A young reader recently wrote to me:
“We [my sixth grade] thought your book [Never Mind] was really good, but at times it was hard to imagine. If it was made into a movie we could visualize the characters better and how they reacted. For example, Harry Potter is a series of books that were turned into a movie. Since the movie follows the books, it is easier to comprehend what was going on in the book.”
It is commonplace to refer to the modern age as one of intense visualization, TV, internet, film. And while it does not make me happy to acknowledge it, young people are far more likely to look at images than words on a page. As suggested by the young reader above, it is one of the reasons why readers struggle with reading books.
There is a solution: More illustrations for middle grade and even upper grade fiction. There are wonderful illustrators these days, and they should not be confined to picture books. I have absolutely no doubt that the success of my Poppy books, may, to a vital degree, be found in the illustrations by Brian Floca. His art doesn’t just illustrate the texts, they are a significant part of the stories. Consider Brian Selznick’s work. Consider the popularity of graphic novels.
In short, there are countless ways to illustrate fiction. Publishers do themselves (and their readers) a real disservice by not illuminating fiction. More art may mean even more reading of text.