Bookmarked Thoughts

Bookmarked Thoughts: Pictures Are for All Ages

What is it with adults wanting to read books without pictures in them? Since when is art considered childish? If you stroll through the library, moving from the most basic board books to adult novels, you will find that the number of pictures in the books drastically decreases. Graphic novels aside, if you want a book containing illustrations, you’re best heading off to the children’s department.

Yet, adults are the ones who spend time admiring and purchasing artwork. Kids don’t really notice the quality of the illustrations in the book they’re looking at or who the artist is. Adults understand that art is a form of expression and the art can speak for itself. Kids just take it for granted as part of the story. Also, adults (and teens) are the ones who buy books and like pretty covers, while your average six year old just likes the bright colours.

Let’s start with the question that needs to be answered: why are childrens’ books illustrated? Pictures help make reading seem more fun and attractive, they help children understand and connect with the story, photographs can be much more informative than a block of text, and art helps engage kids. Sometimes a picture really does paint a thousand words. Source: RIF

So do adults think their imaginations are good enough that they don’t need illustrations? That they don’t need to be motivated by flashy art to pick up a novel? I’m not saying that all books require a form of art incorporated into the writing because there are definitely some in which images would detract from the writing, but I am proposing two things:

  1. More adult/teen books with an artistic element to them. What do I mean by this? Well, sometimes it’s helpful, as in the case of historical fiction books. Some photographs or excepts from letters or journals can go a long way to bridge the gap between reading about an event and connecting with an event. Or nonfiction books. Simply reading dense chapters is no where near as informative as colour photographs and diagrams. Plus, it will help you learn the topic more easily and remember it for longer. Other times its fun, such as turning the page to discover a map of the characters journey, or a sketch of the symbol the secret society wears. And sometimes it simply enhances the text such as illustrations in a fantasy novel that push, rather than hinder your imagination.
  2. Encouraging adults to read more picture books. Get it out of your head that picture books are only for children. They are often beautifully illustrated, surprisingly complex, and a sheer pleasure to read. You can read them in one sitting. You can read them multiple times and experience it a new way each time. And you can experience pure, unrestricted imagination. Again I’m not saying that all picture books can be appreciated by older readers but there a definitely a good number that would resonate with older readers, sometimes even more than with a younger audience.

Some picture book recommendations to start you off: The Fantasic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore (and then go and watch the Academy Award winning short film) Journey by Aaron Becker, The Lost Thing by Shaun Tan (well any of his books really!), and The Girl in the Castle Inside the Museum by Kate Bernheimer.

Do you have any recommendations for me of either books that utilize art really well or of picture books I might enjoy?

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4 thoughts on “Bookmarked Thoughts: Pictures Are for All Ages

      1. Don’t mention it, I love sharing books with people!

        I’m in total agreement about combining art and books – my dream job’s always been illustration or cover design, and I love when books include artwork of some sort.

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