The ecology of the picturebook
The application of the concept of ecology to disciplines and fields of enquiry other than the life sciences is thus not without precedent, but in what ways might the concept of ecology help us in our understanding of picturebooks? The major gain is in flexibility and complexity. In claiming that picturebooks possess an internal ecology we are not claiming the exact same relationship of word and image for each and every picturebook. People and koala bears both need sustaining environments and could be said to occupy ecological niches, but human beings are so constructed that the range of environments in which they can thrive is enormous. There is scarcely a corner of the globe that they have not colonized, whereas koalas need specific trees in specific places to stay alive. Similarly, some pictures and words in picturebooks seem to be tightly bound together so that not much could be changed on either side without the narrative being dislocated or fractured in some way. In other books, the relationship is looser and freer.