People who are unfamiliar with children's book publication find it interesting that the writer and artist do not usually collaborate. The outcome is a collaboration—a co-created piece of literature—but the process isn’t necessarily so. It is the role of the illustrator to be inspired by the words and bring their interpretation—their story—to the book.
In some cases, the designer at a publishing house will request input from the author with respect to confirming accuracy and intent of the text or when an illustration needs to carry part of the story as defined by the author. However, the choice of the illustrator, the medium they work in, and the content of the illustrations are elements left to the art department and the creative mind of the illustrator.
"A picture book is a dialogue between two worlds: the world of images and the world of words." – Leonard S. Marcus, children's literature critic
As an author, I have been incredibly fortunate that my publishers Groundwood Books and Kids Can Press have wisely chosen the perfect illustrators to interpret each of my stories, and the results have been inspiring, affecting and often award-winning as an outcome.
To me, there’s something magical about a picture book. Often it is a child’s first exposure to words and story, and if well done, literature. It is also their first exposure to visual art – to texture, color, form and design.
But I think there is even more to it than that. The artists, both writer and illustrator, must also leave room for imagination, the opportunity to instill the desire to observe, to think, and to explore what is beyond the page.
"[The illustrator] must never illustrate exactly what is written. You must find a space in the text so that the pictures can do the work. Then you must let the words take over where words do it best. It’s a funny kind of juggling act." – Maurice Sendak
My latest picture book, Me and You and the Red Canoe, will be released by Groundwood Books this August, with stunning illustrations by newcomer to the publishing world, Phil. It is so exciting to see how his beautiful paintings have brought my words to life, speaking their story to create atmosphere, relationship and memories of a quiet fishing trip on the lake.