Friday, 7 November 2014

All Time Top 5 Picture Books

Since trying to review some recent picture books I decided that I should weigh these up against a barometer of some classics that, even as I age, I won't forget. Feeling like John Cusack, in no particular order:

Chloe and Maude by Sandra Boynton - Cats with attitude. This classic is out of print so I'll be stealing my childhood edition of this when the provident man arrives. Sophia's don't hike. 

Cuddly Dudley by Jez Alborough- Long before the name was associated with the unpleasantly rotund character of latent yore - Dudley was a penguin who did not want to be cuddled but his huddling waddling cuddling brothers and sisters were not willing to take no for an answer. 

The Megamogs by Peter Haswell- Unbeatable drawings, style and story. This book was an inspiration; the name of our first cat, (Kevin, RIP) amongst other games such as disco bedtime were based on the nocturnal behaviours of these jazzy cats. Definitely a book that stays with you as I can still vividly remember some of the pages in intricate detail. 

Ned and the Joybaloo by Hiawyn Oram, illustrated by Satoshi Kitamura - This is one of the best imagined and orchestrated books of my memory. Although the message and lesson of this book are sappy, the heart that is evoked throughout the story mean that morals diffuse effortlessly from the page and don't ever seem preachy. 

Rag Doll Press by E J Taylor - I can't remember exactly why I loved these stories so much. Something to do with how it was a reward to have them read to me at all - they are quite long - is probably a part of the reason. I’d like to pin some of my current publishing aspirations onto these characters too; Biscuits, Button and Pickles, this one’s for you. I remember sibling rivalry, detailed drawings and a somewhat unpredictable plot. 

There is an unintentional progression in this list of reading difficulty of these books. All of them are highly illustrated but each probably indicative of a specific year of my childhood, which I think speaks volumes about how these texts have made a lasting impression.

Would any of these make your Top 5?
The Adventures of Mr. Toad by Tom Moorhouse and David Roberts 

This is a charming introduction to The Wind and The Willows that develops the story of Mr Toad across key plot points of the well-loved stories. The illustrations are fairly love/hate depending on how well acquainted you are with the original texts - I think they are different and stylised enough to stand apart from the originals. 

Best bits: I love the way that the eponymous willows are illustrated in this book and Mr. Toad's cross-dressing, as ever.

Worst bits: The mouths and eyes of the characters are slightly nightmarish.

Buy the book from the Oxford University Press website here.
Betty Goes Bananas by Steve Anthony

The first book of a series about a toddler that cannot resist a tantrum. This book provides parents with the grounds to discuss the silliness of getting cross and upset about menial things. Both Betty and Mr. Toucan are strong characters with a diversely interesting parent/child relationship. I side with Mr. Toucan and hope he gets more of a spotlight in one of Steve Anthony's books to come.

Best bits: bold use of colour with a minimal yet effective palette.

Worst bits: Betty doesn't seem to face any comeuppance for her bad behaviour.

Buy the book from the Oxford Children's Books website here.
What a Wonderful World by Tim Hopgood

Very colourful highly illustrated book, no real concept or story, however - perhaps better for fans of the song rather than children. This book uses the words of the well known song, verboten with a CD of Louis Armstrong’s track in the back. Not a particularly interesting read but the song itself has a good message of tolerance and diversity. A good book for a project in schools because of the multiple platforms that you could explore within a lesson surrounding this book. 

Best bits: Eye-catching illustration

Worst bits: Somewhat lacking in story - more of an homage than a piece within itself. 

Buy the book from the Oxford University Press website here.
This Book Just Ate My Dog by Richard Byrne

This is metafiction for kids. Bella is taking her dog for a walk until something very unexpected happens. Byrne creates an interactive picture book that without any overly sickly or twee qualities. The illustrations are simple but effective and the story is easy enough for a child but entertaining enough for adults too. One that you'll be happy to read again and again.
Maybe worth buying in hardback - you are encouraged to shake this book.

Best bits: The way that the big fat dog is almost bigger than Bella!
Worst bits: A struggle to find bad points with this one, personally, not all that keen on the illustration style but it's not at all offensive.

Buy the book from the Oxford University Press website here.