Ten Favorite Picture Books, Part 2: THE LIST

So, last week I agonized about which books to pick fo Fuse #8's Top 100 Picture Books of All Time poll. And at the end of the post I announced that I had my list ready and was just waiting to post it. And then tonight I pulled up that post, all prepared to cut and paste and email and be done with it. Because I'd decided already, right?

But...noooo! There were more decisions and re-shufflings and re-considerings to do, and then finally, much later than I'd thought, I was done. So here's my list, quick, before I change my mind again:

  1. Where the Wild Things Are, by Maurice Sendak

Two things: my Children’s Literature professor in library school used this title as an example of the uber-picture book, showing how the illustrations take over more and more of the page as the Wild Things take over. And back when I taught at an infant/toddler childcare, there was this very angry 2-year-old used to gleefully slap the page and cry “No!” along with Max,--you could see the tension flow out of him at finding a book that recognized how powerful feelings can be. Any book that resonates like that with toddlers and PhDs alike, over the generations, has got to be my pick for #1.

  1. Knuffle Bunny, by Mo Willems

It’s a mixed-media extravaganza! It’s a poignant coming-of-age story! It’s set in one of my favorite neighborhoods in the whole world! And it has the very best busted-dad look EVER—Mo Willems can show more human emotion with fewer penstrokes than you’d even think possible. Not to mention the immortal phrase “Aggle flabble klabble!”

  1. Madeline, by Ludwig Bemelmans

What really does it for me is that page where Miss Clavel runs fast and faster, so that she’s a sketchy blur on the page. And the crack on the hospital ceiling which had the habit of sometimes looking like a rabbit. So dreamlike and weird and also just like real life.

  1. A Voyage to the Bunny Planet, by Rosemary Wells (three books that have been reprinted as an omnibus and that I’m counting as one)

The Bunny Planet can make ANYBODY feel better. They should be sending theose books out with IRA statements.

  1. Harold and the Purple Crayon, by Crockett Johnson

One boy and a crayon create a whole world, complete with ocean, moose, pie, the moon, and a neatly-drawn-up bed.

  1. Millions of Cats, by Wanda Gag

A choice perhaps slightly influenced by my kid’s starring role as The Very Old Woman in her first-grade play. But it was one of my favorites before that, too, way back to before I could even read. And that was a long, long time ago.

  1. A Chair for My Mother, by Vera B. Williams

There’s something about the simplicity and kindness of this family story, and Vera  B. Williams’s big vibrant blobs of color, and that totally gets to me. Every time.

  1. Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse, by Kevin Henkes

One of the few kids’ books that really pulls off a depiction of a kid doing something wrong and being honestly, believably sorry.  Combine that with cute mice, a groovy Birkenstock-wearing teacher, cheesy snacks, and of course Lilly her indefatigable self, and you’ve got a classic for the ages.

  1. The Shy Little Girl, by Phyllis Krasilovsky, illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman

Trina Schart Hyman was a hardworking genius of an illustrator; this title is one of her earliest. It isn’t as famous or as lush as her later books, but it’s my favorite. The story is so simple as to be archetypical—a shy girl becomes more confident when she makes a friend—but the illustrations, with their poignance and detail and spare use of color (mostly earth tones, with only the title character and her best friend rendered in full color), give it life and specificity. Long out of print; I wrote a bit more about it a couple months ago here.  

  1. Thirteen, by Remy Charlip and Jerry Joyner

Long before David Wiesner or David Macaulay or Brian Selznick were making visual magic with picture books, there was Thirteen, with its (yes) thirteen simultaneous stories on each page, some of them dripping into each other, some complete in themselves. Beautiful and funny and mysterious and surreal.

And because I couldn’t bear to not list the rest of my top 20:

  • The Keeping Quilt, by Patricia Polacco
  • The Gruffalo, written by Julia Donaldson, illustrated by Axel Scheffler
  • A Bargain for Frances, by Russell Hoban, illustrated by Lillian Hoban [I know easy readers were specifically excluded, but this has been published as a regular old picture book too. And it’s got the cleverest, best plot twist EVER.]
  • Tacky the Penguin, by Helen Lester & Lynn Munsinger
  • Caps for Sale, by Esphyr Slobodkina
  • Time of Wonder, by Robert McCloskey
  • The Little Mouse, the Red Ripe Strawberry, and the Big Hungry Bear, by Don and Audrey Wood
  • Ten Minutes Till Bedtime! by Peggy Rathmann
  • Roxaboxen, by Alice McClaren, illustrated by Barbara Cooney
  • The Big Orange Splot, by Daniel Pinkwater

Okay, that's it! Really! Done now! No more changing my mind! Or adding things! Clicking "Publish"...now!

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Great list! I love your choices. I also love that you mentioned The Gruffalo. One of my very favorites and not that well-known. (Also love Donaldson & Scheffler's Room on the Broom.)

I bought a Biscuit book at the Warner Elementary book fair and one of the kids in my daughters class will not give it back. The book was about Biscuit and the farm or farm animals. Is there a way I can replace it. Thanks!

Millions of Cats is great. I will have to check out some of the others.


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