I loved to read as a kid—big surprise statement for a library blog. But I can also admit to a certain feeling of disappointment, particular to the early part of my reading career, when I would flip through a book and sigh disconsolately, “No pictures at all?” Then and now, I am a big fan of illustrations. I clearly remember some of them: a beautiful painting of Normans and Saxons clashing at Hastings, a step by step series of a knight donning padding and armor, the intricate detail of a diesel engine revealed like an oyster’s pearl as it was winched out of a truck. These illustrations enthralled me. They had a very magical sort of quality, the perfect accompaniment to lazy childhood afternoons. Now, here at Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, there is so much to look at I will never have to sigh again.
I am not the only one out there who likes a nice picture sandwiched into a book. Osprey Publishing has carved out a definite niche for itself with trademark slim volumes on military history. These fact-filled, topical books always feature plates in the middle. Marketed to military history buffs and modelers, these gorgeous full color plates expose us as the overgrown children we actually are. I particularly enjoy the ones about fortifications and castles.
The mother lode of illustration will always be found in the Children’s Department. Just browsing through will unearth some gems, such as The Binding of Isaac. This book introduced me to the stunning and evocative work of Charles Mikolaycak. They are simply incredible.
Another stand out illustrator available in Children’s is David Macaulay whose pen and ink work has treated castles, cathedrals, ancient cities, and mosques. Macaulay’s books have even been turned into some fantastic PBS specials.
Some fun crossover can be found. The stand out artist for Osprey over the years was Angus McBride, who passed away too young in 2007. His stuff was simply brilliant. And in this outstanding book from the Children’s Department, The Best Book of Early People, I was treated to his vision of early man, including a wonderful scene from a village of mammoth hunters.
Early Hominids, may I say how nice you are looking today?
A heartfelt thanks to all the McBrides, Macaulays, and Mikolaycaks, and other non-alliteratively named artists who weigh CLP’s shelves down with such beautiful art.