One of Australian illustrator Sally Rippin‘s recent children’s books (published in 2005 in Australia, 2007 in the U.S.) opens upwards rather than outwards. I asked Sally how she and author Whitney Stewart decided on the format for Becoming Buddha. Here’s her reply:
“Whitney suggested working together on a picture book, and I approached my publisher at the time with her ideas. They agreed to publish our book, and it was then left up to me to illustrate Whitney’s text. I decided to have Becoming Buddha open so the illustration reads vertically on the double page to represent an ancient manuscript, or a thangka. From what I know about Buddhism, I believe opening the book in this way makes you more conscious of your actions. Fortunately, the publisher agreed to this format.
“Painting the face of Siddhartha was quite challenging, because I knew there were certain rules about how the Buddha could be represented in art, and I also wanted to make the paintings my own representations of Siddhartha, the man, before he became enlightened. Again fortunately, Whitney was able to have a representative of the Dalai Lama approve the artwork before it went to press, so that gave me confidence.”
Melbourne poet and blogger Kris Helmsley had some interesting observations about the layout and Buddhism when he introduced Sally and Becoming Buddha at a book launch in June 2007; read his comments here.
Another vertically read book with an equally conscious layout is Caldecott Medal winner Ed Young’s Beyond the Great Mountains. Its cascading-style pages, illustrating Chinese characters and landscapes, also create a special physical awareness for young readers.