Can Re-Illustration Ever Be Justified?
I was sitting down with a colleague the other day and the conversation turned, as all conversations are wont to do, to the subject of William’s Doll by Charlotte Zolotow. I won’t bore you yet again with my theory that the book would sell like hotcakes if they just bothered to re-illustrate the darn thing (if curious, you can hear me rant here).
The conversation only started with William’s Doll. After a while it went in a different direction. The question is this:
Has a picture book ever been improved by a re-illustration?
The worst case scenarios are always the easiest to think of. Anyone anywhere re-illustrating The Tale of Peter Rabbit is, by natural extension, taking an active role in a crime against man. That sort of thing falls into the if-it-ain’t-broke category.
Here are a couple cases of less violent re-illustration that come immediately to mind:
Flat Stanley by Jeff Brown
The Little Engine That Could by Watty Piper
Never Tease a Weasel by Jean Condor Soule
Many Moons by James Thurber
Do any of these improve on the original? Or is re-illustration never really a case of improvement but rather giving kids a variety of different ways to look at something familiar? I remember as a kid being read The Wind in the Willows and being shown both the original Shepard art as well as the contemporary (at the time) Michael Hague-by-way-of-Arthur-Rackham illustrations and enjoying the contrast. Maybe in some cases that’s the best use of multiple reinterpretations.
What are some of your favorite cases of re-illustration?
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About Betsy Bird
Betsy Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.
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