Visual Storytelling in Children’s and Young Adult Literature at the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture

Open House Presentation

Paula Connolly, English, UNC Charlotte

Note:  This seminar takes place at the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture.

Visual storytelling for children and young adult audiences comprises an impressively broad range of texts—from picturebooks, pop-up books, and movies to graphic novels and documentary fictions. French illustrator Claude Lapointe has called visual storytelling “image narratives” to acknowledge the ways in which visual images tell stories with or without the accompaniment of words. In this class we will study a range of image narratives related to children and young adults. For example, we will examine elements of picturebooks—how colors, shapes, scale, and event fonts tell a story of their own. Not merely simple texts, picturebooks also often depict difficult issues such as U.S. slavery and violence, and we will explore the role of visual images in presenting such topics to the youngest of our children. Image narratives are an important element of storytelling for young adults as well, and we will discuss how graphic novels and illustrated texts offer sophisticated narratives for older readers. Meeting at the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture, we will be working in a rich visual environment. We will have opportunities to explore the concept of the visual narrative through discussions that dissect the works of art on view in the museum’s current exhibitions. We will also explore artwork created by children, and have the opportunity to create our own visual tales in order to fully consider how image narratives continue to tell important stories.  The semester’s discussions will include Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Deborah Wiles’s Countdown, and Jeanette Winter’s Follow the Drinking Gourd.