Not every book needs illustrations. Let me make that clear.
And yet, there are those books in which the illustrations seem to go hand-in-hand with the written page… So much so that we come to find it hard to think of the book without these illustrations.
When I was coming up with this blog post idea, I noticed that most of the books on my list are OLDER books. Back in the day, it seems like a lot of books came with illustrations. However, there are a few contemporary books that made my list. (You’ll find those books in Part 2.)
The list of books below are all books written by authors no longer living…
The Chronicles of Narnia
Written by C.S. Lewis and illustrated by Pauline Baynes. Her pen and ink drawings are still used in the editions published today. Why? Because they are beautiful and amazing and capture the magic that is Narnia. I can’t tell you how much I love these drawings.
Like this iconic moment in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe… Lucy has just entered Narnia for the first time and is walking with Mr. Tumnus and his umbrella. Such a wonderful scene! (And, on a side note, it’s the image that Lewis himself saw in his mind’s eye that inspired him to write the book in the first place!)
Winnie the Pooh
There aren’t illustrations that have become as iconic as A.A. Milne’s masterpiece: Winnie the Pooh. Even the great Walt Disney couldn’t overshadow E.H. Shepard’s illustrations, they are that good! (While I don’t mind the Disney version of the Pooh characters, I’d pick Shepard’s illustrations over Disney’s in a heartbeat!)
I think Shepherd was able to capture the childlike wonder of the Hundred Acre Wood and its inhabitants. Pooh and Piglet are charming in the illustration to the left, as is Christopher Robin.
And it makes me want to find a bridge to play a game of Pooh Sticks…
The Little House books
Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House books show that sometimes books have to wait a bit to find their perfect match in illustrations. While the first edition had other illustrations (by Helen Sewell), the later editions (starting from 1953) were given the Garth Williams touch. These simple pencil, charcoal, and ink drawings have since become inseparable from Wilder’s work. Probably what helps make them so amazing is that, before he sat down and drew, Garth Williams traveled to the real-life locations to get a feel for the prairie scenery world of Laura Ingalls.
I love how Mary and Laura are gazing in awe as Pa plays his fiddle. Pa’s fiddle is such an integral part to the books 🙂
The Betsy-Tacy books
This series by Maud Hart Lovelace, in many ways, can be split into two series. The “younger” books and the “older” books. And interestingly enough, the illustrations follow this divide.
The first four books, beginning with Betsy-Tacy until Betsy-Tacy Go Downtown, have illustrations by Lois Lenski. Beautiful, whimsical, and perfect for capturing the magic of childhood!
However, once Betsy and her friends enter Deep Valley High, Vera Neville takes over the illustrations. And guess what? Hers are perfect, too! I’m not sure if Lenski could have done the high school books. And I’m not sure is Neville could have handled the younger girls. Whoever made the ultimate decision about this, bravo!
Two illustrations are necessary for this series. The first shows young Betsy in the library (I couldn’t resist!). And the second is an older Betsy sitting at her “writing desk” (her uncle’s trunk).
Swallows and Amazons
These books are written by Arthur Ransome. And he illustrated them too “with the help of Miss Nancy Blackett” (one of the characters in the books!) These drawing are unique to the books. They’re fun and have that child-like abandon of the untrained child-artist… Alluring in their own way.
The illustration I chose for this book is entitled “Despatches”. It’s the answer from the four young Walkers have been waiting for… their father’s permission that they may indeed go camp out on Wild Cat Island. Let the adventures begin!
So, these are just five of my favourite illustrated books. I’m sure there are other books that fall into the same category… Books, that when I think of them, these illustrations come to mind.
Got any that you’d like to add?