Children’s Book Week is 97 years old this year, and ILLUSTORIA is brand spanking new! But the nice thing about children’s books is that they bring together the young and the old, the new and the nearly-forgotten. So I thought I might take a moment and talk about a few of my favorite new and upcoming picture books, and also some older books that those titles bring to mind.
Remember the joy of being a kid, sprawled on the floor for hours, staring at Richard Scarry books? They gave me the sense that if I just stared long enough, I’d totally understand the world, with all its various details and motions and people and parts. Well, The Airport Book by Lisa Brown gives me that very same sense—that if I read it again and again, I might genuinely comprehend all the details and inner workings of the airport. (And let’s be honest—kids LOVE airports.)
I can still recite the poems I read in A Child’s Garden of Verses. In fact, I still probably mumble "The Swing" at least once a month, whenever I walk past a playground. And though the subjects here are different—Julie Fogliano’s new poems are all about the new buds and cold snow and falling leaves of the four seasons—I can’t help but wonder if kids today won’t be mumbling them in a few decades. Julie Morstad’s pictures are poetry too, and a perfect match for the grace and natural delicacy of When Green Becomes Tomatoes.
These two books are very different, but I can't ever read about a hungry lion without remembering Sendak's Pierre. Both books marry sweetness and darkness, and both books end up in a slightly different place than readers might at first expect. There's also a generally classic feel to Lucy Ruth Cummins' art, and the book's design. I intend to give A Hungry Lion as a baby gift, as I've often given Pierre. Children need a little healthy fear in their lives.
I dare any fan of Arnold Lobel to stare at the cover of Good Night Owl, and not immediately think of another owl, tucked into bed.
Greg Pizzoli must have known this, and I admire his chutzpah. In fact, the two books are very different. Pizzoli’s story of an owl who can’t fall asleep because of a mysterious noise doesn’t offer quite the melancholy of Arnold Lobel’s tearwater tea in Owl at Home, but Good Night Owl is a wonderful book for early readers, and will make a perfect bedtime story for a jillion kids who can’t (or don’t want to) sleep.
I can’t exactly put my finger on why Sergio Ruzzier’s new book, This Is Not a Picture Book, reminds me of The Wedding Procession of the Rag Doll and the Broom Handle and Who Was in It, an odd picture book from my youth. But I love them both. In Ruzzier’s tale, a funny looking duck finds a book with no pictures, but then discovers how the experience of reading can conjure vivid images all the same. The Sandburg book is a strange tale of two household objects getting married, and really, couldn’t be more different. Yet—there’s something in the off-kilter landscapes Ruzzier creates, and the slightly surreal creatures, that leaves me feeling similarly (and wonderfully) discombobulated.
LAUREL SNYDER is the author of many award-winning novels and picture books for children and a mom to two boys. Her most recent titles include Swan: The Life and Dance of Anna Pavlova, illustrated by Julie Morstad, and Seven Stories Up. Visit her at laurelsnyder.com.