Tag Archives: jon klassen

seven stellar board book sets



Have you met these stellar board books sets? If not, it’s my pleasure to introduce you!



Little Sumo series by Sanae Ishida.

SUMO COUNTING and SUMO OPPOSITES are companion board books that are totally charming, like all of Sanae Ishida’s creations—I’ve featured her Little Kunoichi series before here and here. These two total cuties illuminate and delight in Japanese culture. Adorable characters and pleasing surprises are in store for every kid (every one!) who reads them.


Happy Hair and Cool Cuts series by Mechal Renee Roe.

This joyful, colorful board book duo celebrates many styles of Black hair as well as the wonderful kids who rock those styles! Full of affirmation, self-love, and, yes, HAPPY HAIR and COOL CUTS for kids!



Little You and We Sang You Home (not technically a series, but from the same duo) by Richard Van Camp, illustrations by Julie Flett.

From a wonderful pair of Native creators, the first, a gently rhyming lullaby to a little one, bursting with admiration. The second, another song to a child that contains an origin story brimming with love.

Both are featured in my Julie Flett’s Picture Book Life post.



Monster Food & Monster Clothes by Daisy Hirst.

These Monster Books from a perennially quirky author-illustrator are, while about monsters, totally toddler-relatable and completely hilarious. Just looking at those covers makes me smile.


Storytelling Math series by Grace Lin.

This board book series is simply fabulous. It combines reading words and pictures, everyday math concepts, and real-world activities in packages that are engaging and fun.



Leaders and Dreamers series by Vashti Harrison.

Beautiful companions to Vashti Harrison’s Leaders & Dreamers picture books profiling visionary, change-making Black American women in history and women around the world, this board book series is for the youngest set to dream and think and be inspired by those who’ve come before them.


Little Plane, Truck, and Boat by Taro Gomi.

Taro Gomi totally gets kids, and this transportation board book series is further proof. Darling, bright illustrations in pleasing palettes combine with succinct and straightforward text to tell cheerful stories of a character on the move.


What are your favorite board book series to share?


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!



This is Not My Hat

13531024This is Not My Hat is one of those genius picture books that pleases kids and grownups equally. It’s funny and clever. It’s smartly and beautifully illustrated. It stars a little fish who steals a bigger fish’s hat. Hence the title, This is Not My Hat.

One thing that works so well about the book is how the narration by the little fish tells one story while the illustrations tell a very different story. That way the reader knows more than the little fish knows. And that’s always fun.

In the spirit of the book, I wandered my neighborhood on Saturday looking for people wearing hats. Not to steal, of course! Just to borrow. And take photos with. Because of This is Not My Hat. Everyone was very nice about it.


This is not my hat. It’s Bryan’s.

He got it the day before Halloween last year, online. Supreme is a skate brand and Bryan is a skater. You can tell by the hole in his shoes, which are Vans. I really like his skull t-shirt too.


This is not my hat. It’s Juniper’s.

It’s vintage. It has really cool netting on the front and a bow on the side. She got it a couple of years ago at Lost Boys and Lovers in Northern California. It suits her perfectly.


This is not my hat. It’s Stephen’s.

Stephen paints oil portraits. He got his hat at a thrift store something like seven years ago. He’s sure it didn’t cost more than three dollars because he rarely pays more than three dollars for anything. It’s nice and faded from wear and the sun.


This is not my hat. It’s Marcia’s.

This hat is from the famous San Diego Hat Company. It’s stiff but bendy, which makes it really fun to shape. It’s pretty classy. Marcia got it about a year and a half ago. When she’s ready for a new hat, she usually hands her current one down to her kid.


This is not my hat. It’s Mario’s.

Mario’s hat doesn’t fit me very well, but it fits him just right. He works at Casbah Cafe, which is a very special place. He’s worked there for 15 years and got his hat nearby. He assured me it wasn’t expensive.


This is Jon Klassen. That’s his hat.

He’s known for wearing an LA Dodgers hat. His dad came to visit him in Los Angeles soon after he first moved here, in 2005. They went to a Dodger game. His dad bought him a hat.

Here’s what he has to say about it:

“… I liked it right away. I’m not the most involved baseball fan, but I do love a good blue hat, and also it seemed like a nice way to mark the start of my living in the city. However, I wear a hat a lot, so that first hat probably only lasted about a year or so before it wasn’t really great looking anymore, so I bought another one just like it, and I’ve been doing that probably once or twice a year since. I like it because I don’t have a huge head, and a lot of baseball hats are too big for me, but this one isn’t, and I’ve always liked blue and also I like that it gets people from San Francisco upset with me.”

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