All right, apparently November is Picture Book Month! As a long-time fan of picture books and a current children’s room assistant, I am all for celebrating picture books. I’m going to do two posts, one for the classics that I grew up on and still love, and one for the newer books that I think are great.
My family was very into classic picture books when I was young. We lived for a brief time in Maine and that really sealed the deal as Maine has so many wonderful picture book authors & illustrators. Here, in no particular order, are some of the favorites:
Blueberries for Sal, One Morning in Maine, and Time of Wonder by Robert McCloskey. Okay, we loved all of Robert McCloskey, but especially the Sal books. Did you know that these three are meant to be a trilogy of sorts? Re-reading them now, I think what I especially loved are the older-child emphasis and also the sense of wonder and delight that infuses all three.
Burt Dow, Deep Waterman by Robert McCloskey. I’m kind of cheating by putting two McCloskeys in a row, but I can’t help it because Burt Dow is wonderful. It’s full of family catchphrases–“The giggling gull flying along behind” was an especial favorite. It’s weird and wonderful and funny, and basically great.
Miss Rumphius, Island Boy, Hattie and the Wild Waves by Barbara Cooney. I love Cooney’s illustrations, always have and always will, but these three stand out even among the rest of her marvellous work. I can never pick favorites, but the astrakhan apple tree, the far off Rockaways, the Lupine Lady–even now just a phrase is enough to fill my soul. When we’re talking about formative books, it’s hard to get much more basic than these.
A Time to Keep by Tasha Tudor. I love Tudor’s art generally, but I think A Time to Keep was one of the things that formed a sense of seasonal living, of following the pattern of the year. Generally I appreciate her books for the sense of authenticity that they have. I think you can tell that Tudor actually lived an old-fashioned life, rather than looking at it with rose-tinted glasses.
Tumble Tower by Anne Tyler. The ones I’ve mentioned so far are pretty well-known, despite their older status. Tumble Tower is much less known, but it’s one that I love. A princess lives in a messy tower which is never quite clean no matter how often her family asks. There’s a bit of a surprise ending to this one.
Any of the following by Patricia Polacco: The Keeping Quilt, Rechenka’s Eggs, Uncle Vova’s Tree, Chicken Sunday, Thunder Cake, Pink & Say, Just Plain Fancy. I love Polacco’s books, especially her earlier ones. The colors and patterns, the way she reflects her family history in the books, the Midwestern sensibility. My family was lucky enough to hear her speak several times when we lived in Ohio, which means that I got to shake the hand that shook the hand, etc, of Abraham Lincoln, and see the original Keeping Quilt.
I’m sure there are others that I’m missing, partly because I know I’ve seen books and only then remembered reading them. I’d love to hear if any of you have favorite classic pictures books, or if you share some of my favorites!