Quentin Blake, one of the most beloved illustrators of all time, was one of the speakers at this year’s Hay Festival, speaking on the importance of visual and verbal storytelling. And, thanks to event sponsors The Telegraph, you can read the whole transcript of his festival lecture by following this link right here.
It’s filled with interesting thoughts, but of special note is a section where he addresses those who try to argue down the value of illustrations and cartoons in telling stories. And especially, the importance of visual storytelling in providing children with an invaluable bridge across into the world of fiction. He advises said critics of the following story:
Tom spends a lot of time fooling around on planks, and ladders, and bridges, and barrels in alleys and his aunt decides that fooling around looks too much like playing. So she sends for Captain Najork and his Hired Sportsmen, and Tom has to play them at Womble, Muck and Sneedball. Needless to say his fooling around has given him real skills, and he wins them all.
Which, aside from making one want to pick up a copy of the story in question – How Tom Beat Captain Najork and his Hired Sportsmen, by Russell Hoban – also offers a succinct look at how very silly things can help inform very serious education. The speech also pulls up another wonderful quote, from the poet Michael Rosen:
When I read this book to my small son, I am reading one story and he is reading another.
Comics inherently feature two modes of storytelling – to what extent does one live beyond the other? And to what extent are current comics making the most of the visual and verbal aspects of the medium?