Posted by: Kathy Temean | September 18, 2014

How to Spot a Great Picture Book

dilysDilys Evans has been providing advice to young artists since 1978, when she founded Dilys Evans Fine Illustration.

Below is a summary of that advice—10 characteristics that she believes all outstanding picture books have in common.

Use it as a guide as you evaluate the picture books in your collection.

1. In the Beginning Was the Word
The pictures must be truly inspired by the story.

2. Preparation Is Paramount
The artist knows his or her characters, subject, and the setting inside and out.

3. A Great Cover Is a Great Start
If the cover art is compelling, it will make the viewer pick up the book and turn the pages.

4. The Artist Sets the Scene before the Story Begins
The inside flap offers a great opportunity to set the stage for the story or introduce a character.

5. The Endpapers Involve the Reader
Endpapers are another opportunity to add to the story or overall design of the book.

6. The Medium Is the Message
The perfect choice of medium to illustrate the text should convey every mood and nuance.

7. Every Picture Tells the Story
Every image is central to the story and moves it forward to the next page.

8. The Book Is a Form of Dramatic Art
Every scene must be carefully chosen to fully illustrate the drama and excitement of the story as it unfolds.

9. Art and Type Should Be a Perfect Marriage
The typeface should seem to be almost an extension of the art itself.

10. White Space Rules!
White space is a compositional element and not just a background to present the art.

Printed by the School Library Journal, September 2005

Talk tomorrow,



  1. Thanks Kathy for the shout out. We are building an excellent course and are so excited that you included us here. Anyone interested can email me with questions Thanks again Kathy!


    • Kami,

      I’m happy to share you class, since I know what a good job you do. You should go over to the post and leave a comment there so people reading and may be interested will see your email.



  2. I like this post Kathy…though I think you’d rather change #8 to FULLY illustrate rather than DULLY illustrate…don’t know about you, but I don’t care for “dully illustrated books”. :>)


    • Darlene,

      I always hate to edit something that I got from a reprint, but it sure does sound like that was a typo they made, so I changed it. Thanks for pointing that out.



  3. thanks for sharing! useful to writers who are thinking about how to share the page with illustrations.


  4. This is an excellent, concise list of the very basics of constructing a good picture book! Thanks for posting it, Kathy 🙂


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