It’s an odd thing to imagine, how one would edit an illustration. But readers, particularly young readers, need the illustrations to read meaning into the text.
I checked some illustrations yesterday for a middle-grade novel. There was the odd punctuation mistake in the first round of illustrations, easily fixed. But then there was an incorrect date in the next round of final illustrations. The date appeared on an envelope, and it didn’t match a letter which appeared in the manuscript, about 30 pages earlier. It would take an astute, detail-orientated middle-grade reader to notice this but still, it’s incorrect. Sometimes it’s easier to change a word in the manuscript than an illustration but it wasn’t too late in our case so the illustration will be changed. Good to realise this now rather than later!
I edited a nursery rhyme book about a dozen years ago. I compiled all the rhymes, checking for the correct versions and wrote all the art briefs. One of the rhymes was about Hector Protector.
Hector Protector was dressed all in green,
Hector Protector was sent to the queen.
The queen did not like him,
no more did the king,
So Hector Protector was sent back again.
Can you predict the colour I suggested for Hector Protector’s clothing in the art brief? Correct – green!
Can you guess what colour his clothing was in the draft illustration? Nope, it was blue! Poor Hector – unwanted by royalty and dressed incorrectly!
Almost twenty years ago, when I worked as an editor for an educational publisher, I edited a language series. The illustrations were essential to teach kids new vocabulary. You can’t have a young learner confused as to whether le chien is a dog or cat because the illustration isn’t clear enough.
In children’s picture books, middle-grade novels, non-fiction books and education books for all ages, the illustrations are just as important as the text.
Even in year 12, English students are often expected to analyse a cartoon when responding to media for one of their assessment tasks.
So here’s to the unsung illustrators who blend equal parts talent with patience for fussy editors!