Monday, April 27, 2009

Picture This

Yesterday I was talking to a friend who's written a children's picture book. Written, but not illustrated, given that he thought something more than stick figures would be appropriate. And if people are prone to judge books by their covers, how much more are they drawn to children's picture books by the illustrations? Yes, if the story is good enough, we'll ignore homely illustrations, but for gorgeous illustrations we'll even more often ignore a homely story.

With favorite books, fondness for and familiarity with the illustrations become part of the reason we love the book, as much as anything in the text. Witness me plowing through the abridged LITTLE WOMEN because it was my childhood version with the occasional watercolor. As for the new LITTLE HOUSE picture books, which contain neither the original Garth Williams illustrations nor Ms. Wilder's text, I make a face every time my kindergarten daughter checks one out, and I can only be made to read them aloud to her grudgingly. "Do we re-make GONE WITH THE WIND?" I want to ask. "Do we re-make REAR WINDOW?" Oh, okay, they did re-make that one, but did anyone besides Christopher Reeve's and Daryl Hannah's parents actually watch it?

Other illustrators I love:
* Lois Lenski and Vera Neville in the BETSY-TACY series. I've heard Neville's pictures being called "too romantic," but what girl ever objected to pictures that were "too romantic"?
* Jill Barton for Phyllis Root's RATTLETRAP CAR. I also love the Helen Craig (of ANGELINA BALLERINA fame) work for Root's WINDY WEDNESDAY and the other, alliterative days-of-the-week books.
* Anything with Helen Oxenbury pictures, except her ALICE IN WONDERLAND because we all know you have to stick with the original John Tenniel illustrations!
* Tedd Arnold's humorous illustrations in TRACKS and PARTS and (with normal-sized eyes) in NO MORE WATER IN THE TUB!
* Don Wood's work in THE NAPPING HOUSE and KING BIDGOOD'S IN THE BATHTUB. When poor Audrey Wood illustrates for herself, it's not at all the same. Look at SILLY SALLY.

Any favorites of yours?

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