W ith reference to your editorial on the picture book (The Guardian view on the picture book: not just for children, 19 March), how have we managed, given the evolving economics of producing illustrated books, with so many books without pictures – knowing that a combination of words and pictures can be a powerful and beautiful way of telling a story, of describing our inner and outer worlds, and communicating with anyone, regardless of background, talents and education?
How would the story of anatomy have advanced without Leonardo da Vinci’s drawings? Imagine Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland without John Tenniel’s illustrations; to my mind, as memorable as Lewis Carroll’s text. Likewise, in the featured book, The Lost Soul, by novelist Olga Tokarczuk and illustrator Joanna Concejo, pictures and words work together in a symbiosis of intuition and logic, structure and form.
Text and pictures are not distinct from each other; they touch, overlap and derive inspiration from each other; questioning the viewpoint that prose is always sufficiently pictorial.
How wonderful to hear that the Nobel-prizewinning Polish novelist Olga Tokarczuk has a picture book out, The Lost Soul, illustrated by Joanna Concejo. Picture books can do the task of a thousand words, and the best, most cherished, are never forgotten. Eric Carle’s The Very Hungry Caterpillar tells the metamorphosis into a butterfly so delightfully and economically, and has always been a firm favourite with children and adults alike.
As a teacher, it sometimes saddened me to know that once a child had arrived at a competent reading age, the adults around him or her considered picture books a babyish irrelevance. Certainly not so. The best, often most instructive, literature comes with pictures on the page and fosters then the ones in the head. Three cheers for picture books.
Is it just coincidence that your editorial in favour of picture books arrived in the same day as Philistine’s prize crossword featuring a fictional Belgian reporter with a repetitive name? Nicely done, whether accidental or not.