Bang, Molly. Picture This: How Pictures Work, Revised and Expanded 25th Anniversary Edition. Chronicle, 1991/2016. 134p. $28.99, 978-1-4521-3515-1.
Ever wonder why something in an illustration makes you feel tense or calm? That and similar questions are answered in this 25th anniversary revised edition of Bang’s Picture This: Perception and Composition (Bullfinch, 1991). I had the original edition and compared it to this new version and was greatly pleased to find this new presentation so effective.
Using paper cutouts in black, light purple, white, and red, Bang demonstrates many concepts relating to the composition of pictures, especially the twelve principles she spells out. These include the principal that flat horizontal shapes give us a sense of calm, while vertical shapes are exciting. Diagonals imply tension, and light backgrounds feel safe while dark backgrounds motivate fear. Each principal is paired to at least one illustration depicting the concept.
This new edition is larger in size but about the same number of pages, and it includes a new section “From Intent to Execution,” using examples from her own picture books. Using several illustrations from her Caldecott Honor book When Sophie Gets Angry – Really, Really Angry (Blue Sky Press, 1999), Bang describes elements of each picture used to elicit an emotion. For example, to create Sophie’s feeling of fury, the artwork contains a great deal of red, and Sophie’s shadow is much larger than she is to depict her heightened emotions.
Although this book doesn’t cover art media or styles, it is a key resource for librarians who review picture books. The majority of the text is the same as the original but the new information and the improved book design make it a much more effective manual on how our visual perception and emotional reaction to pictures rely on these design principles. Highly recommended for staff development.
Penny Peck, SJSU iSchool