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.