By Beth Clark • November 26, 2018
When authors like Roald Dahl and Jon Scieszka pair up with illustrators like Quentin Blake and Lane Smith, the result is nothing short of magic that parents, teachers, and kids love to read over and over and over! (And over...) Below are six of our favorite collaborations, from classic to modern and everything in between.
The best thing about books like The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales, Squids Will Be Squids, and The True Story of the Three Little Pigs is that they're entertaining for kids AND grownups. Each is incredibly talented on his own, but Scieszka and Smith's combined goofy and twisted powers result in uniquely witty stories that are as funny for parents as they are fun for kids. Which is a huge bonus when your kid is asking you to read the same story a hundred times. In a row. Critics love them too: Among a myriad of other prizes and recognition, The Stinky Cheese Man won The New York Times Best Illustrated Book and Caldecott Honor awards, Smith received the lifetime achievement award from the Society of Illustrators, and Scieszka was the first U.S. National Ambassador for Young People's Literature.
Carroll and Tenniel were one of the greatest author-illustrator pairings ever, in spite of, or maybe because of, the fact that they worked separately and rarely met in person. Whichever the case, Alice in Wonderland is clear evidence that their collaboration was magical. Meeting Alice Liddell ignited Carroll's whimsical inventiveness, and in addition to being an illustrator, Tenniel was a celebrated political cartoonist, so having the latitude to interpret Carroll's text sans outside influence gave him the ability to perfectly capture the absurdity of Wonderland and the looking glass world.
Over the course of his career, Roald Dahl worked with other illustrators, but his work truly came to life when he teamed up with Quentin Blake. Blake's quiet brilliance and unique style established him as one of Britain's greatest illustrators, and luckily for Charlie Bucket and the rest of us, Dahl recognized and appreciated how special that was, choosing to hold onto Blake for the rest of his career. He even when so far as to adjust the details of his writing a few times, like swapping The BFG's boots for sandals after seeing Blake's vision of him.
Ernest H. Shepard's elegantly detailed pen and ink drawings of Milne's poignant and humorous Winnie-the-Pooh tales gave life to the beloved bear and his friends in ways that any other combination probably couldn't have. Milne's question of whether Shepard's style would work with his was certainly answered in the affirmative. Ironically, Shephard was also one of Britain's greatest political cartoonists, which ultimately led him to resent Pooh, making his tender, yet masterful interpretation of the Hundred Acre Wood all the more special. Milne never wavered in his loyalty and gratitude toward Shepard and arranged for the illustrator to receive a share of the royalties, which was not common. Milne even Inscribed one copy of Winnie-the-Pooh with "When I am gone, let Shepard decorate my tomb." (He didn't, but the sentiment was still touching.)
Serendipity intervened when Tolkien randomly spotted drawings by Baynes laying on a desk at his publisher's office. He immediately recognized the potential for one of the most epic collaborations of all time and demanded that she start illustrating his work, Farmer Giles of Ham, which she did. The result was a close friendship and lifelong literary partnership. In addition to covers for select British editions of the books, Baynes also created posters for The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings series. AND…Tolkein recommended her to friend and fellow fantasy author C.S. Lewis…
Although the relationship between Baynes and Lewis wasn't as close or affectionate as the friendship she shared with Tolkein, it was every bit as productive and successful professionally. Ironically, part of the reason for the lack of personal contact between them was Lewis maintaining that Baynes couldn't draw lions properly. (The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe would indicate otherwise.) Thankfully, he stayed with her anyway, and Baynes' watercolor illustrations for The Chronicles of Narnia brought Lewis' world of jagged mountains, dense woods and magical islands to life, becoming as integral to the stories as their words.
If you have a favorite author-illustrator duo, let us know in the comments below or on Facebook, and don't forget to Like and Follow us if you aren't already!