Before They Can Read: 10 Children’s Book Illustrators Both Kids & Parents Will Love

For youngsters who can’t yet read on their own, like my precious daughter, illustrations in books are the heart of engaging imagination and captivating attention. Children’s literature is rich with beautiful art that can help a child develop a love of books (just as soon as they pass the stage where eating the book is the primary intrigue).

As adults who are reading aloud to your kids, I believe it’s important that you enjoy the book, too, if for no other reason than it means you’re more likely to read it over and over again, making story time a cherished ritual with your kiddos. While there are some amazing classic children’s books which every child should read, here are 10 illustrators whose artwork will get you (and your babes and tots) hooked on books.

Oliver Jeffers is an artist, illustrator and writer from Belfast in Northern Ireland who now lives in Brooklyn, New York. Jeffers uses mixed media and figurative painting, along with his own style of composition, to create enchanting illustrations which are adored by readers of all ages. Several of his books – including Stuck and This Moose Belongs to Me (shown above) – rose to the top of the New York Times bestseller list. The Day the Crayons Quit, written by Drew Daywalt, comes to life thanks to the illustrations by Jeffers. Follow him @OliverJeffers on Twitter.

Canadian-born author and illustrator Peter H. Reynolds is known for his children’s picture books which encourage creativity and self expression, including The North Star, The Dot (shown above), Ish and So Few Me. The Dot is among my favorites. Clearly others agree, since it’s been published in more than 20 languages around the world. Follow him @peterhreynolds on Twitter.

Benji Davies is both an illustrator and animator. His work on the printed page features colorful scenes and charming characters, like award-winning On Sudden Hill, written by Linda Sarah, Goodnight Already! by Jory John, The Storm Whale (shown above) and dozens more. Follow him @Benji_Davies on Twitter.

Jane Chapman (also known by her pseudonym Jack Tickle) really hit her stride with the bestselling picture book Bear Snores On, written by Karma Wilson and published in 2002. Chapman’s feathery brush strokes are easy to spot. Due to her tendency to illustrate anthropomorphized creatures great and small, I’ve been compelled to acquire several of her books for my daughter’s library.

Chapman’s husband, Tim Warnes, is also an illustrator, comic artist and children’s book author. One of my favorite board books which features Warnes’ work is I Love You to the Moon and Back. It’s sweet, gentle rhyme was written by Amelia Hepworth. Warnes and Chapman live in Dorset, England, with their son Noah. Teamed up, they published Hands Off My Honey! Follow this duo @chapmanwarnes on Twitter.

Mo Willems is an American writer, animator and creator of lovable children’s books. Caldecott honors and critically-acclaimed for starters, Willems’ picture books offer whimsy with a twist on the ordinary. Known for Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus, Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale, Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs and dozens more. Follow him @The_Pigeon on Twitter.

Carin Berger is an author, designer and illustrator who created OK Go! and Not So True Stories & Unreasonable Rhymes. My favorite among her work is her latest picture book, called The Little Yellow Leaf, where she uses collage-based illustrations. Its subtlety and simplicity are delightful. Follow her @CarinBerger on Twitter.

Los Angeles-based illustrator Brigette Barrager has a retro style that harkens back to the 50s and 60s. She illustrated Where Does Kitty Go in the Rain?, written by Harriet Ziefert. Barrager also illustrates princesses, unicorns and paper dolls. Follow her @missbrigette on Twitter and Instagram.

Charles Santoso is a picture book illustrator based out of Sydney, Australia. Perhaps the inspiration for his latest work came from Down Under as well. I Don’t Like Koala, written by Sean Ferrell, just hit shelves this week. Follow him @minitreehouse on Twitter.

Erin E. Stead is a Caldecott award-winning illustrator of children’s books. Her first publication was A Sick Day for Amos McGee, written by her husband Philip C. Stead, who is also an artist. Her other award-winning works include Bear Has a Story to Tell, also written by her husband, plus And Then It’s Spring (shown above), written by Julie Fogliano.

Who is your favorite contemporary illustrator of children’s books?

Meredith is Creative Director at Half Price Books Corporate.
You can follow her on Twitter at @msquare21.

5 Nature Books for Kids

Gearing up for Earth Day this Sunday (April 22) and need a way for kids to get involved and excited about nature? Start with these five children’s picks and dig in!

1) 50 Simple Things Kids Can Do to Save the Earth by The Earthworks Group – An optimistic look at the future, offering straightforward ideas for kids to reduce their resource consumption and start taking better care of Mother Nature.

2) Ecoart!: Earth-Friendly Art and Craft Experiences for 3-To 9-Year-Olds by Laurie Carlson– Great for younger kids (with parent supervision), this eco-conscious guide suggests dozens of fun and easy crafts that can be created with items lying around the house – or around the yard. Not sure what do with that empty milk jug? Want to try something new with the weeds you pulled last weekend? This book has ideas for everyone.

3) Recycle! by Gail Gibbons – This book makes the sometimes-confusing concept of recycling easy to understand for elementary age kids. Pictures and straightforward explanations detail the process of recycling from sorting used cans, bottles and paper to the new products these reused materials eventually create. Focusing on five major types of recyclables, Recycle! teaches kids what types of items they can help save from landfills.

4) The Kids’ Nature Book: 365 Indoor/Outdoor Activities and Experiences by Susan Milord – Organized in calendar format, this book offers children and parents great ideas for getting outside and observing what’s going on around them no matter the time of year. Learn about and watch birds flying south for the winter, and discover why many plants bloom in the spring while studying the saplings at the local park.

5) Fun With Nature: Take Along Guide by Mel Boring – A beginner’s field guide for kids, this book is great to take along on a family walk, camping in the woods, or even to the museum. Children can look up the types of worms, frogs, and squirrels (oh my!) they spot outside and learn more about what these animals eat and their preferred habitat. Also sprinkled throughout are several project ideas – from building rabbit refuges to making a stained glass animal.

Do you remember your favorite nature books from your childhood, or know of any great books to teach kids about the importance of our Earth? Let us know in the comments!

Also… don’t miss your chance to have a tree named in honor of a booklover you love. Learn more about our Plant It for the Planet event and how you can nominate someone. Get your green thumbs on the keyboard and enter now. Deadline is Monday!

— Kate