vol. 25 no. 4, December, 2020

Book Reviews

Hope, Jake. Seeing sense: Visual literacy as a tool for libraries, learning and reader development. Facet Publishing, 2020. xx, 195 pp. ISBN 978-1-783-304-417. £39.95.

The book Seeing sense has attracted my attention by a very sensitive and artistic cover. It is one of the features that buyers consider when making a decision about which book to buy, but in this case, it is a very relevant element as the author is introducing a concept of visual literacy and emphasizes the role of images and illustrations mainly in children's books. The author Jake Hope is an expert in children's literature, has worked with children in libraries and has been assessing children's books for several British and international awards.

The presented book pulls together the vast experience of the author in all areas of his interest focusing on the visual components of children's books but also on visual competencies... enabl[ing]... to discriminate and interpret the visible actions, objects, symbols... encounter[ed] in the environment (p. 4). Though this description is much wider and may also include recognition of written language, the main focus of the author is directed towards illustrations in the books and their role in acquiring literacy in its traditional sense. This is a very sensible limitation to otherwise an overwhelming topic.

The book consists of eight chapters, which introduce a number of interesting topics. The introduction (the first chapter) presents the concept visual literacy, which is put into the context in the second chapter dealing with the concepts used for assessing of illustrations in the books. This chapter suggest a very practical approach to the topic with rather technical terminology used by producers of picture books of all kinds. The third chapter returns to educational aspects connecting picture books to the stages of reading and literacy acquisition. Chapter four focuses on the actors and processes of visual narratives production, though it still deals with different genres of picture books. The fifth chapter is a very important one, as it approaches the content of illustrations from the perspectives of inclusion, and I was especially interested in the topic of inclusion of children with visual impairments including colour blindness. The author presents interesting exemples of representing visuality for these readers. The sixth chapter is devoted to the awards of children's literature. From my point of view it was least interesting. The author has presented a wide range of awards, which may be useful for publishers looking for potential marketing channels of their books, but it is a rather descriptive text and I do not see how it can be used for enhancing visual literacy. Chapter seven again returns to learning and explores the informational and educational potential of illustrations. The final chapter eight develops this topic further by presenting the possibilities and concrete cases of creating attractive and stimulating environments in libraries, bookstores and elswhere, where visual learning opportunities could be exploited effectively. As this chapter is closely connected to library spaces and services, I have found it the most interesting and useful for me.

One needs to note that the foreword to this book is written by a noted children's writer Philip Pullman and the afterword by a British children's book illustrator Nick Sharratt. In addition, the author uses numerous exerpts from his interviews with or other texts produced by publishers, illustrators, writers, librarians and other people. It seems that the author has intended to use these inclusions to illustrate or strengthen his voice, but in places these texts take more place and become more important than the text by the author. This is not the case with the photographs, which clearly enhance the narrative and provide good examples for the cases introduced in the book.

In general, the book follows two main aspects of the illustrated children's books: the process of professional production and their educational potential. As there are several topics that the author pursues in each of them, the coherence of the whole narrative is lost in places and the text seems to be fragmented into loose bits without proper integration. The text is also mainly oriented to English language book production, though several other perspectives and experiences are included via presentation of international book awards and interesting cases of reading environments or illustrated narratives.

The audience for this books will include first of all those who are interested in the production and usage of illustrated children's books: teachers, publishers, and librarians, but parents may also benefit from it when looking for the ways to interest their offsprings in books and reading.

Elena Maceviciute

University of Borås
November, 2020

How to cite this review

Maceviciute, E. (2020). Review of: Hope, Jake. Seeing sense: visual literacy as a tool for libraries, learning and reader development. Facet Publishing, 2020. Information Research, 25(4), review no. R703 [Retrieved from http://www.informationr.net/ir/reviews/revs703.html]

Information Research is published four times a year by the University of Borås, Allégatan 1, 501 90 Borås, Sweden.