Monday, January 21, 2008

Pictures & text: proportions, importance

When I gave my niece a copy of Ballet Shoes for her birthday, I didn't even notice that my friend Alissa (author illustrator of Neil’s Castle) had done the cover! It was a really good cover, too – but I didn’t think to look at the illustrator’s name.
llustrators often get overlooked in this way – and to do my bit to make up for that: The Moonbeam Awards (who knew there were so many small, independent publishers?) were given out for the first time this year – and Alissa -- or rather, a book she illustrated -- won a gold. The book is Our Friendship Rules, by Peggy Moss and Dee Dee Tardif.

I wish middle grade novels had illustrations – not just when the author can also paint and draw like Grace, but when the author can’t do either. Just to give one example, The Bridge to Terabithia, good as it is, owes some of its appeal to Donna Diamond’s charming drawings. They bring Jess to life right away – at least, for me they did.

It’s paradoxical: in picture books, the proportion of pictures to text has really increased in the last 25 years (FAR less text). Storybooks have almost disappeared. And far fewer novels have pictures at all! I can see why picture books have less text (declinging reading levels and all that), but why do novels have fewer pictures? And is it true (I think I heard or read this somewhere) that they may start having more?


Susan Sandmore said...

I don't know why this is, but I sure wish there were a trend to change it. I guess it's cheaper to produce them without any illustrations?

I love those newer covers for Ballet Shoes, Dancing Shoes, and Theater Shoes, just as I love the Diane Goode illustrations and the Richard Floethe illustrations (possibly my favorite, since I grew up with them.) In fact, I never met an edition of the Streatfeild books I didn't like! They all have their own flavor, even if "attache case" has been changed to "brief case"--grrr. Uh oh, I feel a blog entry coming on.

Those MG illustrations meant a lot to me as a kid. I suppose, being as old as I was, I was meant to be too old to "need" pictures with my reading, but I didn't think that's why people illustrated older books. I thought it was done--well, for sprinkles. I treasure those Jesse Wilcox Smith illos for books like Little Women. And who can compete with those gorgeous Tasha Tudor pictures for The Secret Garden and A Little Princess? Those pictures ARE those books to me (I've never found any I like better).

Bring back the illustrated MG! (Maybe if we stage some sort of march on . . . um. Somebody?).

Christine Tripp said...

Your right, we have become use to NOT having illustration in the novels geared to teens and adults but not so many years ago, a generation or two, adult novels were "decorated" with a sprinkling of wonderful litographs and full colour interiors, protected with tissue paper inserts. What happened, did we get too sophisticated for it all or more likely, did it just get too expensive to produce such beautiful books. It became all about the story only and not the experience of the whole book itself.

Meghan McCarthy said...

I think kids think if there are pictures in a book then it's for little kids. I notices this while working at a bookstore and helping kids. They think illustrations = books for "babies." Parents and teachers can change that kind of thinking but it may take some effort.

ChatRabbit said...

Now that you mention it, 2 of my favorite series growing up have pictures that are indelibly linked with the words for me: all the OZ books and John R. Neill's art, and the Little House books with Garth Williams' art. Writing and art can each be great alone...but together, in the right combo, they can be unforgettable!