Booking Through Thursday: Picture Books

Booking Through Thursday: Illustrious March 11, 2010

Filed under: WordPress — –Deb @ 1:07 am 

How do you feel about illustrations in your books? Graphs? Photos? Sketches?

This is a pretty easy question for anyone that grew up reading a lot of fantasy literature.  There’s almost one thing that every fantasy epic needs – and that’s a map.  Maybe several maps.  The more maps the better, in fact.  Because, let's face it, I love me a good map.
More than a description, a fantasy map gives the author’s world a sense of “reality” in readers’ mind (well, this reader’s mind).  It’s much easier to imagine a journey or a political relationship if you can picture the “physical” relationship involved.  I think it really helps with helping to suspend your disbelief.  The granddaddy of them all, of course, is Middle Earth from Tolkien.

But all maps don’t have to be of artistic quality.  I love this one of Ursula K LeGuin’s Earthsea.  Because unlike Tolkien’s grand map that clearly conveys THIS IS AN EPIC, LeGuin’s almost-hand-drawn looking map is much more personal and approachable – like the story she tells.

As for other books, I don’t think most books need illustrations or maps unless the locale is: a) foreign and b) important to the story.
For example, I read “The Monster of Florence” a non-fiction book about the hunt for a serial killer in the Tuscan countryside.  I’ve never been to Florence (much to the Beloved’s dismay) and I found the included area maps helped me understand what was going on much better than if they were absent.  I also read the novel “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo” which takes place in Stockholm and an isolated town several hours north of there.   No map needed for that level of detail.
I also like a photo of the author somewhere – either on the back, or flap, or back pages.  For some reason, that helps me connect with them better – get a sense of who they are – but not the ones where the author is trying to look poignantly away from the photographer as if they’re thinking great thoughts.  Just smile for the camera, okay?!?!

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16 thoughts on “Booking Through Thursday: Picture Books

  1. I agree with the maps, or you can get confused. I also like a list of characters and brief descriptions, if possible. Also handy with other stuff, like when I read The Tudors, there was a family tree in the beginning I could refer to.

  2. Normal maps usually have no surprises: their contour lines
    bring Bulgaria to your knowledge, for example. You can see where the Sofia is,
    and they are comparatively plain. A map of true merit, to me, is the
    unpublished map we draw ourselves, of our own city, our places, our life; those
    maps of our intimate world; here I was happy, in that tennis-court I won my
    first match, that is where my boyfriend kissed me; I cried there once, I was heart-stricken,
    things of that kind, our very
    own special memories, that embroider our Gobelin of our lives…This is what it means to have a map
    in our days, to let your imagination run wild…

  3. I agree that maps are necessary in a fantasy novel/series. The map is especially effective when it adds a feeling of history or a particular style to the story.

  4. Maps are definetly underused in stories. Being that I'm a map fiend, I would enjoy seeing them in any story. Books like Kate Mosse's Labyrinth take place in early France, so it's interesting to see cool old maps that reflect the changes as well.
    I so agree about author photos. Knowing the writer is full of themselves, does not make the book more enjoyable.

  5. It's not a map, but this post reminded me of a book I recently read – "The Invention of Hugo Cabret" which was a novel done about 20% with words and 80% with illustrations. A YA novel, but still, very good and so interesting to "read" a book like that.

  6. You know, I never thought about how much I enjoy maps in books, but you're right–they definitely add something invaluable, especially to books o' the fantasy persuasion.As for "traditional" type illustrations, sometimes I like them–I'm thinking here of my copy of The Little Princess–and sometimes they just bug me–I'm thinking here of Wicked, which bugged me for a lot of reasons, so maybe that's biased. But I love love loved the beginning-of-the-chapter illustrations for the entire Harry Potter series! Small and simple, they added to the story and helped me visualize some of the more fantastic things without distracting from the text.

  7. Back in my teen days, when I dreamed of writing an epic (and before I'd ever heard of Tolkien), I sketched out a three-generation story focusing on three kings (grandfather, father & son)…and believe it or not, I worked *really* hard on a map that described their kingdom and the neighboring rivals…so yes! Maps are GREAT!

  8. Joie — I think you bring up a great point about how a little illustration like the ones at the chapter headings in Harry Potter can really enhance the feel and experience of reading a book.

  9. I wondered about audiobooks as I was writing my comment! Illustrations seem like just one of several things you miss out on with audiobooks. If I had a long commute I'd be all for 'em, but I'd probably reserve my audiobook usage for things I didn't expect to be terribly invested in.As for Kindle–I was under the impression they had the same page set-up (number of pages, any illustrations, font) as the book itself! Is that incorrect?! That could really impact my desire for a Kindle. :( Although now that I go to look, I see none of the Harry Potter books are even on Kindle! /endHPobsessivedialogAs if this comment wasn't long enough… I posted this on Facebook yesterday as a set of books I desperately want… So apparently with me, it's not just in-text illustrations, it's cover art as well. :)

  10. I have actually read books and wished that the author's picture wasn't there. They just didn't look like I thought they should. :)
    Right now I'm reading The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss, which has a cool map at the front. If you like epic fantasy, you should totally read this book. I love it, and I'm not even a huge fantasy fan. I have seen a picture of him on his blog, and he looks exactly like I think he should. =P

  11. I have actually read books and wished that the author's picture wasn't there. They just didn't look like I thought they should. :)
    Right now I'm reading The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss, which has a cool map at the front. If you like epic fantasy, you should totally read this book. I love it, and I'm not even a huge fantasy fan. I have seen a picture of him on his blog, and he looks exactly like I think he should. =P

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