...from images to words and back again

The Rabbits

An increasing number of studies show how using picturebooks in the classroom can support visual literacy, literary understanding and art education. Picturebooks are now considered as an effective tool for teaching language and literacy not only in the early years but also in the upper years of primary school (and even secondary) given the sophistication of many postmodern picturebooks which experiment with complex literary and artistic aspects such as intertextuality, metafiction and irony.

The multiple meanings, intertextual allusions and interdependency of word and image are among the features that make 'The Rabbits' a prime example of a postmodern picturebook. The book narrates a fable of colonisation from the perspective of those being colonised. It begins with the arrival of the 'rabbits' and tells the tale of their resulting impact. The book parallels the colonisation of Australia and was named Picture Book of the Year by the Children's Book Council in 1998. The book has been viewed as being controversial due to its subject matter and has been criticised from a right wing perspective as being politically incorrect. Tan (1999), the illustrator, explains the importance of the issue of colonisation:

'The subject of colonisation has itself also fascinated me for some time, not simply as a political issue, but as an event of utter aesthetic strangeness where two very different worlds collide.'

It is worth noting that Marsden (author) and Tan (illustrator) did not meet while writing the book and that it is this collision between words and illustrations which make this a visually complex book, one that captures the imaginations of young readers.

Featured Books

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Teaching Tools

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Research in Full

View the project reseach in full and download the extended Teaching Pack to compliment our teaching tools and suggestions. You can also discover related academic publication in visual literacy and intercultural responses.

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