Choosing Favorites: Illustrators

Have you ever read a book where the words and the illustrations were not in harmony? Where the dialogue was mediocre but the illustrations were magnificent or the illustrations were less than splendid and the dialogue was witty? Illustrations can either make or break a book. Obviously the book that is harmonious in word and image is by far the best book, but the illustrator who can take a mediocre story and turn it into something magical is something to consider.

Choosing a favorite illustrator has proven difficult for me. Although I have great appreciation for numerous illustrators and their impeccable ability to grab and hold my attention, as well as young readers, I couldn’t possibly choose just one. Here are some illustrators who have made a lasting impression.

I value artists who use unique mediums and who hide little tidbits throughout the illustration so that reading a book to a child takes an hour, rather than a minute. I recently discovered Erin Eitter Kono and her first book called Caterina and the Perfect Day. This book is just one example of such an illustrator’s power over time.

I appreciate the artistry and skill of illustrators who use such vivid line and detail, that color isn’t necessary to bring the image to life. Shel Silverstein’s quirky poetry is brought to life with a single illustration, without the use of color. Silverstein’s ability to write poetry for children that is inviting and fun, is pushed over the top with his coordinating quirky and witty sketches.

I applaud and praise the artist who can tell a story using only pictures. Mark Pett has such artistry. In his book The Boy and The Airplane, he allows the reader, or viewer in this case, to interpret the meaning. I wrote a review for this story, saying, “Mark Pett’s illustrations are simple and pure, not requiring a lot of fluff to tell a truly fabulous story. A limited color scheme, except for the red plane, draws the eye to the boy’s expression and what the author is trying to convey.” Wordless stories are quite popular, I encourage an exploration of this type of story.

The illustrator who gives black and white words a life beyond any child’s imagination, deserves commendation. David Wiesner is such an illustrator. He won the Caldecott Award three times; one of which was for his unique version of The Three Pigs. In this book, Wieser literally takes black and white words to another level. He too has a couple wordless stories that have recieved honors. Each of his books is filled with brilliant images that will stay in a child’s imagination well past the closing of the book; possibly even promote fantastical dreams!

Although I don’t have a single favorite, my teenage daughter does. An activity she did in preschool revolved around the classic and award winning illustrations of Eric Carle. His unique style resonated within her, leaving an impression that will remain her whole life.

Pictures truly are capable of painting a thousand words. The illustrator who achieves this and leaves a mark on the life of a child is worthy of praise and honor.