The Pause is personally one of my favorite techniques an illustrator could use. Please pause that writing, let the illustrations take over in the silence. Let me as the reader understand, realize the moral of the story the writer and illustrator has worked so hard to bring together.
I’ve written about how A Sick Day for Amos McGee creates the pause in it’s pages. A story about an elderly zoo keeper visits his animal friends at the zoo, but then he becomes sick! So what do the animal friends do? They visit him. The turnaround in the story is shown with four page spreads, two of those pages lacking words and altogether only nine words on the eight pages of content.
A Sick Day for Amos McGee is only one example of the pause. Extra Yarn by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Jon Klassen is another.
Throughout Barnett’s work, the play between color verses black and white sets the concept of adding a little color with creativity into the world where color and creativity may be lacking. Each page spread has text all except the second image above.
To shorten the story, the main character finds this box of never-ending colorful yearn and uses it to change her grey environment. A Duke learns of this never-ending colorful yarn and steals the box. However, when he opens the box for himself, it is empty and he throws it away. The box eventually comes back to our main character and again it is full of the colorful yarn.
The pause here only uses the word “But” and then silence as the reader knows that box is going to end up back where it began, to the creative individual who has never-ending creativity, finding value in the “empty” box. If that pause wasn’t here the ending wouldn’t be nearly as satisfying as it was. Perfect example of show, not tell.
So there are pauses like the two examples above, and then you have a pause like in Dragons Love Tacos by Adam Rubin, illustrated by Daniel Salmieri.
In this entire story, the narrator constantly reminds the reader that while dragons love tacos, never ever EVER give them spicy ones. This pause here is to simply give the reader a comedic, complete and utter visual effect of just why you should never give a dragon a spicy taco.
Even Maurice Sendak used the pause in Where the Wild Things Are.
This pause lasts for three page spreads of Max and the wild things romping around and being…wild. Another example of show not tell until the last image shown above where Max is beginning to miss home.
The moral of the story? There is no place like home. One may wander away from a familiar setting, get lost in day dreams and adventures, however they always return.
I think these four page spreads really dig this theme in deep. The wild fun, the lost in time adventure that Max has becomes stale and his reaction is illustrated in that sitting pose and home sick face.
The last one I want to look at is very different from the four mentioned above. The Dark by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Jon Klassen pauses the illustration, not the text.
Above you have three images that represent pretty much what the entire story looks like. Abstract illustration compositions, lots of space, little text throughout the entire story…except for one page.
Space, space, space and then…BAM! Wall of text, a pause in the illustration and design! What? Who does this? Is this acceptable within the picture book world nowadays to have a a wall of text like this?
This wall of text symbolizes confrontation. The main character is confronting his fear of the emptiness, the darkness. The wall of text is confronting the reading, interrupting that abstract, design based flow. The main character realizes the dark isn’t all that bad and this text makes the reader realize this as well.
I’m still not sure if this text would be appropriate to some readers. Text ultimately should be evenly spaced throughout the book, not forced in on a single page. However, without this pause in illustration, I don’t think the point of not fearing the dark would have come across as well as it did.
So that’s it folks! The pause is a technique that I’ve tried using as well. I may not have it down as masterfully as the creators did mentioned above, but I might make a great pause one day.