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14:14 PB ELEMENT Blog Review: CHARACTER – Looking at Insect Detective by Steve Voake

February 26, 2014

InsectDetectiveCover(My post #13 of the 14:14 Picture Book Review Blog challenge conducted by Christie Wild, February 14-28, 2014.)

Title: Insect Detective
Author: Steve Voake
Illustrator: Charlotte Voake
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Year: 2010
Words: 1,092

I must admit, I am struggling to determine which picture book element I need to focus on in this selection.  I was looking for something with enough dialogue to examine, and almost wanted to tag Voake’s approach in this book as voice, which is a sub-element of dialogue.  But in reviewing Christie’s Wild’s series of posts on picture book elements, it seems more likely that what I am really trying to define here is character.

A sub-element of character, (point-of-view) in Insect Detective serves an important purpose in this book about discovery and learning:  Because the point-of-view is in second person, it makes the reader the main character. Here’s the opening text (emphasis added):

“Right now, all around you,
thousands of insects are doing strange
and wonderful things.
But you can’t always
see them right away.

Sometimes you have to know
where to look.”

I’ve never thought of using second-person POV in non-fiction, but now I’m suspicious that I have used it—I just wasn’t conscious of it. And throughout the text, there are ‘commands’ (imperatives) for the reader to do:

Listen…over by the fence…”
“First find an ant…then follow it.”
Look at the crinkly brown leaf.”
Lift up a stone…”

So, I’m suspicious that the element I’m seeking to emphasize here, the one that makes this book fun and personal and almost ‘instructive’ to me, is character, based on the second-person sub-element point-of-view.

BUT there also seems to be a dialogue going on. At one point the story reads “…and once I found a baby frog!” The story speaks, and the reader is not just a reader, he/she is a ‘listener.’  If the reader responds, imagines, or ‘participates’ (such as counting insect legs) is it dialogue?  Technically, it probably isn’t.  Is it just narrative?  Perhaps, but it seems to be more than just ‘telling.’

What do you think?  Is character, especially the sub-element point-of-view, a valid and maybe valuable way to approach non-fiction picture books?  Have you ever used second-person point-of-view in your stories?  What effect did it have?

2 Comments leave one →
  1. ceciliaaclark permalink
    February 27, 2014 3:18 am

    I have enjoyed your posts so much and every time I come away thinking. I love thinking. It is my favourite thing to do and you always give me fabulous stimulus for thinking. Thank you so much for being a participant in this challenge. I am so glad I joined in and had the honour of reading your posts.

  2. February 27, 2014 5:39 am

    What a great post. I have to admit, I’ve never been a big fan of second-person books (too choose-your-own-adventurish, I think), but in this instance I think it really works. What a great device to pull readers into NF. Thanks for pointing it out.

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