Illustrations are literature in their own right and, whether used by themselves or integrated with written texts, they sharpen the perception of children, stimulate their imagination and increase their sense of observation.¹
The saying “a picture is worth more than a thousand words” is no more apt than when we talk about children’s books. Illustrations in children’s books refer to the pictorial representation of ideas, thoughts, characters and settings in a story. Children’s stories vary from the wordless for the very young (where the pictures/illustrations do all the storytelling) to a scant few in chapter books and sometimes in novels. Wherever and whenever they are used, illustrations form an integral part of a child’s reading experience.
Benefits of good quality illustrations in children’s books are:
- Present an opportunity for discussion and learning (for e.g. the parent or teacher may ask the child to predict what might happen next)
- Provide a concrete representation of objects, characters and places described in the story, especially for younger children where description in words is not feasible.
- Teaches children perspective, size, colours and texture through positioning of elements in the illustrations, blending of colours and use of various materials (paper, tissue, clay, paints, pencil etc).
- Promotes a sense of identity when readers view illustrations of children like themselves.
Unfortunately, the illustrations of Muslim children’s books for the most part can described as poor quality and unimaginative. But this has been slowly changing as artists use a greater variety of mediums and techniques to present their work. Still Muslim children’s books deserve better illustrations. We owe it to all children.
Good illustrations can contribute to the overall development of the child by stimulating his imagination, arousing his perception, developing his potential.²
Some illustrators I have found doing notable work include:
Shirley Anjum, who is the illustrator of the book covers and pictures in the Islamic Rose Books series (e.g. The Visitors) and its activity book (Grandma and Hijab EZ Family Activity Book).
Another illustrator who I admire is Asiya Clarke, who has illustrated several books for the Islamic Foundation (including the Allah the Maker series).
An illustrator who has taken the position not to provide facial details on her characters but who has succeeded in producing very interesting illustrations is Umm Hanifah. She is the illustrator of Hudayfah Learns about Allah and Ahmad has to go Potty.