Thursday, September 19, 2013

Beautiful Children's Picture Books (Part I)

 My requirements for making this list were that the book had to:
1. Have well above-average illustrations
2. Have a good story
3. Be one I did not grow up with myself.  (But I've written about a few of my childhood favorites before).

I'm calling it Part I because I'm sure I'll think of/discover others to add to my list soon.  I really appreciate a good children's book!

1. Philip Booth's Crossing

This one is great for any train-lovers in your life (and I mean small OR large.  When my friend was reading this to Sly recently, her husband heard "train words" and eagerly went over to see what the book was!)  The rhyming text describes a big old-fashioned steam-engine going by, and the rhythm of the words takes on the rhythm of the train.

"B&M boxcar, boxcar again, Frisco gondola, eight-nine-ten..."

2. Lisa Wheeler's Mammoths on the Move (illustrated by Kurt Cyrus)

We originally checked this one out of the library, and fell in love with it.  The illustrations are a beautiful wood-cut style, showing each little tuft of shaggy fur on the mammoths.  I like that this book - unlike most wooly mammoth books - doesn't discuss them in terms of their relationship (which was ill-fated) with humans.  Rather, it exults them as massively impressive and huge creatures - just tromping through the snow and being mammoths.  The text is great for young ears.

"Fourteen thousand years ago
the north was mostly ice and snow.
But wooly mammoths didn't care -
these beasts had comfy coats of hair.

Fuzzy, shaggy,
snarly, snaggy
wooly mammoths!"

3.  Graeme Base's Animalia

This book is like one big puzzle, each page featuring a different letter of the alphabet.  Kids can spend as little or as long as they like pouring over each page, trying to find all the objects that start with the letter.  It's great for all ages, even those who can't read.  Sly had no clue that all the things he was listed were "G" words, for example, but he still loved to identify them all.
"Unruly unicorns upending urns of ultramarine umbrellas"

4. Joan Aiken's The Moon's Revenge (illustrated by Alan Lee)

I'm told this illustrator is famous for his Tolkien drawings.  They truly are fantastical and captivating.  Even though the story is a bit more dense than the average picture book (probably intended for 2nd grade or so), Sly begged me so much to read the story to him that I finally relented.  We had to read in two sessions, and he asked a lot of questions, but we both really enjoyed it.  The story follows the formulas of all the old legends, while still being entirely unique.  How can you stop reading, when the story opens like this?:
"Once there was a boy called Seppy, and he was the seventh son of a seventh son.  This was long ago, in the days when women wore shawls and men wore hoods and long pointed shoes, and the cure for an earache was to put a hot roasted onion in your ear."


  1. sniff... how much I miss reading children's books! We would bring home SO many books from the library, and read one after another.... The mammoth book sounds delightful!

  2. One of Michael's favorite books right now is Animalia. (He calls it "mimi.") He can recognize most of the animals at least, and some other things on the pages, but I think he just loves the illustrations and also the sounds of the words, and he likes to have us point things out to him.

    I am really intrigued by The Moon's Revenge. I love Alan Lee's illustrations!

  3. I LOVE this post! I enjoy getting each one of my boys a couple of books for Christmas (and I've already started trying to gather a list together). I'll eagerly add these books for my 2 and 5 year old! Thanks!


  4. Interesting about the Lisa Wheeler book. I know her well from her Dino-Baseball, Dino-Basketball books, she's written about half a dozen about dinosaur teams playing different sports and we've checked them out several times, since my son is really crazy about dinosaurs. It looks like a different illustrator though. We'll have to see if the library has this one.

    1. Sly's a big dinosaur guy too, so I'll keep an eye about for those.