picture books by the decade: 8 books from the 80s

Who knew the 80s were such a great picture book decade? These are my eight faves (all read as an adult), but I want to hear from you too! Were you a child of the eighties and read a certain book? Or a parent of the eighties and read a well-loved book to a child?


Screen Shot 2014-05-13 at 3.51.27 PM Friends by  Helme Heine.

My dear friend Anna  sent me this one and it’s super sweet. “Sometimes good friends can’t be together.” But they can still send lovely mail. (Also, the character name “fat Percy,” for a pig, is pretty hilarious.) Screen Shot 2014-05-13 at 4.01.03 PMThe Philharmonic Gets Dressed (Reading Rainbow Book) by Karla Kuskin, illustrations by Marc Simont.

As the name may or may not suggest, this literally details how 105 members of the philharmonic get dressed. It’s totally unconventional—we see them get ready to go to work in all their disparate homes and disparate ways. Even bathing and putting on their underwear! And then, finally, they all begin to play!

Screen Shot 2014-05-13 at 3.40.04 PMI Know a Lady by Charlotte Zolotow, pictures by James Stevenson.

This is a sweet portrait of a single older lady told from the perspective of one of the neighbor kids she befriends. This woman gives the children on her street flowers and berries through all the seasons. I love it for its positive image of seniors, of singles, of intergenerational connections.

Screen Shot 2014-05-13 at 4.36.35 PM Imogene’s Antlers by David Small.

I recently featured this book, so everything I love about it can be found here.

Screen Shot 2014-05-13 at 4.08.17 PM  John Patrick Norman Mchennessy: the Boy Who Was Always Late by John Burningham.

Guys, this one’s bizarre and a little creepy (those illustrations!), but it’s pretty genius too. Some crazy stuff happens to this kid on his way to school, but his teacher never believes him—grownups don’t believe it when kids say they encounter crocodiles. Until of course, one of those crazy things happens to the teacher (aka a gorilla pays a visit!).   Screen Shot 2014-05-13 at 4.15.34 PMOwl Moon by Jane Yolen, illustrated by John Schoenherr.

An exquisite, still book in which a father and daughter go owling in the woods one winter night. You know it, right? It’s amazing.

Screen Shot 2014-05-13 at 4.19.29 PMLon Po Po: A Red-Riding Hood Story from China by Ed Young.

This Chinese tale is familiar in its grandmother/wolf elements, but strange, eery, and new. Its pastel-looking illustrations are dark and breathtaking.

Screen Shot 2014-05-13 at 4.24.43 PM For Every Child 1989 by Unicef, illustrated by a variety of artists.

A distillation of the UN Convention’s Rights of a Child. A world that honors these would be a wonderful world indeed.



Now you go. PBs of the 80s…

11 Responses to picture books by the decade: 8 books from the 80s

  1. Thank you! I’ve just ordered Lon Po Po to bring on holidays this summer. And is the cover of For Every Child by P.J. Lynch? Its lovely.

    • Lucy, Yay! I love inspiring a book borrow or buy! Warms my heart. And I can’t find any info on the cover art of FOR EVERY CHILD and don’t have it at hand at the moment. Boo. Bet you’re right though!

  2. The Philharmonic Gets Dressed was used by my UCLA picture book writing instructor. ADORE it. Just brought a huge smile to my face. Also have always been drawn to books by Zolotow, Burningham and Yolen.

  3. The only one I know from this list is Owl Moon. I’m ashamed of myself! Will have to remedy that soon!

  4. I don’t think my teachers read any of these to me in the 80’s! Guess I have to get copies of them myself.

    Thanks for this great list.

  5. Yikes – May 15th – where the heck was I that I missed this post???

    Better late than never I guess, especially if I can add Barbara Cooney’s MISS RUMPHIUS.


  6. I’m really enjoying your picture books by the decade! Your posts are really taking me down memory lane. 🙂

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