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1: Quentin Blake | The BFG
While Blakes 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. Dahls stories simply wouldnt have that same wacky, slightly off-kilter feel if they werent peppered with the wiry, sparsely drawn characters that distinguished Blakes work. Aside from the 18 books of Dahls 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
Carles 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.
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3: Miroslav Sasek | This Is Series
Its 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. Theyre a great keepsake from a family vacation or, simply, an invitation to dream about life in far-away places.
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4: Maurice Sendak | Where the Wild Things Are
We wouldnt know where the wild things are, or what they look like, without Maurice Sendaks 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 Minariks Little Bear series.
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5: Mary GrandPré | Harry Potter Series
Although Mary GrandPrés 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. Rowlings 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 Rowlings narrative. Her work has also been featured in The New Yorker and The Wall Street Journal.
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6: Beatrix Potter | Peter Rabbit
Aside from being awesomely old-school, Beatrix Potter is a name synonymous with childrens literature. Born in England in 1866, Potter didnt 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.
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7: Jules Feiffer | The Phantom Tollbooth
Would our imaginings of the slim, nonplussed Milo, or Tock, the watchdog with a clock for a body, ever be the same without Jules Feiffers illustrations in The Phantom Tollbooth? Feiffers frenetic, black-and-white scrawlings were a perfect match for Norton Justers 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 childrens books, and is well known for his editorial cartooning at The Village Voice, even winning a Pulitzer Prize for his work in 1986.
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8: Chris Van Allsburg | The Polar Express
Well admit it: we dug the hard copy of The Polar Express way more than the film (which, lets 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).
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9: E. H. Shepard | Winnie the Pooh
If E. H. Shepards name doesnt ring a bell, that of his fellow double-initialed colleague might; Shepard is responsible for the iconic illustrations in A. A. Milnes Winnie the Pooh stories. Whether you prefer Shepards versions or the more animated (literally and figuratively) version from Disney, were 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 childrens classic, The Wind in the Willows, over a span of nearly 50 years.
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10: Shel Silverstein | The Giving Tree
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 childrens 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 its 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, Silversteins images will be remembered — and loved — for generations.
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11: Dr. Seuss | The Cat in the Hat
We couldnt seriously talk about childrens book illustrators without mentioning Dr. Seuss, née Theodor Seuss Geisel. If you havent 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 childrens bookstore — or at the very least, getting out from underneath that rock youve been hiding under. After working as a cartoonist and illustrator for various publications, Geisel published his first childrens book, And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street, in 1937, and has since cemented his place in childrens literature.
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12: Patricia Polacco | The Keeping Quilt
While Polacco may not have the household name clout the other illustrators on this list do, wed 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 familys clothing from their Russian homeland, draw inspiration from the years she spent as a child at her Russian grandmothers farm in Michigan. Polaccos 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.
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