Elizabeth Bird of Fuse #8 has challenged us all—that means you, too—to send her our nominations for the Ten Best Picture Books of All Time, which she is going to compile into a mombo list of The 100 Best Picture Books. In the comments to her original post, she clarified somewhat: not the ten books that we believe to be the most critically, objectively award-worthy, but each of our very own personal favorites. Also: only regular picture books, no easy readers.
So, here’s how I did it: First, I wrote down, without referring to any lists or resources, the books that came to mind that I personally adore to pieces. Then, to jog my memory, I looked at the Past Caldecott Medal and Honor Winners and the New York Public Library’s 100 Picture Books Everyone Should Know, and I added some books from those lists that are not only critically noteworthy but that I personally adore to pieces. Then I looked through some of my curriculum notes from my old job, so I could remember the books I particularly like reading aloud to classes. Meanwhile, I was also going to work, which involves a fair bit of flipping through the picture-book collection.
Then I made myself a rule: no more than one book by any single author would go on my list. This led to a lot of dithering: Knuffle Bunny or Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus? Where the Wild Things Are or In the Night Kitchen? Thirteen or Fortunately? Most often, the battle was between my personal and professional selves; between the book that I personally adore to pieces and the one whose one kid-friendliness or narrative perfection or canonical status would normally lead me to put it on a Professional Ten Best List.
Which led me to deeply consider the nature of “best,” and how it is different from “favorite.” Which led me to try to trick myself into composing a list by asking myself questions. Like: “If I were stranded on a desert island and had to entertain a pack of kids of various ages and myself, which ten books would I want with me?” Or, “If the world were about to end and I were entrusted with the task of putting ten picture books into the space capsule taking the last of its survivors to a new home in the sky, which ones should I pick?” Which two questions led to very different answers. And did not really help.
Which led me to bang my head on the computer and whine “This is SO HARD! TOOOO HAAARD!!”
Coming up soon: what I picked, and why. (Yes, I have made my list already; I’m just drawing out the suspense ;-) I do reserve the right to change a couple things before posting the final version, though.)
In the meantime: What are your favorite picture books? And are they the same as the ones you think should be on a 100 Best Picture Books list?
And while you’re thinking about that, there’s still time to email your own list to Betsy! I’m totally dying to see what the final 100-best books compilation will look like…