Last week I reread The Wonderful Farm by Marcel Ayme. A classic French children’s book, it’s full of short stories about two little girls, Delphine and Marinette, who live on a wonderful farm indeed, where the animals talk and therefore take part in the adorable little adventures that Delphine and Marinette get muddled in. I vaguely remember reading the book in French for class when I was growing up in France, before reading the book in English.
One of the things I loved about the book (and hence why it’s on my list of books that I am rereading) is the lovely illustrations throughout the book. When I read the book as a child, author and illustrator’s names didn’t really mean that much to me, unless it was a much loved author whose work I had a devour by the bookful, so this was the first time I picked up the book and realised that the book was in fact illustrated by Maurice Sendak, the fantastical author of Where the Wild Things Are and In the Night Kitchen. No wonder the illustrations are so wonderful!
When I was studying children’s books at uni, one thing that we talked about was thedifference between a ‘picture’ book and an ‘illustrated’ book – according to my lecturers, a ‘picture’ book is one where the pictures tell part of the story, and an illustrated book is a book where the story accompanies the story. A picture book without the pictures might not make sense – but an illustrated book could easily be read without the pictures and a reader would know no difference. However, in my mind, one of the reasons The Wonderful Farm is so wonderful is the pictures.
Thinking back to university, if I was referencing a picture book, I needed to include the author and the illustrator. They are co-creators of the work. You might notice that I try to keep up this practice on’The Books I’ve Read So Far‘ page – to me, the author and the illustrator of a picture book deserve equal credit. But should I be acknowledging the illustrator for every book that I read? What if the illustrator has only illustrated the particular edition that I am reading, and not the original? I wanted to include Jules Feiffer as the illustrator for The Phantom Tollbooth, as his illustrations have been included in editions of this book from its publication. But should I include Maurice Sendak for The Wonderful Farm? After all, he did not illustrate the original French edition. But when I think of The Wonderful Farm, it is his images that I picture in my head. So I think he should get some credit too. Not as a creator of the work, but more as an ‘enhancer’ of the world that Marcel Ayme created.