Drawing you in: 3 picture books for adults

Harris Finds His Feet by Catherine Rayner
Category: Reading

The House of Illustration opened its doors last week, becoming the world’s first public gallery and education space dedicated to illustration. Its inaugural exhibition features a childhood staple, the work of Quentin Blake, demonstrating that children’s book illustration has well and truly hit the mainstream.

Picture books are no longer just for children – they’re for anyone who loves great illustration and design, with the added bonus of some amazing story-telling. Every so often, when a “must read” book I rave about turns out to be aimed at under-5s, friends look at me strangely. But who needs friends when you have books anyway?

If you haven’t thought about picture books since your Topsy and Tim days but would like to dip your toe into the world of illustrated children’s books, here are three recommendations for getting started.

Little Mouse’s Big Book of Fears

Little Mouse's Big Book of Fears by Emily Gravett

Little Mouse discusses his fears, including ornithophobia (fear of birds, demonstrated by the most menacing feathers you ever did see) and aichmophobia (fear of sharp objects, ably demonstrated by a creative modern twist on 'Three Blind Mice').

The detailed, layered and textured illustrations are the real joy of the book. The book is dedicated to the author’s rats, Button and Mr Moo, who played their part in the illustration by weathering the paper in their own special ratty way. This is authentic with a capital pee!

Complete with a foldout map of the Isle of Fright, a mouse-shaped island with locations including Loose Bottom and Tingly Spine, this interactive book is a visual and tactile joy for all ages and filled with references that are clearly more for adult readers than children.    

I Want My Hat Back

I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen

Jon Klassen’s I Want My Hat Back has become a bit of a cult hit, so much so that there’s even a meme dedicated to it, but if you are an adult approaching picture books for the first time there is no finer place to start. The book itself is dark and clever, but the heart of the story lies in the illustrations.

The Bear character might be based on a “big lump”, but Klassen’s work is a masterclass in displaying emotion through the eyes alone. The use of white – well, slightly beige – space really lets the texture and detail of the illustrations take centre stage.

Harris Finds His Feet

Harris Finds His Feet by Catherine Rayner

The first time I saw Catherine Rayner’s work wasn’t in a book, it was in a gallery. I fell in love with, and lusted after, her beautiful animal prints long before I discovered that she was the author of a number of illustrated children’s books. Harris Finds His Feet takes Rayner’s hare illustrations and brings them to life in a story, but every single double-page spread would look equally at home framed on your wall.

If you're an illustration fan, what are your recommendations for the best picture books for adults? Let us know in the comments below or on Twitter @scottishbktrust.


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