Whose Point of View?
Town is by the Sea has an unusual narrative point of view. The text is written in the first person from the point of view of the young boy. It is his thoughts that we are privileged to share.
The illustrations, however, present a more objective point of view, using a variety of angles and different scale (distance and close up) to draw us close to the action or position us as distant observers. Furthermore, on a single spread, the text and images may offer differing points of view. For example, in the spreads showing the father in the mine, it is the boy’s voice that speaks, but the scene is one that he can only imagine not witness.
The lesson about narrative and visual point of view could take place over two or three sessions.
- Copies of Town is by the Sea, at least one between two.
- Flip chart or interactive whiteboard for recording the children’s ideas.
If the concept of a point of view is new to the children, explain that it can mean two things concerning picturebooks.
First of all, it is the position of the narrator in the story. We are going to look at that point of view first.
Secondly, we use point of view to mean the position from which we are looking at the pictures (through the eyes of a character or as if we are an audience watching a play).
We are going to be looking at the point of view of the narrator.
Textual point of view
Read from the spread where the Mother and father are in the kitchen as the father sets out for work. The text reads ‘From my house I can see the sea’.
- Who is speaking? Who is the narrator?
- Is the person speaking these words in the picture? (If you taught the Think Aloud lesson, you will already have determined that it is the boy speaking and that he is not visible on this page.)
- Can you see the person who is speaking? (To answer this question you need to read on to the page ‘When I wake up…. )
Look back to the kitchen spread, and ask:
- So where is the boy when his father leaves for work?
Make explicit the point that although the words on the page are written in the boy’s voice. The pictures show us things that he cannot see.
Working in pairs, ask the children to look through the book up to the page, ‘A big pile of carrots’.
- Can you find any other pages where we hear the boy’s voice, but the picture shows something that he cannot see? (The should be able to identify the spreads with the miners working underground.)
Changing the narrator’s point of view
- How would the text be written if it was from the point of view of one of the other characters? The Mother, the father, or even the cat?
Choose one, for example, the Mother, and ask:
- ‘What thoughts do you think the Mother has first thing in the morning?
Record the children’s suggestions
- What do you think she is thinking about once the boy has gone out to play with his friends?
Record their ideas and so on until you get to the end of the day.
Review their ideas and make the point that a story written from the Mother’s point of view would include different things to the boy’s thoughts.
Teacher’s Note: You may want to extend this into writing.
Visual point of view
The second use of point of view is the position from which we view the illustration. It could be the same point of view as the narrator of the text, or it could be an entirely different point of view. We have already established that the narrator’s point of view and the visual point of view are different on some of the pages.
Demonstrate this by getting children to observe something in the classroom from different points of view. Try looking at something lying down looking up (worm’s eye view)
or from above looking down (bird’s eye view).
Sometimes you see things close up
Head and Shoulders
Ask the children to turn to the page with the father waving to his colleague on the way to work.
- Where are we looking from? (at grass level, close to the father)
Now turn to look at the spread of the boy in the graveyard.
- From where are we looking at his scene? (High above the graveyard at some distance as the boy is tiny.)
- How do you feel about the boy looking at this picture? (They may say that the looks small and perhaps vulnerable.)
Next look at the image of the family on the balcony watching the setting sun,
- From where are we looking at this scene? (They may suggest that it is close up, you feel part of the family.)
Choose one of the pictures in the book and draw it from a different point of view. For example
- a close up of the boy in the graveyard,
- a view of looking towards the boy looking out to sea, from the sea
- the father’s view of working at the coal face
- the boy’s view talking to his dad at the dinner table.
- How does changing the point of view change the story?
- What is the most interesting thing that you have learnt about point of view today?