This week Tricia Scott ponders on how the reader construes the appearance of the character - words, imagery, film characterisation and even the role of the plush toy.
A well-written novel for any age group will enable readers to visualise the appearance of charactersand develop empathy for their adventures, struggles and relationships. Supporting illustrations may assist in character visualisation, however, they themselves are the illustrator’s own interpretation of what a character looks like based on the text. Books transformed into other mediums provide yet another interpretation of how characters look and this in itself can be controversial, as recently reported by the ABC News, in relation to the casting of Noma Dumezweni for the role of Hermione Granger for an upcoming production based on the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling.
Picture books, of course, more clearly provide a specific interpretation of a character’s appearance and many popular children’s books are now sold with a supporting plush toy for children to hug and play with to create further adventures.In my own bag of tricks to use in sharing literature with very young children I have a number of book inspired toys. Favourites include: the green sheep from Mem Fox’s Where is the Green Sheep?, Pig from Pig the Pug by Aaron Blabey, and the very Australian Grug by Ted Prior. The proliferation of marketing and merchandise in relation to books often does affect how a character is perceived, however, ultimately a reader’s imagination brings characters to life.
Teacher Librarian and 2016 CBCA Book of the Year Judge (Tasmania)