My eight-year-old still loves stories with pictures. If I am reading a book aloud, we like to share the pictures and find that, far from reducing his (or my) imagination about the story, it enhances it and we learn more. Why are so few contemporary stories for this age group published with pictures? Can you recommend some good ones?
As we live in an increasingly visual age, I think there are many eight-year-olds who, like your son, would love to see more pictures to accompany the stories they enjoy.
Given that their early introduction to stories will have been in the form of picture books with the creative dual-telling of the stories through words and pictures, it is what they are most familiar with. They are used to ‘reading’ the sometimes imaginatively different stories the words and pictures tell whether it is in something as simple as Pat Hutchins’ Rosie’s Walk or the most sophisticated and surprising visual alternatives Anthony Browne offers in books such as Bear Hunt or Willy the Wimp. Brought up with those expectations, plunging suddenly into text only is a deprivation. Recently, however, there have been more pictures in books for older and more confident readers. David Almond’s gentle and lyrical fantasy The Boy who Climbed into the Moon with illustrations by Polly Dunbar or his more challenging story The Savage which is so fully illustrated by Dave McKean that parts of the story are told as a graphic novel are both good examples. Dave Shelton both writes and illustrates A Boy and a Bear in a Boat. Although the illustrations are only a small part of the whole they bring details and episodes to life. For a bigger range of titles, Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell have combined very successfully in many books. Both the Muddle Earth series and The Far Flung Adventures with titles including both Hugo Pepper and Fergus Crane are vividly brought to life in Chris Riddell’s original and inventive illustrations.
For more sophisticated reading, Noah Barleywater Runs Away and The Terrible Thing That Happened to Barnaby Brocket, two thought-provoking fables by John Boyne, are both brilliantly illustrated by Oliver Jeffers. But I’d also suggest reading some of the modern classics such as E.B White’s Charlotte’s Web or, more recently, Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory or The BFG, or any of Dahl’s other titles with their character-defining illustrations by Quentin Blake.