Literature’s Greatest Author and Illustrator Duos


Some of our favorite book illustrations have become just as near and dear to our hearts as the stories themselves. What would Winnie-the-Pooh be in our minds without those beautiful drawings of the pleasantly rotund, honey-colored bear? The best illustrator and author collaborations make the text inseparable from the images, to the point where we cannot picture the stories without the pictures, or vice versa. To honor the magical relationship that takes place when the right writer and artist meet, we have rounded up some of our favorite author and illustrator duos of all time after the jump.

Roald Dahl and Quentin Blake

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, James and the Giant Peach, The BFG, The Twits, etc.

Who can forget the creepy drawings that graced the cover of The Witches or those charming portraits of The BFG? Humorous, whimsical and just a bit kooky and gross, Blake’s work is the pictorial soul mate of Dahl’s stories. The duo began working together in 1978, when Blake illustrated The Enormous Crocodile, and their collaboration lasted through the publication of Matilda in 1988. Occasionally, Dahl would change something in the text in light of an illustration. Little-known fact: initially the BFG was wearing knee-length boots, but Dahl switched them to sandals after seeing how dull the boots looked in the illustration. “He appreciated that I wanted him to have what he wanted,” Blake said of Dahl. “Sometimes artists take books and run away with them and want them to be something else, but I never did that.”

Lewis Carroll and Sir John Tenniel

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Through the Looking Glass

Typically, authors take center stage and their illustrators remain behind the scenes, but it was quite the opposite situation for Carroll and Tenniel. Though Tenniel is now best known for his Alice illustrations, before his work with Carroll he was an influential political cartoonist. It was partly because of his star status that Carroll approached him with a collaboration proposition. After considerable talks with Carroll, Tenniel consented to illustrating Alice in Wonderland, creating one of the most famous literary illustrations in history. The artist drew 92 haunting and iconic images for Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass. Strangely, however, after finishing Carroll’s project, Tenniel stopped illustrating. “It is a curious fact that with Looking-Glass the faculty of making drawings for book illustrations departed from me, and […] I have done nothing in that direction since,” he explained.

A.A, Milne and E.H Shepard

The Winnie-the-Poohbooks

“When I am gone, let Shepard decorate my tomb…” – Milne’s inscription in a copy of Winnie-the-Pooh

Initially Milne wasn’t sure if Shepard’s style would mesh well with his own. But, impressed with Shepard’s artwork for a book of his poems, the author insisted that Shepard illustrate Winnie-the-Pooh, and so one of the most famous and beloved bears in history was born. Milne, recognizing Shepard’s hand in the story’s success, even arranged for the illustrator to receive a share of the royalties. Unfortunately, Shepard, who modeled the famous bear on his son’s stuffed animal, eventually began to resent “that silly old bear,” which he felt overshadowed all of his other work.

J.R.R. Tolkien and Pauline Baynes

Farmer Giles of Ham, various works for The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings

Tolkien once stated that Baynes’ drawings “reduced my text to a commentary.” In 1948, the author spotted Baynes’ pictures lying on a desk at his publisher’s and demanded that she start illustrating his work, Farmer Giles of Ham, thus marking the beginning of a lifelong collaboration and close friendship. Baynes produced many posters for The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings series, as well as the British covers for certain editions of the book. He also recommended her to fellow fantasy author C.S. Lewis…

C.S. Lewis and Pauline Baynes

The Chronicles of Narnia

Baynes and Lewis’ relationship was not nearly as close or affectionate as her relationship with Tolkien (partially because Lewis maintained that Baynes could not properly draw lions). But despite the fact that they had very little personal contact, Baynes’ watercolor illustrations for the seven books of Narnia have become an integral part of the stories, bringing Lewis’ world to life in a way that even the big-screen versions couldn’t rival.

J.K. Rowling and Mary GrandPré

The Harry Potter series

If you were like us, every time you started a new chapter of Harry Potter you would spend a good minute analyzing the little illustration underneath each chapter’s title. The restrained, delicate pencil drawings gave us just enough information to whet our appetite. One of the only people to have seen each of the Harry Potter books before they were published, GrandPré was the illustrator for the American versions of the novels and would find inspiration by reading each story once and highlighting descriptions that jumped out at her. Though our picture of Harry Potter and his world was shaped by Rowling’s descriptive imagery, we couldn’t help but allow GrandPré’s detailed and prescient cover and chapter illustrations to guide our imagination.

Charles Dickens and Hablot Knight Browne

David Copperfield, The Pickwick Papers, Bleak House, etc.

Browne, famously known as Phiz, and Dickens collaborated on ten of Dickens’ 15 novels, most notably, David Copperfield, Pickwick, Dombey and Son, Martin Chuzzlewit and Bleak House. Though the pair became good friends, their relationship turned sour when Dickens abruptly terminated their 23-year collaboration.

Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith

The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales, The True Story of the Three Little Pigs, Squids will be Squids, etc.

The best children books appeal to both kids and adults. Author and illustrator duo Scieszka and Smith specialize in creating postmodern, whip-smart, and witty stories that are as fun for parents as they are for kids. Their most famous collaboration, 1992’s The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales won The New York Times Best Illustrated Book award. Smith’s goofy and playful illustrations paired with Scieszka’s twisted take on fairy tales and fables made the book an instant classic.