Tag Archives: illustrators

Focus on the Illustrator: Il Sung Na

I mentioned Il Sung Na back in my post about spring, but I’ve recently had a chance to look at more of Na’s work and I am still impressed. The paint like layers lend texture to the illustrations and each part seems to play delicately with the others. Na has created worlds of every day animals rendered anew, whether they are sleeping as they are in A Book of Sleep or an elephant that can’t figure out an umbrella like in The Thingamabob.

Though Na does not have many works to look through yet (book number 5, Hide and Seek, comes out in July), they are all beautiful and are as lovely to read as they are to look at. Again, I highly recommend Spring Rabbit, Snow Rabbit, which really works for any season.

The delicate illustrations will draw children in. Watch how the rabbit changes or how the fish keeps its eyes open in sleep. These books are really wonders to behold.


Focus on the Illustrator: Eric Carle

I’ve realized that throughout this blog, I’ve mentioned Eric Carle a number of times. When talking about children’s literature with non-librarians, when I mention him, all I have to say is The Very Hungry Caterpillar and they know who I am talking about. His style is written in the memories of many children and his dedication to children’s learning is impressive.

Like many of my favorite illustrators, Carle is also an author. He has, through writing and illustrating, been involved in more than 70 different books and his stories have been translated into dozens of languages.

What makes Carle such an important influence of children’s literature? In my opinion, it’s how he writes for children and, more importantly in this blog post, how he illustrates. Using a unique collage style, his illustrations are always very colorful and very interesting to look at. His focus on nature, as seen through The Very Hungry Caterpillar, The Tiny Seed, The Mixed-Up Chameleon, and The Very Lonely Firefly, among many others, is something that children love to read about.

Carle is not something new to most readers, but he is someone to pay attention to. Through his many board books, he has taught many children about concepts such as shapes, colors, sounds, and the alphabet. His legacy is so great that he has a museum dedicated to his work. Another great part of Carle’s style is how children love to emulate it. An idea for a lesson plan is to read some of his works and then try to make collages using his hand painted paper style. It’s another way to connect kids to literature and make them a part of it.

Focus on the Illustrator: Rachel Isadora

Until I started my children’s information resources class this term, I had not heard of Rachel Isadora and that is a shame. She is an amazing author and illustrator and I am now completely in love with her work. She is the author or illustrator of over 58 different books and each bears her unique style of illustration. Many characters look like they have been carved out of wood, though her style changes based on the story, which is what makes her work so endearing. The illustrations are as much a part of the story being told as the text.

Isadora started out as a dancer, but was sidelined by a foot injury. Though no longer an active dancer, her background appears from time to time in books like On Your Toes: A Ballet ABC and Lili at Ballet. She is also a mother and has written some beautiful picture books using predictive text that young readers will love, like Uh-Oh!, Peekaboo Morning, and Peekaboo Bedtime.

My favorites so far have been her African adaptations of traditional European folktales. She weaves in vocabulary from African languages seamlessly and the stories, while still reminiscent of their source material, take on new life. Check out her new classics that I loved:

I hope to see much more work out of Isadora in the future, which is not hard to imagine because she has been quoted as saying

“Because ballet is so demanding, dancers’ stage careers are short. They can only dream of going on and on forever. With art, I can go on and on, and for me it’s the only work that compares in intensity and joy.”

Focus on the Illustrator: Nikki McClure

I am fortunate enough to live in the same region as author and illustrator Nikki McClure. At Crafty Wonderland last winter, I almost met her, but instead was shy and admired her work from a distance. What I really like about McClure’s work is her very unique illustration style, which is created through paper cuts. Though simple in color schemes, this type of work takes a long time and a delicate hand.

One of my favorite books by McClure is Mama, Is It Summer Yet?. Using the world of nature around her, McClure shows the transitioning of spring to summer in a unique way that will delight children.Younger readers and new parents seem to love Awake to Nap, which is all about a baby’s day.

Even though paper cutting is difficult to replicate, attempting to do so will show children just how much work goes into creating her stories. If you haven’t seen any of her work, I highly recommend her.

The Importance of the Illustrator

At my internship the other day, I discussed with my site supervisor how connected some images are to books. What I mean by that is how certain types images become connected to certain books. Though most authors do not get to choose their illustrator, some do and some begin a long working relationship. After a period of time, that style of art by that particular artist becomes inextricably linked to that author.

I have been a long time fan of Roald Dahl. I have read nearly every single one of his children’s books and his autobiographies. As a big reader, I would get stuck on something and couldn’t stop until I had consumed all I could. Dahl was a favorite of many of my friends when I was growing up and he remains popular today. The reason I’m mentioning him is this: imagine a Roald Dahl book. Odds are, you’re thinking of the illustrations of Quentin Blake. He illustrated 18 of Dahl’s books and his distinctive scribble style became synonymous with Dahl’s whimsical stories.  I remember in 4th grade we were reading, as a class, Fantastic Mr. Fox. Our desk were pushed together and our teacher left copies of the book near us and I jumped to make sure I got the one illustrated by Blake. For me, it just wasn’t Dahl if Blake hadn’t drawn the pictures.

This isn’t the only case of this. Another perennial favorite in children’s literature is Jon Scieszka (I managed to spell that without checking). From his page you see the original artistry of Lane Smith. Would The Stinky Cheese Man still be uproariously funny if someone else had illustrated the book? Probably, but the pictures tell so much of the story that they become a part of each other. This is  why a good illustrator takes a picture book from good to great. Though both Blake and Smith are authors in their own right, their artistry in connection with certain authors have made them memorable and enduring.

Pay attention to your favorite children’s books. Do you notice a particular style associated with a certain author? Illustrations tell part of the story and are important to early literacy skills as they help children connect images with words and develop a larger vocabulary.  Sometimes they tell all of the story, as is the case with wordless books. Chalk is one such book and is on the 2011 ALA Notable Book List for younger readers. Wordless books allow children to fill in the blanks of the story and develop story telling skills.

The Caldecott Medal is a good place to start when looking for great illustrations in picture books, but also check out the Belpré Medal and the Coretta Scott King Award as they both give out illustrator awards and are a good way to seek out new illustrators. Take note of how the illustrations fit in with the story, how they tell parts of the story that words don’t, and if the illustration style seems to work with the text. You may find that you like collage art more than line drawings or watercolors over acrylics. Or you may find that you only really like a certain book because of the way it looks.

The author-artist link is an important one and it is something that children notice. Taking note of the artistry before recommending a book is something we should all do because some books just aren’t the same if someone else has drawn the pictures.