In awe of illustrations: A celebration of visual literacy

Chopsticks. By Jessica Anthony and Rodrigo Corral
Chopsticks. By Jessica Anthony and Rodrigo Corral
Chopsticks. By Jessica Anthony and Rodrigo Corral
Chopsticks. By Jessica Anthony and Rodrigo Corral

Have you ever looked at a novel and fallen in love with the book’s pictures or design before its words? Some books are so visually intriguing for me that the words are almost superfluous. In a world depending more and more on us to be visually literate, or able to understand meanings behind images, these books provide challenging and beautiful imagery to practice on. Here are a few titles that stand out for me.


Edited by Kazu Kibuishi

This collection of short stories created by multiple writers is perfect for begining graphic novel readers and illustration addicts alike. A huge variety of stories and image styles are on display, and if you like the first volume you are bound to enjoy volumes two through six, also.  


By Clive Barker

This young adult novel is brimming with exquisite and sometimes terrifying oil paintings that draw the reader into a strange world filled with quirky characters.  Much like Alice discovering Wonderland, Candy Quackenbush finds an entrance into another world on the edge of her town and starts her own journey to discover who she is and what her place in this world will be. Abarat is the first installment of a series that Clive Barker is still working on.

The Lion and the Mouse

Created by Jerry Pinkney

The Lion and the Mouse is a picture book made up of illustrations, and when you see them I think you’ll agree that words weren’t needed. The story is an enduring classic folk tale, and Jerry Pinkney’s illustrations are full of vibrant colors and incredible detail. This book won the Caldecott Medal and is sure to become a classic in children’s literature.


By Jessica Anthony and Rodrigo Corral

Chopsticks is a novel about two teens struggling to grow up and is built from photographs, flyers, letters, texts, drawings and more. The novel starts out with a mystery, transforms into a story of friendship, and concludes with a question that doesn’t have any easy answer. The book is a great example of how images tell a story, and the depth of meaning possible in a simple picture.     

Are you interested in expanding your knowledge of visual literacy? Check out the International Visual Literacy Organization which has more information on this topic. I highly recommend reading this article posted to their site for an in-depth explanation.