Books by Charles Vess

Charles Vess has been a bona fida free-lance illustrator since1976 when he first sold work to Abrams Books and Heavy Metal Magazine. Specializing in art of a fantastic or mythic nature, he has made a name for himself within the graphic narrative field w


DRIFTWOOD DAYS by William Miniver
CHILDREN'S
Released: Oct. 22, 2019

"Content and style, structure and illustrations combine to make this a beautiful and satisfying story. (Picture book. 3-9)"
Readers follow a branch as it bobs down a river and out to sea, where it transforms into driftwood. Read full book review >
TUMBLEWEED BABY by Anna Myers
CHILDREN'S
Released: Oct. 7, 2014

"An adoption story, a feral child story, a foundling story, a child-of-difference story—perhaps any and all of these; certainly wise and full of delight. (Picture book. 4-8)"
A family gets a new addition in a tall-tale sort of way. Read full book review >
SEVEN WILD SISTERS by Charles de Lint
CHILDREN'S
Released: Feb. 14, 2014

"There is a promise of more stories at the ever-so-satisfying end, which comes with the tiniest hint of romance past and future—readers will be enchanted. (Fantasy. 8-12)"
Beautiful bookmaking, lovely storytelling and wondrous illustrations make for a splendid sequel-of-sorts to The Cats of Tanglewood Forest (2013). Read full book review >
RAGS & BONES by Melissa Marr
YOUNG ADULT
Released: Oct. 22, 2013

"A thoughtful selection of exquisite literary amuse-bouches; it will take a little work to connect teens with it, though. (finished illustrations not seen) (Fantasy/short stories. 14 & up)"
Twelve popular speculative fiction authors riff on classic literature, but for an ill-defined audience. Read full book review >
THE CATS OF TANGLEWOOD FOREST by Charles de Lint
CHILDREN'S
Released: March 12, 2013

"A satisfyingly folkloric, old-fashioned-feeling fable. (Fantasy. 8-12)"
Rather than let Lillian Kindred die of a snakebite, the titular cats turn her into a kitten, and thereby hangs this sweetly magical tale. Read full book review >
INSTRUCTIONS by Neil Gaiman
ADVENTURE
Released: May 1, 2010

A magical, incantatory poem—or perhaps a homily—first published in the Ellen Datlow/Terri Windling collection A Wolf at the Door in 2000 is made new with Vess's art. It could be instructions for a child, a writer, a newly minted adult or an elder. It strikes immediately at the place where stories live and provides a feast of archetypes. The narrator instructs a furry cat/fox-like creature that walks upright and wears a tunic and boots, of course, to go through the gate he hasn't seen before (after saying "please") and walk down the path. Don't touch the imp knocker on the green door, give the old woman what she asks for and she "will point the way to the castle." Help those who need it. Don't be jealous; "diamonds and roses" are as nasty as toads when they fall from your lips, "colder, too, and sharper, and they cut." Remember your own name, ride the eagle, be polite. The sinuous landscape is peopled with figures readers will recognize, like the Goose Girl and a crowned frog, and those they might not, like trolls and giants and dragons. Roses, trees, land and sea have shimmering life of their own and wind around the words as if made for them, which of course they were. (Picture book. 7 & up)Read full book review >
THE BEASTLY BRIDE by Ellen Datlow
ANIMALS
Released: April 1, 2010

Readers of a Datlow/Windling anthology have certain expectations: that the thick volume will include stories by writers both known and new; that headpieces for each tale will be Vess's sinuously evocative drawings; that a fully formed introduction will lay out the collection's parameters; that notes and a bit of biography will follow each story; and that an excellent bibliography will be included. The 22 writers include Jane Yolen, Ellen Kushner, Midori Snyder, Tanith Lee and Peter S. Beagle, among others. Delia Sherman's "The Selkie Speaks" allows a seal maiden to tell her own tale; Terra L. Gearhart-Serna brings a trickster's sly voice and a little Spanish into her first published writing, "Coyote and Valarosa." Marly Youmans turns to glassmaking and the Blue Ridge Mountains for the intensely romantic "The Salamander's Fire." The three interwoven motifs of these tales, inspired by many cultures, are beings who shape-shift between animal and human of their own will, who are transformed as a curse or enchantment and who are both human and animal yet wholly neither. Rich reading that meets the editors' high standards. (Fantasy/short stories. 12 & up)Read full book review >
BLUEBERRY GIRL by Neil Gaiman
CHILDREN'S
Released: March 1, 2009

A rich and beautiful prayer for a girl. "Ladies of light and ladies of darkness and ladies of never-you-mind, / This is a prayer for a blueberry girl." Three women in flowing robes—the appropriately mythological Maiden, Mother and Crone—float in the sky over a small, dancing child trailed by numerous birds of the air. Free her from "nightmares at three or bad husbands at thirty," let her run and dance and grow, teach her and help her find her own truth. The verse is lovely, sinuous and sweetly rhyming, piling on blessings. Vess's precise line-and-color illustrations fill each spread with velvet colors and the iconography of myths and fairy tales, a good match to fantasist Gaiman's words. Plants, animals, sun and meadow appear in elegantly drawn detail, their realism tempered by floating trees and magical flowers. The girl transforms from stanza to stanza and spread to spread, blond or burnished, child or nearly teen. There is nothing cute or cloying here, just beauty, balance and joy. (Picture book. 4-8)Read full book review >
A CIRCLE OF CATS by Charles de Lint
ANIMALS
Released: June 1, 2003

A small tale of magic and mystery is hampered by its dependence on its sequel. Lillian lives with her Aunt in the hills, a wild, gentle girl who puts out saucers of milk for stray cats and gives the gnarled old Apple Tree Man a biscuit for breakfast every morning and whose greatest desire is to see the fairies. When a snake bites her, the cats save her by turning her into a kitten; in order to change back, she must make a portentous bargain with the Father of Cats. The plot is slight enough; what makes this story sing is its infusion with a sort of folkloric mysticism that places it firmly in the tradition of the original fairy tale. De Lint's sonorous, ingenuous language is complemented beautifully by Vess's full-color line-and-watercolor illustrations, the slightest hint of comics-style influence giving the old-timey setting a faintly contemporary air. But as a conscious "prequel" to the pair's earlier (and out-of-print) Seven Wild Sisters, the story has an unfinished and ultimately unsatisfying quality. (Fiction. 8-10)Read full book review >