We’ve spoken many times before about being big fans of graphic novels at Parrot Street HQ. I could talk about this for hours, because graphic novels are a fantastic and very worthy category of literature in their own right. But that’s not what this edit is about. Today we are celebrating illustrated fiction – that is illustrated chapter books, rather than graphic novels. There are some wonderful books for those transitioning from picture books to chapter books – you’ll find our top picks elsewhere on the blog. But I particularly want to highlight some brilliant illustrated chapter books out there for older readers - and the very talented illustrators who have brought those books alive.
Not only do illustrated books make beautiful gifts, they can also be a great gateway to more challenging content for struggling or reluctant readers. They are inclusive and great for sharing – books for the whole family to enjoy, young and old. Here are just a few of the highly illustrated chapter books worth looking out for:
Into the Jungle, by Katherine Rundell, illustrated by Kristjana S. Williams
Katherine Rundell is one of our favourite children’s authors. If you haven’t already discovered her work, go and find it now! Inspired by The Jungle Book, in this book she has created origin stories for all Kipling's best-loved characters, from Baloo and Shere Khan to Kaa and Bagheera – and it’s lavishly illustrated in full colour throughout.
The Wizards of Once, written and illustrated by Cressida Cowell
We love this new(ish) series from the bestselling author of How to Train Your Dragon. The black and white illustrations and very creative typesetting draw you right into Xar and Wish’s magical world full of wizards, warriors, giants and sprites. Perfect for all lovers of fantasy adventure.
Guardians of Magic, written and illustrated by Chris Riddell
Anything by Chris Riddell would fit the bill here, to be honest, but this first volume in a brand-new series (The Cloud Horse Chronicles) had us on the edge of our seats. This is another magical adventure with beautiful two-colour illustrations throughout – and we can’t wait for book two.
The Iron Man, by Ted Hughes, illustrated by Chris Mould
This new edition of Ted Hughes’ classic tale was published in hardback last year and has been stunningly illustrated by Chris Mould. We were lucky enough to be sent a copy by the publisher and instantly fell in love with it.
Pinocchio, retold by Michael Morpurgo, illustrated by Emma Chichester Clark
This retelling of one of our childhood favourites by the wonderful Michael Morpurgo is the book that got my eldest son hooked on chapter books, so I had to include it here. We have the hardback edition, which is lavishly illustrated in full colour throughout. It is also available in paperback with black and white illustrations.
The Magic Place, written and illustrated by Chris Wormell
We were sent a copy of this lovely book when it was published last year. It has one of those covers you can’t help stroking! It’s a thrilling, moving and funny adventure about looking for the most magical place of all - home. Illustrated throughout in black and white.
Mary Poppins, by P.L. Travers, illustrated by Lauren Child
Much-loved author and illustrator Lauren Child has brought this children’s classic to life with her inimitable and instantly recognisable style. Currently only available in hardback, this makes a beautiful gift. A paperback edition is due for publication next year.
The Harry Potter series, by J.K. Rowling, illustrated by Jim Kay
Of course, the books themselves need no introduction. But we couldn’t finish this edit without mentioning these astonishing editions illustrated by Jim Kay. Each volume is a work of art in its own right. We’ve been slowly building up our collection here at Parrot Street HQ. Volume 4 (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire) was released in hardback last year and the earlier volumes are also now available in paperback.
Are you keen to supercharge your child’s love of reading but feel like you could be doing more to support them? We know that discovering, purchasing and recommending books that maintain your child’s enthusiasm for reading, helping them to reach their full potential, is time consuming. Why not let us take that off your to-do list? With a Parrot Street Book Club subscription your child receives a carefully chosen new children’s book and accompanying activity pack through the post each month. They receive a stream of varied and exciting books, whilst the book club-style questions and activities are perfect for sharing. Find out more here.