Why don’t we have more illustrated novels?

The ghost of Jacob Marley visits Ebenezer Scrooge in Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol (1843); Illustration by Arthur Rackham (1915)

The ghost of Jacob Marley visits Ebenezer Scrooge in Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol (1843); Illustration by Arthur Rackham (1915)

It’s that time of year when I pull out my copy of A Christmas Carol and keep it in the kitchen to read while I’m making holiday treats. Part of the reason why I love this book is because it’s full of illustrations by Arthur Rackham. There’s Ol’ Marley with his chain of keys, padlocks, ledgers and heavy purses, Scrooge in his nightshirt, and Tiny Tim with his crutch. So, as I started to leaf through the book yesterday while my seven-layer bars baked, I wondered why don’t we illustrate novels anymore?

The only contemporary ones I can think of are The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman, illustrated by Dave McKean and A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness, illustrated by Jim Kay, but I’m sure there must be more. Does anyone know of a contemporary illustrated novel by a female author?

And why are illustrated novels so rare when the market for graphic novels seems to be growing? Speculative fiction (SF) should be chock-full of novels ripe for illustrating. Are illustrated novels considered childish and unsophisticated? The examples above are somewhat oriented toward children, but these are not picture books nor books for young readers. Is it just too expensive to produce them? Surely cost can’t be the issue when you consider the ebook option.

I’ve certainly got more questions than answers. Let me know what you think. This is a topic we’ll explore further.

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One thought on “Why don’t we have more illustrated novels?

  1. Pingback: In search of unicorns: more on the lack of illustrated novels | Imagined Worlds | L.A. Barnitz

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