Discussion Post

Pictures are not just for picture books: YA books with pictures

OK so I had this idea for a blog post… and the next day this article turned up on the Guardian’s website. Me and Cathy Brett are soooo on the same wavelength and you should definitely read her article! Anyway, Raimy, get back on track! 

Image from Everything is Fine (and Other Lies I tell Myself) ©CathyBrett

I love pictures in books of all kind, picture books, MG books, graphic novels and comic books, I cannot get enough of them, but so few YA books feature pictures and I think it’s because of the implications put onto the books. YA is meant to bridge the gap between children’s book and adult books (ignoring the newly coined New Adult section for now) and I guess as we wouldn’t expect pictures to be in adult books they don’t feature highly in YA. But I think they should! 

I pretty much don’t see why pictures aren’t used in YA and adult books, I suspect its something to do with literary snobbery but I don’t care about that. That feeling you get when you start a new chapter and there on the page is a picture of something that is to come, it can’t be beaten. The pictures almost always relate directly to the text, as in they are something which is described in the text and that excites me the most. 
© 2013 Icapo Bruno

The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani is one such example of this. On each chapter page there will be a picture relating to the text.As this is fantasy the pictures are sometimes a little strange. I loved that some of the pictures used the break in the page brilliantly like the one of Sophie and the Swan and the one of the animals rushing out of the forest. These work brilliantly to sit within the story and allow us to vividly picture what is going on, but they don’t generally add extra bits of information to the story.


Cathy Brett, who I mentioned above, is an example of an author using images to add to the story. Her most recent book Everything is Fine (And Other Lies I Tell Myself) includes pictures which capture the emotion of the story, they show the reader things that aren’t as easily conveyed with words, and in some cases they even used the words to form images. This was so refreshing and I had never seen it done before, but it made me enjoy the book even more and think; ‘why can’t more books be like this?’ 

Another thing I adore in books is a map. These usually only really work in fantasy books but I love opening a new fantasy book and seeing a map of this new world laid out in front of me. This is pretty much the only illustration you will find in any adult book and it will always be a high fantasy book which features it. In YA, The School of Good and Evil has an ‘almost’ map in it, which outlines the school and its surrounding area. I say almost as its more a picture of the school and which buildings are which. The Oathbreaker’s Shadow is another recently read YA which has a map of that world and that helped a lot, especially when the character was wandering through different parts of the desert. I recently read The Bell Between Worlds by Ian Johnstone and I absolutely loved it but a map would be perfect for that book and it didn’t have one! 

© Icapo Bruno
So now I have given my two pence about illustrations in books and examples of ones I love, I would love to hear some of yours. Also, if you fancy reading your very own copy of Everything is Fine (and Other Lies I Tell Myself) The wonderful folks at Headline have kindly offered one to giveaway as part of this post. UK Only, fill in form for entry, giveaway closes at midnight on Thursday 27th June. 


  • Jim Dean

    Fab post! I LOVED the pictures in Everything is Fine… – absolutely stunning. And The School of Good and Evil pics were fab as well.

  • Anya

    I’m hardly aware of pictures in YA, but now that I think about it, they would be awesome. Sort of like A Series of Unfortunate Events drawings 🙂

  • Hannah

    I do agree, pictures in books add a different feel to the one we already gain from the narrative and they can be lovely. But at the same time, they force your mind to picture something in a particular way when often you’ll imagine it another way so they can sway the imagination.. I think it depends on the book and the way images are handled! 🙂

    The Rithmatist did them very well with the little images of the chalk drawings but nothing else, so you still had the adventure with the imagination, but the wonderful feeling that comes with illustrations!

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