Posted on November 1, 2023 at 6:00 am
The day I discovered that I knew how to read, I grieved.
I had been working for months sounding out words, and I was tuckered out. My brain wanted a break. So, I decided to go back to enjoying books the way I had before I started piecing together syllables: I would pick up an unfamiliar picture book, open it, and make up a story that matched the illustrations.
To my dismay, this was no longer possible. Even if my eyes only briefly brushed by a word, my brain instantly processed the meaning. I couldn’t turn reading off. I was stuck with the stories the author prescribed—forever.
My 6-year-old mind glumly contemplated a deep thought: Growing up comes with a cost.
Now as an adult, I’ve made peace with my ability to read. And although I can’t block out the words entirely, beautiful picture book illustrations still leave me breathless—as if I’ve been plunged into another world, especially immersive two-page spreads you can fall right into.
My favorite book illustrations are the ones that feel like paintings. Sometimes they captivate me because they tell a clear story in one glance. Sometimes I’m drawn in because of their mystery, and I squint harder, wanting to puzzle out the meaning.
No matter how it happens, I treasure those moments when I am transported by a skillfully executed piece of art.
In search of that experience of awe, I combed the library’s shelves of picture books. I found that these books show up in many genres, including wordless picture books, illustrated biographies, and traditional fairy tales. You’ll also find breathtaking illustrations in serious books about grief and loss as well as in silly books exploring madcap fantasies.
I invite you to lose yourself in lavish illustrations for the following selected titles. If you’re curious about the story that goes along with them, you can click on the title under each illustration or in the book river at the end to place a hold in the catalog.
It’s also okay to just treasure the story you imagine when you view the illustrator’s artwork. Enjoy!
Dana Mannino is a librarian at Spokane County Library District. She plans library programs for adults and serves as an SCLD liaison to the Latinx community. At home, she hosts biannual Lord-of-the-Rings–themed parties and watches BritBox. How does she take her tea? Very, very seriously.