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Focus on Illustration

Since the Caldecott Medal is awarded to the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children, it makes sense to focus on the illustrations of these award winning books.

Examine and Evaluate Illustrations

Explore Caldecott award winners such as Knuffle Bunny Too by Mo Willems. How are they like and unlike other books in your library? What makes them special? Ask yourself:

Find a picture book that you like that hasn't won any major awards such as The Three Snow Bears by Jan Brett. Using the criteria above, nominate this book for an illustration award.

Tar BeachStart with Art

Fly Like an Illustrator. Tar Beach is a picture book based on a 1988 Tar Beach Story Quilt at the Guggenheim Museum. The text is recorded in the borders of the book. The pictures are acrylic on canvas paper with fabric borders. In the story Cassie imagines she can fly.

Art as a Starter. Explore artwork online. Use a piece of artwork as inspiration for your own book.

Pacific Northwest Indian Art. Examine the art in books such as Raven: A Trickster Tale from the Pacific Northwest. Then, explore the art of the Pacific Northwest Indians from the Digital Collections at the University of Washington. Do you see the similarity? What are the basic characteristics of this type of art? Create your own visual and write a short story.

Visualize John Henry. Read John Henry. There are many paintings and sculptures of John Henry. Do a Google Images search for examples. Which do you think best represents John Henry? Also, check out examples: 1, 2. Be sure to show the John Henry cartoon.

Imagining Noah's Ark. Each illustrator images something different when they think about Noah's Ark. Compare the images at Wikipedia, Wiki Commons, and other websites. Also compare the images found in other picture books.

Famous Works in Picture Books. Examine the way famous paintings by Pollock and Degas are expressed in Olivia. Write your own story featuring your favorite works of art. Also consider including artwork that you think is silly or confusing.

Design a Stamp. Examine the Children's Book Animals on the US Postage stamp at I'm a Stamp. Olivia is on the stamp as well as other characters you'll recognize. Invent a character and create your own stamp.


Perspective is the way in which objects appear to the eye and plays an important role in the art of picture books. One aspect of perspective involves point of view. The 2006 Caldecott Medal winner, The Hello, Goodbye Window by Norton Juster and Chris Raschka is told through the perspective of a little girl through a specific window. Chris Van Allsburg's drawings often have interesting perspectives such as being drawn for a child's eye height. Perspective also involves how items are drawn. For instance, objects are drawn smaller as their distance from the observer increases. Go to Wikipedia: Perspective (Visual) and (Graphical) to read more about perspective.

Illustration Tools and Techniques

An illustration is a visual representation of something. In books, illustrators establish the setting, bring the characters to life, and tell the story in a visual way. Go to Illustration from Wikipedia to learn more about illustration. Read about collage, drawing, painting, photography, woodcut, and gouache from Wikipedia.

Oil Painting

Watercolor Painting


Black and White Images

Hidden in Plain Sight

Some illustrators like to provide details about people and places through small messages on their page. These may be posters in the background, writing on books in the pictures, or specific references to people or places. It's fun to find the connections:

Inspiration for Illustration

Photos, interviews, and experiences as well as a lively imagination can all be used as inspiration for illustrations.

Photos are often inspiration for picture book illustrations. Use photos as inspiration for your own picture book. Compare the illustrations in the book to photographs of the actual event. How are they alike and different?

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