Subscribe to receive your free copy of An Author’s Guide to Book Clubs.

Illustrated books are no longer just for children, though it’s probably easy for most of us to think back to the picture books we used to devour as children. I am out of town this week, but am happy to welcome Leora Wenger as today’s guest. When she submitted this post, I was more than pleased. Leora may be a whiz at designing websites, but she also takes time to nurture her creativity. This post brought back lots of pleasant memories for me, and I hope it will for you as well.

Picture of Alice in Wonderland Tea Party

Illustrated Books: What is the Use of a Book without Illustrations?

“What is the use of a book,” thought Alice, “without pictures or conversations?” Thus Alice asks famously in Alice in Wonderland. Indeed, when Jeri asked me to write this post, and I decided to write about illustrations and illustrators, I thought, what kinds of books have illustrations? Mostly we find illustrators in children’s books. But at the end of the post, I will mention a few graphic novels that have been read widely by adults and teens.

Picture of Alice and CatepillarOne of the reasons why I chose to write about illustrations is because I love good visuals. I like creating images (I do so on websites, in watercolors, for slideshows on blogging and in past on clay) as well viewing them in museums or in a presentation. One can present with one’s voice or with words on the paper; to capture an audience’s attention, the old cliché about a picture being worth 1000 words really rings true.

John Tenniel is well-known as the illustrator of Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll. One of the reasons I can show his images here and not those of more recent illustrators is because the images are in the public domain. One can even take Tenniel’s images and add text anywhere as I demonstrated in this post called Create Attractive Visual Images for Your Blog Posts.

Picture of Dorothy Gale NeilA favorite illustrator from childhood is John R. Neill – he created drawings of Dorothy, Ozma, Trot and Betsy in various Oz books that I loved to view. The illustrations remind one of the famous Gibson Girl drawings of that period. O’Neill was not the first illustrator of L. Frank Baum’s Oz books. That distinction goes to W. W. Denslow, but Denslow and Baum got into an argument and so Denslow lost the opportunity to do more Oz illustrations. That’s a happy historical fact for me, as I greatly prefer Neill’s Dorothy. As a teen, I owned four Oz books (TikTok of Oz, The Scarecrow in Oz, Dorothy and the Wizard of Oz and The Road to Oz) – those four books now sit on my daughter’s bookshelves (and still get read).

In the world of modern illustrators, Brett Helquist, illustrator of the Lemony Snicket’s Series of Unfortunate Events, comes to mind. Helquist is a master of action-packed line drawings; take a look at his website to see terrifying scenes of Baudelaire children in trouble. Helquist has also illustrated children’s picture books; if I find a picture books with drawings like these, I am more likely to want to read the book.

Last year I had the opportunity to interview an illustrator, Adam Gustavson, on my Sketching Out blog. Adam was the illustrator of a book that took place over one hundred years ago, so he need to research both the time and setting to do his work. I have such admiration for these illustrators: each illustration is a painting unto itself, and thus creating a series like these is like creating twenty or so detailed paintings. Adam Gustavson relates that one of the reasons he went into the field of art was that it was more practical than music (!).

In recent years, graphic novels have become popular. With the style of the comic book, a few author/illustrators have adopted the drawing with text as a way to tell a story. An example is Maus by Art Spiegelman: the book tells the horrific tragedy of a family caught in the Holocaust with cats, mice and pigs as characters. Another book in this genre is Persepolis, Marjane Satrapi’s memoir of growing up in Iran during the Islamic Revolution. One can easily understand how both these books are more widely read because of the cartoon-style chosen by the authors.

Picture of Leora WengerDo you have favorite illustrators or illustrated books? What books come to mind when you think of illustrations?

About Leora Wenger: Leora Wenger builds websites for small businesses, an anthropology society and Rutgers University departments. She enjoys tweaking websites and answering questions about WordPress. In her spare time she’s a mom and a wife. Every now and then she squeezes in the time to paint a watercolor or two. Learn more on her blogs: Websites for Small Biz and Sketching Out.

The images in this post are in the public domain and have been supplied by today’s guest.

Would you like to write a guest post? Please read the submission guidelines.

Please share and also consider subscribing!