Top Ten Books With Gorgeous Illustrations

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Here at Bookbag, we love books. We love words, but that's not all a book is. These are the best books for poring over, soaking up the atmosphere and just flat out enjoying. These are books featuring our favourite illustrators - so often the unsung heroes. Why not tell us about your favourites?


The Savage by David Almond and Dave McKean

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A beautiful allegory of the stages of bereavement, from grief to anger to resolution. The double story device allows children to explore threatening emotions without fear. Beautiful, meaningful, artistic and uplifting. Highly recommended. Illustrated by celebrated artist and all-round new Englightenment man Dave McKean - known for his collaborations with Neil Gaiman. Full review...

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

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Utterly, utterly gorgeous fantasy novel about life, death, family and growing up. It combines the charming and macabre and has something for everyone aged eight to eighty-eight. Highly recommended. I read the children's edition, with stupendous, intricate illustrations from the wonderful Chris Riddell, of whom we think very highly here at Bookbag, but there's also an adult edition illustrated by the much more visceral, but equally wonderful Dave McKean. Full review...

Where Is Home, Little Pip? by Karma Wilson and Jane Chapman

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A fantastic book about a lost penguin. Despite the cold Antarctic setting, it can't help but warm the cockles of your heart. Books of this quality come along once in a blue moon. Highly recommended. Jane Chapman's illustrations are gorgeous. They have a slightly more realistic style than her work in Bear Feels Scared and it suits the story perfectly. Full review...

This Land is Your Land by Woody Guthrie and Kathy Jakobsen

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This Land Is Your Land has so much mileage inside it, it's well worth the three week wait from Amazon. It's the perfect picture book for sharing with little ones, yet it has longevity too. From lyrics to art to politics to poverty and to community, there is an enormous amount to talk about. Children will find something new each time they look. It's a real piece of folk art too, in that it is open to everyone, including the grown ups. It deserves a place on every bookshelf. Kathy Jakobsen's incredibly detailed paintings are full of references to American landmarks, Guthrie's life, the myth and legend of the native American peoples and also to the hardships of modern living. Full review...

There Was An Old Lady Who Swallowed A Fly by Simms Taback

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One of the most manic picture books around, the Simms Taback version of There Was An Old Lady Who Swallowed A Fly is a gloriously busy book with a wonderful blending of the traditional and the surreal. Bookbag thinks it's a must-have and more than worth the wait for Amazon to source it for you. Oh, it's so busy, there's so much to look at, so much lively detail, I can't even begin to tell you all about it here, you'd be reading all day. It brings together surreal art, traditonal music and an awful lot of fun. Full review...

George's Marvellous Medicine by Roald Dahl

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A classic Roald Dahl story in which an unpleasant adult gets their deserved comeuppance, George's Marvellous Medicine is a Bookbag favourite. Short enough for sharing and accessible enough for newly confident readers, it's absolutely perfect in every way. Quentin Blake's illustrations are, as always, a perfect match for Dahl's words. Full review...

The Twin Giants: A Love Story by Dick King-Smith

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Twin giants grow up, nearly eat the nearby villagers out of house and home, then stride from mountain to mountain in search of wives. Mini Grey's bold, quirky and beautiful illustrations are melded perfectly with the words on every page. With the main characters being giants, there are plenty of tiny details of regular-sized people and animals to pore over and see what you can spot. Full review...

Monster Blood Tattoo by D M Cornish

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A clever and well-judged mix of pacy style and geeky detail, Monster Blood Tattoo will hit the spot with all junior fantasy addicts. Moral ambiguity gives it a thematic edge over many of its contemporaries. The illustrations are wonderful. Cornish was an illustrator before he was a writer and the book is filled with pencil sketch portraits. They are strong and atmospheric and they really do flesh out the main characters. Full review...

Maus by Art Spiegelman

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The graphic novel is dominated by fantasy and science fiction. The Holocaust is a risky subject for the format, as it risks accusations of trivialisation. There is nothing trivial about Maus. It is painful, honest, heartbreaking, stark. it is, possibly, not a read for the faint of heart, but it is highly recommended by Bookbag. Spiegelman is a wonderful cartoonist. His characters seem so alive, despite the awfulness of the situations they are in. Full review...

The Dreamer by Will Eisner

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From the man who created the world of graphic novels, his own biography of his younger days in the industry is priceless to fans of the format. For others this is still enjoyable, but may not be the best place to start. Full review...

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