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Reading Rainbow

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  • Reading Rainbow 1 of 13

    1: Quentin Blake | The BFG

    12 children’s book illustrators we love: Quentin Blake While Blake’s drawings may not win any beauty contests, they have won a permanent spot in our hearts for bringing classic Roald Dahl characters, from Matilda to The Witches to The BFG, to life. Dahl’s stories simply wouldn’t have that same wacky, slightly off-kilter feel if they weren’t peppered with the wiry, sparsely drawn characters that distinguished Blake’s work. Aside from the 18 books of Dahl’s that he illustrated, Blake has written 35 of his own books, and as of 2006, has written or illustrated over 300 books total.

  • Reading Rainbow 2 of 13

    2: Eric Carle | The Very Hungry Caterpillar

    12 children’s book illustrators we love: Eric Carle Carle’s The Very Hungry Caterpillar, which he wrote and illustrated, was first published in 1969 — and the story remains a bestselling classic today. Carle has also lent his distinctive, colorful style, which he creates by collaging hand-painted papers, to kids hits such as Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? and The Very Lonely Firefly. He and his wife founded the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in Amherst, MA, allowing visitors to enjoy the illustrations on display and gain confidence in their own creative skills.

  • Reading Rainbow 3 of 13

    3: Miroslav Sasek | This Is … Series

    12 children’s book illustrators we love: Miroslav Sasek It’s hard to capture the essence of a place in one book, but Miroslav Sasek, illustrator and writer of the classic This Is … series, has managed to do it time and time again. Born in Czechoslovakia, Sasek created a line of books dedicated to the essence of cities such as Paris (the first of the series), London, New York, and more. Many of the books have been reissued since their original publication in the ’50s and ’60s. They’re a great keepsake from a family vacation … or, simply, an invitation to dream about life in far-away places.

  • Reading Rainbow 4 of 13

    4: Maurice Sendak | Where the Wild Things Are

    12 children’s book illustrators we love: Maurice Sendak We wouldn’t know where the wild things are, or what they look like, without Maurice Sendak’s vision. Though his illustrations were first published in a science textbook called Atomics for the Millions in 1947 (a job he was allegedly paid $100 for), Sendak was an illustrating icon throughout the ’60s as writer and illustrator of his classic, Where the Wild Things Are, and illustrator of Else Holmelund Minarik’s Little Bear series.

  • Reading Rainbow 5 of 13

    5: Mary GrandPré | Harry Potter Series

    12 children’s book illustrators we love: Mary GrandPre Although Mary GrandPré’s illustrations became famous much more recently than the others on this list, the woman behind the iconic American covers and chapter headings of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series will be remembered for years to come. With each of the series’ seven covers, GrandPré managed to capture the energy, darkness, and magic present in Rowling’s narrative. Her work has also been featured in The New Yorker and The Wall Street Journal.

  • Reading Rainbow 6 of 13

    6: Beatrix Potter | Peter Rabbit

    12 children’s book illustrators we love: Beatrix Potter Aside from being awesomely old-school, Beatrix Potter is a name synonymous with children’s literature. Born in England in 1866, Potter didn’t publish her first Peter Rabbit book until 1902, when she was 36. Over the next three decades, Potter wrote and illustrated 22 more books, all featuring the whimsical tales of Tom Kitten, Jemima Puddle-Duck, Flopsy Bunnies, and more beloved creatures.

  • Reading Rainbow 7 of 13

    7: Jules Feiffer | The Phantom Tollbooth

    12 children’s book illustrators we love: Jules Feiffer Would our imaginings of the slim, nonplussed Milo, or Tock, the watchdog with a clock for a body, ever be the same without Jules Feiffer’s illustrations in The Phantom Tollbooth? Feiffer’s frenetic, black-and-white scrawlings were a perfect match for Norton Juster’s tale of a bored preteen suddenly at the center of a land on the brink of collapsing. Feiffer also lent his hand to several other children’s books, and is well known for his editorial cartooning at The Village Voice, even winning a Pulitzer Prize for his work in 1986.

  • Reading Rainbow 8 of 13

    8: Chris Van Allsburg | The Polar Express

    12 children’s book illustrators we love: Chris Van Allsburg We’ll admit it: we dug the hard copy of The Polar Express way more than the film (which, let’s face it, was downright disturbing). Aside from the enchanting holiday story, we loved the calming, beautiful illustrations by author and illustrator Chris Van Allsburg. Allsburg won the Caldecott Medal for his talent, both in 1985 for the aforementioned Express and in 1982 for Jumanji (which was also turned into a film).

  • Reading Rainbow 9 of 13

    9: E. H. Shepard | Winnie the Pooh

    12 children’s book illustrators we love: E. H. Shepard If E. H. Shepard’s name doesn’t ring a bell, that of his fellow double-initialed colleague might; Shepard is responsible for the iconic illustrations in A. A. Milne’s Winnie the Pooh stories. Whether you prefer Shepard’s versions or the more animated (literally and figuratively) version from Disney, we’re grateful to him for bringing Pooh, Piglet, Tigger, Eeyore, and friends to life. Shepard went on to illustrate several Winnie the Pooh books, along with another children’s classic, The Wind in the Willows, over a span of nearly 50 years.

  • Reading Rainbow 10 of 13

    10: Shel Silverstein | The Giving Tree

    12 children’s book illustrators we love: Shel Silverstein A former travel writer/cartoonist for Playboy in the '50s and ’60s, Silverstein took quite the professional leap to write and illustrate some of the most celebrated children’s books: The Giving Tree, Where the Sidewalk Ends, and The Missing Piece. Though the audience for his work had changed a great deal, Silverstein maintained a slightly irreverent tone throughout. Whether it’s stark, black-and-white drawings of roller-skaters with hamburger faces, snakes spelling out “I love you,” or a head with an attic for a forehead, Silverstein’s images will be remembered — and loved — for generations.

  • Reading Rainbow 11 of 13

    11: Dr. Seuss | The Cat in the Hat

    12 children’s book illustrators we love: Dr. Seuss We couldn’t seriously talk about children’s book illustrators without mentioning Dr. Seuss, née Theodor Seuss Geisel. If you haven’t heard of him or The Cat in the Hat, Horton Hears a Who, The Lorax, or How the Grinch Stole Christmas!, we suggest running, not walking, to your nearest children’s bookstore — or at the very least, getting out from underneath that rock you’ve been hiding under. After working as a cartoonist and illustrator for various publications, Geisel published his first children’s book, And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street, in 1937, and has since cemented his place in children’s literature.

  • Reading Rainbow 12 of 13

    12: Patricia Polacco | The Keeping Quilt

    12 children’s book illustrators we love: Patricia Polacco While Polacco may not have the household name clout the other illustrators on this list do, we’d be remiss to leave her — and the beautiful, sweeping images that accompany her stories — off this list. Many of her works, such as The Keeping Quilt, the story of a quilt made out of an immigrant Jewish family’s clothing from their Russian homeland, draw inspiration from the years she spent as a child at her Russian grandmother’s farm in Michigan. Polacco’s intricate illustrations alternate between charcoal outlines and full-color, eye-catching displays, creating a multilayered effect that has enchanted readers of all ages since she began publishing her works at age 41.

  • Reading Rainbow 13 of 13

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