Haley's Birthday Socks

story by Annette Gulati , illustrated by Anna Bron

Learning intention:

I am learning to analyse illustrations in context so that I can identify and use visual literacy aspects.

Success criteria:

  • I can examine images in context.
  • I can define some visual literacy terms.
  • I can identify these aspects in illustrations.
  • I can use these aspects for my own illustrations, in the same style as the illustrator.

Essential Knowledge:

  • For more information about salience and reading paths, visit the Victorian Education Department’s page on Visual Literacy and download the Word document Composition and structure of the image: how the image organised to create a cohesive, coherent whole.

After reading the story as a class, display the four images from the text.


Give students time to examine the illustrations and consider the following:

  • What do you see?
  • How does it connect to the text?
  • How does it add to the text?
  • What do you notice about the characters?


Discuss these questions as a class. Students might notice:

- how the illustrations physically interact with the text by following the layout, edited to fit in the margins.

- how Haley’s expression is grumpy until the end

- that Haley is the salient (focus point) of each illustration

- how the colour of Haley’s socks in three of the four illustrations is reflected in other objects within the picture (the bike, the dog, the flowers)

- how the illustrator has chosen to colour the pictures with imperfect crayon lines, giving a childlike mood, much like Haley’s childlike reaction to her socks at first

- that the parcel in the first picture has a German flag, indicating its origin


After students have shared their thoughts, display the first illustration on the board, with Haley holding up her socks to Varun on his bike.


Write the following words on the board:

  • Salience
  • Reading path
  • Gaze
  • Vectors


Ask students what the illustration encourages them to look at first. Explain that this is the salience. Students may have a different answer depending on whether the illustration is displayed on its own or with the text. On its own, the parcel may be the salient image. If the image is alongside the text, as in the original layout, the eye is drawn first to Haley. Explain that this is called the salient image and write this down next to the heading Salience.


Ask students what direction their eyes naturally move. Students may find that first their attention is on Haley, then go down to Varun, then up to the parcel. Explain that this is called the reading path and write it next to the heading.


Explain that the reading path is guided by the illustrator using vectors and gaze. Show students how Haley is looking down to Varun, which means the viewer’s eye is guided to follow her gaze. Write down this under the heading Gaze.


Point out that the inside line of the socks and the right side of Haley’s body is a vector, which is a line that leads the viewer’s eye, in this case, downwards. The left edge of the parcel is also a vector, leading the viewer’s eye back down to Haley. Write this down under the heading Vectors.


In pairs, students examine the remaining illustrations from the story, identifying the:

  • Salience
  • Reading path
  • Gaze
  • Vectors


Answer to image two:

Salience – Haley

Reading path – Haley, dog, sock, parcel

Gaze – Haley looking down at her sock, dog looking at sock

Vectors – Haley’s leg from knee to foot pointing down; dog’s face pointing down.


Answer to image three:

Salience – Haley’s face

Reading path – Face, body, sock

Gaze – Haley looking down

Vector – Haley’s body going down


Answer to image four:

Salience – Haley

Reading path – Haley, Mrs Couture’s face, rainbow sock, flowers

Gaze – Haley looking at Mrs Couture, Mrs Couture looking down

Vectors – Mrs Couture’s arm and leg


Share answers as a class. Discuss any variation in answers and allow students to explain their reasonings.


Students draw their own illustration predicting Haley’s next birthday present from Tante Karin. They should consider Anna Bron’s style in the following ways:

  • Making Haley the salient image
  • Linking the colour of Haley’s socks (inferring they will be green next year) with another image in the illustration
  • Using crayon and childlike colouring
  • Using gaze and vectors to create a reading path.