After hearing some complaints from mammas about the poor art in many children's Bible Story and religious books (see the comments after Bible Story Books), I came across a good post by Pastor Peters (from quite a while ago). While he does not specifically mention children's books, I think it is relevant. Here is an excerpt, and a link to the whole post:
"When I look through the various church supply catalogs that come in the mail (bidden or not) I am struck by the cheesy character of much of the stuff. Christians must be seen as somewhat dull or even stupid by the cheesy stuff that is sold. Classic in this genre is that statue of Santa kneeling at the manger. Gag. Or the creche made out of Precious Moments figures (or worse, Lego figures). Don't we get it? Why do people think that we are so gullible to purchase all this cheese? Well, I guess because we do buy that stuff. Art, tee shirts, statuary, and the stuff that to call them paper weights would be to ennoble them beyond truth... Christians buy that stuff in huge quantities.
"We need good art -- not just in the church building but in our homes. We need good Christian art that draws us back to the faith, that inspires us, that teaches us, that ennobles us... Unfortunately we buy the crap that is produced in abundance in sweat factories far away. This is not what we need. We need good, Christian art."
--from Pastoral Meanderings
He goes on to suggest buying a quality crucifix, then an icon, and one nice classic art print. What great ideas.
Over at Confessional Lutheran Ecclesiastical Art Resources (great site!) we see an example of a 1920's children's book on religion. The art is maybe a little sentimental, but it's not absurd or irreverent. The text, however, is horrible. I conclude that, for my children, I would rather have bad illustrations coupled with good doctrine and writing, rather than the other way around. Especially if they are already exposed to good art and are learning what is beautiful. I don't believe you have to be professionally trained (or over 3 years old) to distinguish mediocrity and beauty (even allowing for taste and style).
But I still will search for that perfect marriage of beautiful pictures and true text.