Favorite Children’s book illustrators

This time of year always makes me a tad nostalgic and my nostalgia is always heavily tinted with book memories, of being warm and curled up with a good book and my Siamese cat. I think most of us have memories wrapped up in pictures found in pages so  today I thought I’d share some of my favorite children’s book illustrators.  I’m going to date myself horribly but when I was little the very first books I ever owned were Cannonball Simp and Sam, Bangs and Moonshine. By today’s standards Sam, Bangs and Moonshine  in particular, does not immediately look all that appealing. It’s fairly monochromatic and muted but for my small self I loved nothing more than to look at Sam and her dragon pulled chariot – the imaginings that one page alone inspired!

I then graduated to books with pictures by Howard Pyle (pirates), N.C. Wyeth (deering do) and Arthur Rackham (fairies!). Then as I got a little older picture books and chapter books disappeared to be replaced by fantasy novel covers and I lost touch with the many wonderful illustrators out there. Sure I’d buy books for baby showers like Graeme Base and Eric Carle but I wasn’t really paying attention to everything that was out there. I still absolutely love Base in particular due to his meticulous, life like renderings touched with fantastical elements.

The library I currently work in began to develop a children’s/YA collection about a decade ago. Over the past ten years as that collection grew that I’ve really began to notice many of the wonderful illustrators now out and about in the world. So without much more rambling here are the author/illustrators I’m most in love with. Some have been working for quite a while, others are newer to the scene.

David Wiesner

The very first book of his that I ever laid eyes on was his Three Little Pigs and I loved the metaness of it, the breaking of the 4th wall, the wink, wink nod to the fairy tale. I also loved the changing illustrative style – from an almost woodcut type of feel to the book at the beginning to the cartoonish illustrations to the black and white drawings. His books are usually wordless ( a wonderful exception being Fish Girl)  and have that great quality of inviting the child to create his own story. There is also quite a bit for the adult reader as well. My personal favorite of his is Mr. Wuffles, I find something new that tickles my fancy every time and that man is definitely a cat owner!

Typical cat expression captured perfectly

Emily Gravett

I love her for two reasons. You can give a little person Orange Pear Apple Bear and they have the best time laughing at the bear while at the same time learning their shapes and colors.

Look at that expression on the bears face

You can then give them a book like Again which is also great fun but is also a kick for the adult reader. The Rabbit Problem is also great for sneaking in some math but my favorite is Spells– I love the use of cut out pages to make a different story on each page.

Pamela Zagarenski

This woman has the most fantastical illustrations – her use of color is gorgeous and I love the fact that on every page there are repeating characters and motifs that are fun to spot. I’d love it if this lady came to my house and painted a mural!

From The Whisper – tons of detials to look at an dnew things to discover every time one looks

Julie Paschkis

I admire Ms. Paschkis’ work for many of the same reasons I love Ms. Zagarenski’s work. She uses gorgeous colors. Her illustrations are also a little folk arty and those two combinations give her work a warm comfy feeling. Hygge might be the perfect word for her work. I also discovered that she designs quilt fabric so I am in heaven. I can both read and create using her work.

From the Night of the Moon by Hena Khan. this pic does not do the blues justices

Jerry Pinkney

What to say about Mr. Pinkney and his work? His watercolors are absolutely lovely and his characters are so expressive. What I think I like most about his work is the kindness that radiates from the page. His grasshopper in The Grasshopper and the Ants isn’t lazy he just absolutely takes joy in life and wants to “be in the moment” as it were. When he realizes he is all alone in the winter the ants don’t mock him but rather take him in and, in return, gives them some of the joy they missed while working so hard. This theme of kindness just shines through in every one of his fairy tales. His work for other authors still conveys this feeling. Take a look at In Plain Sight by Richard Jackson and you will find a sweet and gentle relationship illustrated between grandfather and granddaughter.


There are so many more folks I could mention, but I’ll stop here. Do you have any children’s illustrators? Who are they? I’d love to know.

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