I’ve always loved the illustrated novel. While the heyday of the illustrated novel was the nineteenth century, it exists today, if it exists at all, almost exclusively in novels for young people. I think it adds enormously to the reader’s pleasure. Consider the original Tenniel illustrations of Alice in Wonderland, Denslow’s Wizard of Oz, Shepard’s Wind in the Willows, or Wyeth’s Treasure Island. I read these books as a kid and cannot think of the texts without thinking of those illustrations. Good text and good art, together, make great books.
I often ask that my novels be illustrated, but only rarely get my wish. The great exceptions are the Poppy novels, so splendidly illustrated by Brian Floca. I may have written those books, but when I imagine the characters I think of his art. Floca has become a major illustrator in his own right (and write) but I’m proud that his first work was in our graphic novel City of Light City of Dark.
Paul O. Zelinsky’s first illustrated novel was my Emily Upham’s Revenge.
Traitors’ Gate was illustrated like a Victorian novel, with more than sixty illustrations by Karina Raude.
The most beautiful edition of Crispin is a South Korean edition.
Publishers will tell you the illustrated novel is expensive to create and difficult to produce. No doubt. They also say young readers don’t want them, a claim I do doubt very much. I so wish the illustrated novel would come back into favor—and into the hands of young readers. What’s your favorite illustrated novel?