Sunday, February 12, 2017

Show and Tell: Exploring the Fine Art of Children's Book Illustration

Show and Tell: Exploring the Fine Art of Children's Book Illustration by Dilys Evans
Publisher: Chronicle Books
Date: March 2008
Format: hardcover
How did I get this book? borrowed from library
Rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was a very informative exploration of picture book art focusing on 12 different illustrators. As the author states, this is not meant to be a "best of" list, but rather she chose a group of artists she felt offered "a wide range of styles, technique, and content" and I feel she certainly delivered on that. All of the featured artists may not be my particular favorites, but I definitely learned a lot by reading more about their work, background, inspirations, and process.

Only three of the featured artists were completely new to me (Trina Schart Hyman, Petra Mathers, and Harry Bliss), but this book piqued my interest in their work -- particularly the prolific Trina Schart Hyman whose chapter I found particularly intriguing. The other nine illustrators (Brian Selznick, Bryan Collier, Paul O. Zelinsky, Hilary Knight, David Wiesner, David Shannon, Betsy Lewin, Denise Fleming, and Lane Smith) I had previously read at least one of their books, but oftentimes it was their most popular work or their Caldecott award-winning work. So even for those artists I previously was somewhat familiar with, I've now been introduced to a broader range of their work. While I probably won't seek out every single one mentioned, I have certainly added to my picture book TBR list! I've already borrowed quite a few from the library and (shocker!) ordered used copies of two out of print titles my library system didn't have.

This sort of deep-dive into picture books and illustration won't be for everyone, but as someone who reads a ton of picture books these days -- both with my son and now on my own -- it is an area I want to learn more about. Out of habit, I still tend to focus on the text more than the art when I read a picture book. So the more I learn about illustration, the more I feel I can appreciate and understand it in its own right.


  1. I love how you're delving so deeply into the art of illustration and such now that you're really enjoying picture books. I'm the opposite with picture books... I focus more on the pictures anyway. This sounds like it was such an interesting read.

    I just noticed that you're reading A Poem for Every Night of the Year - are you enjoying it? I'm reading it also! I'm loving the poems by A. A. Milne.

    1. It really was an interesting read! And that is great that you naturally gravitate toward the illustrations -- they really are such an essential part of picture books -- I just need to remind myself of that a little more often!

      And I am a enjoying A Poem for Every Night of the Year! I usually read about a week at a time though. Some poems I like a lot more than others, but I can see this as a volume I revisit more than one year for sure. (Sorry I'm so late answering your question!)

  2. I do the same thing - I'll read a picture book and then realize that I hardly paid attention to the pictures. But those tell just as much of the story, if not sometimes more. I'm missing out! This book sounds like a great way to pay more attention to the picture part.

    1. The illustrations really do tell a lot of the story! I'm realizing even more now how the pictures add to the narrative or sometimes even contradict, exaggerate, or otherwise play around with the accompanying text. Since being more mindful about this, I find reading a picture book more than once really helps -- and if it's one my son likes, that is definitely not a problem -- haha! The first time can be to get the gist of the written story and subsequent times can be to put words and pictures together a bit better.


I'd love to hear what you think :)