MOWMT Day #20: Helen H. Wu Foreshadows...
Foreshadowing in Problem-and-Solutions Picture Book Structure
by Helen H. Wu
Picture books are often thought of as simple stories for children, but they can be much more than that. The classic problem-and-solutions structure, in particular, is a popular framework for picture books that teaches children valuable lessons about problem-solving and critical thinking. One important tool that authors can use in this structure is foreshadowing, which can add depth and complexity to the story and engage young readers in a meaningful way.
Foreshadowing is a literary device that hints at future events in the story before they happen. In picture books, this can be done through words, illustrations, or both. By giving readers a glimpse of what's to come, authors can build suspense and create a sense of anticipation that keeps readers engaged and interested in the story.
In the classic problem-and-solutions structure, foreshadowing can be particularly effective. This structure typically involves a character facing a problem or challenge, trying various solutions that don't work, and eventually finding a solution that does. Foreshadowing can be used to hint at the eventual solution or to show the reader what the character needs to learn in order to solve the problem.
For example, in "Opal’s Springtime Birdhouse," by Emily Matheis, illustrated by Albert Arrayás, the author uses foreshadowing to hint at the eventual solution to Opal’s problem of building a birdhouse that is simple and sturdy that can be practical for real birds. “Opal wonders if shiny roofs, neon puff balls, and ringing bells make the best birdhouses.” “I was sure my house was right for a bird...But it wasn’t fun or creative, so I lost.” These lines are a clear foreshadowing of the eventual solution to the problem, and it gives readers a sense of what's to come.
In "After the Fall" by Dan Santat, foreshadowing is also used to create suspense and hint atthe eventual resolution of the story. Throughout the book, Santat includes illustrations that foreshadow the eventual solution to Humpty's fear - a scene where he is flying high above the city with the help of a paper airplane. This scene is hinted at earlier in the book, through a series of illustrations that show Humpty building and testing paper airplanes. By using foreshadowing in this way, Santat creates a sense of anticipation and excitement for readers, while also showing them that sometimes the solution to a problem is something unexpected and outside of our comfort zone.
Foreshadowing can also be used to show the reader what the character needs to learn in order to solve the problem. In "Long Goes to Dragon School," by Helen H. Wu, illustrated by Mae Besom, for example, the author uses foreshadowing to hint at the eventual transformation of Long the Chinese dragon’s water-breathing into steam-breathing. Every time Long huffs and puffs and practices, the water he breathes out becomes warmer and warmer. This foreshadows the transformation that's to come and also shows the reader that the dragon needs to keep practice to discover his new talents.
Foreshadowing can also be used to add depth and complexity to the story, making it more interesting and engaging for readers of all ages. In "The Most Magnificent Thing" Ashley Spires includes illustrations that foreshadow the eventual solution to the problem - a scene where the girl's dog fetches a stick that inspires her to complete her invention. Earlier in the book, the girl is seen throwing the stick for her dog, and in one illustration, she is seen staring at it intently. This foreshadows the importance of the stick in the story and shows the reader that sometimes, inspiration can come from unexpected places. By using foreshadowing in this way, Spires creates a sense ofnticipation and excitement for readers, while also showing them the value of perseverance and creative problem-solving.
In conclusion, foreshadowing is a powerful tool that can be used to add depth and complexity to picture books, especially those that follow the classic problem-and-solutions structure. By hinting at future events, showing the reader what the character needs to learn, and adding depth to the story, foreshadowing can engage young readers and teach them valuable lessons about problem-solving, critical thinking, and emotional intelligence.
PRIZE: Two dragon enamel pins of the winner’s choice! To win this prize, please share your favorite type of dragon or why you love dragons in the comments.
BIO: Helen H. Wu is a children’s book author and illustrator, as well as a translator and publisher. She is the author of Tofu Takes Time, illustrated by Julie Jarema (Beaming Books, 2022) and Long Goes To Dragon School, illustrated by Mae Besom (Yeehoo Press, 2023). Helen is the Publisher of Yeehoo Press, an independent children’s book publisher based in San Diego, California. Being fascinated by the differences and similarities between cultures, Helen loves to share stories that empower children to understand the world and our connections. Born and raised in Hefei, China, Helen moved to the US in her 20s. Currently, she resides in sunny Southern California, with her family and two kids.
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Learn more about Helen at https://helenhwu.com
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