Review of Illustrating Children's Books: Creating Pictures for Publication by Martin Salisbury

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Illustrating Children's Books
Illustrating Children's Books is an attractive and concise introduction to the field. Not as deep as Uri Shulevitz's Writing with Pictures, but possibly more accessible, it is a good overview of children's book illustration for a non-illustrator or a student, and will give even an experienced illustrator a few ideas.

Contents of Illustrating Children's Books: The book is large format, 9.5 by 9.5 inches, illustrated in color on just about every page, and covers a lot of ground in 144 pages. It opens with a short history of children's book illustration. Longer chapters on drawing and "Media, Materials, and Techniques" come next. There is a short chapter on characters, human and otherwise, before three chapters on illustrating particular types of books: picture books, books for older children, and nonfiction. The book concludes with short chapters on design and typography and "Getting Published."

Each chapter is broken up into two- and four-page sections, laid out in spreads. The chapter on "The Picture Book," for example, has the following sections, all two pages except as noted: Introduction, Concepts and Ideas, Form, The Sequential Image (4 pages), Words and Pictures, Novelties and Pop-ups, a case study called "The Wordless Book," and another one called "A Word/Image Relationship." There are 10 case studies scattered throughout the book, each looking at a particular book or the work of a particular illustrator in relation to the topic of the section in which it appears. The book ends with a glossary, a list of resources, and an index.

Comments: As you probably could tell from the description above, this is a wide-ranging but shallow introduction to the field of children's book illustration. It covers more ground than Uri Shulevitz's Writing with Pictures, the other book available on the field, particularly by its focus on full-color art. Full-color art is simply taken for granted, while it was not when Shulevitz wrote his book. For detailed guidance on a topic such as preparing a dummy book, though, turn to Shulevitz; Salisbury covers this in one two-page spread, while Shulevitz gives it half of a substantial chapter. But then, this is not meant to be an upper-level illustration course. It's an introductory survey, and a good one.

Be aware of one problem that is not obvious from a casual look. The book was originated in the U.K., and though it has been Americanized, there are some gaps in the history chapter. Elsewhere, the illustrations are almost entirely taken from work by British, or in a few cases, European, illustrators: Lane Smith is the only American illustrator with more than one illustration. Only three of the ten case studies feature illustrators even moderately well known in the US. The case studies are still interesting, and the illustrations generally are well chosen and informative, but the US reader loses something by most likely not being familiar with most of the works cited, and not being able to find the final book in the library or bookstore for any of the illustrations of works in process. The UK edition is probably more coherent and an excellent resource for someone working in the UK.

Who Needs Illustrating Children's Books: The author teaches illustration at a British university, and this book is squarely aimed at the student or aspiring children's book illustrator, needing basic knowledge and skills. It will also be of interest to writers, teachers, children's librarians, and others wanting an accessible guide to children's book illustration. Experienced illustrators may get some ideas from it, but should get Writing with Pictures for their bookshelf first, as should anyone else wanting more depth.

Disclosure: I received a review copy of this book for free from the publisher, as do most reviewers.

More recommended books, magazines, and web sites (The complete Resources section from my Complete Idiot's Guide)

Where and How to Purchase Illustrating Children's Books (online):

You can, of course, also purchase Writing with Pictures at any bookstore. Most bookstores won't have it in stock, but they can order it for you.

This review is copyright © by Harold Underdown ( Google + Profile ). If you wish to reproduce it, please see the Terms of use. Last modified 3/16/2013.

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