Beauty Sleep Title Page
Beauty Sleep, For Readers

Illustrated YA? What do you think? Chris Riddell Makes Beauty Sleep More Beautiful

An amazing thing happened to me a few weeks ago.

I love illustration.  I’m fascinated by the beauty and depth an artist can add to a story with what seems like a few deft touches of a pencil or a brush. It’s so skillful it seems like magic.

Here are some artists whose work I love so much, I’ve  sought out original copies.

From Tell Me A Dragon by Jackie Morris
From Anything That Isn’t This by Chris Priestley

I follow quite a few illustrators on social media. There’s one in particular who’s live videos are mesmerising.  He also illustrated one of my all time favourite books – Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book. I had the good fortune to meet this man at the reception for the inauguration of the new children’s laureate, Cressida Cowell.   I  said hello and gushed about his work and he very kindly asked what I was doing. I told him I had a new book out.

“I’ve always wanted to illustrate a YA novel,” he said, “Get in touch.”

I sent him a copy of Beauty Sleep. Two days later, these extraordinary images began to pop up on Twitter:

Beauty Sleep Title Page
Title page – Chris Riddle entwines his drawing around Will Steele’s gorgeous work.
Alfie sealed in his cryogenic pod
The beautiful Miss Lilly
Shem and Scrag afraid of discovery
The utterly lovable Scrag
Laura learning to use the technology her new world is full of
Shem despairs
Laura, the world’s worst spy.
Two swans make a heart
Final image


I was speechless and then,  he sent the illustrated copy back to me. To own such a beautiful thing – it’s a treasure I can’t quite believe I have. I have wrapped it up to keep it safe and every now and then, I take it out and marvel at his exquisite interpretation of my story.

I always thought words were enough. Now, I’m not so sure.   I was surprised to learn that up to 1 in 50 people have Aphantasia – they are unable to visualise, those people really appreciate having images in books at whatever age.  And  I meet so many teenagers who love graphic novels – wouldn’t it be great to have more illustrated young adult novels What do you think? ( Click on the link below if you can’t see the poll.)

P. S. Comment below with your favourite illustrated books!


15 thoughts on “Illustrated YA? What do you think? Chris Riddell Makes Beauty Sleep More Beautiful”

  1. Kathy, this is so amazing – a priceless treasure! As you can imagine, I am firmly in favour of illustrated YA, but there still isn’t very much of it in the shops. I wonder who has the most influence to change this?

  2. I love books with illustrations. The books I remember with particular joy had line drawings at the beginning of every chapter, and would occasionally have additional sketches at key points in the story. Then, as if by magic, a glorious colour plate would appear – glossy paper with jewel colours. I’d stand in the shop or library and flick through to those colour plates and they – as much as the opening lines, blurb and author name – told me if this story had been written for me.

  3. I think this is lovely but wonder if it is a publisher’s question. Pics would mean the book would be longer than ‘intended’, heavier and cost more on the print-run – as well as more at the start since a fee would be paid to the illustrator. Also, older readers *might* not want them as older reading is often seen as ‘books without pictures’. As a comparable thing, I’ve seen primary kids show off by carrying around ‘thick’ books that are often Tom Gates books – highly illustrated so not text-long – but the ‘thick’ spine is important to them, or to their reading self-image. But I imagine at secondary school the ‘no pictures’ deal is important to show reading ability instead. (Unless it is a comic/ graphic novel, but that is the exception to the rule)…. Illustrated tween/YA might work where it is the narrator who draws and the images become more experimental/ integral to the story. I’m playing with this for my next book, but also bringing down the word count to allow for more space as it will be required.

  4. As a mother of a dyslexic son, I’ve come to realise the importance of illustration in making the pages less intimidating to those with learning disabilities. I was so pleased to find a graphic novel of To Kill A Mockingbird. Just to know that one day we might be able to share my favourite together was such a relief. For completeness I should say that he equally loves an audio book. Your book is beautiful 😍

  5. What an amazing gift! If you see all the drawings submitted to Sarah J Mass and Leigh Bardugo by fans of their characters, especially in the fantasy market, at least, people are clamouring for illustrations… I’m not at all an illustrator, (so I don’t have the right vocab to explain this!) but if there’s a more nuanced, less fully developed illustration style that gives the feeling/emotion of scenes (ala Chris Riddell) but doesn’t paint every mole and wrinkle, it might bridge the gap between illustration for those who can’t pictures things, and allow those who do to fill in the blanks with their own imagination.

  6. I recently read a gorgeous illustrated YA book called What the Night Sings by Vesper Stamper. The author was also the illustrator so it’s her complete vision. But I absolutely think there should be a place for illustrated work for older readers.

  7. I’m not sure that I’d want pictures. I form strong images in my mind when reading, even when there is no description to base them on. Such images are unique to each reader. Being presented with someone else’s totally different image alters the reading experience.

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