chapter  6
Postmodernism and the picturebook
Pages 15

Introduction Although young readers of picturebooks might be said to be relatively unsophisticated and unworldly, the same could hardly be said of their writers and illustrators. Those who write, illustrate, design and publish picturebooks live and have their being in the complex contemporary world that we all share; it has been suggested that the makers of picturebooks like The Jolly Bostman, On the Way Home, The Mysteries of Harris Burdick and Bear Hunt are doing no more than responding to the tenor of the times and either consciously or unconsciously importing the approaches, techniques and sensibilities of postmodernism into their work.1 This shift from playfulness to postmodernism is important for a number of reasons. It not only introduces a technical vocabulary into the discussion but explicitly connects picturebooks with larger social and cultural developments. However, despite the fact that the influence of postmodernism on the picturebook is a phenomenon that has been observed and commented upon a number of times in recent years, I believe it remains poorly understood. The terms postmodern and postmodernism have been appearing with some frequency in academic works devoted to children's books but such works rarely offer much by way of illumination for the reader unfamiliar with the relevant literature. In what follows, therefore, I describe some of postmodernity's defining features and provide some examples of how these features have influenced writing for adults before returning us to the children's picturebook with an account of the ways in which some picturebooks might be considered to qualify as postmodern.