Jim Kay, the Artist Behind the Illustrated Harry Potter, On 5 Books He Loves to Give as Gifts

Last fall illustrator Jim Kay enchanted us with his work on the illustrated edition of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, and next November he’ll do it again with Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. His meticulously detailed, gorgeously rendered artwork infuses every page, allowing us to see these beloved books in an entirely new light. A lifelong artist who previously worked for the Tate Gallery, Kay made a name for himself with his award-winning collaborative work with author Patrick Ness on A Monster Calls. Here’s Kay to talk about five books he loves giving as gifts.

Micrographia, by Robert Hooke
There is a long history of science and illustration working in symbiosis, but few have surpassed Hooke’s masterpiece, which revealed the mysterious world of the microscopic in beautifully executed fold-out illustrations. A landmark in scientific study, and as visually stunning now as it was over 300 years ago. This is what the print press was made for.

Man on the Moon, (a day in the life of Bob), by Simon Bartram
I keep returning to this story by Bartram, because it’s everything a good children’s book should be: funny, endearing, and full of immersive little details. It is also illustrated to a standard that makes me green with envy. It’s simply a beautiful book.

Lost London (1870–1945), by Philip Davies
A heartbreaking visual document of the streets and architecture lost to wrecking balls, blitz, and decay. Visually inspiring, an illustrator’s gold mine, and a reminder of how city streets never stand still.

Night Animals, by Brecht Evens
I’ve only seen this once, and I desperately want it. There’s something wonderfully seedy and lurid about Evens’s comic books; it’s as if he was born and raised in a night club. You’ll have nothing else like this on your bookshelf—a truly unique, wordless tale of monsters and a man in a rabbit costume.

Soonchild, by Russell Hoban, Illustrated by Alexis Deacon
Difficult to choose between this and Jim’s Lion, also by Hoban and Deacon. A strange book that perfectly marries Deacon’s haunting imagery and extraordinary draughtsmanship with the peculiar wit of Hoban’s writing. The book is both contemporary and timeless. (I hope that makes sense—sort of Beowulf in a beanie!).

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