Top Ten Tuesday bannerTop Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature created and hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, in which we talk about a bookish topic and have fun making lists. Last week I focused on cover art; this week we’re all talking about books that have pictures on the inside…

If I had to do comics or graphic novels, this would be a very short list at they’ve never really been my thing. But with the latitude granted by ‘picture books’, I’m going to spend a second week in a row enthusing about art. I do have some honest-to-goodness art books (most notably a glorious tome on HR Giger), but I’m going to focus on illustrated stories – and not all of them are for children.

Wombat - ink line drawing by Ralph Thompson for The Silver Brumby

The Silver Brumby – Elyne Mitchell | Artist: Ralph Thompson

Okay, I loved this book because it had the most beautiful horse in the world on the cover, and I was captivated by his adventures inside. But my copy also featured gorgeous line drawings of other Australian flora and fauna, which I still adore.

Finn Family Moomintroll have an unexpected visitor (illustration by Tove Janssen)

Finn Family Moomintroll – Tove Jansson (author & artist)

I… don’t really have to explain this, do I? Moomins are amongst the most adorable creatures ever drawn. THOSE EYES. Did you know Tove Jansson once illustrated The Hobbit, which is a thing I must one day lay eyes on. Can you imagine?

R Dragon looks at a bashful Susan

Green Smoke – Rosemary Manning | Artist: Constance Marshall

Green Smoke is the tale of a girl who befriends a Cornish dragon and feeds him sticky buns in exchange for stories (and occasional flights). Marshall’s illustrations achieve peak charm, not least because R Dragon cannot hide his glee in any of them (whereas in the prose he often masks it with grump).

Two illustrated boys stare at two real goldfish

The Day I Swapped My Dad For Two Goldfish – Neil Gaiman | Artist: Dave McKean

With a title like this, I was always going to have to read this book – and it introduced me to the art of Dave McKean, one of Gaiman’s regular collaborators (they would go on to make the visually spectacular fairy tale Mirrormask). I love the composite of illustration, murky tints and photography.

An illustration of a lamp post in a snow-laden forest

The Chronicles of Narnia – C S Lewis | Artist: Pauline Baynes

Pauline Baynes’s artwork is iconic, and holds a special place in my heart because it got in my eyes so young. I can’t objectively claim to love it as art, but I love it as a lifelong friend (possibly more than I love the books themselves). Also, she gave us the visual of the lamp post.

The prow of a ship stands proud of a calm sea under a full moon

Tales by Trees: The Seafarer – Iiro Küttner | Artist: Ville Tietäväinen

Half the joy in these tree-told adult fairy tales are the gorgeous paintings. Some are tiny details – footsteps in the sand, a bird in flight – others capture little moments. The colour and texture alone break my heart.

Alan Lee paintings of Gildor and the Elves talking to Frodo

The Lord of the Rings – J R R Tolkien | Artist: Alan Lee

Speaking of hearts, Alan Lee stole mine with his illustrations for the anniversary edition of The Lord of the Rings. The characters are luminous, faces glowing; the architecture and trees tower at an almost inhuman scale (only The Last Homely House and the hobbit holes are cosy, appropriately). So much beauty.

Who Killed Amanda Palmer?

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The Tin Pot Foreign General and the Old Iron Woman – Raymond Briggs (author & arti
st)

Briggs’s lesser-known anti-war book – a satire of the Falklands – starts off with lurid, outrageous comic sketches – moustachioes, twirling eyes, breast cannon – in bright, bold colours. And then it changes. In exquisitely shaded pencil drawings, the horror of war is spelled out. It’s powerful stuff, and has had my respect since I was much too young to be reading it.

A Fairy Godmother in shades of purple, a horned moon on her brow and an apple and a crystal ball in her hands

Good Faeries, Bad Faeries – Brian Froud (artist) & Terri Windling (editor)

Who doesn’t love a book you can read back to front? I adored Lady Cottington for Froud’s faerie artwork, but here it gets centre stage without a dubious storyline to distract from it. The graceful and the gawky, the cheeky sprite and the faerie queen – this is a book to get lost in for hours. Brian Froud’s faerie and goblin artwork never fails to entrance and amuse me.

 

Honourable mention goes to the few comic strip collections I own and adore: The Order of the Stick (sat cheerfully alongside XKCD to prove that stick figures have all the dimensions they need), User Friendly (DUST PUPPY), and – of course – Calvin and Hobbes. 

 

What fabulous illustrated books do you love?