I just discovered #pb10for10 today, via TwoWritingTeachers. Out here in Central PA, I can’t peruse my own bookshelves for reminders, but I have been close-reading various picture books as a break from working on a middle grade project, so I’m in the groove and will happily jump in with 10 picture books I can’t live without. I’m shooting from the hip for this go-round, and my reasons are all over the place…
- PLAY WITH ME, Marie Hall Ets (1955/1976, Picture Puffins). This was my book as a kid. I was the youngest in a big, loud family, and this one never got passed down through the ranks: it was mine and only mine, and in its perfect, quiet way, it totally spoke to me – an introverted kid who loved the outdoors.
- CAPS FOR SALE, Esphyr Slobodkina (1940, W.R. Scott). Caps for Sale was the first book that clued me in – as an adult — to the amazing things that could happen between pages and to the magic of the page-turn. And what a page-turn that one, single page turn is!
- THIS IS NOT MY HAT, Jan Klassen (2012, Candlewick). LOTS of good page-turns here, and Klassen manages to communicate unimaginable depth with tiny adjustments to his fish’s eyes. Plus, that unreliable, self-rationalizing fish-narrator taps into behavior that’s both kid-like and totally human — and way under-appreciated for its hilarity.
- ANDREW HENRY’S MEADOW, Doris Burn (1965, Coward-McCann). An old-school picture book for sure, but I am obsessed with all types of kids’ play – especially what play geeks call ‘constructive play’. I love the world-making that Burn’s kids do in this book, and the dialed-in details of the kids’ obsessive creations. To my eye, Burns’ gorgeous ink work and brilliant use of white space rival Robert McCloskey’s in Blueberries for Sal. (Just ignore the dated gender-roles and stereotypes; it is worth the effort.)
- And for what they do with ‘imaginative play’, a couple of more recent favorites: THIS IS SADIE, Sara O’Leary and Julie Morstad (2015, Tundra Books). What a great collaboration — and what a voice. And also Joseph Kuefler’s BEYOND THE POND (2015, Balzer + Bray). Kuefler includes some perfect true-kid details and really fun turns of phrase, along with beautiful illustrations.
- CHARLIE PARKER PLAYED BE BOP, Chris Raschka (2004, Orchard – a board book; I think the original came out full-sized in 1997 with Scholastic). I have read the board book version of this book aloud hundreds of times. The meanings of the words are not the point (though they do matter – hugely); their mouth-feel and rhythm and poetry — and, the way the page turns play in too — make reading this book like singing and listening to and helping make a rocking piece of music all at once. And kids just GET it. Raschka captures the feel of be bop perfectly.
- WAITING, Kevin Henkes (2015, Greenwillow). I love the life that Henkes imagines for these toys, and the invisible/implied any-child who is responsible for and loves them. And I love the way that the toys take in the simplest joys of being alive – in much the way their child might. Henkes’ illustrations and layouts are so quiet and so powerful.
- ELSIE PIDDOCK SKIPS IN HER SLEEP, Eleanor Farjeon, with illustrations by Charlotte Voake (2000, Candlewick – not sure where/how the text was originally published). This is another old-school, longer-format picture book, and a fantastic read-aloud. Again: incredible rhythm and great, lyrical story — with a sweet little dollop of communitarian politics on top.
- OWL MOON, Jane Yolen (1987, Philomel). For its lyrical language, for being about a beautiful quest and elemental relationship, and for capturing so many real emotions in the web of its pages.
- GRANDPA GREEN, by Lane Smith (2011, Roaring Brook Press). I lost my dad — an avid gardener — this year, so this one has a particular hold on me right now. It took repeat readings to get a handle on all that Smith has going on in this book as it paints it’s lovely portrait of a particular, imagined life — nearing its end — understood through the eyes and actions of a small child.
All these picture books so clearly GET and are relatable to kids in ways that – for one reason and another – resonate. And they are all loaded with HEART.
HUMOR and HEART were the themes of this summer’s Kidlit Summer School, so maybe this list can also serve as one more big shout out to the kidlit folk who put that great, motivating month together. Thanks Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen, Kami Kinard, Marcie Coleen, Dawn Young, and Leeza Hernandez!