I've been meaning to do a post on my favorite children's books for ages. Having just moved back to Brooklyn (yay!), I had to take a good look at my library and pare it down to what would fit on a single shelf. I ended up bringing mostly shiny, new books - some of my old books are too precious to travel, and a few books I had packed didn't make the journey (Miss Rumphius, OMG, WHERE IS MISS RUMPHIUS?). But here's a look at my bottom shelf...
1. Pricing & Ethical Guidelines
, bought during college. Let me know just how vastly I was undercharging people for freelance work my first few years out of school.
2. Children's Writer's and Illustrator's Market
, bought at the Green Valley Book Fair (herein referred to as GV) in mid-2010, at a considerable discount. Another great resource.
3. The Little Blue-Eyed Girl
, one of the two books I illustrated for Joan Houck. Go! Buy it!
4. Where the Wild Things Are
. You'd think this is a classic every child would own, but I did not. I bought a copy to read to my kindergarten art students in preparation for a lesson, and fell in love with the rhythm of the story as an adult, reading it aloud for the first time.
5. When Jessie Came Across the Sea
- a GV buy. A story for older children, or for more attentive younger ones during quiet time. The illustrations are lovely - less stylized than I usually go for, but beautifully done. A story of an immigrant girl coming to New York, and a love story, in more than one way.
6. The Wolves in the Walls
. Neil Gaiman does children's books? I had to buy this one (again at GV), and the illustrations by Dave McKean are wonderfully raw and spooky, while conveying a level of mystery and forboding appropriate for kids who love scary stuff (as I did).
: as mentioned here
8. Swan Lake
. Actually a chapter book of the classic story, punctuated with illustrations by Chris Van Allsburg. You know, *the* Chris Van Allsburg
. This is a gorgeously made book, and the illustrations are perfect - the light, color, shapes, form, texture - everything people love about Van Allsburg's illustrations in a tale for older children. (From my grandmother.)
9. Nutcracker (it's honestly a shame there are no images from this book online, that I can find). Similar to the last book in many ways - a longer story, a ballet, rendered in amazingly beautiful pastels. But while Van Allsburg's pastels really show his architectural background, Carter Goodrich's are candy confections. The lines, forms, and color are flawless, but softer, sweeter, and infused with golden light. He also effortlessly depicts specific expressions, which I find nothing short of a marvel with such a soft medium. (From my aunt.)
10. I hadn't read Eloise
until my mom brought it home late last year, which I think might be a mortal sin for an aspiring children's book illustrator. Of course I was familiar with the character, but I was delighted with the fold out pages, the limited color palette, the character of Knight's lines, and the *humor* - is it possible this book was published in the 50s? On the other hand, it was probably a good thing I didn't read this book as a child. I pity any teacher - pardon me, private tutor - that has to instruct this entitled, unruly, woefully lonely little girl.
11. Larry Gets Lost in Seattle
. I'm a bit loathe to admit I own this book, as I've been working on a similar idea (both title and story) for years now. But I'm a sucker for children's travel books, and this one is nicely done, with super-stylized, retro-esque illustrations. A nice souvenir of a trip to Seattle.
12. & 13. The Thread of Life
, both books by Mary Grand Pre. Neither story is amongst my favorites, but I fell in love with Mary's artwork as most of America did - on the cover of the Harry Potter books. Another artist who uses pastels (seeing a trend here?), I absolutely idolized her in college (OMG, she lists Marc Chagall as an influence? I LOVE Chagall!!1
), and I think some of my work still shows the influence of her "soft geometry".
14. Alvie Eats Soup
. I love this book. An author-illustrated tale about a boy who, you guessed it, only eats soup. I love this book because it's relevent - with my younger brother, it would have been chicken nuggets, but how many children can relate to only eating what they know, love, and want? The author, Ross Collins, is Scottish, and I think it shows in his sense of humor. I loved the illustrations when I first saw them, because they felt kindred to me. The lines were my sort of lines; I saw my own style in the use of watercolor and colored pencil. I love how the text is integrated with the story almost like a comic book, and I love how when you reach the end, you want to read it all over again.
15. & 16. The Legend of Mackinac Island
, and The Legend of Sleeping Bear
. Souvenirs from this summer's trip to Michigan. Using beautiful form and color, Gijsbert van Frankenhuyzen acheives what I admire about the best pastel illustrations while using what looks to be acrylics. The vibrant colors leap off the page, and make the stories based in legends about nature come to life. NGL, the first time I read the Legend of Sleeping Bear Dunes, it made me teary as The Giving Tree.
17. My Penguin Osbert
, another GV buy. Guess what medium this is done in? I think I suffer from pastel envy, but the adorable drawings and cool tone (even when using reds and pinks) set this one apart. This is another story I incorporated into Kindergarten lessons, usually right after Christmas. It's a great story about how sometimes when you get the thing you think you want, it turns out differently than you'd hoped. But with the humorous tone and the cute ending, it's a tale kids definitely enjoy.
18. When my mother brought home Barack Obama's (wonderfully crafted) children's book, it bugged me that I couldn't place the illustrator on the spot. Five minutes later, I rushed to my room and produced this book
. Another GV book, my mom picked this one out. It's the story of a lonely little girl who moves to New York and finds happiness and (appropriately enough, I think the word I'm looking for is) sanctuary at the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine, during the Feast of St. Francis and the procession of the animals.
19. A Time to Keep
, a Tasha Tudor classic. When other kids brought frogs and insects to nature camp, this was my show-and-tell. I have to give props to 7 year-old me, for recognizing how precise the illustrations of flowers and animals really are, while retaining their soft, old-timey charm. And what little girl doesn't want her blazing birthday cake floating down a river towards her, while she wears a crown of flowers? Simple times, yet magical.
20. I bought this book at Winchester Book Gallery after a successful show of my work produced a little cash. But let's back up about 20 years, to when I had my life together, and was a library aide after school. This was one of my favorite books in the most OCD-elementary-schooler way. The incredible detail Peter Spier puts into all his books - but especially People
- is mind-blowing even today. I would pull this book off the shelf almost every afternoon, and examine a page or two. The section on people's dwellings especially fascinated me. Some of the pictures and information are a bit dated, but over all, this is the important, timeless story about appreciating and embracing our differences, while recognizing the things that make us all the same. Religion, wars, and death may be heavy stuff for a children's book, but it's presented in a natural way that leads to the inevitable conclusion that every person is valuable, because we are people.