Tag Archives: andrea beaty

my 10 favorite contemporary classic picture books

picturebooklifeHeather from Tiny Readers asked me for my 10 favorite picture books (and created that cool image), so here goes! She’s going to feature this on her super inspiring instagram feed, which I hope you’ll check out and follow!

It was a (fun!) doozy choosing! I agonized for days over my choices. I had to narrow it down, so these are all published in the last 15 years. (Stay tuned for a classics edition!)

They are books I have a strong emotional reaction to. They are extraordinary in one way or another (or several all at once). They reflect my own personal tastes and obsessions, but they also feel to me like contemporary classics. They are books that have beauty as well as meaning and heart. They are books that will last and are rich when returned to.

Here goes in no particular order (with apologies to all the wonderful and dear-to-me books I’ve left out):

the-red-treeThe Red Tree by Shaun Tan is one of my biggest influences as a writer and Tan is my very favorite creator of the form. This picture book moves me deeply each time I read it. It’s for anyone who feels like they’ve lost their way. It is sad and strange and inventive and full of hope.










Virginia Wolf by Kyo Maclear and Isabelle Arsenault combines the real sisters Virginia and Vanessa with an imagined case of the doldrums and the wolfish mood it can (don’t we know it!) create. It’s through art, through a whimsical place Vanessa envisions called Bloomsbury that turns Virginia from wolf to girl, from gloom to glad again. Plus, Isabelle Arsenault.









Lost and Found by Oliver Jeffers is most certainly a contemporary classic. And for good reason! Jeffers has been incredibly influential to current picture book fare. And this, one of his first, has so much charm and playfulness and an irresistible duo on that umbrella-boat.






Josephine by Patricia Hruby Powell, pictures by Christian Robinson. This is a picture book for the older set about the tough, inspiring, dazzling life of Josephine Baker. It lengthens traditional picture book form in order to tell a fuller story from start to finish and has colorful, vibrant, practically move-on-the-page illustrations to make you really stop and look.








Extra Yarn by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Jon Klassen is by two creators/collaborators at the top of their game. I love the illustrations, the sweaters, the whimsy, the knitter at the center of this fairy tale. But what I love most is the surprise twist and the ending. Oh yes.








Jemmy Button by Jennifer Uman & Valerio Vidali is exquisitely illustrated. It’s based on the true and troubling account of Europeans in the 1800s trying to “civilize” someone who had his own civilization he preferred to return to.









The Tree House by Marije Tolman and Ronald Tolman (a father and daughter) is breathtaking and original. It shows off what a wordless picture book can do. It’s about companionship: the wild huzzahs of a party with flamingoes and the calm, content days spent reading in one another’s company.







Happy Birthday, Madame Chapeau by Andrea Beaty, pictures by David Roberts is another incredible collaboration. Wonderful, fun-loving, masterful rhyme. Rich visual details. So much stuff to notice. And at its heart, a talented, solitary woman with a lot of hats and heart to share.













The Lion and the Bird is by Marianne Dubuc, extraordinary author/illustrator. And the pair of characters she’s created is endearing and enduring, the friendship they’ve found as rare as the beauty of this spare and perfectly crafted book. Just look at their matching pink cheeks!







Finally, Swan by Laurel Snyder, illustrated by Julie Morstad, a very recent pick. Julie Morstad has illustrated many very special picture books (This is Sadie, How To) and this one is so gorgeous as to make me weep. Same goes for Snyder’s poetic text that so beautifully conveys the yearning, the passion, the calling of dance and doesn’t shy away from that final scene.








Thanks for the opportunity to highlight some of my very favorite books, Heather! Here’s some more about Heather and Tiny Readers:

Heather Hawkins is a Dallas-based photographer, mother of two and a children’s book enthusiast. Recently she started a project called Tiny Readers which aims to share children’s book reviews as well as feature contributing opinions from other parents, in order to bring awareness to childhood literacy and the benefits of reading. You can check out Tiny Readers on instagram here!



happy birthday madame chapeau + HATS!!! (+ giveaway)

happy_birthday_madame_chapeauHappy Birthday, Madame Chapeau words by Andrea Beaty, pictures by David Roberts.

Beaty and Roberts are true collaborators. A perfect picture book team.


Story and illustrations complement each other perfectly. They make each other SHINE.

Also, SO STYLISH. You know that already if you’ve read Iggy Peck, Architect or Rosie Revere, Engineer.





“It is Andrea’s Law of Picture Books to include…notes only for plot points or jokes. Everything else, I think should be left to the illustrator with guidance from the editor. They are wildly talented people who take my words to places I never dreamed of and that is such fun to see!”

—Andrea Beaty




From the first page, you fall in love with the hats in this book. So many whimsical wonderful fantastical hats. And then you fall in love with Madame Chapeau. Hatmaker. Hard worker. Elegant, creative Parisian. Lonely gal.


3209580_origI have to mention how Andrea Beaty does rhyme! I mean, on top of everything, this book rhymes! And in the most natural story-telling, fun-loving way.


“In a three-story house with a shop down below

lived the world’s finest hat maker, Madame Chapeau.” 


Chapeau makes the most perfect hat for each of her customers. But she always dines alone. Except on her birthday, that one special day a year, she wears her best dress and bonnet and eats at a super fancy restaurant. (Chez Snooty-Patoot, of course!!)

Only this year, she loses her hat in a most creative way. And, in a way, she loses her HEART.

As David [Roberts] worked through the sketches, our editor, Susan Van Metre, helped us find the heart of the story – which is Madame Chapeau’s loneliness and how the simple act of kindness can change a person’s world.”

                                                                                     —Andrea Beaty


If you read between the lines, as in look carefully at the illustrations, Madame Chapeau’s character is that much richer.  Yes, the hats she designs—those shapes and details. But also, the framed photos at her desk and table. Photos of her and a fellow. She, wearing a heart-shaped red bonnet. A bonnet someone else made for her if you pay close attention

And finally: the girl! She first shows up on the spread with all the shops and is featured again below, with her mother. She makes all the difference to Madame Chapeau in the end!



“David took the idea and created very subtle details in the illustrations to tell the back story about Madame Chapeau’s husband who is now gone. (For instance, the photos and the hatbox from Monsieur Chapeau.)”

—Andrea Beaty




Last fun tidbit: David Roberts himself was a milliner in Hong Kong and the heart-shaped bonnet Madame Chapeau loses—that’s his own millinery design!


I received a review copy of this book; opinions are my own. 





Hats! Many hats featured in this book! (Check out that first image at the top of the post to see some of these illustrated.)


Upside down shoe hat byElsa Schiaparelli.



beatricePrincess Beatrice’s royal wedding hat designed by Philip Treacy.



philip-treacy-hats-004Grace Jones in Philip Treacy hat.


OB-NZ311_mag611_G_20110519183846Charlie Chaplin’s iconic derby.



Marcel MarceauMarcel Marceau’s famous crinkly one.




Isabella Blow, whom Madame Chapeau’s likeness is based on, wearing one of many hats. (See her in more hats over the years, some by Philip Treacy, here.)



That’s Isabella with Philip there. And the hat the girl’s wearing? Red and white-striped with long black feather? You can bet that’s an important hat in Happy Birthday Madame Chapeau!


See the last page of the book and that darling little girl to see what I mean!


And if you’d like to enter for a chance to win a copy of the book, simply leave a comment on this post! Tell us about your favorite hat if you like. 

And you can check out my previous hat posts too!—the hat I made and the hats I borrowed.

I’ll contact the randomly chosen winner by email for your mailing address.

(Open to N. America only—sorry about that far-flung international readers!) Giveaway ends Monday, November 3 at midnight. Good luck!)



Thanks to Abrams Books!




rosie revere, engineer + riveting building toys

Layout 1 Yup. If you liked Iggy Peck, Architect, you’ll love Rosie Revere, Engineer. It’s Andrea Beaty‘s story of shy Rosie, who dreams of being an engineer! Whose inventions for relatives are stupendous. And David Roberts‘s illustrations! The  graph paper backgrounds, the impossibly wonderful characters surrounding Rosie, the Palm Springs-esque mid-century houses and lawn that don one page. So signature. So good.   And the rhyme! Oh how I love the rhyme in this book.




“When Rosie was young, she had been so shy.

She worked with her hair swooping over one eye

and made fine inventions for uncles and aunts:

a hot dog dispenser and helium pants.”


  But that was before one of Rosie’s inventions failed. And she stopped doing all that stuff. Rosie5

Rosie5 Rosie15

But  you know who shows up and inspires Rosie to try again after failing? Her great-great aunt Rose! As in, Rosie the Riveter (though it’s never said). We know by her clothes and red scarf on her head!

Two other things I like best about this book.

1.) The ending. It’ll make you cry, but it’s not the run of the mill success story you’d expect. I love the message that failure leads to success. So true.

2.) The page spread with Rosie and her notebook and a whole slew of sketches of historical flying machines that includes notes about how they were flown in or by women!


Thanks to Abrams for images!


Here are some toys that are more than just toys. They’re building blocks, if you will, for budding engineers and scientists and inventors like Rosie Revere.


GOLDIEBLOX = engineering skill-building game and book series made especially for girls.   (Full disclosure: I was a backer of the first kickstarter campaign. And you may have heard about the controversy with Goldieblox’s latest video, but still the toy remains great.)   goldieblox   LITTLEBITS = electronic module kits to build cool light/sound/moving stuff. This video will explain it so much better than I ever could! Science fair projects may never be the same!

What is littleBits? from littleBits on Vimeo.

MAKERS TOOLBOX = etsy store with two DIY maker kits, including this Cardboard Proptractor-The Aeronautical Vehicle.   (Rosie and her aunt would be very proud After all, she has her own paper airplane in addition to the prototype she makes for her aunt.) il_570xN.436133525_7iy3 And finally, three low-tech building toy options from the ever-excellent MoMA Store. The chairs stacking game. chairsstackinggame   The OgoBILD Pod Building Kit. 101114_A2_Building_Kit_Ogo_Balls_and_Rods   And, the constructible drinking straw. 74784_A2_Constructible_Drinking_Straw May we never stop building. (Or failing and trying again.)


I was provided a review copy of this book; opinions are my own.