Five fantastic illustrated young fiction books

Published on: 29 June 2023

Andy Shepherd, author of The Boy Who Grew Dragons series, which is illustrated by Sara Ogilvie, chooses some of her favourite young fiction with pictures to celebrate the fifth anniversary of her series.

A few years ago I went to a wonderfully entertaining lecture given by Chris Riddell, titled ‘The Age of the Beautiful Book’ in which we heard about his early influences and his discovery of social media and how he draws on the pages of his own and other people’s books to bring something new to the text.

He sketched throughout the lecture, the illustrations enriching and expanding his story telling.  

One phrase that really stuck in my mind from this talk was when he said

‘Pictures turbo boost words’.

And he is absolutely right.

I have always loved illustrated books and pictures played such a huge part in my own childhood reading and they still do. So when, five years ago, Piccadilly Press told me they envisaged my books being highly illustrated I was thrilled. I was even more delighted to find out that Sara Ogilvie had agreed to work on them. Her illustrations have so much detail, energy and charm. I’m incredibly grateful to her and the design team at Piccadilly for making The Boy Who Grew Dragons series so beautiful. 

My Five Favourite Illustrated Books

This is an impossible task to pick just five, I have shelves full of my favourites!

'Tell Me A Dragon' written and illustrated by Jackie Morris

The most beautiful book full of the most wonderful settings and dragons. You could pore over every page for hours and the words and images in Jackie’s books always work so magically together.

'Olga da Polga' written by Michael Bond Illustrated by Catherine Rayner

To be honest, I think I may be Catherine’s biggest fan, I absolutely love her work and can’t possibly choose just one favourite book. But it is particularly wonderful to see her illustrations accompanying this classic and longer story.

'The Invention of Hugo Cabret' written and illustrated by Brian Selznick

The first time I came across Selznick’s books I was blown away. They are stories that bring words and images together in such an incredible way. And I will just sneak in here another illustrator who deserves a mention – Pam Smy. Reading her book Thornhill is an unbelievably powerful experience because of the way she uses text and image together to tell the story.

'Rain Before Rainbows ' written by Smriti Halls illustrated by David Litchfield

Some books are simply beautiful and deserve to be kept face out on display, always. I adore David Litchfield’s work, it’s luminous. I keep this wonderful book by my desk to remind me of Smriti’s tender message and the absolute visual joy a book can bring.

'Julia and The Shark' by Kiran Millwood Hargrave illustrated by Tom de Freston

I love Kiran’s stories, they are beautifully written and full of emotion and wisdom. When I heard that she was collaborating with her husband, the artist Tom de Freston, I was so excited to see what they would come up with. And they have certainly delivered. These books are utterly beautiful and I can’t wait to see Tom’s illustrations for the 25th anniversary edition of another of my favourite books, Skellig.

I knew I wouldn’t be able to keep to just five! But I can’t possibly leave without celebrating the magic of Chris Riddell.

'Guardians of Magic' written and illustrated by Chris Riddell

Our shelves are heaving with Chris’ work, so there are many books I could have chosen. They are always full of mischief and fun and wonderful characters as well as being visually stunning.

Check out Andy's Guide to Growing a Story

Topics: Features

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