Just Imagine

The Red Prince

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About the Illustrator

Tom Clohosy Cole studied at Kingston University. He published his first book Space Race with Nobrow in 2012. His first picture book The Wall was published in 2014. As well as illustrating children’s books, Tom has created illustrations for The Sunday Times, Virgin Media, Sony and the Wellcome Trust. You can see lots of Tom’s pictures on his website.

About the Book

When the young Prince of Avala is imprisoned by rebels, he needs all the help he can get to escape. As he flees his prison dressed in his red pyjamas, his captives are hot on his heels. But soon he realises he is not alone. The whole land of Avala has joined forces to help him, each person dressing in red to confound and confuse his enemies.

In a highly visual world where so much is communicated through image, it is essential that children learn to critically read pictures as well as text. Furthermore, reading pictures forces a different pace, which can help to encourage fast readers to slow down and attend to the details, which they may be inclined to skip past.

Before Reading

Before sharing the book, give the children a set of cards

The Blue Prince The Black Prince
The Red Prince The White Prince
The Green Prince The Gold Prince

In pairs, have them discuss what qualities they would expect each prince to have. Briefly share ideas and make the point that writers carefully select words and even something as simple as a colour choice is important.

Introduce the book by showing the front cover. What do you think this prince is doing? Draw attention to body language (the prince is looking over his shoulder. He is striding forward. His arms are huddled about his body). Draw attention to scale (why is he shown so small on the front cover?) What do you think the dog is doing?

Have the children read up to ‘There he saw something he couldn’t believe’. If they are likely to find it difficult to resist reading on, you can use paper clips at the top and bottom of the page to prevent them from turning the page.

During Reading

After reading to this point ask the children to independently write down anything they found interesting or puzzling. Didthe story remind them of anything they had read or seen? Do they have any questions? Use these notes as a basis for an initial discussion.

The language of pictures


How do the pictures appear to have been made? It isn’t always easy to tell with the different digital applications and printing processes that can be applied, but encourage the children to look closely. Do the pictures look as though they are painted, drawn, collaged or created digitally?


  • What range of colours are used?
  • How do the colours make you feel?
  • Are colours used to draw your attention to important parts of the picture?
  • Are any of the characters or objects connected with each other through colour choice? Are different characters associated with different colours?
  • Is the colour flat (one tone) or a blend of tones?
  • Is the colour high saturation or low saturation?
  • Is monochrome used?
  • Are the colours realistic or fanciful (e.g coloured animals)?
  • Are contrasting colours used?

Front cover

Which colours are used on the front cover?

Which colours stand out? What effect does this create? (Although the Red Prince is small in scale the eye is pulled towards his image due to position on the page and the striking red colour).

‘Once there was a kingdom…’

How would you describe the colours on the first page? (bright, saturated, flat colour) You might draw attention to the contrast with the colours used for the front cover.  Do the colours help to create a mood for the beginning of the story?

‘The Avalans shut their doors and lit their fires…

How do the colours on this double page spread contrast with the colours used at the beginning of the story? Draw attention to the red highlighting on the edges of the shapes. What effect does this create?

Light and Dark

Patterns of light and dark can be used to draw attention to key features, to create a mood or add an atmosphere to an illustration. It can also be used symbolically and to underline the themes in a story in much the same way that descriptions of light and dark are used in other forms of literature.

In pairs, invite the children to revisit the story and identify the different ways in which light and dark are used.  Discuss ideas with the group.

Potential pages for discussion:

‘The Avalans shut their doors…’

Locked in the dark for days, the prince lost all hope…


This aspect of images relates to the size of objects/characters and their relative size to each other. Some images may show a close-up and others may take a panoramic view.

  • Are relative sizes of characters/objects as they would be in the natural world, or have they been distorted?
  • Is size used to show proximity and distance?
  • Does a character’s size fluctuate depending on their mood or circumstance?
  • Are close-ups used to convey emotional effects?
  • Are panoramas used to establish a scene?

Front cover

How would you describe the size of the Red Prince in comparison to the landscape? What effect does this have?

‘seized the city…’

Notice the close-up on the soldiers’ boots. What effect does this create?

‘…. And ran’

Compare the image of the Red Prince and his dog in this picture to the front cover. Notice how the close-up focuses on facial expression.

Now look at the double page spread showing the hundreds of people wearing red. The soldiers are large but the people are small. What effect does this have? Notice how the close-up allows the illustrator to focus on the gestures made by the soldiers. Can you tell what they are thinking by the way he has drawn their hands?

What effect is created by having so many tiny figures in this scene?

Wanted Poster

There are two images of the Red Prince on this page, a large head and shoulders on the poster and the smaller prince caught in the spotlight.

How does this picture make you feel?

How would the effect have been different if scale was reversed i.e. the poster was small and the real prince was big?

Point of View

All pictures imply a point of view. Who is looking at the image and where are they positioned. Is the reader looking at the scene as though they are watching a play, always from the front, or does the illustrator make use of more filmic perspectives?

Compare the point of view of the first two pages.

The first page is viewed from the front, theatre style.

In the second page, the reader views the scene from behind the crowd. It is as though the reader has become one of the crowd waving goodbye to the king and the queen. You can’t see the expressions on the characters faces, but you can imagine them. What sort of expression can you picture on the Red Prince’s face? Is he sad? Is he crying? Is he putting on a brave face and smiling? Is he happy at being left alone?

‘Locked in the dark for days…’

Where are we viewing the Red Prince from in this scene? The reader appears to be looking down from the ceiling. What effect does this have? It makes the Red Prince look small and vulnerable in the tall tower. Film makers use this technique. When they want to make something look intimidating, they might choose to have the camera at a low angle looking up.

‘He stumbled through the snow…’

This is another ‘eye in the sky’ picture. You can almost imagine a helicopter tracking the Red Prince as he tries to evade capture in the forest.

Framing and layout

A variety of framing devices are used in the story.

‘The prince ran…’

The illustrator has chosen to present this scene as a cutaway. The reader can see more than the characters in the story. They can see where the guards and the prince are in relation to each other. Knowing more than the characters in the story is called dramatic irony.

‘The Alarm rang out over Avala…’

Why do you think the illustrator has chosen to put the poster in the centre of the page and a series of vignettes around it? What do the vignettes show?

‘He could hear a great commotion…’

This page is presented as four frames, each showing exactly the same scene. What does this enable the illustrator to show? It’s far more economical to show a sequence than using four full pages, especially when there are only 32 pages in a standard picture book.


The pictures in a picture book do not usually move, and yet they convey movement. What techniques does the illustrator use to show this?

‘He stumbled through the snow…’

How can we tell the prince is running through the forest? (zig-zag foot prints rather than a straight line, scarf blowing behind him, splodges of snow rushing past).

‘As the prince made his way across the island..’

What techniques does the illustrator use to show movement in this picture? Body language: look at the way the soldiers are running. He has shown this as a sequence, almost as though it is one soldier running. Look at the outstretched hand as the girl reaches for the prince and his forward momentum with the scarf blowing out behind him. Notice the white speed lines to show the train rushing on.


Illustrators use lines in a variety of ways. Sometimes big black outlines are drawn around characters, sometimes thin, broken lines or there may  be no obvious line at all. Lines also form patterns and can be used to show perspective.

Locked in the dark for days, the prince lost all hope.’

Notice the lines created by the bars at the window and the brick work. The patterns here emphasize the prince’s captivity.

‘He stumbled through the snow..’

Notice the pattern of lines created by the tall thin tree trunks and the long shadows. What effect does this create? The trees are almost like prison bars showing that the prince is still in danger from his captors.

Looking closely

The people of Avala help the Red Prince in lots of different ways. How many different ways can you find?

Discussing big ideas/themes

Which  of these statements do you think best matches the ideas in this book? Briefly explain what each statement means. Working in pairs, ask the children to decide which statement they think is most relevant to the story. Ask them to find evidence to support their chosen statement.



There’s safety in numbers


Kindness is often repaid with kindness


While the cat’s away, the mice will play



You can’t win a war, unless you win the hearts and minds of the people



The only thing we have to fear is fear itself


After Reading

Comparing books

Tom Clohosy Cole has written and illustrated another book called The Wall. If you have a copy in school, read it and compare the two stories. Are there any similarities?

Inspired art

Have a closer look at the way the pictures in the book have been constructed and use them to inspire your own art

If you liked this book you might enjoy…

  • Elys Dolan – Nuts in Space

For more great storytelling using words and pictures.

  • Helen Ward – Varmints

Another picture book that has some quite serious themes.

  • Christopher Englert – Destination: Space

A non-fiction book about astrophysics, illustrated by Tom Clohosy Cole.