The Rise of the Illustrated Young Adult Novel

Thursday, September 29, 2011

I had heard so much that was so good about A Monster Calls, the Patrick Ness novel inspired by an idea from Siobhan Dowd, that last night, when my arms were too achy to type a single letter more, I downloaded the book onto my iPad2.

Had I known that this book was so beautifully illustrated, I would have gone out to the store and bought myself a copy instead, so that I could, from time to time, look at these extraordinarily interesting, wildly textured Jim Kay drawings.  A Monster Calls would be a very different book without these images, just as Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, the Ransom Riggs books enlivened by surreal old photographs, would not be the book it is had not a publishing house decided that teens, too (and the adults who inevitably read teen books) need, every now and then, to stop and see the world not through words but through images.  Maile Meloy's new historical YA book, The Apothecary, is due out soon—a book that (if the preview pages on Amazon are accurate) features some very beautiful illustrations by Ian Schoenherr.  And let's not forget The Boneshaker by Kate Milford, with its beautiful Andrea Offermann images. (And, of course, there are so many, many more.)

A Monster Calls reminds me, in so many ways, of the great Roald Dahl story The BFG.  Dahl's books, illustrated by Quentin Blake, sit beside The Phantom Tollbooth (Norton Juster, illustrated by Jules Feiffer) on my shelf—books that take me back to some of my favorite mother-son reading days.  We loved the stories.  We loved the illustrations, too.  We loved the entire package.

Maybe we have Brian Selznick to thank for this return to the visual—to ageless picture books.  Maybe it was just plain time.  I only (with absolute surety) know this:  I recently completed a young adult novel amplified by (in my eyes) gorgeous illustrations. I can't wait to see where that project goes, and on what kind of journey it takes me.


Sarah Laurence said...

I've been hearing such good things about A Monster Calls. I'll be sure to check it out in book form. I'm curious about your illustrated YA. It really depends on how it's done. I like illustrated scenes but I'd sooner imagine the characters themselves. Still, good illustration is a treat for all ages.

Sarah Allen said...

I'm a huge fan of BFG, so I definitely want to check this one out. Thanks for the recommendation! I am quite happy, actually, about this illustrated YA thing.

Sarah Allen
(my creative writing blog)

aquafortis said...

Scott Westerfeld talked about this very topic at this year's Kidlitcon! It was fascinating to hear how he went back and forth with the illustrator for his Leviathan trilogy.

And I'm very pleased to see illustrations return, especially since the project I'm working on will (if all goes as planned) have chapter illustrations. :)

Lilian Nattel said...

I love the return of illustrations.

bermudaonion said...

I loved Wonderstruck and have A Monster Calls to read. Maybe you and your husband should collaborate on a book!

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