While reading the “Mastery of Hillsigning in Contemporary Kids” section of Denis Wood’s chapter, “Each Sign Has a History,” I couldn’t help but think of all the children’s books that surround me at work. Although Wood focuses mainly on books about trains that illustrate hills in profile, the book The Gingerbread Man sprang to my mind. Woods states that “children are simply taught to see and represent hills in profile” (164). I performed a Google image search of The Gingerbread Man book covers and I found something interesting:
Almost every image I found of The Gingerbread Man‘s book cover had some kind of depiction of a hill. Even the last picture, which does not have any profiles of hills, is drawn in such a way that leaves the viewer with the impression that the Gingerbread Man is running downhill.
What is it about the Gingerbread Man that inspires illustrators to create hills in the background, or foreground? In these covers, it seems as though the hills are being used to show distance and speed–flat roads are shorter than hilly ones. The Gingerbread Man is so fast he can go over three or four hills before you get started.
Another place I see this use of hills to develop perspective is 1939 depiction of The Wizard of Oz. Ever notice the number of hills Dorothy has to travel over to get to the Emerald City? The poor girl has travelled quite a way before she meets the Scarecrow, and they have quite a way to go before they get to Emerald City.
My thought process about hills doesn’t directly correlate with Wood’s descriptions about the history of hills, but they do have a lot of visual importance. How would we know that the Gingerbread Man is so fast or that Dorothy has travelled so far without this visual aide?
It may be a bit of a stretch, but I think it is just as important to draw hills on a children’s book or for the backdrop of a movie as it is to draw them on a map. These maps provide depth, height, distance, everything a hill provides on a map.