Those of us with children can’t help but be charmed by the great children’s literature that graces our playrooms and lights up our bed times. Whether your eyes are drawn to the illustrations or they simply provide a backdrop to the story, no-one can deny their importance in the overall feel of the book and the child’s enjoyment.
Inspiring and Amazingly Talented Children’s Book Illustrators
Here are some of the illustrators that I personally chose to highlight, with varying levels of fame.
I’ll begin with Quentin Blake as he is a much loved illustrator from my own childhood.
Quentin always drew, from a very young age he enjoyed drawing and often illustrated for his school magazine. He found his interest in children's illustrations in his 20’s when he persuaded his friend to write a book so he could illustrate it. The book titled ‘A Drink of Water’ was just the start. Quentin has since gone on to illustrate for some of the most famous and best loved children’s books written by the famous author Roald Dahl, bringing some of our much loved stories to life. Quentin was honored to be awarded the title of Children’s Laureate in 1999, a role in which he would use his experience to promote children’s literature. His incredible and unique style is loved and enjoyed by children and parents Worldwide.
Illustrator of modern children’s books such as What the Ladybird Heard (author Julia Donaldson) and How To Be Goodish (author Karen McCombie). Lydia also has a large back-catalog of her own books including Wish I Were A Dog and Ooo Ooo Ooo Gorilla.
Her bold and colourful style is just loved by young children and the books she contributes to just wouldn’t be the same without her fun illustrations to accompany the stories. Lydia has two young girls so it’s clear to see where her inspiration is found!
German born Axel left his study as a historian to follow his true calling as an illustrator. It’s a good job he did, otherwise we may not have such classic books as The Gruffalo and The Snail And The Whale. Axel moved to England and opted to study illustration at Bath University, after which he moved to London. An award winning partnership was born in 2003 when Axel was asked to illustrate a book for author Julia Donaldson. Their second book title The Gruffalo was an instant winner, having now sold more than 2 million copies Worldwide and winning numerous awards. Other books illustrated by Axel include The Smartest Giant In Town and The Bedtime Bear.
Another key illustrator from my own childhood. Janet illustrated while her husband John wrote, making the perfect team. Unfortunately Janet died in 1994 but the husband and wife partnership will live on forever in their much loved children’s literature. Their books are often innovative, unique and interesting for children and parents, featuring objects within their pages such as envelopes filled with letters, cards and games in The Jolly Postman and holes for little fingers in Peepbo. Her style of illustration is much more traditional than some of the other illustrators in this article, but still manages to engage even the youngest of readers with her beautifully crafted images.
Alison’s style could be described as more sophisticated than perhaps some other children’s illustrators, but still manages to captivate her young audiences with her endearing portrayal of the stories characters. Her artwork within Vivian French’s book Growing Frogs is a series of paintings with quite detailed items such as tadpoles, a duck and frogs, yet the faces of the characters remain a lot more simple with their perfectly round hairdo’s and dots for eyes. Alison had a rather unexpected success with a college assignment while studying at the Kingston College of Art, when her assignment of a children’s book illustration was featured in an exhibition at the 1993 Macmillan Prize exhibition, followed by the accolade of being Highly Commended in the V&A Illustration Awards in 1994.
Illustrator and author of numerous successful children’s books, Mick Inkpen has an impressive back-catalog including Kipper The Dog, Wibbly Pig and Lullabyhullabaloo. His 2009 release, This Is My Book, makes reading and words fun, featuring a dragon that eats the dots off the i’s and forces the other characters to hunt down more o’s from the ghosts of Wollywolves. A multi-award winner, Mick began his career as a graphic designer and formed a friendship with author Nick Butterworth, with whom he developed a cartoon strip for the Sunday Express magazine. Being both the author and the artist, Mick draws his characters to match exactly how he envisages them which may have contributed to his overwhelming success in children’s literature.
Nick has been illustrating children's books since 1987, including Julia Donaldson’s Hippo Has A Hat and Chocolate Mousse For Greedy Goose and the Pants series by Giles Andreae (who is also known as the famous comedy poet Purple Ronnie). His style is fun and simple for younger children to enjoy, using vibrant colors and thick outlines, taking inspiration from the 1960’s pop art movement. Nick has been awarded with numerous accolades, including the 2001 Children’s Book Award for both Eat Your Peas by Kes Gray, and the short novel Lizzie Zipmouth by Jacqueline Wilson.
Susan lights up the books she illustrates with a gentle whimsical approach that delightfully accompanies each tale. Susan graduated from the Edinburgh College of Art in 1984 with a degree in drawing and painting, and took various jobs before moving to Quebec with her husband and becoming a children’s book illustrator. Her recent books include Pumpkin Baby by Jane Yolen and Too Many Fairies by Margaret Reed MacDonald. When not drawing, Susan spends her time creating gorgeous soft dolls for her Etsy shop.
Author and illustrator of the exceptionally popular The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Eric has sold over 103 million copies of his books world wide. It’s clear to see why; the colorful and charming nature of the illustrations are irresistible to young children who can’t help but fall for the enchanting imagery. Eric was lucky to be spotted when author Bill Martin Jr. noticed an advert he had illustrated. Eric went on to illustrate Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? which became a best-seller. Eric’s art style is very unique, he chooses to use a collage technique using pieces of coloured, hand painted paper. Together with his wife, Eric founded the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in Amherst, MA, USA. The museum’s purpose is to ignite a passion and understanding for picture books and art in the young children who visit.
Neal prides himself on making his illustrations ‘as fresh and spontaneous as possible’. This is certainly true when we look at his chosen media - which includes old toothbrushes and leaves! Neal has received numerous awards, most notably for Jennifer Jones Won’t Leave Me Alone, by Frieda Wishinsky, which was awarded three children’s book awards. Neal’s work comprises often humorous and eye-catching illustrations that really capture children’s imaginations and beautifully accompany the story.
(I have tried to feature each aforementioned author but unfortunately not all appear to have web sites)
- Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art
- Roald Dahl
- Children’s Laureate
- Julia Donaldson
- Karen McCombie
- The Gruffalo
- Vivian French
- Susan Mitchell’s Etsy Shop
- Jane Yolen
- Margaret Reed MacDonald
Its worth having a look atroyalty free stock illustrations here at Depositphotos.
Of course there are many, many more children’s illustrators, these are just 10 that I wanted to share with the readers of InspireMonkey. For graphic designers, children’s literature is a great source of inspiration. Take a look on your child’s bookshelf or visit your library to further explore the delight of children’s books.