In my last reading update, I included a number of picture books. As I have a habit of going to Audreys Books and seem to make it down to the kids section fairly often, I tend to skim or flip through several kids books each month. But, last month, I sat down and properly read several kids books, taking the time to enjoy the stories and admire the pictures.
If you read the update, you may have noticed that I kept commenting on the art in these books. The story is only half the treasure. I’m a big fan of books with interesting, innovative, or pretty art. Some of my favourite childhood books had lovely and detailed paintings, but others had unique styles, bold colours, or slightly odd images. As an adult, I still love kids books and have purchased a few for myself after falling in love with ones that I bought for my niblings. They’re like art or coffee table books for me.
I’m the same way with graphic novels or comics. Often, I will stop (or never really start) reading something simply because I can’t connect with the art. Or, I’ll stick with a comic or graphic novel for longer than the story deserves because the art is beautiful or interesting. For example, I tried really hard to quit Bird Boy because the updates were often sporadic or really far apart. I eventually compromised with myself – I could keep the link, but I wouldn’t follow it regularly until the updates were more frequent (which they seem to be now, so I need to catch up and start following it again).
The things is – and this seems to surprise some people – the art doesn’t have to be “good.” That is, it doesn’t have to look like it was created by someone who spent years studying figure drawing, or be pretty, or be realistic, or look exactly like what it’s supposed to represent. Sometimes, the artist’s style is very interesting or the style works well with the story or mood. And, yes, sometimes, the story stands on it’s own, so it doesn’t matter that the art isn’t “perfect.”
When I look at the art in books, whether for myself or for my niblings, I’m looking for something that adds to the story, but also for something that makes me stop and admire the images. I adore a number of artist who have rough, crude, and even “ugly” art because their work is unique and interesting. And, I think this this is part of what makes me an artist. I have an eye for the interesting, for the unique, and for the work behind even the simplest cartoon. And, I think it’s really important that we continue to support and encourage all forms and styles of art in kids books – kids need to see that a dog can take a million different forms and colours. It will help them understand creativity and interpret other people’s perspectives.
Whether you have kids in your life or not, I challenge you to take the time to check out picture books on occasion. Find one that make you stop before you turn the page, than take a moment to enjoy the art.