100 Scope Notes
Inside 100 Scope Notes

The State of Photography Illustration in 2014

What is the summer if not a time for short blog posts about random things? Today we have a classic case of “Am I just noticing it more, or is it happening more?”

The topic? Photography as picture book illustration.

While commonly used in works of nonfiction, it’s pretty rare in the fiction picture book world. I’ve talked about this before (in the review for Step Gently Out). And A Fuse #8 Production covered the topic well in her post Can Photos Win Awards?

It’s safe to say I root for photography.

And it appears we’re in the midst of a bumper crop for books that use the medium in one way or another. Here are the 2014 picture books I’ve noticed. If I missed any, let’s hear it in the comments.

Fall Leaves by Loretta Holland; illustrated by Elly MacKay

Two-dimensional character drawings are layered with two and three-dimensional landscapes to create a unique look.

Hank Has a Dream by Rebecca Dudley

A follow-up to the excellent Hank Finds an Egg, Dudley brings even more detail to Hank’s three-dimensional world.

I Am A Witch’s Cat by Harriet Muncaster

Muncaster creates three-dimensional sets and props, then populates them with characters that are drawn and cut out.

Viva Frida by Yuyi Morales

While not exactly a fiction picture book (it’s a bio), it definitely deserves to be mentioned here. Viva Frida has received some Caldecott buzz, and to my eyes, the artwork is worthy of being in that discussion. This book also sports a remarkable sequence when the artwork transitions from puppets to acrylic paintings and back as Frida is dreaming.

Flo & Wendell Explore by Walter Wegman

You may have heard of Wegman before – he’s become well known for his dog photography. In this follow-up to Flo & Wendell, Wegman starts with dogs and creates worlds around them.

He also has a board book series arriving in 2014:

Nancy Knows by Cybele Young

Young has incorporated three-dimensional elements into her books before, and this story of an elephant fits with her unique style.

The Secret Life of Squirrels by Nancy Rose

I mentioned this book in my Wildest Children’s Books of 2014 post. This one stands out along with Flo & Wendell as the only books on this list where some of the subjects are not under the complete control of the artist – I bet that’s tricky.

Peanut Butter & Cupcake by Terry Border

I talked about this one in my 2014 Summer Preview and it certainly fits with this crew.

*Edited to add*

Thank you to those of you who chimed in with additional titles in the comments. Here are more titles that feature photography:

Lulu & Pip by Stephanie Rausser, Jess Brown, Nina Gruener

Swim, Duck, Swim! by Susan Lurie; photographs by Murray Head

Marcel the Shell: The Most Surprised I’ve Ever Been by Dean Fleischer-Camp and Jenny Slate

I Wish I Had a Pet by Maggie Rudy

About Travis Jonker

Travis Jonker is an elementary school librarian in Michigan. He writes reviews (and the occasional article or two) for School Library Journal and is a member of the 2014 Caldecott committee. You can email Travis at scopenotes@gmail.com, or follow him on Twitter: @100scopenotes.


  1. Excellent excellent excellent! Now let’s add in Swim, Duck, Swim by Susan Lurie, Marcel the Shell: The Most Surprised I’ve Ever Been by Dean Fleischer-Camp and Jenny Slate and I Wish I Had a Pet by Maggie Rudy. And that’s not even counting YA books like Christine Hepperman’s Poisoned Apples.

    I once asked a panel of photographers why we were seeing this uptick. They said that with the rise in digital photography and cheaper full-color printing costs it was much easier to do photography books for children.

  2. Fantastic post! I am excited to see Jason Fulford and Tamara Shopsin’s new book in September ‘This Equals That’.

  3. The FALL LEAVES book looks beautiful! And many of the others seem fun. Will check out some of these titles. Thanks!

  4. I was JUST talking to some authors yesterday at a SCBWI meeting about the exciting options of starting with photography as a basis of illustrations for picture books. Perfect post! Thank you!