Remember when books looked like this???

Okay, neither do I… not really.  This was published long before I was born.

But I had a lot of books as a kid that had been my mom’s, and my dad’s, and belonged to their parents before them, or come to them from used book stores. So I remember what it felt like to read and read, and wait for the next amazing color plate.  Or skip to it, because I couldn’t wait for the pretty shiny picture.

Like the one above.

Or like this one.

Little Women!  Treasure Island!  The Happy Prince! East O the Sun and West O the Moon!  The Cuckoo Clock!  These books all had amazing color plates in them, and I carry those pictures with me to this day.

I wonder if some evil wizard or conjurer has stolen all the art away? WHAT OTHER EXPLANATION CAN THERE POSSIBLY BE?

This morning I’m thinking about how graphic novels are hugely HUGELY popular.

And I’m thinking about how big visual  glowing movies like Hugo or Hunger Games or Narnia are being made from middle grade books.

And I’m thinking about how often I hear people lament about “What can we do to get the kids reading?”

And I’m thinking about how, last night, Mose and Lew asked me to read picture books instead of starting a new readaloud novel.  ”Because we like the pictures.”


I mean, I know full color plates are too expensive to consider, but I so so so so love books with art in them.  Who decided that only baby books should have pictures?


9 Responses to “Remember when books looked like this???”

  1. Elisabeth Dahl Says:

    Totally, totally agree!

  2. Tim Byrd Says:

    This was one of the multiple reasons I left Putnam and started doing things myself. I wanted the Doc Wilde books to be fully illustrated, and to be visually appealing to folks of all ages; they wanted goofy typographical effects that made the books look like they were intended just for eight year olds. The new edition of DOC WILDE AND THE FROGS OF DOOM is a visual feast, thanks to lots of hard work by artist Gary Chaloner, and I’m much prouder of it than the original edition.

  3. Kevin Says:

    Hey now, I object to picture books being called baby books.
    Just because they have fewer words it does not diminish the content for older kids and adults.
    Personally I’ve grown really tired of the obsession with the volume of words we expect young kids to get into.

    I image that most folks believe that reading Hunger Games is better than a book of haikus.
    More I not better.
    (Unless, of course, it means more pictures.)

  4. Melissa Diskin Says:

    This is why I spend a LOT of time on Ebay and Etsy, buying the editions I grew up on (Tasha Tudor’s Little Women, etc). I looked for my childhood book of bible stories for 3 years and finally found it….because the pictures really do make a difference.

  5. Sarah J. Stevenson (@aquafortis) Says:

    It wasn’t me, I swear!

    I’ve wondered this very thing for years. YEARS. Because my goal in life for a long time was to be an illustrator, or a cartoonist, or an animator, or a SOMETHING WITH ART. And then books started to have fewer and fewer pictures in them, especially the more grown-up you got. Sad that we’re now doing that to kids’ books, too.

  6. Mallory Says:

    Of course back in the old days there just weren’t so many books or such a variety as there is today! There are still a lot of middle grade books with pictures–and they are almost all the humorous ones and often the ones geared to boys. All the James Paterson and co-writer books, Wimpy, Timmy, etc etc. I just spent hours in an Indie the other day and it was a bonanza of illustrated middle grade books. And then of course all the early chapter books (which are new in the scheme of children’s books) are filled with art. What I miss are the ones with super pretty pictures. I was a huge OZ fan and the art is what drew me. Tasha Tudor did beautiful interiors for Secret Garden etc. I think it varies from kid to kid though, and not all kids are visual. My 8 year-old boy reported to not caring about the pictures unless they are funny. He said either way he wants a really good story and that is pretty much about it. He just read Three Times Lucky and LOVED it. No art and it even had a dead person, which (you know) he hates. Anyway, I think that the “literary works” are the ones that are more likely to get shorted on the art. Assumption being a) audience is kids who read anyway and don’t need art to entice and b) not going to sell as many copies and would like to publish the book not at a loss. And graphic novels are only very selectively hugely popular. Remember all the writers who also wrote and illustrated? And also the pairs Eager and Bodeker etc. We can have fun talking this one through some time!

  7. laurel Says:

    I wish I wish I wish I could make my own art. Unfortunately, I’d have to write books with handless people in them.

  8. Crystal Says:

    I loved the color plates! I skipped to them before beginning the story many times. There are a few that are still being made with pictures, but not nearly enough. I loved the middle grade chapter book Malcolm at Midnight for that very reason. It has wonderful illustrations throughout.

  9. Kaethe Says:

    I think it was the mass market rack that did in illustrations, or maybe it was AR. Books I’ve shared with the kids that had plenty of art: Scott Westerfeld’s Leviathan series of steampunky WWI derring-do, and Philip Reeve’s lavishly illustrated Larklight series, which is also steampunky, albeit Victorian rather than Edwardian, and features many adventures. Hmmm. Westerfeld’s writing on what how illustrations guide the text is fascinating stuff. Maybe Adam Rex will be as successful as Brian Selznick, and then everyone will be doing it?

    Because, yeah, no matter how old we are, and no matter how high our reading level, we do still enjoy the pretty, pretty art.

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