So it figures that working at a wonderful Children's Bookstore would mean I would learn about really great books. And it has!
Since some of you may be buying picture books for little ones for the holiday season as opposed to lame wind up hamsters, I figured I'd make a list of my personal faves for adults and kids alike.
Of course, I will not be linking to amazon, since you should be buying these from your local indie bookseller (the sort of people who keep me employed, remember!) Reminder that you can find books in your region using the indiebound link. This thing.
If you can't buy local, because Walmart has driven out all the stores that aren't Walmart, and Barnes and Noble has gotten the rest, well, find an indie store that will ship to you (a lot will) that isn't TOO far away, and do that. No really, I don't soapbox hardly at all, and this is important to me.
Ok, the list. I have to say, it's fairly artsy. These are MY favorites, not necessarily everyone elses favorites. I am defining a personal favorite as a book I would love to have on my shelf.
This does not mean the bookstore loves these. It means I do.
For my actual bookseller style opinions on age recommendations and all that, go here for the most recent indie bound recommendations.
I'll do long bits about each book first, and then a concise list at the end.
My latest obsession is a little paperback book called 'Red Ted and the Lost Things'.
The illustrator's website is called Black Carrot Secret Diaries (click to go there) and he seems like like a nice chap. Michael Rosen wrote it, and he has written all sorts of great things. Like 'The Sad Book', and 'We're Going on a Bear Hunt'. He was just the Children's Poet Laureate over in the UK. Which I had to go and look up. It means roughly that some people give you money to celebrate the awesome books you've made and raise awareness about kids books. Here's the real story. Linky click here.
Anyway, I'm a sucker for stories about stuffed animals coming alive, and this isn't just a stuffed animal adventure story. It's beautifully drawn, and never gets treacle-y. I love Red Ted and his new friends. It's a short and sweet story and every picture feels worth framing. A true modern classic.
I poked around Joel Stewart's website and he had a cool interior picture in French. This cat is a delightful character.
I want this book larger and in hardcover. It's so lovely. I also have a craving to make a little stuffed Red Ted. I think he'd look great as a felted animal though, and I have no felting skills or tools.... Meh.
My next favorite is called 'For Just One Day' by Laura Leuck, illustrated by Marc Boutavant. The story is actually a bit so so, but the illustrations are really beautiful. It reminds me of that Swinging on a Star song. It's about what life would be like as different animals. A crocodile, a bunny...to name two. Very lovely pictures.
I'm a bit in love with Marc Boutavant. I talked about his book with Mary Ann Hoberman 'All Kinds of Families' earlier in the year. I still love that one.
His agency has more beautiful photos of his illustrations. Check it out.
'Big Wolf and Little Wolf' captivated me earlier in the year. And there's a holiday a version of it now as well. It's by Nadine Brun-Cosme and Olivier Tallec.
The story of their friendship made me cry the first time I read it. It's quite compelling. And very simply told. The French are so good at these.
A slightly older book, but still great one, is 'A Penguin Story' by Antoinette Portis.
A little penguin believes there is more to the world than white and blue and black. Her adventure to find more is sweet and captivating. I especially love the simplistic fifties style of block style printing (at least, it has that look).
This book is only dubiously for children. It feels more like an adult graphic novel since it's so long. But I love it. It's called 'When the Moon Forgot' by Jimmy Liao. His other books are great too actually.
It's a story about a kid who finds the moon, lost and sad in a field, and teaches it to shine again. Long, and actually I like it better if you skip the words and just look at the pictures. I think the words just muddy the photo-essay style story. But that's me. Still a great story.
This is an older one, but I love it. 'Old Coyote' by Nancy Woods and Max Grafe.
It's a story about death and rebirth and the universe. Wonderful, wonderful. A short paperback.
'Robot Zot' has me cracking up lately. Jon Scieszka and Dave Shannon have created a little Robot monster! And he's taking over your kitchen! And macking it to the local cellphone! So cool. You'll wish you were a miniature conquering robot machine.
Jon has started a website/movement called Guys Read. Lots of boys love reading, and lots of boys hate it. This is a site for the guys who are having trouble with reading. Here's a quote from Jon;
"A lot of boys aren't too crazy about reading.
I grew up with five brothers. I taught elementary school for ten years. I've been writing books for kids for fifteen years. And I've been thinking a lot about why boys might not like reading.
Boys often have to read books they don't really like. They don't get to choose what they want to read. And what they do like to read, people often tell them is not really reading.
We can help boys read by:
* Letting them choose what they read.
* Expanding our definition of "reading" to include:
o graphic novels, comics, comic strips
o magazines, newspapers, online text
* Getting boys to recommend reading they do like to other boys.
* Providing boys with male role models for reading in school and at home.
The book itself is Wonderous. Jon is really cool obviously. So Robot Zot is worth every hardcover penny!
'Monday' by Anne Herbauts. It feels very much like a European existentialist kids book. Monday is transient, and every new week is replaced by a new Monday. Only Monday has a house, and dreams, and friends.
It would be sad, but actually it just feels like a real-life look at living and dying. A bit heavy for most kids I think.
This was just reprinted. It's an old one, but a good one. Available again in Hardcover. 'The Tiger who Came to Tea' by Judith Kerr.
You can actually see some interior shots at the Harpercollins website here.
I keep trying to finalize this list and I find more favorites! I almost forgot 'Big Rabbit's Bad Mood' by Ramona Badescu and Delphine Durand. I adore this story! Big Rabbit has a Bad Mood. And it won't leave the house!!! Hysterical. Great pictures.
The colors and poems in this are simply delicious. I want to eat every page. 'A Curious Collection of Cats' by Betsy Franco and Michael Wertz.
Poems and great pictures of cats. I find each page to be a color sensation, overwhelming me with the desire to grab some markers and make something. Nicely written and wonderfully illustrated.
Oh no! More! 'The Secret Plan' by Julia Sarcone-Roach. My brother has this. I'm hoping to meet her sometime next year if all goes well. I love love love this. It has two of my favorite creatures in it, elephants and cats.
The elephants and the cats are children, and never want to stop playing. Maybe if they devise a secret plan, they won't have to go to bed, ever again! Hysterical. It has a unique architectural feeling, while maintaining a light, airy, watercolory-gauche style. Really sumptuous and well told. I laughed and laughed at the end.
There are more, many more! but these are the ones I can remember right off of the top of my head. I might have to do another post just for picture books. I would love to mention Douglas Florian and Adam Rex, and Lauren Child never ceases to amaze me....Oh sigh. I love books.
Here's the short list:
Red Ted and the Lost Things by Michael Rosen and Joel Stewart
For Just One Day by Laura Leuck and Marc Boutavant
All Kinds of Families by Mary Anne Hoberman and Marc Boutavant
Big Wolf and Little Wolf by Nadine Brun-Cosme and Olivier Tallec
Big Wolf and Little Wolf: The Leaf that Wouldn't Fall
by Nadine Brun-Cosme and Olivier Tallec
A Penguin Story by Antoinette Portis
When the Moon Forgot by Jimmy Liao
Old Coyote by Nancy Woods and Max Grafe
Robot Zot by Jon Sciescka and David Shannon
Monday by Anne Herbauts
The Tiger Who Came to Tea by Judith Kerr
Big Rabbit's Bad Mood by Ramona Badescu and Delphine Durand
A Curious Collection of Cats by Betsy Franco and Michael Wertz
The Secret Plan by Julia Sarcone-Roach
Hope you get a chance to pick one of these up. I love them all. One day when I have the funds I will buy one of each for myself.