Tag Archives: the lion and the bird
Heather 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 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!
Picture books often address a particular emotion, explicitly or not, and it’s one of my favorite things about them. They give you a certain reaction, they help you cope with a feeling, or they help you usher one in. So, I give you 30 picture book titles to help assuage, validate, or cultivate what a little one (or you) is going through.
The Little Gardener by Emily Hughes is essentially a hope manisfesto! If you’ve ever had a dream, this one’s for you.
Hank Finds an Egg by Rebecca Dudley. Hank shows us what it means to have the impulse to do something kind and then to do everything it takes to actually make it happen.
Happy Birthday Madame Chapeau by Andrea Beaty and David Roberts. Madame Chapeau may be a fabulous hat maker, but she always eats dinner alone. I love how this book shows us that companionship can come not only from a romantic relationship, but from an unexpected friend.
Grandfather Ghandi by Arun Gandhi and Bethany Hegedu, illustrated by Evan Turk. This is the book that sparked the idea for this post. In it Gandhi’s grandson discovers that even the most peaceful people still experience anger.
You’re Finally Here! by Mélanie Watt. This is a classic story of impatience, something any reader who’s ever waited for something can relate to.
Peace is an Offering by Annette Lebox and Stephanie Graegin. This is the kind of book that will make you cry, in a good way. It’s like a little manual for the peaceful life.
Little Elliot Big City by Mike Curato. Besides being an immensely sweet and satisfying book, at its heart is Elliot, who is very small. And when you read it, you find out that an antidote for smallness is to find someone else to share with, regardless of size or being seen.
Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson and E.B. Lewis. Who can’t relate to this one? Even the main character, an elementary school child, already has something she remembers and wishes she could change.
Hug Me by Simona Ciraolo. Felipe the cactus is different from his spiny relatives all right. We as readers know he truly deserves that hug he wants, even though his family doesn’t see it that way. This one celebrates being different even in its difficulty.
Extraordinary Jane by Hannah E. Harrison. I love this one because it tells us that being ordinary is pretty super if you’re being yourself.
Marvelous Cornelius by Phil Bidner and John Parra. This picture book is for anyone feeling powerless to realize they’re not. Cornelius shows us what a giant difference one person can make, especially when they inspire others to pitch in.
Stephen and the Beetle by Jorge Luján and Chiara Carrer. This is such a great example of imagining another’s perspective, even if that other is an insect.
Red by Jan De Kinder. At its heart, this book shows the kind of compassion that rouses us to stand up for someone else, no matter how hard it is to do so.
I Don’t Want to Be a Frog by Dev Petty and Mike Boldt. A perfect primer on wanting to be something you’re not and then recognizing the upside of your own state.
Jane, the Fox, & Me by Isabelle Arsenault and Fanny Brit. Aside from being one of the most gorgeous books ever, this story is for anyone who hangs her head because of what someone else has said or because of the thoughts swimming in her own mind. Fear not, it is not as it seems in the moment!
The Smallest Girl in the Smallest Grade by Justin Roberts and Christian Robinson. An admonition to notice things, to log them away, and to stand tall no matter how small you are.
Hooray For Hat! by Brian Won. This is a book to turn that frown upside down for sure. Just the design and color do that for me, but it’s the sweet story of friends helping friends that seals the deal.
Tía Isa Wants a Car by Meg Medina and Claudio Muñoz. The niece who is the narrator in this story has so much devotion to her aunt and to their dreams—devotion she’s willing to work very hard for.
Night Driving by John Coy and Peter McCarty. A slow and quiet father/son nighttime drive with all the details of remembering.
Beautiful Griselda by ISOL. A cautionary fairy tale for anyone too concerned with their own beauty.
Unicorn Thinks He’s Pretty Great by Bob Shea. This is an archetypal jealousy book and has big-time humor to boot! Goat’s jealousy, as all jealousy, comes from only valuing what that shiny unicorn has instead of valuing your own good stuff.
Beegu by Alexis Deacon. One of my favorite picture books ever and perfect for times when you feel super out of place. But don’t worry, there are small people on earth who will accept you—children.
One by Kathryn Otoshi. A book that inspires on many levels—in the ingenuity of its execution as well as its message.
Nasreddine by Odile Weulersse and Rebecca Dautremer. A beautifully illustrated parable about not caring what others think of you.
How To by Julie Morstad. Like a how to manual for joy, Morstad’s admonitions, if followed, would lead to the best day ever. A book you’ll want to live in.
Mrs. Biddlebox by Linda Smith and Marla Frazee. I love this character with a terrible case of the doldrums until she whips them into cake! Cake to cure any foul mood!
Ralph Tells a Story by Abby Hanlon. Ralph shows us what it’s like to think we don’t have a story and then discover we do. (He also has great writing advice like eating lots of chocolate.)
Crankenstein by Samantha Berger and Dan Santat. This will give you the giggles to cure that crankiness right up.
The Red Tree by Shaun Tan. This is the most special picture book ever to me. It will go there with you into hopelessness, but then right at the very last moment, it will show you possibility.
The Lion and the Bird by Marianne Dubuc. This tender, true book! One helps the other and in turn the other has something to offer the first. Isn’t that what companionship is?
I hope this list comes in handy for you now or in the future. And if you have any other picture book titles that you associate strongly with an emotion, do let me know in the comments!
Waiting for Winter by Sebastian Meschenmoser (2009).
This one manages to be beautiful and hilarious at the same time.
A Penguin Story by Antoinette Portis (2008).
The pop of orange amidst all that white snow!!
The Lion and the Bird by Marianne Dubuc (2014).
Ah. This book. Good in every way and about wintering with a new friend.
Here Comes Jack Frost by Kazuno Kohara (2009).
A boy chases Jack Frost, frolicking until the first bud of spring arrives.
The Snow Girl retold by Robert Giraud, illustrated by Hélène Muller (2014).
A favorite story, a wonderful retelling.
Fox’s Garden by Princesse Camcam.
An absolute favorite of 2014. Kindness warms the cold.
Over and Under the Snow by Kate Messner, illustrated by Christopher Silas Neal (2011).
Full of beautiful contrasts that encourage both science and imagination.
Owl Moon by Jane Yolen, illustrated by John Schoenherr (1987).
A classic (the classic?) winter picture book.
Making a Friend by Alison McGhee, illustrations by Marc Rosenthal (2011).
“What you love will always be with you.” Let the tears commence.
Red Sled by Lita Judge (2011).
A book to read over and over again, not unlike a sleigh ride.
These are my favorite wintry picture books, please tell me yours!