Friday, September 14, 2012

Illustrations in middle-grade novels

Middle-grade might be far from picture books, but that doesn't mean our novels lack in art. Illustrations in middle-grade novels, to me, are an unexpected but delightful surprise. Because novels more often than not contain no illustrations at all, finding little bursts of art is like uncovering a loonie in a pile of dimes and nickels. (In case you're American and/or don't know what a loonie is: here you go.)

And here, when I speak of illustrations, I include everything small-scale yet intricate chapter headings to full-page illustrations. This comprehensive article from Publishing Crawl on the design process covers many behind-the-scenes details on the process of choosing an illustrator and decisions on illustrations; it's definitely worth a read.

 But on a more simple, reader level,  I wanted to share some personal favourites. I adore chapter heading/first page drawings, like the kinds found in Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes by Jonathan Auxier:

And take a look at the in-chapter drawings from The Hero's Guide to Saving Your Kingdom by Christopher Healy:

Text + art will always be a winning combination in my opinion. (I could go on and on about typography art... but that'd take an entire other post.) So what do you love most about illustrated middle-grade novels?


  1. My daughter is always attracted to novels where there are sketches or doodles, different styles of printing, or journal entry style comments.

  2. Those drawings from The Hero's Guide are absolutely gorgeous!

  3. So nice! I have a future MG novel in mind, and I've already fallen in love with the idea of illustrations (and an illustrated cover!). Thanks for the great link!

    p.s. I'm in love with Vic Caswell's art. :)

  4. It's sad that once you move to YA the illustrations vanish and the covers are mostly photography, rather than illustration. I was so lucky I got the illustrator I did. Omar Rayyan's brilliant drawings brought my book to life in a whole new way. :)

  5. I love any special touches to books, and I'm always pleased to see middle grade novels with special fonts and illustrations to mark each new chapter. It adds to the feeling that you are in for a special treat, and that someone took the time to put it all together.

  6. I'm so with the folks above that I wish books used interior art for non-comic/graphic novel for MG readers. I love comics too, don't get me wrong, but sometimes you'd like to have some illustrations that without them being in comic panels, you know?

    I'm getting through "The Wainscott Weasel" by Tor Seidler, love this author like mad, and I highly recommend this book, first and foremost for the STORY (I could've read this in ARC or Galley form with NO illustrations and still be satisfied), but the art makes it extra special. It's old-fashioned yet feels semi-modern without sacrificing warmth, and many of the illustrations are in COLOR!

    I love well-down black and white drawings (Charcoal, pen and ink, etc) but when artwork is really detailed, it often screams to be in color, despite the added expense of color art, which is also estimation to how gripping the art is in black and white.

    It's an older book (NOT 21st century), but regardless, it's an engaging book, and if you're willing to be open to a more subtle story, this is a book to consider.

    And the Cover, Gosh, it's not often I geek out over a cover as I do this one.

    As a self-appointed expert on animal fantasy tales, I'd call this a solid "Gateway" book, for readers who normally don't get into animal fantasy, charming without being overly cute or gritty.

    I can only HOPE to have artwork half as stellar as "The Wainscott Weasel" in my own MG novels someday.

    I feel a bit torn in this matter since non-illustrator writers don't get any or little say in these matters, but as a reader of MG fiction, even when I was one myself (I'm 25 now), it's ALWAYS nice to see.


Thanks for adding to the mayhem!