A Sock Is A Pocket For Your Toes by Liz Garton Scanlon and Robin Preiss Glasser Analysis

Interwoven Socks ~ Norman Rockwell

A Sock Is A Pocket For Your Toes (2004) is a picture book by Liz Garton Scanlon and Robin Preiss Glasser, published by HarperCollins.

A cave is a pocket for a bear,
a breath is a pocket full of air.
A hat is a pocket for your hair,
and a seat is a pocket called a chair…

Sock Is a Pocket for Your Toes: A Pocket Book is a whimsical pocket full of bells and balloons, ice cream and mud, giggles and hugs. Elizabeth Garton Scanlon’s delightful verse is captured in Robin Preiss Glasser’s energetic artwork, which follows four families through a busy day exploring the surprising ins and outs of the world’s pockets.

This special book will leave readers young and old with pockets full of joy!

MARKETING COPY

A Sock Is A Pocket For Your Toes is a picture book about all kinds of pockets. It helps readers to see the world in a different way. The author is working with the technique of defamiliarisation, though for young children, the whole word is unfamiliar. This is why young children are so good at this kind of lateral thinking already. Picture books such as this one help to preserve the inherent ability of young children to see the world in unconventional ways.

Learning a foreign language literally changes the way we see the world, according to new research.

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THE ADVANTAGE OF MULTILINGUALISMM

Knowledge of more than one language helps with this kind of lateral thinking. That’s because each language divides the world up differently. In Japanese, for example, the word for ‘toe’ is literally ‘foot finger’. It makes perfect sense, and is only funny once we transliterate it into English. Likewise, ankle is ‘leg neck’.

Likewise, there are English language concepts which sound hilarious in Japanese. In English we might say bread is ‘sitting’ on the counter. But the Japanese word for ‘sit’ has a narrower meaning, and refers only to creatures who have legs. (Clue: The kanji for ‘sit’ includes radicals for ‘person’, who are under the radical for ‘roof’. A radical is an element of a kanji which cannot be further broken down.) In Japanese, bread is simply ‘inanimately existing on’ the counter, not ‘sitting on’ the counter.

Anyway, this is why Google translate doesn’t work well at all between English and Japanese:

Google has translated my English sentence literally. If a native Japanese person heard that, they’d imagine anthropomorphised bread with legs dangling off the counter and they would probably laugh.

I can imagine that in other languages the word for ‘pocket’ is used more generically than it is in English. A Sock Is A Pocket For Your Toes imagines what English might be like if the word ‘pocket’ referred to a wider variety of things.

SEMANTIC WIDENING

In linguistics, when words evolve to include a wider variety of meanings it is called ‘semantic widening’. (The opposite phenomenon is semantic narrowing.)

Semantic change is the evolution of word usage. Semantic change is change in one of the meanings of a word. When features are dropped, this is called widening. Widening may result in either more homonymy or in more polysemy. Semantic widening broadens the meaning of a word. This process is called “generalization.” Some factors that affect semantic widening are linguistic factors, psychological factors, sociocultural factors, and cultural/encyclopedic factors.

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HOMONYMY: The adjective of homonym. Homonyms are two words that are spelled the same and sound the same but have different meanings. 

POLYSEMY: The coexistence of many possible meanings for a word or phrase.

Companies who sell products which become popular are very familiar with the phenomemon of semantic widening. In America it happened to the brandname Kleenex (capitalised), and now kleenex (common noun) is the generic word for ‘disposable tissue’.

Lego doesn’t want their brand name to become the generic word for ‘toy building bricks’ due to semenatic widening. This is why publishers are legally required to capitalise if using it in, say, a children’s book. (Some publishers are very keen to avoid legal trouble and don’t allow words such as Lego in books at all. However, I have occasionally seen it.)

HOW TO WRITE A POEM PICTURE BOOK?

The secret to writing a picture book like this one is to go above and beyond the most obvious connections. This also applies to carnivalesque picture books, in which the storyteller goes one or two steps beyond reader expectations in order to surprise. There is a carnival aspect to this book. The children in the illustrations are having lots of fun and eating lots of delicious food.

The pocket metaphor begins with a list of concrete examples of containers, then eventually takes us into the abstract e.g. ‘A giggle is a pocket for a joke’.

This is exactly how words broaden their meaning. Look up the dictionary definition of, say, ‘table’ and first you’ll get the concrete noun: a piece of furniture with a flat top and one or more legs, providing a level surface for eating, writing, or working at.

This will be followed by the verb, which has clearly come from the noun.

More abstractly, then, ‘to table’ something is to place something on the table, or to suggest something. (At least in Britain. In America it means kind of the opposite, to leave something — on the metaphorical table — for later.)

THE ENDING

How to give a ‘sense of an ending’ in a picture book like this one, which is not making use of classic narrative structure? When we get to the line, ‘A pocket for a family is a home’, we know the story is drawing to a close. Many picture books take place over the course of a 12-hour day, so we are used to stories ending at this point. Now the reader is guided through a joyous evening routine of eating ice cream together on the verandah, brushing teeth, looking out of the window at stars and receiving hugs. The final line is: ‘My heart is a pocket full of love’.

WRITE YOUR OWN

If using this book in the classroom as mentor text, what other word might lend itself to semantic broadening in this way? The place to start is with words whose symbolic meanings are already widely utilised by storytellers (ie. universal symbols)

  • hat: An X is a Hat For Your Y
  • coat: An X is a Coat For Your Y
  • house: An X is a House For Your Y
  • fence: An X is a Fence For Your Y
  • etc

FURTHER READING

This picture book has taken the word ‘pocket’ and widened its meaning to ‘container’ of any kind. See also: The Symbolism of Containers.

The header illustration is a 20th century advertisement for interwoven socks, illustrated by Norman Rockwell.

Lemon girl young adult novella

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Illustrations of Art Studios

Edouard Dammouse - The Sculptor's Studio 1899
Edouard Dammouse – The Sculptor’s Studio 1899
William Powell Frith - The Sleeping Model
William Powell Frith – The Sleeping Model
Samuel John Peploe (1871-1935) Interior with Japanese Print , 1919
Samuel John Peploe (1871-1935) Interior with Japanese Print , 1919
Émile Friant (French painter) 1863-1932 Le coin favori, portrait de Victor Prouve, 1883
Émile Friant (French painter) 1863-1932 Le coin favori, portrait de Victor Prouve, 1883
Charles Martin Hardie – The Studio Mirror 1898
James Ensor, The Skeleton Painter, c. 1896
James Ensor, The Skeleton Painter, c. 1896
William McGregor Paxton - Leaving the Studio
William McGregor Paxton (1869 – 1941) American painter – Leaving the Studio
Lemon girl young adult novella

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Cakes In Art And Literature

n the eve of her ninth birthday, unassuming Rose Edelstein, a girl at the periphery of schoolyard games and her distracted parents’ attention, bites into her mother’s homemade lemon-chocolate cake and discovers she has a magical gift: she can taste her mother’s emotions in the cake. She discovers this gift to her horror, for her mother—her cheerful, good-with-crafts, can-do mother—tastes of despair and desperation. Suddenly, and for the rest of her life, food becomes a peril and a threat to Rose.

The curse her gift has bestowed is the secret knowledge all families keep hidden—her mother’s life outside the home, her father’s detachment, her brother’s clash with the world. Yet as Rose grows up she learns to harness her gift and becomes aware that there are secrets even her taste buds cannot discern.

The Cake Maker's Wish by Josephine Moon
The Cake Maker’s Wish by Josephine Moon
Gourmet The Magazine of Good Living August 1956 - P is for Pie
Gourmet The Magazine of Good Living August 1956 – P is for Pie
It's Raining Cupcakes by Lisa Shroeder

Twelve-year-old Isabel is dying to get out of her small town of Willow, Oregon, and travel like her best friend, Sophie. But when Isabel’s mother decides to open up a cupcake shop across town, Isabel is once again stuck in Willow for the summer…until she learns of a baking contest where the finalists get an all-expenses paid trip to New York City to compete in the final bake-off. But Sophie is also entering the contest, and Isabel’s mother has reservations. Can Isabel finally realize her dreams of leaving Willow without hurting two of the most important people in her life?

Frosting and Friendship by Lisa Schroeder

On a scale of one to ten, twelve-year-old Lily Hubbard is a zero when it comes to baking. Her cookies turn out salty, her cakes tend to lean, and things are always overcooked.

When Lily is invited to be a part of a mother-daughter book club called The Baking Bookworms, she is excited—and terrified. It seems like she’s the only one who didn’t inherit the baking gene.

But she does have the music gene, which is why she’s forming a band that will audition for their school’s annual Spring Fling. If, that is, Lily can balance her priorities. Because Isabel, one of the Baking Bookworms, has asked Lily to help plan a surprise party for their mutual friend Sophie. And the task is…creating a showstopping, mouthwatering, thirteenth-birthday-party-worthy dessert. Uh. Oh.

Soon, Lily finds herself knee-deep in sugar and sheet music as she tries to juggle her responsibility to her bandmates AND give her friend the best party ever.

Sprinkles and Secrets by Lisa Schroeder

In this companion novel to It’s Raining Cupcakes, twelve-year-old Sophie has a dream come true when she’s offered a TV commercial spot. She’s not just happy about the opportunity, she’s over the moon happy!

But then she finds out what exactly she’ll be advertising: the delectable, ever-popular brownies from Beatrice’s Brownies, which just so happens to be the number one competitor to It’s Raining Cupcakes, a cupcake shop owned by her best friend, Isabel’s, family.

Sophie has a tough choice to make: Follow her dreams or crush her best friend. What’s a girl to do? 

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Messing About In Boats

Ursula Le Guin once had a conversation with Halderman, which is ostensibly about boats but is actually about writing.

ALISON HALDERMAN: You do invent wonderful landscapes. The Earthsea trilogy creates such a vivid picture of the sea — have you done a lot of sailing?

URSULA LE GUIN: All that sailing is complete fakery. It’s amazing what you can fake. I’ve never sailed anything in my life except a nine-foot catboat, and that was in the Berkeley basin in about three feet of water. And we managed to sink it. The sail got wet and it went down while we sang “Nearer My God to Thee.” We had to wade to shore, and go back to the place we’d rented it and tell them. They couldn’t believe it. “You did what?” You know, it’s interesting, they always tell people to write about what they know about. But you don’t have to know about things, you just have to be able to imagine them really well.

The Last Interview

So there you go. You don’t have to ‘write what you know’. Write what you can imagine, and also what you are able to sufficiently and properly research.

Now for some illustrations of boats. I’ve roughly ordered them from cosy to dark. The boat scene can definitely be both!

For a wider discussion on the symbolism of ships, see here.

written by Eudoxie Dupuis and illustrations (here, cover, Newton, Cheops and the monsters before the appearance of man) are signed R. André
written by Eudoxie Dupuis and illustrations (here, cover, Newton, Cheops and the monsters before the appearance of man) are signed R. André
Billy Fishbone And Other Sea Stories by Martin Waddell, Illustrated By Reg Cartwright, Addison Wesley Longman Limited, 1994 cover
Billy Fishbone And Other Sea Stories by Martin Waddell, Illustrated By Reg Cartwright, Addison Wesley Longman Limited, 1994 cover
Row Row Row Your Boat told and illustrated by Iza Trapani
Row Row Row Your Boat told and illustrated by Iza Trapani
1933 Feb AMERICAN BOY Magazine Albin Henning Cover
1933 Feb AMERICAN BOY Magazine Albin Henning Cover (detail)
Stead's Review Rare Vintage Magazine October 1st, 1921 detail from cover
Stead’s Review Rare Vintage Magazine October 1st, 1921 detail from cover
December 1936 Yachting magazine cover art
December 1936 Yachting magazine cover art
Vintage 1938 Rockefeller Center Magazine September 'Full Sail' Back Issue
Vintage 1938 Rockefeller Center Magazine September ‘Full Sail’ Back Issue
Lotus Lilies (1888) by Charles Courtney Curran (American, 1861–1942)
Lotus Lilies (1888) by Charles Courtney Curran (American, 1861–1942)
'The Bears and the Moon'- illustration by Yuri Vasnetsov
‘The Bears and the Moon’- illustration by Yuri Vasnetsov
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Fences, Gates and Walls in Art and Storytelling

When I think of a gate, I think of a small ‘doorway’ in a fence.

The Country Child by Alison Uttley (1931) with illustrations by C F Tunicliffe, who did a lot of illustrations for the Ladybird franchise of children’s books.
A CHILD’S GARDEN OF VERSES Little Golden Book #289 Wilkin. A Katherine Mansfield story “How Pearl Button Was Kidnapped” also begins with a little girl at her white, suburban gate.

But a ‘gate’ can also refer to a much more foreboding structure. The illustration below is of the gate to a city, which looks more like a castle. These gates were, of course, built to look intimidating.

Anton Franciscus Pieck (1895-1987) 1949 illustration The Gate Of The City On A Winter Evening
Anton Franciscus Pieck (1895-1987) 1949 illustration: “The Gate Of The City On A Winter Evening”.

This sort of gate is also known as a ‘gatehouse’: a house standing by a gateway, especially on a country estate. But historically, a gatehouse referred to a room over a city or palace gate. This was often used as a prison.

Joseph Mallord William Turner: View of the Gatehouse at Rye House, Hertfordshire.
Joseph Mallord William Turner: View of the Gatehouse at Rye House, Hertfordshire.
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Shadows Cast Against Walls in Art and Illustration

Shadows cast against walls in illustration tend to make a character look larger than life. This can be utilised to horror effect. Below, a big sister tells little brothers a bedtime story. The boys are clearly terrified.

Seymour Joseph Guy - Story of Golden Locks bed shadow
Seymour Joseph Guy – Story of Golden Locks
N.C. Wyeth from The Yearling by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings Published by Scribner's 1940 The Vigil
N.C. Wyeth from The Yearling by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings Published by Scribner’s 1940 The Vigil
Continue reading “Shadows Cast Against Walls in Art and Illustration”