Poetry and illustration - Poetry - Forms and genres - children’s literature

Children’s literature

Part II. Forms and genres


30. Poetry


Morag Styles


Poetry and illustration


The late twentieth century saw the flowering of picture books as a genre, and many talented illustrators have turned their attention to poetry. Outstanding pictorial texts include versions of A Child’s Garden of Verses, for example by Brian Wildsmith (1974) and Michael Foreman (1985). Charles Keeping produced dramatic versions of Noyes’s The Highwayman (1981) and Tennyson’s The Lady of Shalott (1984) and his illustrations for many Causley collections are outstanding. Fruitful collaborations between poets and artists have emerged recently: for example, Michael Rosen and Quentin Blake, Ted Hughes and Leonard Baskin, Kit Wright and Posy Simmonds, John Agard/Roger McGough and Satoshi Kitamura - reminding us of famous double acts of the past, such as Christina Rossetti and Arthur Hughes, or A. A. Milne and Ernest Shepard. William Blake was the first great artist/poet whose Songs of Innocence is a master class in the symbiotic union of word and image.

There is a clutch of humorists on both sides of the Atlantic who sell well and whose artwork is interesting. William Cole (editor) teamed up with Tomi Ungerer for the popular quartet of dark humour which begins with Oh Such Foolishness (1980); Roald Dahl was accompanied by Quentin Blake at his most exuberant in Revolting Rhymes (1982); Spike Milligan produced his own quirky images for most of his comic verse, including Unspun Socks from a Chicken’s Laundry (1981); Colin McNaughton produces gloriously funny illustrations in collections such as There’s an Awful Lot of Weirdos in Our Neighbourhood (1987); while Dr Seuss’s Green Eggs and Ham (1960) and many other titles are now considered classics for their delightfully anarchic rhymes and pictures. None would be called, or perhaps call themselves, poets, but their verse and illustrations are much appreciated by children.