How to Spot a Good Book (Even When You're Not an Art Critic)

B.J. Novak may have gotten away with it in The Book With No Pictures — which is hilarious by the way  but for the most part children’s books without illustrations are... not children’s books.

If there's anything Literaseeds believes wholeheartedly about children's books, it's that good ones are worth finding:

"With time and energy in short supply, reading good books makes much more sense than slogging our way through so-so ones. Besides, we're convinced the secret no one will tell you is all about good books."

Great narratives share two simple qualities, but for adults and children alike, the art inside family favorites is as dear as the words themselves. (Or maybe even more?!)

What sets amazing illustrations apart from less dazzling ones? You don't have to know how to pronounce gouache or subscribe to ARTnews to spot greatness. It's one simple thing:

A good book has illustrations that go beyond mere background and partner with the narrative, adding details and depth without competing against the words on each page.

Lest that sound complicated, rest assured it can happen with both complex and simple artwork.

Using simple lines and a limited color palette, author-illustrator Mo Willems uses generous amounts of white space to ensure that his characters — and their facial expressions and hand gestures — take center stage.

The result is art that, even though it can be copied by a five-year-old, naturally syncs with the spare, clever narrative also characteristic of Willems.

The Seven Silly Eaters — a classic verse about a family with seven children — very fittingly moves toward the busier side spectrum. Highly-detailed illustrations bring to life the everyday events of the Peters family, giving readers a peek into another family’s laundry piles, beach toys, and dining room shenanigans.

It’s a feast for the eyes as readers young and old search each page for things they identify with. Paired with the story's bouncing rhyme, the detailed illustrations don't detract from the text but instead make it that much more fun and lively.

But don’t take our word for it! If a picture is worth a thousand words, our video about illustrations — complete with these examples and more  is worth a thousand blog posts.

And bonus: we reveal which page in The Seven Silly Eaters is sure to make our kids giggle (and probably yours, too.)

What children's books hold your favorite illustrations? Let us know in the comments.

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