First impulse with the prompt “precious” was to go the LOTR route, but words are precious, so here is one of my fav. literary book thieves: Bastian Balthazar Bux.
U is for "Uyulala," the southern oracle from The Neverending Story by Michael Ende. She's a character that can only be heard, never seen, so I illustrated the forest of columns where she lives. (Fittingly, in its original language, the title of The Neverending Story also starts with "U," Die Unendliche Geschichte. ) I vividly remember reading this book for the first time when I was ten, and it has been my favorite ever since. Because of The Neverending Story, dusty, used book stores will always be magical places.
I love books, but the words that I love the most just might belong to Michael Ende. He's less popular in the U.S. than he deserves. Most people have seen The Neverending Story movie, but few have read the wonderful book on which it is based. Even fewer people have heard of Momo, a shorter and somewhat stranger book about a girl who lives on the outskirts of an unnamed city that is under siege from the villainous Men in Gray and their Time-saving Bank. Most adults rush around, hoping to deposit more and more of their free time to use at an unspecified later date, not knowing that the Men in Gray are destroying their deposits, hour by hour. With nothing but free time, Momo is the only one able to fight back. It is a fable for the modern world where all too often, people are overly concerned about getting work done or rushing from place to place and not taking time to have actual free time. Until very recently, Momo has been out of print in the U.S. for years. There was a new edition that came out last year, but I'm not a fan of the new edition's illustrations. (Find a copy with Ende's illustrations if you can - the earliest English translation was titled The Gray Gentlemen.)
I love that Michael Ende books have a very surreal quality. They start out in the real world, and they warp reality just enough to be fantasy but still feel like they could be real at the heart of the book, if only our world had a touch more magic.
I'm an aspiring author / illustrator.