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Black and White

Page history last edited by Todd Ide 10 years, 6 months ago

Plot Summary

    Black and White is a children’s picture book written and illustrated by David Macaulay, published in 1990 by Houghton Mifflin Co. Though it has some aspects of dreamlike imagination, this book can be categorized as Contemporary Realistic Fiction because it presents its characters as real and subtly unmasks and resolves issues that actually exist. Black and White is filled with literary elements that make the reader, though the target audience is young children, look deeper into the story. 

      The plot is different than most books as it contains four separate episodes that eventually culminate into one overall story with a congregate message. There is a boy on a train that is delayed because cows have covered the tracks, people waiting for the delayed train at the station, a teenage girl and her younger brother dealing with negligent parents and a burglar that releases the cows. Each story represents the point of view of a character from the overall story and is written in the voice of that particular character, culminating in a resolution affecting all the characters. The overall setting is the living room of a family, yet Macaulay paints separate places for each character: a boy on a train, the train station etc. Slowly, each set oozes together to form one frame and one collective setting.

       The negligent parents have a crazy time waiting for the train that allows them to come home happy and laughing for their children. This presents the overall theme of chain reaction. One event affects another. Another important theme is oppositions. The book is called Black and White, alluding overtly to the color of the cows/family dog and covertly to the idea of polar oppositions in people and the ways in which we all act differently based on things that happen throughout our day. Another theme is imagination as an escape. The boy neglected by the parents makes up a story about a boy stuck on a train because cows have covered the tracks. This particular story is drawn in a dreamy blur, alluding to the idea that it is in his imagination. He uses this story to help cope with the torturously routine days with his parents.


Textual Elements

     The text itself reads as four separate stories, each with its own voice. At the end he blends the voices to create one semi ambiguous ending, letting the reader fill in the holes. The art does the same thing, relying on the reader to come up with the actual relevance.


Artistic Elements 

     Artistically, the book is brilliant. Macaulay mixes realistic drawings of people and their expressions with cartoonish creativity for the cows/family dog to represent both at the same time. His utilization of positive space is innovative as he uses the whole canvas to create characters and leaves the negative space open to interpretation by the reader. In each story/point of view of each character, he uses colors that represent the mood of the corresponding character, carefully choosing when to add in black and white to signify both the cows/family dog and when there is oppositional conflict.


Analysis and Critique

     The book as a whole critiques the isolation of peoples’ children over time and the bipolar nature of busy contemporary society, proving at the end that even if parents are tired or busy, they always retreat to normalcy, in some way or another. Though it is considered a children’s book, the covert critique of oppositional conflict and socialization makes it a little less appropriate for kids. However, the vibrant colors and subtly comical tone will allow children to enjoy it regardless of any hidden agendas.




Picture Book Citation

Last Name, First Name. Book Title. Illus. Illustrator First and Last Name. City of Publication: Publisher, Year of Publication.

One Author (No Illustrator)

Last Name, First Name. Book Title. City of Publication: Publisher, Year of Publication.


Two or More Authors: 1)  List the names in the order they appear on the title page. 2) Only the first author's name should be reversed: Last Name, First Name. 3) Use a comma between the           authors' names. Place a period after the last author's name.

Last Name, First Name and 2nd Author First Name Last Name. Book Title. City of Publication: Publisher, Year of Publication.



Will need to look up format for the type of source used.





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