Visual Storytelling in Children’s Literature

 Visual Storytelling in Children’s Literature 1024 576 Reader Views

The Art of Illustrations as used in  “Aboard the Timeline” by Tine Gregory

Illustrations play a crucial role in bringing stories to life. Bastian Gregory’s “Aboard the Timeline” is an example amongst many of how visuals can enhance storytelling. This historical time travel book takes young readers on a journey through history, guided by the naively crafted illustrations that complement its narrative, and also its slightly “out-of-world” characters. At the heart of these illustrations is May Gregory, Bastian’s sister, whose artistic touch enhanced the story Bastian wrote, as well as help the reader visualize some of the more other worldly characters.

Profile of the Illustrator: May Gregory

May Gregory, a multi- talented artist with a keen eye for detail, has always shared a special bond with her brother, Bastian. Her artistic style is characterized by its whimsy and charm, drawing inspiration from classic children’s literature. One of the primary influences for “Aboard the Timeline” was Norton Juster’s “The Phantom Tollbooth,” a book known for its imaginative illustrations that capture the essence of its story, and a book that Bastian admired hugely. May aimed to create a similar blend of magic and realism, appealing to a broad age range without alienating older readers.

Mapping the Visual Journey

When Bastian approached May with the idea for “Aboard the Timeline,” they both knew that the illustrations would be incredibly important for the look and feel of the book. They began by mapping out basic illustrations for each chapter, ensuring that each image would enhance the reader’s understanding and enjoyment of the story. This collaborative process was filled with discussions and brainstorming sessions, where they debated the right balance between simplicity for younger readers and sophistication to keep older readers engaged.

Enhancing the Storytelling Experience

Illustrations in children’s books do more than just decorate the pages; they serve as a visual narrative that complements the text. In “Aboard the Timeline,” May’s illustrations provide context, evoke emotions, and spark imagination. Each illustration is carefully designed to draw readers into the historical adventures of the characters, making the educational content more engaging and accessible.

For example, in one of the chapters, the protagonist visits ancient Greece. May’s illustrations of the pillars  and bustling agora bring this era to life, allowing young readers to visualize and better understand the historical context. These visual elements act as anchors, helping children remember and relate to the historical facts presented in the story.

Key Illustrations and Their Impact

One of the standout illustrations in the book is the scene where Pete goes to open the door to a knock, and is met by a dinosaur, Regginald the Raptor. The image of the Raptor standing in the doorway to “Outermind”  is then imprinted on your mind, and makes promises of what is to come.  There are similar important illustrations that set the scene- another being of the magical timeline itself, with its imagery of lots of wonderful creatures waiting by the tracks. These images capture  the excitement and curiosity that drives the narrative and the illustrations sets the tone for the entire book, inviting readers to join the characters on their journey through time.

The illustrations not only enhances the fantasy element of the story but also serves as a discussion starter about the various elements in the story, encouraging readers to explore further.

The Collaborative Process

The synergy between Bastian and May Gregory is evident in every page of “Aboard the Timeline.” Their collaboration was a blend of Bastian’s narrative vision and May’s artistic interpretation. They often referred back to their shared inspirations, like “The Phantom Tollbooth,” to ensure that the illustrations resonated with both younger and older audiences.

May’s involvement from the initial stages of planning allowed her to understand the depth of the story and the historical nuances that needed to be highlighted. This understanding was crucial in creating illustrations that were not just visually appealing but also educationally enriching.

Some pointers

It is important to understand your audience and ensure that the illustrations are appropriate for the age group. Illustrations should enhance the narrative, not distract from it. They should provide additional context or highlight key moments in the story. It is also important to stay consistent in the artistic style throughout the book. This helps create a cohesive visual experience for the reader. Clear Communication with the illustrator to ensure that they understand the story and your vision for the book. It helps here to provide detailed briefs for each illustration. Also remember to maintain a good balance between text and illustrations. Ensure that illustrations do not overpower the text but instead complement it. Authors can also use illustrations as Marketing Materials, such as social media posts, book trailers, and promotional bookmarks.


The Visual storytelling in ‘Aboard the Timeline ‘is a testament to the power of illustrations in enhancing the reading experience. Through the creative partnership of Bastian and May Gregory, the book not only tells a compelling story but also captivates its audience with these illustrations. This collaborative effort highlights the importance of visual storytelling in children’s literature, ensuring that “Aboard the Timeline” will be cherished by young readers for years to come.

About the Authors

Tine Gregory

Born Danish, but a world citizen as I grew up in countries such as Pakistan; Ghana, Singapore, USA (New York and Newport News, Virginia); Germany, the UK, Hong Kong and Singapore again and lastly now back in Copenhagen, Denmark. I was the mother of 4 children, but sadly we lost our two eldest. The eldest, Frederick, as he was born extremely handicapped, and 3 years ago, our second son, Bastian Gregory when he took his own life at age 23 after battling with depression for several years. I started my career in banking, went over to helping charities and the last 15 years have been involved with schools, ending my career as head of an International School in Denmark. I am incredibly passionate about children, reading and literacy. I am happily married and have 2 wonderful living grown-up children, May and Luke Gregory.

Bastian Gregory

The author, Bastian, was born in Singapore, and lived there as well as Hong Kong, Denmark, and went on to study creative writing in Winchester, England. Bastian was diagnosed with Asbergers and ADHD at 15, and battled with this for many years, whilst trying to find his way. Whilst doing this, he obtained pleasure from writing- and wrote the children’s book- “Aboard the Timeline”. He has  also written a number of poems- some of which have been published.

About the Illustrator

May Gregory was born in 1999 in Hong Kong. May studied Marketing in the UK, and then returned to Denmark where she now lives and is studying to become a teacher,  specialising in Art, English and Maths. May has always been very interested in art, and has held an exhibition as well use her artistic skills in both her teaching and other projects, amongst them the illustration project with her brother. She also paints, crochets and works with clay in her spare time and has an Instagram site showcasing some of her art @maymakesthings.


Aboard the Timeline follows the journey of Pete, an ordinary boy who is struggling with boredom and monotony at school. He gets more excitement than he bargained for when time suddenly stops around him and he is inexplicably greeted by a talking dinosaur called Reginald at the classroom door. Trying to figure out what has happened, the two of them embark on a journey of adventure and discovery. They meet Philosophocles, an ancient Greek thinker and the three companions travel along the Time Line, visiting alternate versions of history, including the Cretaceous period, ancient Greece, the Viking North Sea, Medieval Istanbul and Victorian London. Along the way, they meet tricky demons, strange creatures and interesting companions. Can Pete become the hero that some need him to be? And will he ever find a way back to the normal world?

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