Show and Tell by Dilys Evans (Brief Thoughts)

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Show and Tell by Dilys Evans (Chronicle Books, 2008) carries the subtitle “Exploring the fine art of children’s book illustration,” and that is what it is: a full-color coffee table style book that highlights a few of the best children’s book illustrators by examining what makes their art “fine art.” Because I love reading picture books, I really appreciated the analysis of great children’s book illustration, as well as the discussion of the illustrators’ lives, from the beginning of their interest in art to where they found their inspiration for their illustration.

Illustrators highlighted include Hilary Knight (Eloise), Trina Schart Hyman, David Shannon, Lane Smith, Brian Selznick and a more.  For those illustrators I was unfamiliar with, I look forward to seeking out their books. I feel that reading Ms Evans’ analyses of their work will help me appreciate it more. For example, I was not crazy about Hyman’s Little Red Riding Hood illustrations when I first came upon them a few years ago: they seemed dark and scary to me. Now that my son is older, I feel we may appreciate them better. Besides, the details in the images as reproduced in Show and Tell were simply incredible: I look forward to revisiting her detailed style.

Another highlight of the Show and Tell for me was the chapter on David Weisner: it was a reminder that wordless stories are something that my son will probably love at his current age. I loved hearing how Weisner got in to art, and the inspiration for his wordless adventures is simply inspiring for all creative types! Further, the chapter on Denise Fleming likewise helped me better appreciate her artwork. Although I like her books, learning how complicated it is for her produce them (she makes her own paper and gathers the homemade paper into collages) helps me appreciate them all the more.

At any rate, I highly recommend Show and Tell for those people interested in learning more about children’s illustration, from the “how to’s” to the “whys” to a subtle critical analysis of what makes each picture book page stand out. Show and Tell is certainly a fascinating read.

I am not an expert in fine art to any degree and I would have said I don’t know much about it, but Show and Tell reminded me that the art my son and I encounter in children’s books is truly fine art by talented artists inspired by the greats of history. As a voracious reader of picture books, I suspect I’ll better appreciate the fine art my son and I encounter, and I hope I can be an influence in pointing out to him the fascinating aspects of the art in the books that we do read.

Reviewed on January 27, 2012

About the author 

Rebecca Reid

Rebecca Reid is a homeschooling, stay-at-home mother seeking to make the journey of life-long learning fun by reading lots of good books. Rebecca Reads provides reviews of children's literature she has enjoyed with her children; nonfiction that enhances understanding of educational philosophies, history and more; and classical literature that Rebecca enjoys reading.

  • Sounds cool! I am dumb about art but I love kids’ book illustrations. We had this amazing picture book of Beauty and the Beast where there would be a scene of life in the palace (with the animal servants, etc.) and then in the background would be a tapestry depicting a similar scene but with everyone as humans. It was marvelous.

    • Jenny » I don’t know much about art either, but I guess that’s why I like considering the artistic side of children’s lit. Your Beauty and the Beast book sounds lovely!

  • I think my son and I would both like this one too. We’re slowly transitioning away from picture books so this might be a good way to look at them in a more objective way and pull some of them off of the shelves again!

    • Kristen M. » I think the transition away from picture books will be a sad one 🙁 but I’m gladly welcoming another little one in a few weeks, so hopefully that doesn’t happen to me for a long time! I think revisiting picture books from the perspective of the various art styles is a great idea. Compare various versions of Snow White for example, and see how the story changes ?

  • This wonderful book is in large format with lots of examples. It explains the career, the inspiration, and the techniques of twelve great children’s book illustrators.

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