add a second narrative to
SPagination begins on the first illustrated page.
the original pre-text, adding to the reader' s experience both enj oyment and an added layer
Quadruple Sylleptic Narratives: Black and White
Multiple narratives need more sophisticated examination and attention from readers
because of their multi-layered story. In Black and White, after briefly explaining the
various narrative possibilities, Macaulay begins with this warning: "careful inspection of
both words and pictures is recommended" (i). While this quote could be printed at the
beginning of every picture book, the cautionary beginning is pertinent to Black and White
because of its increased cognitive level in negotiating the puzzling, atypical, multiple
narratives to combine them into related stories. Most people cannot read Black and
White one time through and be finished or satisfied. The reader, especially the child
reader, experiments with different sequential possibilities, probably first reading the
entire book, then each of the four potential individual narratives: "Seeing Things,"
"Problem Parents," "A Waiting Game" and "Udder Chaos."
Macaulay, in his Caldecott Acceptance speech, remarks, "it is designed to be
viewed in its entirety, having its surface 'read all over.' It is a book of and about
connections between pictures and between words and pictures" (410). Yet, he depicts
the only true use of sylleptic multiple narratives within the Caldecott canon by having
four narratives that can be read independent of each other. The uniqueness of the text
revolves around the fact that while the four stories can be read as independent, combined
they create an intertextuality of connectedness through overlapping situations, visual
motifs and color. Macaulay begins his text with the following preface as a warning: "this
book appears to contain a number of stories that do not necessarily occur at the same
time. Then again, it may contain only one story." (i).
In case the reader missed the read warning box on the title page, Macaulay visually
shows the overlapping nature and maneuverability between the various narratives by
having the thief from "Udder Chaos" climb down a sheet rope, crossing and casting a
shadow on the title page for "A Waiting Game." All four narratives have unique artistic
styles and predominant colors to set them apart. Yet in the penultimate spread, these
styles and colors fade into black, white, and gray, erasing literal panel boundaries for just
one instance and then revert back to distinct storylines on the final spread (26). However
on the final spread, some of the intertextuality remains because the robber from "Udder
Chaos" stands on the train platform of "A Waiting Game."
Independent of each other, the stories may seem no different than other narratives,
but combined and read together, the four narratives in Black and White intertwine
temporally and spatially through odd moments in characters' lives, through the use of
black and white hues, and through repeated motifs of trains, newspapers, and cows that
wander in and out of various panels. This creates a fractured, full-bodied narrative, split
into four perspectives, told by four different narrators at different times. Yet sometimes,
the physical panel boundaries break down, deleting line and panel restrictions, thus
illustrating the interconnectedness of the four narratives.
Black and White won the Caldecott for its illustrations in 1991. This is the first
instance of blatant multiple narratives, used in an experimental fashion. Two years later,
The Stinkry Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales illustrated by Lane Smith and
written by Jon Scieszka, wins the 1993 Caldecott Honor Seal for fractured fairy tales that
breaks narrative convention. The Stinkry Cheese Man bridges the retellings
counterpointing multiple narratives with sylleptic choices, thus giving a median example
between Black anzd White and The Three Pigs.
Black and White manipulates four complementing narratives; The Stink~y Cheese
Man manages a fractured story book with distinct fairy tales such as "The Really Ugly
Duckling" and "Little Red Running Shorts" linked together through the peculiarity of
their revisions and the persistent narrator of Jack; The Three Pigs begins with a
traditional narrative, deviates from that narrative into the marginal space, and then
eventually returns to the opening narrative to alter it in light of the other narratives
presented. All three texts have at least one example of chaotic typography where the
literal words are askew and falling down the page, illustrating the unstable nature of a
multiple narrative and its potential to change and rewrite existing narratives.
Postmodern Multiple Narratives: The Three Pigs
One of the most experimental Caldecott Award winning texts is The Three Pigs
(2002) by David Wiesner. It experiments with form through the medium of a picture
book, challenging readers and breaking into boundaries not explored before, while
grounding itself in a well-known story. As the chair of the 2002 Caldecott Award
Selection Committee, Kate McClelland describes The Three Pigs:
Pigs burst through the pages' boundaries and soar into new dimensions.
Transformations occur as the pigs boldly enter new stories, make friends, and
ultimately control their own fate. Witty dialogue and physical humor make this a
selection that will have youngsters squealing with delight. Through Wiesner's
vision and artistic virtuosity, The Three Pigs celebrates possibility. (www.ala.org)
By including experimental texts in the Caldecott canon, the selection committees
show that experimental behavior is acceptable, but only under the correct guidelines.
Wiesner' s visual narrative both revises and transforms the traditional version of "The
Three Little Pigs," utilizing the margin space and activity therein to displace and rewrite
both the original text and conventional illustrations. The revision happens inside the pre-
text panels; the transformation occurs outside in the marginal gutter creating parallel
In Wiesner' s acceptance speech for the 2002 Caldecott award, he asserts, "The
Three Pigs is the culmination of nearly a lifetime of thinking about a particular visual
concept. And it all started with Bugs Bunny" (393). He proceeds to describe an exact
episode of Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd where they run out of the cartoon and into blank
white space. Additionally, in his forward to Wordless Almost Wordless Picture Books: A
Guide, Wiesner credits the black and white woodcut images of Lynd Ward' s adman 's
Drum for teaching him "many things about conveying information visually and about
pacing and rhythm of a story" (vii). The reader of Wiesner's book can see these
influences of the graphic narrative styles of comics and cartoons in his adventurous pigs,
all styles that effectively use multiple narratives. Wiesner demonstrates that multiple
narratives, when used in conjunction with a folk or fairy tale revision, amplify the
retelling's multi-leveled nature. After reading this picture book, no child will ever see
"The Three Little Pigs" in the same light.
Wiesner' s The Three Pigs develops fairy tale characters that not only step out of
their archetypal roles, but also gain agency to create their own ending after exploring
multiple stories. He capacitates the three pigs to jump out of their framed story book
pages, explore their margin spaces, and share their freedom with others, thus concluding
the multiple narratives in a politically correct, multi-culturally-embracing, reinterpreted,
happily ever after ending. Wiesner empowers his characters to break free from their
original frames and scripted roles thus regaining their personal voice by controlling and
retelling their individual stories outside of the prescribed boundaries of the pre-text
narrative. Yet, they Einally integrate back into their original story line, changing not only
the visuals, but also the text. Within the constructed confines of a fairy tale (these
boundaries literally beginning at "once upon a time" and ending with "and they all lived
happily ever after") Wiesner assembles counterpointing narratives to supplement the
symmetrical narrative of the traditional tale.
The first narrative, the pre-text that begins the book, conveys the traditional story
"The Three Little Pigs." The second narrative augments the first, moving from frames
into white space surrounding the first narrative. The true ingenuity of this text comes
when the two narratives meet, combining both stories into an unusual, yet at the same
time, traditional ending. Wiesner, through a comic framed parallel narrative,
springboards from a traditional fairy tale, revising "The Three Little Pigs" to suit a
postmodern viewing audience who can appreciate that not all stories are linear, and not
all tales end exactly as expected. Children's literature scholar Jack Zipes, writing
generally of fairy tale retellings in Sticks and Stones notes: "as they explore neglected
issues and dimensions [. .], they define themselves in relation to these traditional pre-
texts and thus provide a new understanding [. .] while determining and predetermining
the fairy tale in contemporary society" (123). The three little pigs, once outside of the
pre-text, develop through exploration and experience, providing new understanding and
meaning to their story and setting, eventually returning to their original story to impact it
with their newfound agency.
Will Eisner notes that usually, "the first page of a story functions as an
introduction. It is a launching pad for the narrative, and for most stories it establishes a
frame of reference" (62). However, Wiesner creates a false expectation, setting up the
boundaries of a traditional fairy tale only to obliterate this expectation. The first part of
The Three Pigs develops like a storyboard. The reader opens the book to a traditional
picture book beginning: text and illustration incorporated into one picture with
illustration that supports the expected text. And, it also begins with the cliche, "once
upon a time" (Wiesner 1). The divided frames or balloons are not yet visible. Word
balloons are only used when the pigs step out of the story frames into the marginal gutter,
or "space between panels" (Eisner 163). In The Three Pigs, the art form does not initially
dominate the reader' s attention, but as we extend beyond the frame of the original
narrative, the visuals become increasingly more important. Continuing through the story
there is a greater "interdependency of words (text) and image (art)" (Eisner 124).
This interdependency achieves an elevated level when the pigs begin their second
narrative. It occurs in the white space outside the panels that constitute the margin or
gutter between panels, the proverbial space between the lines. Eisner proposes, "if a rule
is possible, I would ordain that 'what goes INSIDE the panel is PRIMARY! '" (63).
Wiesner' s key achievement in narration, however, comes not inside his panels but outside
them. The panel may be considered a "single-sequence container," within the field of
action, but since Wiesner's narrative expands outside the frame, the whole page becomes
what Eisner terms a "super-panel [...] best employed for parallel narratives," the exact
function for which Wiesner uses the super-panel (80). Eisner continues,
In a plot where two independent narratives are shown simultaneously, the problem
of giving them equal attention and weight is addressed by making the panel that
controls the total narrative the entire page itself. The result, a set of panels within
panels, attempts to control the reader' s line of reading so that two storylines may be
followed synchronously. (80)
Wiesner not only relies on the stylistic choice of panels within panels to convey his
double narration, but he also depends on the reader' s familiarity with the traditional tale
"The Three Little Pigs," the text of which is not included in this book in its entirety.
Ironically, the double narrative begins not with the pig initiating his escape from the
story, but with the wolf who huffs and puffs and blows the little pig out of the frame. The
pig responds factually, "hey! He blew me right out of the story!" (Wiesner 3).
After this spatial rupture occurs, there is a breakdown between text and illustration
in the pre-text narrative. Discrepancies between text and illustration appear with these
alterations; the text within the panels informs the reader that the wolf ate the pig, yet the
pig's involvement outside the panel confirms the truth in the pig's escape as he leaves
behind a bewildered looking wolf.
Wiesner uses the illustrations within the panels as marginal gloss to contradict the
"original" text. After the first pig is blown out of the panel, the text of the narrative
remains consistent with the original, but the illustrations accompanying the text alter to
prove what actually happens--the wolf does not eat the pig because the pig has been
blown out of the wolf s visual plane. Therefore, in the illustration, the wolf shrugs his
shoulders in disbelief, wondering where the pig has gone, while the text affirms that he
"ate the pig up" (Wiesner 3, 5). This discontinuity between illustration and text within
the panel continues throughout the entire first narrative.
Moreover, the pre-text panels are not the only instance where this glitch occurs; we
also see it in the subsequent narratives that the pigs jump into. Graphically, the knight in
the chivalric fantasy scratches his head and wonders where the dragon is while the text
asserts that the prince "drew his sword, and slew the mighty dragon" (28). Words remain
fixed in tradition; illustration conforms. This could be accounted for because the
traditional tale is not Wiesner' s wording, therefore he has no control over the original
text, only his unique illustrations. Once his illustrations (the pigs) gain agency through
their exploration, they secure control over the original text, molding it to fit their
paradigm. The three pig's story stagnates on the page, unable to change or move away
from the "original" until they learn to wander in the margin becoming their own
characters. Here they are given agency to become the characters they desire, not the
characters scripted for them. They replace the original text with their own version,
literally replacing the physical text by knocking the letters off the page before hanging
them back up again.
While the pigs are wayward, escaping their original narrative and wandering within
the margin, they also complete the original text by gaining their own voice to finalize the
original text with the same expected wording of "and they all lived happily ever after"
(Wiesner 38). But they do this through an unexpected means. The text of the original
tale is unaware of their presence in the margin, evident by the text continuing as if the
pigs are still in the panes, the illustrations are vividly aware that the pigs have escaped
into the gutter. They both digress from the original text, while at the same time
completing that text with a fuller explanation through multiple interpretations of their
final panel. Without the marginal gloss of the pigs, the story would have remained just a
simple telling of "The Three Little Pigs" with new illustrations by Wiesner. The addition
of the pigs playing in the margin, the tension created between the original story and the
use of marginal space unifies the parallel narratives into one cohesive, unique tale of
textual displacement and revision.
The pigs gain distinction from the pre-text once they are outside of the panels and
in the margin. The most evident and instantaneous change that occurs as the pigs retreat
out of the rectangular panel is their appearance, which helps visually separate the two
narratives. Visual segregation with varying artistic styles, colors, texture, and space is a
common way to distinguish between multiple narratives. Blair Lent uses a similar visual
distinction of color and detail to separate his parallel narratives in his 1973 Caldecott
Medal winner, The Fwmny Little Woman.
The Three Pigs opens with the expected cartoon style animation within the frames.
This style includes simplified, clean lines; uniform pastel colors; and a lack of detail. As
the pigs step out of the frame into the white marginal space, they become less cartoonish
as the style begins to more closely reflect reality. Details such as multiple colors, hair,
and shadows are employed to create a realistic affect. But this is not the only change
between the first narrative in the panel and the second narrative in the margin.
Differing typography in the font of the text delineates narratives. In the marginal
second narrative, the New Century Schoolbook font of the pre-text converts to a more
conversational typeset, illustrating the transition from didactic fairy tale to freedom and
exploration through the font choice. Also, inside the panel, the pigs' scripted text is
framed with quotation marks denoting their speech. Yet, all three pigs have the exact
same dialogue: "not by the hair of my chinny-chin-chin" (Wiesner 2, 5). Hairs absent
from their stylized faces until they enter the margin where they are drawn with an
abundance of body hair. Outside of the panel, each pig speaks individually through word
balloons, adjusting the method of speech to differentiate between the first and second
narrative. This marginal gutter space thus becomes more realistic than the contrived
story in the frame, granting the pigs agency to begin creating their own story once outside
their restricted, first narrative.
This exploration of self-identity leads them through other constructed tales, like the
nursery rhyme and knight' s tale, yet within these other tales, their presence has the power
to alter illustrations, just as they altered illustrations within their own story. Only when
the adventure concludes are they able to also alter text within the panels and rewrite their
own story within the context of the original narrative.
Yet the pigs do not escape into the margin without a narrative attempt to recapture
the traditional within-the-frame fairy tale storyline, depicted with one standard
illustration with a frame per page. After the first pig escapes, the following page consists
of a full page spread, visually forcing the story back into its first symmetrical narrative
with illustration submitting to and illuminating text. However, the first little pig alerts his
companion to the newfound world between the panels (Wiesner 4). The pigs then begin
to explore their ability to disturb and move the panels, as seen in the wolf s panel tilted
askew (6). Expanding their level of control over the panels, and simultaneously over
their original narrative, the realistically rendered pigs fold the two-dimensional wolf up
into a paper airplane, moving on with their new life. It is interesting to note that the pigs
rely on their past narrative as a mode of transportation to search their new space, thus
why these multiple narratives form a counterpointing picture book in place of the
sylleptic picture book.
Although there is a deconstructive aspect of them riding on traditional voice,
Wiesner uses this paper airplane as a way of connecting the two narratives. There is not
a single spread absent of a panel in some shape or form: the margin cannot stand alone
without a panel to create a margin; the second narrative cannot exist without the first.
Throughout the exploration, a spatial relationship between panel and margin is retained.
The pig' s exploration takes the form of a maj or wordless sequence in Wiesner' s book.
Here, the pigs disregard all semblances of rigid, rectangular panels when they fold up the
wolf. They also disregard the super-panel, or the page boundaries, by flying out of the
reader' s line of sight and off the page, thus symbolizing their learned knowledge of how
to break the rules and gain a euphoric freedom. Wiesner illustrates this exaltation
through their visages displayed while the pigs contentedly coast on the airplane
delighting in their surrounding and liberty (12-13).
Whether or not the nearly wordless flight scene was the pig's happiest moments or
not, it is still the central sequence of motion and discovery that enlightens the entire
second narrative. This narrative develops around the central flight, which visually stands
out because of the mammoth white space allowed on the double spreads. White space
could be seen as the lack or absence of background, liberating the pigs even more from
the pre-text setting. In the forward to Wordless/Almost Wordless Picture Books: A
Guide, David Wiesner self-reflects, "early on, I realized that creating a sequence of
images was more interesting than just a single picture. Creating a wordless picture book
requires great care and clarity in every aspect of the pictures making. Because the images
are the 'text,' everything in them must contribute not only to the advancement of the plot
but to revealing the emotions and feelings of the characters." (vii).
By disregarding the field of action, one pig shatters the imaginary fourth wall by
informing his companions, "I think .. someone's out there," speaking to the reader (20).
This creates a higher level of involvement between the reader and the pig, reversing the
voyeuristic gaze from the character back onto the reader. Because the pig has been
allotted agency over his domain in the margin, we, the readers, become another narrative
possibility he could enter. By visually identifying the reader through his gaze and then
verbally affirming the reader' s presence, the pig has the possibility of joining our reality
in the same way that he is about the join a nursery rhyme. Even though the pig is located
off in the margin from the original three little pigs tale, once he recognizes the world
outside of the picture book, the full spread of the picture book becomes a panel that he
could escape from. While this might be impossible for a printed text to convey, it would
be an action that one might expect in an animated cartoon or hypertext.
The white space of the marginal second narrative not only theoretically reflects
back on the original narrative, but also becomes a haven for the pigs, a place to escape
being eaten by the wolf. The first pig persuades the second pig to j oin the second
narrative by telling him, "come on--it' s safe out here, away from the restrictive pre-text
(Wiesner 5). The pigs define their panels as confining and restricting in contrast to the
openness of the white space where the one pig exclaims, "now we have room to move"
(7). It is at this point that the pigs begin developing into fully rounded individuals with
specific and unique characteristics, although they do retain some characteristics from the
original tale. For example, the third pig who built his house out of bricks continues to be
the wisest pig of the three even outside of the pre-text. In the margin they are given
choices, not scripted lines, yet these choices come after the developmental preparation of
Once outside the original panels of the first narrative, the three pigs navigate the
marginal space of the second narrative, learning to interact with their new surroundings.
Accustomed to a rigid, rectangular panel guarding the confines of their existence, the pigs
first advance through a tremendous void of white space, clearing the Hield of action from
color and form. When speaking of the extensive white space in his text, Wiesner says,
"but in the context of the story, that emptiness creates as much of a sense of place as does
an elaborately detailed illustration." (395). The white space is a distinct place--the
margin of the first narrative and the setting for the second. It may be absent of any drawn
setting, but it is a means to interact the pre-text with other narratives not their own. After
flying around in the margin, they traverse through two independent narratives: a
borderless nursery rhyme and a multi-paneled fantasy. They conclude back in the
standard rectangular panel of the first narrative. Each additional narrative escalates the
pigs' experience and agency. The marginal second narrative transports the pigs between
other narratives, but the original pre-text narrative constructs the organizational structure
that unites each different story, connecting it to the next narrative.
After the airplane ride in the second narrative, the pigs' first encounter with another
story happens gradually over three spreads, slowly introducing them back to storybook
characters, set panels, and scripted narratives. After their plane crash, the wisest pig
notices a green tint at the top of the right hand page. He is the only one who notices and
informs his two brothers, "hey!i Over here!" (19). The wisest brother and the second
wisest brother slowly stretch the independent, third narrative down into their space until
the full page constitutes a new story completely removed from "The Three Little Pigs."
Yet this story is a return back to the basics of reading through a baby's nursery rhyme.
"Hey Diddle Diddle's" illustrations are elementary with pastel colors and little detail into
which the pigs integrate, matching the color palette and style of the nursery rhyme
Additionally, the nursery rhyme's panel is oval and fluid, bleeding into the white
space instead of having a rigid border. The shape and lack of a border ease the pigs into
their first attempt to invade another story. While they are able to enter the story, they
neither talk to the characters nor directly influence any character. Moreover, the
illustration continues to faithfully represent the text. The cat with the fiddle daintily steps
out of the panel after her part in the rhyme finishes (23). Yet, the pigs do not have a
direct influence on the third narrative: the cat' s curiosity prompts her to follow their lead,
step out of her fiddle solo, and j oin the pigs in the marginal white space (23). Later, as
the pigs gain experience, they gain power over which texts they enter and power to effect
elements within those narratives.
The fourth and final narrative they encounter depicts a black and white chivalric
fantasy. This tale has neither the rigid border of the fairy tale, nor the fluid border of the
nursery rhyme. As the middle stage, this medieval text has panels within panels that
create a buffer zone for ease of entry. The multiple panels create a second layer of gutter
space for the pigs to navigate and familiarize themselves with before delving into the
actually text (26). And the pigs do just that. In a smaller, less prominent panel, we can
see all three pigs riding on the dragons back drawn in the same pen and ink crisp style in
which the dragon is drawn.
Additionally, the pigs directly influence the dragon to leave his panel. The
situation of the fantasy text allows the pigs to actualize power in aid of the dragon
because he is in the same situation of danger as the pigs were in with the wolf. The pigs
actively rescue the dragon from being slain by the prince, physically pushing him out of
the frame. While the pigs indirectly influence the cat who willingly joins them, they
forcibly alter the dragon's fate. But because the dragon has the help and experience of
the pigs, he does not have to escape in stages, first through his own story gutter and then
into the larger marginal white space. Instead, he leaves directly into the greater margin,
curling his talons over his story's gutter, but never breaking the dimensional space of the
gutter to enter his second narrative (27).
Once in the marginal second narrative, although the dragon and the cat stylistically
take on the attributes of realism in their drawing, their speech remains that of their tale.
This discontinuity creates a dissonance between text and illustration. The cat sings the
chorus, "hey diddle diddle!" and the dragon eloquently thanks the pigs, "many thanks for
rescuing me, O brave and noble swine" (Wiesner 29). The cat and dragon are not
transgressing prescribed roles because they are not exploring their new identity in the
second narrative yet. Also, both bring props from their original narratives with them as
narrative links: the fiddle and the rose, which they carry till the end of the picture book.
They not only bring these props along with them, but also actively use them in the final
panel once the characters are settled into the pig's brick house: the cat plays her fiddle
and the dragon displays his golden rose as the table's, and the whole panel's, centerpiece.
Their inability to leave behind their old narratives has possible consequences that may
leave the entourage in shambles, but before this Einal panel, the characters attempt to
reconstruct the fairy tale with an ending more suitable to their liking.
Attempting to reestablish the original narrative of "The Three Little Pigs," the
frame spreads back into a full-page panel (Wiesner 36). Here the additional characters
enter the three little pigs' realm, scare the wolf, and scatter the text of the traditional fairy
tale thus merging all narratives into one collective, ur-narrative. By gathering up the
scattered letters, the pigs and company can visually and textually reconstruct not only
their new dwelling, but also the ending to their collective narrative. With dragon and cat
in tow, the pigs reenter their pre-text home. When the pigs enter their original story, it is
in the same panel from which the last pig left. Although the first narrative is
chronologically in the same place (the text has not altered), the illustration of the wolf
within the panel is different. The positions of the wolf within each panel connote
instability, thus reflecting that what has occurred outside the panel--the pigs' exploration
of their surroundings and the exercise of their own voices--has affected the traditional
narrative. Indeed this schism between text and illustration further enforces the concept
that the pictures not only fail to reinforce the text, but also suggest a second narrative that
parallels the original.
The blending of the narratives occurs in the final panels, taking aspects from each
one to create a final unified whole. Even though the pigs resume their storybook
coloration once they are inside the pre-text panel, they retain agency over their destiny
and story by controlling the text of the original story. However, once back in the pre-text
story, none of the animals continue to speak, either through quoted dialogue within the
rewritten text or through the word balloons used while they were in the margin. In fact,
they never speak in any of the paneled stories. To save the dragon, the pig must first
stick his head out of the panel into the margin to regain the power of speech (27).
Without dialogue, the blending of the two narratives culminates with a merger in the last
full-page panel. However, because it is a little pig placing the lettering up, we can
assume, even though there are no quotes or word balloons, that this is his voice--his
In the final panel, the text remains incomplete: "and they all lived happily ever aft
[. .]" (Wiesner 38). The general reader may disregard this incompleteness and
subconsciously fill in the last two letters: "e" and "r," which the pig clutches in his hoof.
So driven by the traditional narrative ending, it may not occur to the reader that instead of
saying "after," the final complete narrative concludes with "aft."
The Oxford English Dictionary defines "aft" as "behind, in the rear" and "of time:
back from the present, earlier." Do the characters only live happily ever after in their
previous, individual narratives? "After" is also defined in the OED through time as "of
time" or "next, following," the opposite definition of "aft". If they were only happy
earlier, then what is the cause of their incomplete happily ever after now in their
combined narrative? Or, does the little pig not have the time or ability to complete the
The answer may be found in the dragon's gaze and countenance. Every other
character in the last panel looks up expectantly at the little pig, but the dragon, while
clutching the soup barrel in his talons, longingly hungers after the pig with a look of
devious desire on his face. This is not the first time that the dragon has looked hungrily
at the pig. When the two first meet in a sub-panel of the chivalric fantasy, the dragon
watches the pig with the same mischievous grin, while the pig contentedly rides on the
dragon's back (Wiesner 26). In his original narrative, the dragon constitutes the villain
who must be eradicated from the land. Why should the dragon lose his villainous
character role just because he steps into the marginal second narrative? None of the other
characters have a drastic personality change, only a period of growth. The dragon still
guards the golden rose even though the knight can not reach it, thus showing evidence
that his old nature remains with him even in the new collective narrative. Within the final
panels, evil has not been totally eliminated from the story as evidenced by the wolf sitting
outside the window. It is quite possible that the dragon may take over the role of the
wolf, not in huffing and puffing (though dragons are known for that with their fire-
breathing ways), but in eating the little pig up.
"Aft" also holds a nautical or aeronautical denotation according to the OED, "of
motion or direction: towards the stem, into the hinder part of the ship" or "of position: in
or near the hinder part or stern of a ship. Also of an aircraft." Note that it is not only a
ship that uses aft, but an aircraft as well. The pig placing the final letters may be
referencing the paper airplane they used previously in the text. One illustration in
particular shows the aft of the airplane as well as the hindquarters and tails of the three
pigs (Wiesner 14). Combing both meanings of "aft" (earlier and in the hinder part of an
aircraft) confirms the exact moment of their happiness--their airplane ride. This is the
moment when they are euphoric from escaping the wolf with their lives intact, and are on
an exciting journey through uncharted marginal space. In the white space they are in a
type of collective unconscious, linking to every narrative. Here they are free travelers
with unlimited access to narratives. We can see an even greater connection with the
enj oyment of the white space and my interpretation of aft because the pig placing the
letters is the same pig that first initiates exploration of the white space (9) and then
exploration into other stories (21). Him initiating this journey shows his enthusiasm,
which later tumns into longing as he reflects back. His longing constitutes the final
merger of the two parallel narratives. However, the pigs return to their pre-text, but not
without nostalgia for the happy days within the margin's white space.
In Sticks and Stones, Zipes concludes that, "it is important to consider the unique
aesthetic modalities that are employed to transform the ideological meanings of the pre-
text, and it is especially significant to consider how illustrations and texts are used to
counter each other in unique ways" (108-109). He also notes, "the most exciting work
that is done in the illustration [. of] picture books involves the use of revised stories
and sophisticated imagery to work against and question the pre-text" (116). Quite
clearly, Wiesner has mingled illustration and text to suggest two differing, though
connected, stories. By allowing the pigs to escape their traditional narrative that occurs
within confining panels, Wiesner empowers the pigs to develop their own voices and
ultimately to write and rewrite their own stories into another narrative. Indeed, it is in
these marginal, gutter narratives that the truly interesting story takes place as the pigs
revise and question their own pre-text in order to "all live happily ever aft[. .]" (3 8).
Illustrator and Caldecott Honor winner Joseph Low explains, "the thing which is
missing from most children's books is the thing which is at its peak in children's own
work: spontaneous invention, emotional intensity, a natural use of the visual language"
(125). Multiple visual narratives bring back these three missing elements, effectively
integrating invention, emotion, and visual language into something both child and adult
readers can enjoy.
Nodelman writes that, "narrative art is always a combination of pattern and
randomness, order and disorder--one might even say, of abstraction and representation,"
(74). One can see pattern and randomness, order and disorder in the multiple narrative
picture books discussed. Leo and Diane Dillon' s Why M~osquitoes Buzz in People 's Ears
displays both split and double narrative techniques in the mid 1970s, to be one of the first
Caldecott winners attempting to experiment visually. David Macaulay, in the early
1990s, creates a quadruple sylleptic picture book that displays temporally displaced
interconnectedness through visual clues and motifs. Black and White begins a small
movement toward experimental multiple narratives. Again, in 2002, the Caldecott
recognized another exceptional multiple narrative, David Wiesner' s The Three Pigs. The
Three Pigs alleviates the seemingly disconnected chaos of Black and White by using a
traditional, well-known fairy tale as its narrative pre-text. These texts, through using
multiple visual narratives, require more advanced analysis from readers than continuous
narrative style and encourage creativity by breaking traditional conventions. Hopefully
this trend of narrative experimentation will continue and more distinguished picture
books will be available for children and adults to read and enj oy.
LIST OF REFERENCES
Aardema, Verna. Why M~osquitoes Buzz in People 's Ears: A West African Tale. New
York: Dial Press, 1975. Illus. by Leo and Diane Dillon.
Bader, Barbara. American Picturebooks fr~om Noah 's Ark to the Beast Within. New
York: Macmillan, 1976.
Brown, Marcia. Once A M~ouse. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1961.
- -..10the~~l: From the French ofBlaise Cendrars. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons,
Eisner, Will. Comics andSequentialArt. Tamarac, FL: Poorhouse Press, 1985, 2001.
- -. Graphic Storytelling & Visual Narrative. Tamarac, FL: Poorhouse Press, 1996,
Goldsmith, Evelyn. Research Into Illustration: An Approach and A Review. Cambrid ge:
Cambridge UP, 1984.
Lacy, Lyn Ellen. Art and Design in Children 's Picture Books: An Analysis of Caldecott
Award-Winning Illustrations. Chicago: American Library Association, 1986.
Low, Joseph. "Picture Books." The Illustrator 's Notebook. Ed. Lee Kingman. Boston:
The Horn Book, Incorporated, 1978.
Lukens, Rebecca J. A Critical Handbook of Children 's Literature. Boston: Allyn and
Macaulay, David. Black and White. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co, 1990.
- -. "Caldecott Medal Acceptance." Horn Book Magazine. 67:4 (Jul/Aug 1991): 410-
McClelland, Kate. "2002 Medal Winner." Association for Library Service to Children.
American Library Association. Last accessed March 15, 2003.
Mitchell, W.J.T. Picture Theory. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1994.
Mosel, Alene. The Funny Little Woman. New York: E.P. Dutton, 1972. Illus. Blair
Nikolajeva, Maria and Carole Scott. How Picturebooks Work. New York: Garland
Nodelman, Perry. Words About Pictures: The Narrative Art of Children 's Picture Books.
Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1988.
Schwarcz, Joseph H. Ways of the Illustrator: Visual Conanunication in Children 's
Literature. Chicago: American Library Association, 1982.
Scieszka, Jon. The Stinky Cheese Man and other Fairly Stupid Tales. New York:
Viking, 1992. Illus. Lane Smith.
Smith, Barbara Hernstein. "Narrative Versions, Narrative Theories." On Narrative. Ed
W.J.T. Mitchell. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1980.
Smith, Irene. A History of the Newbery and Caldecott M~edals.. New York: Viking
"Terms and Criteria." Association for Library Service to Children. American Library
Association. Last accessed March 15, 2004.
Wiesner, David. "Caldecott Medal Acceptance." Horn Book Magazine. 78:4 (2002):
- -. "Forward." Wordless Almost Wordless Picture Books: A Guide. Ed. Virginia H.
Richey and Katharyn E. Puckett. Englewood, CO: Libraries Unlimited, 1992.
- -. The Three Pigs. New York: Clarion Books, 2001.
Zipes, Jack. Sticks and Stones. Routledge: New York, 2002.
Cathlena Anna Martin' s journey to graduate school in English began before she
could read. Her mother would sit and "rock, rock, read" for hours in the rocking chair,
thus instilling a natural love for books. Cathlena's strong reading education continued
through high school at Briarwood Christian High School where her English teachers
pushed her to excel. She went on to receive two bachelor' s degrees, one a Bachelor of
Arts in English and the other a Bachelor of Science in Education, from Samford
University in Birmingham, AL. Again, strong English professors mentored her to
continue schooling in English.
Cathlena' a area of interest is children' s literature, particularly visual narratives,
fairy tales, and retellings. Once this thesis is submitted, Cathlena will take part of the
summer off to go home to spend time with her parents, and then begin her Ph.D. studies
at the University of Florida.