I came to children's books because of the stories, but I stayed because of the pictures. As I've become more interested in the world of children's literature, I've discovered more and more illustrators whose art is just... beautiful, unique and compelling.
We all know that fiction books are organized by the last name of the author, which leads us to search for books that way. My 7-year-old is frequently writes on her reading responses to books "I would like to read another book by this author." or something else along those lines, but she never mentions the illustrator, despite her interest in art. Luckily, it is easy to search for books by illustrator these days (sadly, I can't remember if you could do so with the card catalogs of yore).
I've taken to searching for books by illustrator. Admittedly, the results are mixed when you judge the books in their entirety. But it's worth it to see more work by some of my favorite illustrators.
Here are a few:
Do You Know Which Ones Will Grow? by Susan Shea and immediately recognized his primary-colored, strong artwork when I saw it again. Unfortunately for us, most of us his books (generally collaborations with Marthe Jocelyn) are truly "baby" concept books (numbers, over/under, animals, etc.), for which his illustrations are well-suited, but they are far too young for my daughters. However, we were able to make a game out of Same Same with my not-quite-reading 4-year-old guessing what the items on each page had in common.
Samantha on a Roll by Linda Ashman. It prompted me to look up books by both of them, individually, as I haven't seen any other collaborations by this pair. This one is still my favorite of both of theirs, but I also have a soft spot for Leon and Albertine, a funny barnyard romance illustrated and written by Davenier. Although the text in other books she's illustrated is weaker, I still love her artwork. Her style is warm, exuberant, joyous, and realistic and makes drawing look easy.
Jan Ormerod. Ms. Ormerod's wordless books, Sunshine and Moonlight, are two of my favorite wordless picture books. Actually, they are two of my favorite picture books, with words or without, ever. Her art in her other books never disappoints. And strangely enough, she also illustrated a book by Linda Ashman, Mama's Day, a sweet tribute to the loving work mothers do every day.
Brian Wildsmith. I had never heard of Brian Wildsmith until I began my search for different illustrated versions of Robert Louis Stevenson's A Child's Garden of Verses (more on that... someday!). My 7-year-old and I were both captivated by his vibrant, modern style, which stood out especially among the more traditional art that usually accompanied these classic poems. He is also the author-illustrator of several stories perhaps best described as modern animal fables as well as an assortment of concept books (alphabet, animal, counting), and has illustrated several other works. Again, these are not my favorites in terms of the stories, but the art is consistently stunning.