Junior Bizarre

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Children’s Books

Flavorwire recently came out with a list of the most beautiful children’s books of all time and while a lot of them were ones I grew up with (that gorgeous Snow White, Why Mosquitos Buzz…, Ezra Jack Keats, Arthur Rackham, the Little Prince and of course of course of course Outside Over There), it started me thinking about my favorites and compiling a list for the blog. I immediately had more than ten titles and got very overwhelmed so perhaps this one wants to become a series. And don’t even get me started about children’s books I didn’t discover until I was an adult (how did they fail to include Henri’s Walk to Paris???) OK, OK, I’m getting overwhelmed again–here’s 5 of my greats:

Without question my favorite childhood book. I never owned it, but checked it out from my library so often I may as well have. The characters and the story are sweet, sad, and strange. My mother would read it to me and make up tunes for the songs. Irene Haas is a remarkable illustrator and one of my biggest idols and her other books are more than worth checking out as well (Tatsinda, A Summertime Song, The Maggie B and more). She has such a magical, slightly weird style and her use of negative space is masterful.

Trina Schart Hyman is another idol of mine. This was the book of hers I read the most as a child, but I also grew up with Cricket Magazine in the 80’s and her work was all over that. She has such a way with faces and gestures, and I love the frames surrounding each image in this book, as though you’re looking through a window. I’ve also always been convinced that the art department on the Last Unicorn was heavily influenced by her (yes I know that was from 1982 and this book is 1984, just hush).

OK, I know I have too many idols already in this post but Hilary Knight is one of them too. He’s most famous for Eloise (who I absolutely love, of course) but Wallace was my favorite. It’s about an orangutan who keeps escaping from the zoo, and like Where’s Waldo there are two page spreads of busy illustrations of all the places he is lost; Knight adds the most hilarious and delightful details (do you see the little girl in a peacock hat communing with a peacock??) and I spent hours poring over each one. Of course now having watched The Wire it has a completely different connotation, but I digress.

Yes, that Tolkein. What a funny little book this is, and the illustrations aren’t exactly beautiful but I was very taken with them. I definitely still want a girabbit, that’s for sure.

There are a whole series of books about Ant & Bee and they are pretty much the greatest. They have a friend named Kind Dog (!!!) and get into so much trouble (OK mostly Ant gets in trouble, Bee is a killjoy) doing just normal things like shopping or being sick. I loved them all, but Ant & Bee Go Shopping was always my favorite. This is another book that requires attention to detail, the best parts aren’t always immediately noticed–for example, Bee’s money bank has a peep hole for gloating. Can you even?? Oh my god, you can read the whole thing here go do it, do it right now! I am!

*Notes: all the pics link to their original sources. Also, while researching this, I kept coming across a blog called “Vintage Kids’ Books My Kid Loves” and it is amazing. Go to that, too.