As my kids have got older, I regret to say that I probably read more ‘teen fiction’ than they do. (Though I thoroughly recommend the Hunger Games and Chaos Walking trilogies.) I also regret that, despite my best intentions, I can’t get the same intensity of immersion from the graphic novels my son likes as I do from those text-only novels. I miss the books they read when they were younger, too, books with illustrations in them that we sat down to read together.
The British Library had a wonderful exhibition of contemporary book illustrators some years ago – its website is here – and I would add a few more names to those that featured there, including Helen Oxenbury, Anthony Browne, Dave McKean and Satoshi Kitamura.
One of my many unwritten papers would be something about the mutual relation between images and writing in book illustration, and why that matters for understanding all sorts of images. It’s hard to think of any image that isn’t accompanied by, and mediated by, some kind of written or spoken word. Graphic novels, and children’s books, make that obvious and also show how words and images together inflect each other.
So I noticed with interest this piece on the Guardian website, by one of the most striking of contemporary book illustrators, Chris Riddell (who should also have been in that British Library exhibition), reflecting on what might happen to illustrations once all books are published for iPads and other tablets.
(And much as I love my kindle, I have to admit that he’s right about its graphics – three shades of grey max.)