Illustrated Books – A new series of classics

Arthur Rackham illustration from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.

Arthur Rackham illustration from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.

The world of children’s literature is a vital and amazing one, and one that often uses wonderful illustrations. There’s something very special about any beautifully illustrated book. The simplest picture books can speak volumes, to young and old alike, in a way that simply text cannot. Illustrated/picture books can capture the layers of a story/text.  

I loved my picture books when I was young and, now that I am older, I look at picture books with a more discerning eye.  What I see still pleases my senses, my imagination and I love sharing them with my 4 year old niece. Over the years I have collected picture books that I liked. For a while I obtained  quite a few that used reproductions of Arthur Rackham drawings. He was one of my early favourites.  My niece is just beginning her journey and loves nothing more than sitting next to you and “reading”. In fact I have never come across a young person who did not enjoy the closeness that comes from examining a picture book. Working in a secondary school, I notice many times that the illustrated book gets its fair share of use. It can be in the form of a graphic novel, a beautifully photographed non-fiction work, an optical illusions book, Where’s Wally or an imaginatively drawn fantasy.

The Caterpillar (From Alice in Wonderland)-Sir John Tenniel (1865?)

The Caterpillar (From Alice in Wonderland)-Sir John Tenniel (1865?)

Illustrated books work marvelously well with young people.  For children, who do not relate well to abstract things, thoughts and people, they can develop these skills by using/reading illustrated (picture) books to begin their learning. They work as visual aids for the eye and mind. Younger children need the visual and concrete to examine, study, and understand the abstract. Even as we grow older, we are still drawn to images often using both text and illustrations together, as visual aids for the eye and mind, to explain something.  We are visual beings and are constantly deciphering visual signs, symbols and images, without even thinking about it. When something catches our attention because of its beauty, our particular interest for whatever reason, we are stopped in our tracks. 

So I have been looking for examples of illustration (with some commentary if possible) to explain to students about how to use images to create a feeling/atmosphere. This is all part of gathering a range of resources for future work with storyboards for digital storytelling.

There is a new series of illustrated books. Walker Illustrated Classics is a series that began with Wind in the Willows, illustrated by Inga Moore. They are planning 12 in all, with a new title published each month throughout 2009. Walker seek to ” retain the high quality design and production values of the original hardbacks, but in a stylish, collectable new format with a specially designed logo.”

The Guardian offers a selection of illustrations, from 6 titles, in a gallery format. There is a commentary, on each of the images, from the illustrators responsible. The commentary offers a fascinating insight to the thoughts of each of the illustrators. It is always useful for students to read how professionals choose particular images or how they attempt to portray ideas and feelings in their illustrations.

The titles include:

  • The Wind in the Willows (Kenneth Grahame), illustrated by Inga Moore
  • Classic Poetry,selected by Michael Rosen and illustrated by Paul Howard
  • Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (Lewis Carroll), illustrated by Helen Oxenbury
  • The Secret Garden (Frances Hodgson Burnett), illustrated by Inga Moore
  • The Jungle Book (Rudyard Kipling), illustrated by Nicola Bayley
  • Don Quixote (Cervantes), illustrated by Chris Riddell 
  • Another interesting post about book illustration was in Jrpoulter’s Weblog on March 18th. Angel Dominguez – Spain’s leading illustrator in the tradition of the Golden Age was an interview with the illustrator and also contained images that he created. It is another interesting insight into the world of an illustrator.


    5 Responses

    1. I’m reaching the stage now where I wholeheartedly embrace anything that will draw my students into books. At the moment I’ve got one mixed class where we are reading oliver twist. using various texts, one of which is the Classics Illustrated version. And it works! Even the most disaffected boy seems to have seen the film, relates it to illustrations in the book, and dives in. I adore Rackham….but if comic books are the way forward for my class them bring them on!! We are moving on to Man in the Iron Mask. We are all looking forward to that.

      • Hi Alision. I am also looking at all sorts of links to open our students to the wonderful world of reading. I love it when you match the right child to the right book. I also want students to enjoy exploring their reading rather than kill off the enjoyment by expecting the same old review or chapter summary every time they read something!

    2. Dear Rhondda,

      To this interesting article, you choosed one of my prefer illustration by Rackam to his Alice. I love The White Rabbit in this picture, and the wonderful background.

      Thank you for your comment about my interview with Jennifer.

    3. Hi Rhonda
      It is always a real pleasure to discover another avid lover of illustrated books!
      So glad you enjoyed the interview with the amazing Angel!
      You might also like to see my interviews with Bernard Oberdieck and Ian Beck, wonderful, wonderful illustrators from Germany and the UK, with the wild and whacky Mattias Adolfsson [I have just finished a collection of illustrated poems with Mattias ] and with the very, very talented Sarah Davis with whom I created the award winning “Mending Lucille”.

      • Thank you for the information and I will certainly have a listen to these other interviews with illustrators as well as looking for examples of their work

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