Art can make or break a book. Look at book covers: the stately classics with only a stately name or a picture that looks older than your great grandma, non-fiction collections with their suave patters, biographies with pictures that tell you exactly the type of light the unsuspecting subject will be cast under. And of course everyone has seen those beautiful old hard covers that have a separate table of contents just for the delightful pictures (often etchings) from such titles as A Christmas Story, Alice in Wonderland, Pride and Prejudice (the list goes on).z
The illustrations I remember most, though, the ones that have stuck with me and can still send me back into a haze of reminiscence, are from the books my mom and dad would read to me before bed, a long time ago. The books you had to snuggle in next to them to read because you couldn’t get enough of the beautiful pictures. Even before you could read the book yourself, you would take it down just to look at the art and marvel. Would the Cat in the Hat have been half as good without that floppy red and white hat? No, of course not. Nor would Where the Wild Things Are have enticed our souls without those stuffed animal-like critters.
Of course some artists transcend even the beautiful pairings of words and illustrations mentioned above, such as Alice and Martin Provensen. This dynamic duo first began illustrating in the early 20th century, but they did not write books of their own. Through their vibrant and classic art work, they brought to life the poetry of William Blake in A Visit to William Blake’s Inn whimsically depicted below.
I don’t know where that inn is, but I want to go there.
And of course, nothing can beat their imaginings of Homer:
How could you even drag your eyes away from the pictures enough to read the story? Check out more of this couple’s beautiful artwork here.