Following the theme of decoration in picture books, Layn Marlow looks at the variety and skills involved in endpapers, and considers how creating decorated end pieces can enhance the reading experience.

With picture books usually limited to 32 pages, it can be tempting for an illustrator to use every available space, including endpapers, to consciously extend the story.

In What Planet are you from, Clarice Bean? Lauren Child deliberately uses endpapers to extend the story’s content through extra scenes. ©Orchard Books
Here are some reasons to consider using a pattern to create decorative endpapers instead.


If a book is to have ‘separate ends’ (as opposed to ‘self-ended’, where the first and last pages are left blank to paste to the inside of the covers), then the endpapers may not appear in every edition. It would therefore be a mistake to fill them with anything of narrative importance.

Jane Ray’s The Elephant’s Garden has separate ends, often printed on uncoated paper stock, using just one or two colours. ©Boxer Books


Endpapers that resemble wrapping paper make the contents of the book look like a gift to be treasured.

Shaun Tan’s Eric looks deliciously gift-wrapped! ©Templar Publishing


A repeating pattern can be relatively quick and easy to produce, using details from illustrations inside the book(a publisher’s in-house designer may do this, if the illustrator doesn’t normally work digitally.)

Jane Hissey’s Jolly Tall has endpapers made using a simple repeating tile. ©Hutchinson


Endpapers can draw attention to certain illustrative elements, such as character or setting details, or showcase mark-making techniques in a more abstract way than in the main body of the book.

When illustrating, I Need My Blankie (author Amber Stewart), I made a pattern, featuring flora from inside the book. Parents tell me their children enjoy spotting these plants whilst rereading the book. ©OUP


Creating endpapers after the inside illustrations are finished can be an enjoyable, meditative wind-down. It’s perhaps not surprising then, that readers themselves meditating on these patterns, may begin to find meaning in them, even if it only got there sub-consciously!

In The Adventures of Babar, by Jean de Brunhoff, does the zig-zagging trail of ‘naked’ elephants suggest the ‘civilizing’ influence King Babar has on his subjects? ©Librairie Hachette

Just as word patterns in picture books have been shown to be “comforting and soothing” and consequently “foster language development”, I believe pictorial patterns can be similarly enriching. Even if practicalities dictate the creation of a simple, visually attractive envelope for the narrative, your endpapers may yet encourage visual literacy and bring the reader to a deeper appreciation of the story.

In Emma Chichester Clark’s Hansel and Gretel by author Michael Morpurgo, does this simple weeping willow pattern symbolize the children’s dead mother? ©Walker Books
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(Header image: Layn Marlow, from A T-Wit For A T-Woo (author, Charlie Farley©Orchard Books 


Layn Marlow’s picture books have sold over a million copies worldwide and have been translated into more than 20 languages.

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