What does a coconut look like? If you grew up in the northern states like me, you would probably answer; it's round, brown and fuzzy.
I always drew coconut trees that way, with a palm tree and fuzzy brown circles surrounding it. In fact, I can't remember ever seeing a drawing or book illustration with any other kind of coconut than the brown, fuzzy ones.
Unfortunately, that's not what coconuts look like. At least, not until you pull them off a tree, peal them and let them dry out for awhile. Oh, and then ship them up north, where those ignorant of coconuts will assume that's the way they grow.
For your information, a coconut is actually yellow or green, and not round, but shaped somewhat like a large Hazelnut (hence the name coco - nut). Just to make my point, I found a coconut illustration from one of my daughters' books.
The picture of a banana tree in this particular book is even less realistic:
If you have ever seen a real banana "tree", you would understand why this is so funny. Banana "trees" are not trees at all, but stalks. They grow up from the ground and produce in about a year, then after producing, each stalk dies. More similar to a garden vegetable than a tree.
Below are actual pictures of the trees in question.
So what is my point in all this, other than that illustrators should investigate more before publishing books?
Just this: our perception of reality is based on our experience (some call it our worldview). In our own culture and context, everything makes sense. We think we know what the world looks like, and works. Then suddenly we are thrust into a new world, a new way of looking at things. And suddenly our definitions no longer make sense.
That is, of course, if we take the step outside of our world. If it is someone else coming into our world, then we just assume they are the weird ones.
One more amusing example; YWAM runs a small private elementary school here in our neighborhood. The classes are mostly done in English, and young Panamanian girl was completing her homework on October day. She had read that day that the "red apples and orange pumpkins are ripe in the fall", and she was supposed to draw a picture of fall. So she drew two trees: one with little red circles, for the apples, and another with little orange circles, for the pumpkins. She spoke English, but had never experienced fall, or seen a pumpkin.
So, what do you think? Anyone else grow up drawing brown fuzzy coconuts, like me?