Your Friday Five
Your memories of your favorite childhood stories are probably shaped and shaded by their illustrations -- Maurice Sendak's fascinating wild things; Beatrix Potter's mixture of science and whimsy; Eric Carle's bold, bright collages; or my favorite, W.W. Denslow's old-timey pen-and-ink drawings of Oz. When it comes to illustrated books, and picture books in particular, the artwork is at least as important as the words. Here are five fairly recently published books for kids with truly memorable artwork.
|Rules of Summer|
Words & art by Shaun Tan
As usual, Tan's artwork is otherworldly, creepy, wonder-provoking, and often borders on sinister. Rendered in oil paints, the visual world he creates here is intricate and fully engrossing. With sparse text accompanying -- but never fully explaining -- each full-page illustration, this book could easily provide creative writing prompts, similar to the way in which Chris Van Allsburg's The Mysteries of Harris Burdick is often used in classrooms.
The Animal Book
Words & art by Steve Jenkins
Subtitled, "A Collection of the Fastest, Fiercest, Toughest, Cleverest, Shyest -- and Most Surprising -- Animals on Earth," The Animal Book is a fascinating nonfiction selection for animal lovers of all ages. Comprised of unbelievable facts, charts, food webs, timelines, and other appealing infographics, arguably the biggest draw is Jenkins' bright, fun, realistic, and beautifully textured papercut illustrations. Each animal is clearly rendered with great care and attention to detail, and this book includes a bonus "Making Books" section at the end describing Jenkins' art and writing process. If you like his style, check out some of Jenkins' other books, too.
Hansel and Gretel
Words by the Brothers Grimm and Martin West; Art by Sybille Schenker
This picture book version of the classic fairytale is illustrated so uniquely and gorgeously that it's difficult to do it justice with words. Schenker combines black silhouette papercuts on transparent paper with shapes and pictures cut from colorful, quaintly-patterned paper to create a multi-layered, lush, and magical world.
Words & art by William Low
This is an excellent concept book for babies, toddlers, and young preschoolers, in large part because the print is large, bold, and stands out from the images and the vocabulary is simple, varied, and concrete. The artwork, however, is likely what will draw in young ones in -- bright, bold, larger-than-life double-page spreads that make excellent use of light and shading to illustrate the differences between night and day.
Duck, Death and the Tulip
Words & art by Wolf Erlbruch
Deceivingly simple collages and sketches convey more emotion and information than it would seem they could in this beautiful book. Neutral colors, lots of white space, and very little to distract the eye provide a perfect visual compliment to Erlbruch's narrative -- also deceivingly simple -- which handles the subject of death with sensitivity, curiosity, honesty, and humor.