The Importance of Illustrations in Children’s Books

Children’s book illustrations add understanding and substance to the written story.

Below is a guest post by Susan Day. A talented Australian author who connected with me through LinkedIn. She is the author of 15 books, an educator, and a content marketer. 

If you are an avid reader of books, and love sharing children’s books with your children and grandchildren you have no doubt come across some impressive illustrations.

As an author and illustrator, I want to let you in on a little secret. Did you know that the illustrations can take up to twice as long to complete as writing the manuscript?

As well, being an illustrator takes a lot more skill than just being a good drawer or painter. The art of illustrating is much more complex and requires talent, perseverance, and a particular quirkiness to read in between the lines of any manuscript, and produce something which is exceptional.

However, do you think illustrations get the credit they deserve? I know children love them, but do we adults really take the time to stop and truly appreciate the work that goes into them?

A Pictures Paints a Thousand Words

You don’t need me to tell you that a picture paints a thousand words. In fact, research has just proven it.

Pig wrapped in snake. Illustration by Dayne Sislen

Pig in a Pickle. look at the details to learn more about the story even without the words. The tiny frog on the right foreshadows the action.

We consume information 60,000 times faster from an image than from the written word – 60,000 times faster! That’s amazing.

This means an illustrator has a tough job. He or she has to not only capture what’s going on in the story, but they are responsible for conveying so much more in less time than it takes to blink.

Illustrations Retell the Story and More

When an illustrator is given a manuscript to work from, they are often provided with an outline or brief of what the publishers and authors want.

However, many illustrators will tell you that their job requires them to capture something rare about the story.

They must read between the lines to discover a unique quality or essence which may not even be mentioned. They must use lines and color to celebrate, enhance or explain more about the characters than what the author has written.

These are usually portrayed in very subtle ways.

It might be a few crooked whiskers on a naughty cat. It might be an image of a little boy with one sock pulled up and the other sagging down conveying a certain disheveled state.

It could be a drawing of a queen resplendent in her furs and gown, but peeking out from under her hem a small, cheeky mouse appears.

Illustrations can be engaging, whimsical and endearing

Finding that special characteristic is what makes illustrations engaging, whimsical and endearing.

Little girl on chair with mouse.

The cat in the background carries throughout the story adding action and suspense to a cute poem. The cat is not mentioned in the text.

Any artist can draw a character, but it takes the special talent of an illustrator to add something rare and distinctive which is designed to capture the imagination of the reader.

So, next time you pick up a children’s book and settle down to share it with your favorite person take a while to appreciate the illustrations.

Discuss them with your child, and ask what can they see? How do the images make them feel? What do they reveal about the characters or the plot?

I’m sure if you don’t already you’ll soon begin to realize how important illustrations in children’s books really are.

About My Guest – Susan Day

Susan Day is an author of 15 books, an educator, and a content marketer. I recommend her blog, Astro’s Adventures Book Club, it’s full of ideas and tips for grandparents who want to build a strong relationship with their grandchildren. In particular, Susan specializes in helping grandparents share their love of books with their grandchildren.

Susan lives in country Australia with four dogs, three boss cats, three rescue guinea pigs, and an errant kangaroo. And, apart from blogging, writing and reading; she loves drinking coffee, painting and learning to box.

2 comments on “The Importance of Illustrations in Children’s Books

  1. Great post, Dayne, and lovely to see Susan, a fellow Australian, here on your blog. Illustrations do make up a lot of the magic. It’s the illustrations that draw us in from the start.

    Liked by 1 person

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