Saturday, May 4, 2013

Before I Could Read

Even before I could read the words, I loved looking at the illustrations in picture books and novels.  They contributed to bringing the story alive for me, and inspired my imagination.  Because of the personal tie I have to all of the books from my childhood, many of my favorite illustrators are those that did the illustrations for those books.  In this post, I'm going to take a look in a book (to quote Reading Rainbow) and show the different art styles in books I loved when I was little.

Let's begin with what was my favorite picture book for a long time, Buried Moon, a less-known fairy tale retold by Margaret Hodges and illustrated by Jamichael Henterly.  I love the atmosphere created by these illustrations.  They're eerie, detailed, and fit the tone of the fairy tale perfectly.  Below are some pictures I took of some of the illustrations.

Then of course there is The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis.  The Chronicles of Narnia are a childhood favorite of mine.  The illustrations in my copy of this novel are beautiful, and I think match the spirit and personality of C. S. Lewis' story.  They each contribute to the story telling and help the story unfold.  Pictures tell a story just as much as words can.

 Another childhood favorite of mine was Lassie Come Home, by Eric Knight.  Lassie Come Home by Eric Knight is a beautiful, tear-jerking classic story that was published in 1940, about the loyalty of a rough collie to her friend.  When I was little, I had a picture book edition of this story by Rosemary Wells that I loved, which is beautifully illustrated by Susan Jeffers.

The Wild Swans, a fairy tale by Hans Christian Andersen, is a favorite of mine.  I had a picture book version of his story when I was little, by Marlee Alex.  The illustrations are by Juan Alonso Diaz-Toledo.

The picture above was my favorite illustration in this picture book.  Ever since I first saw it when I first opened the book to read it, I have always wanted to have pearls in my hair like the heroine, Princess Elisa, does in The Wild Swans.

Being Irish and Scottish, I had plenty of Irish and Scottish story books as a little kid.  One of my favorite Irish fairy tales to read (or admire the illustrations of) was Finn MacCoul and His Fearless Wife:  A Giant of a Tale from Ireland.  Robert Byrd both retold this story and did the illustrations for his picture book, which are lovely and match the mood of the story.

A Scottish folk tale that I loved when I was little was (and still is of course) Tam Lin.  I still treasure this book, a retelling of an ancient Scottish ballad in the form of a picture book by Jane Yolen, and illustrated by Charles Mikolaycak.  The illustrations in this picture book are beautiful and tell the story so well.

Two of my favorite illustrators are K. Y Craft and Gennady Spirin.  Both of these illustrators have done the illustrations for Russian fairy tales in picture books.  I love their style, partly because I love Russian art style and partly because I find their talent to be very impressive.

Illustrations from Philipok, a story by Leo Tolstoy, retold by Ann Keay Beneduce and illustrated by Gennady Spirin:

And some illustrations from another picture book about a Russian legend called The Sea King's Daughter, retold by Aaron Shepard and also illustrated by Gennady Spirin:

I love the soft lines and dreamy colors of Gennady Spirin's illustrations.  I also love K. Y. Craft's art style.  She did the illustrations for one of my favorite picture books, a retelling by Marianna Mayer of the Russian tale Baba Yaga and Vasilisa the Brave.

And lastly, here are some illustrations from my Cinderella picture book, illustrated by John Patience.  I love these illustrations because of the texture of the dress Cinderella wears, which seems like a bubbly, soapy, multi-color liquid.  I always thought the illustrations in this book were beautiful, unique, and well done.


  1. I have always had a love for books. Not always reading them, but always loved books themselves and having them read to me. My parents always made it a point to have a lot of picture books for us to look at and read as many books as they could to us.

    I absolutely love the illustrations that you show here. They are quiet stunning.

    1. I have always loved books as well. My mom would read a lot of books to me, too. One of my favorite books that she read to me was Jane Eyre. Having a lot of books and picture books as a kid is very beneficial, as it encourages and inspires you to grow up loving books and reading. No wonder you and I love books, seeing that we grew up with them! :) My mom collected picture books for me to read when I was little - most of the books I talked about in this post are from that collection, which I still have of course. ^_^

  2. I love looking at beautiful illustrations in children's books. I am a librarian and when I was studying for my library science degree, I took all the children's literature classes that the program offered. One of my favorite topics was studying various children's illustrators and the styles they use. I have always been drawn to the really rich, bold and detailed paintings that are used in some fairy tales-- similar to Craft's style in "Baba Yaga and Vasilisa the Brave."

  3. I've just stumbled here after Google image searching "Gennady Spirin" ~ a cozy spot you have made, indeed! x