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The Importance of Illustration in Children’s Literature



Summer reading can create a mild disturbance in an otherwise carefree three month vacation for some children. Despite this way of thinking, there are plenty of ways to introduce summer reading that not only entertains children but engages them in multiple ways; one effective method of engaging a child in literature is through illustration. Although plot and characterization are important elements in any piece of literature, illustration in children’s literature carries similar significance.

John_Tenniel-_Alices_mad_tea_party_colourFor example, Lewis Carroll’s beloved literary fairy tale, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, has boisterous as well as bizarre characters throughout; when one thinks of the original literary classic, John Tenniel’s illustrations are imprinted in the mind. Tenniel’s renderings allowed the reader to visualize the beyond imaginative happenings in Carroll’s Wonderland through disproportioned figures and detailed line work. Additionally, Tenniel’s work proves that illustrations can help reinforce the themes or overall tone of a book. To further prove this statement, one can compare and contrast Tenniel’s take on Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland as opposed to Alison Jay’s illustrations, which can be found here at The Cummer Museum Store. Alison Jay’s adaptations exemplify the whimsical nature of Carroll’s classic novel, while Tenniel’s version creates a sense of eerie yet elegant disorientation. Whichever version one prefers, the illustrations in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland allow a child to not only read text, but to experience the themes, settings, and atmospheres as well.


Even though summer reading is not every child’s favorite aspect of summer, as a parent, one can choose books with illustrations that produce an experience that engages as well as entertains. As mentioned above, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland brings about uncanny visuals that stimulate any child’s imagination, and depending on preference, the differing illustrators give varied atmospheric experiences suitable for children of any age and imagination. Illustration characterizes even the most well-written plots, and without it various children might overlook some of the most beloved literary classics.

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Director of Art Education

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