The very best picture books stand the test of good old time. They hold memories. They tell truths that last.
My first in a series of PICTURE BOOKS BY THE DECADE, here are my favorites from the 40s & 50s:
Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson (1955).
I love the metanarrative of this book and how that tradition still inspires picture books today. And that it’s about Harold’s imagination and ingenuity, but also about bedtime. Where his mind takes him and then the comfort of coming home. It’s a classic for a reason.
A Hole is to Dig by Ruth Krauss, pictures by Maurice Sendak (1952).
Ruth Krauss so knows children. This is a compilation of inventive definitions that are far from dictionary. Delightful, full of play, and let’s face it, deep! They’ve been called funny but I find them incredibly heartfelt:
“Hands are to hold.”
“The ground is to make a garden.”
“The sun is to tell you when it’s every day.”
Browse the book here.
The Carrot Seed by Ruth Krauss, pictures by Crockett Johnson (1945).
Ruth Krauss again. Such a good, simple story ahead of its time: A boy believes his carrot seed will grow when no one else does. To be read when facing a challenge.
The Plant Sitter by Gene Zion, pictures by Margaret Bloy Graham (1959).
While no one would be fooled into thinking this is a current book, it’s still a great read. I admire this industrious little kid who cares for vacationers’ plants, filling up the house with them. His parents’ reactions are hilarious and his eventual winning over everyone to greenery is delightful.
Marshmallow by Clare Turlay Newberry (1942).
For me this one is all about the illustrations. Simply, fluffily exquisite.
Please do add your favorite picture books published in the 40s and 50s to the comments!