When did kids' books get so fucking awesome?
I guess there were cool books when I was a little kid, but I'll be damned if I can remember what they were. Picture books were not exciting to me when I was a wee Doppelganger. But these days, it seems like there's been a renaissance in children's books, and I'm finally all worked up about them.
Take Got Your Nose: A True Story, in which "a game of Got Your Nose between two brothers spins out of control when one brother inflicts greater and stinkier abuses on the other's nose." Great title... check. Great story... check. Great art... check. The author, Ragnar, apparently has "a large, international following of fine art collectors." That's... well, that's pretty cool, actually.
And oh my god, speaking of cool, the so-hip-it-hurts creative merging of photography and illustration in Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale absolutely blows my mind. Caldecott medal winner Mo Willems, whose other titles include Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus and Leonardo, the Terrible Monster, has created compelling artwork that is at least as attractive to grown-ups as it is to kids.
Vancouver-based publisher Simply Read Books has a set of winners with authors Robin Mitchell and Judith Steedman's Windy series. Young Master Sam has all three books in the set: Windy, Sunny, and Snowy & Chinook. These are simple, feel-good stories accompanied by beautifully photographed tableaux of hand-crafted people, animals, and settings. Even better, both Sunny and Snowy & Chinook come with CDs featuring tracks by up-and-coming indie bands like Young and Sexy and The Secret Three. Both CDs are great, but my favourite is the one that comes with Snowy & Chinook. Sometimes I listen to it when Sam's in bed. It's that good.
One Little Bug is a deceptively simple counting book by another Vancouver writer/illustrator, Paola Van Turennout. I think the story kind of goes over Sam's head right now, but I test-drove it on our two-year-old friend Saelin just this past weekend, and she was captivated. Some day, Sam! In the meantime, you keep on chewing on those board books, little buddy.
Everyone knows that babies are illiterate, and babies use this fact to get out of doing a lot of work. No more! With simple, easy-to-follow illustrations, Baby, Make Me Breakfast and Baby, Mix Me a Drink (both from the McSweeney's Baby Be of Use series) mean that your little shirker no longer has an excuse to keep from earning his or her keep. (I have to mention that, since these books arrived from Wing Chun and Glark at Christmas, I've been meaning to do a photo shoot with Sam surrounded by martini shakers and various bartending accoutrements, with the books open at various recipes. Unfortunately, I'm at least as lazy as my baby. But in my head the photos are awesome!)
Of course, you still can't go wrong with Dr. Seuss. So far, we've collected Green Eggs and Ham (of course), Fox in Socks (per Wing's reliably excellent recommendation), Horton Hears a Who (which always makes me cry), The Cat in the Hat (though that cat has always bugged me, I have a strange affection for Thing 1 and Thing 2), One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish (still my favourite), and How the Grinch Stole Christmas.
I am, as you might expect, always on the lookout for cool picture books, old and new. Fire your recommendations my way.