In Julia Denos and E.B. Goodale’s “Windows,” there is a spread that takes up both large, horizontal pages. It contains a deep, nighttime blue that fills four houses, as well as beautiful oranges and reds which lie above the houses, filling the sky with vibrant colors. A child with a red jacket is walking across a sidewalk, past the houses, while his dog walks in front of him. In the windows, there are individuals living and being, which mirrors the text on the upper right of the page: “Some windows will have dinner, or TV.” In this vibrant spread, the author and illustrator of “Windows” shine as they make several artistic choices that affect the theme of the book. Goodale uses complementary colors that contrast each other, saturation in different colors, heavy horizontal space, and varying thicknesses of lines to create a comfortable and safe layout that conveys important facets of life to children living in urban Boston. The creation of security in the book allows children to see a comfortable urban space. The placement of a child of color in this story and setting (wearing a hooded jacket, especially) may highlight tension in view of real-life events, but Goodale and Denos collaborate to create an atmosphere that negates that tension. By using these artistic techniques, they create a safe space in the sometimes-scary city of Boston for children to read and love.
Goodale uses a combination of warm and cool colors in this spread, which evokes a variety of comfortable emotions. The apartment windows are filled with reds and yellows, which, according to Hintz and Tribunella, evokes calm, warm feelings. In this case, it creates the energy of being in a cozy place filled with people. The sunset mirrors these colors, which adds to that evening mood. In addition, Goodale adds the opposite end of the color spectrum to create an intermixture of vibrant colors. The buildings and sidewalk are a nighttime blue, which helps demonstrate the shadows present in the lighting. Hintz and Tribunella note that these cool colors add a sense of peace and tranquility, which is what Goodale was trying to create. Therefore, Denos and Goodale convey that the surrounding area is safe: the indoors and the sky are filled with excitement, while the buildings and shadows are calm.
The saturation of the colors is also important to the underlying theme of safety. Hintz and Tribunella offer that less saturated colors seem restful, and highly saturated colors add intensity to the image. In this case, the buildings are less saturated, which makes them seem relaxed. The sky and windows are highly saturated, which makes them seem animated.
Hintz and Tribunella assert that horizontal shapes make the readers feel more stable and calm. The layout of the spread is very horizontal. For example, the sidewalk is parallel and large on the page. The houses that rest in front of the sidewalk are short, which is more comforting than having towering buildings. The physical arrangement of the page is made up of flat horizontal shapes, which adds to the cohesive feeling of security throughout the book.
Goodale also uses a variety of line thickness. Hintz and Tribunella describe fine lines as being more delicate, where bold lines create a more cartoonish effect. In the context of the spread, the buildings and surroundings are outlined with very thin lines, while the sunset and colors use thick lines. This does two things: it creates a more expressive, striking sky where the colors pop, and it also makes more intricate lines that construct details which add complexity to the spread. This is important because it not only creates an accurate depiction of Boston, it creates a fun atmosphere that will help young readers see the fun side of the city, rather than the boring, unpleasant side.
Although most parents may not appreciate the underlying meanings in children’s books and why they might be important, I believe it is an important part of exploring the messages that we give to children today. The message that Denos and Goodale are creating here is that children of color should feel comfortable and safe walking down the street at night in an urban area. The artistic decisions they made cause the street that the child is walking on seem safe, open, and comfortable to them. Unfortunately, in today’s day and age it is unsafe for a child of color in hooded clothing to walk down the street in an urban neighborhood. However, by placing a child of color here and making it safe for them using these artistic choices, they are both symbolizing a world where this issue of violence does not have to exist and telling children in the future that their lives don’t have to be so guarded and careful in this way.
Denos, Julia, and E.D. Goodale. Windows. Candlewick, 2017.
Hintz, Carrie, and Eric L. Tribunella. Reading Children’s Literature: A Critical Introduction. Boston, Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2013.