Module 3: Black and White

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Book Summary: Run-away cows, out-of-touch parents, a train ride, and origami newspaper hats.  What do they all have in common?  Black and white, of course.  A story in four parts, these individual plot lines and illustrations seem to be completely disconnected, but pay close attention to the details.  They have more in common than you might first appear. 

APA Reference of Book:

Macaulay, D. (1990).  Black and white. Boston, MA:  Houghton Mifflin Co.

The illustrations tell the story. Much like Brian Selznick’s The Invention of Hugo Cabret the text seems to accompany the pictures rather than the illustrations merely decorating the text.  The key to finding the connection between all four plotlines lies in the title itself.  With strategically placed clues, a black mask, a curious squirrel, a newspaper hidden in a bag, David Macauley illustrates four comedic stories about imagination and exploration.  Each storyline utilizes a unique style to set it apart and contribute to its tone.  When combined, the result is a fast-paced, tightly-woven narrative. 

Professional Review:

“This picture book toys with the reader just as it experiments with the concept of time, simultaneity of events, and the question of one story impinging on another. The author-artist has created an addictive puzzler which can, like a Nintendo game, draw a susceptible audience into an endless exploration of the book’s many possibilities. The story β€” or stories, depending upon one’s perspective β€” comprises four sequences, each consistently placed in a particular quadrant of successive double-page spreads. Each is executed in a distinctive style β€” ranging from the impressionist quality of “Seeing Things” through the more precisely limned “Problem Parents” and “A Waiting Game” to the dissolving figure-ground images of “Udder Chaos.” In the first, a boy observes the changing landscape from the window of a train; in “Problem Parents” two children are amazed by the antics of their usually staid mother and father after commuting from a long day at work; “A Waiting Game” records the endless boredom of standing on a train platform while listening to accounts of unexplained delays; “Udder Chaos” proves that Holstein cows, once released from pasture, are difficult to locate, which may be useful information if you’re an escaped con yes, the masked escapee from Why the Chicken Crossed the Road (Houghton) makes an appearance. One solution proposes that all the episodes are connected through the train motif; on the other hand, the author-artist states on the title page that “this book appears to contain a number of stories that do not necessarily occur at the same time.” Perhaps there is no one explanation but rather a series of playful allusions and clever delusions which are meant to be enjoyed by the freewheeling and freespirited as an escape from the ordinary.”

Burns, M. M. (1990). Black and white [Review of the book Black and white]. Horn Book Magazine66(5), 593-594.

Library Uses:
This text lends itself very well to lessons on predictions and inferences.  Students can view the first page, and stop to make predictions based on the inferences they draw for each of the four story titles, “Seeing Things,” “A Waiting Game,” “Problem Parents,” and “Udder Chaos.”  Following a brief discussion of using clues to “read between the lines” of the text, they can stop to periodically check their initial predictions and modify them based on new clues they find in the text.

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