Or at least the illustration/ comics nerds in all of us.
When I was a kid, children’s books were sort of a religion in our house.Â We lived near a book warehouse, where my mother could do things like buy every Caldecott winner for a dollar each.Â I watched Reading Rainbow so religiously that I referred to LeVar Burton by his first name at the dinner table.Â The city of Philadelphia had a children’s book fair where we could go meet authors and illustrators and buy their work; afterwards my mom hung the signed posters all over the house.
When I got older, I forgot about those books, or thought I did.Â Then I started working at a bookstore.Â Like a language you once spoke but lost track of, the books rushed back to me as soon as I was around them again.Â We sell a lot of kid’s books, and despite a twenty year gap, more or less, between now and my time of children’s book worship, I can still pull out the ones I loved.
But the biggest surprise for me hasn’t been that I remember books I used to love; it’s that I’ve discovered new books that move and delight twenty-five-year old me.Â Some kids books, even great kids books, are truly for kids.Â But there are others that deal with friendship and innocence and wonder and, oddly, sadness in ways both more immediate and more sophisticated than many adult stories.Â They have plenty to offer grown-ups, or wherever you fall between, and I highly recommend checking out not only the classics, but this cool new stuff.
The image above is from a book “The Way Back Home” by Oliver Jeffers.Â His books are sad and fanciful and shockingly beautiful.Â They often feature delightful jumps in logic — a plane that flies to the moon, a penguin who floats to England, a book-eating boy — that characterizes the best of a certain stripe of fantasy.Â And the illustrations.Â They’re awesome.Â Observe:
A co-worker (who is an excellent illustrator himself) turned me on to these books, and I adore the hell out of them.
Jeffers is my go-to guy at the moment, but there’s a few other new-ish books that are totally worth your time.Â A new book just came out that was, incredibly, the author’s grad school thesis.Â It’s called Wonder Bear, and is one of the most beautiful, and trippiest, books I’ve seen in awhile.Â Like Shaun Tan’s The Arrival, is told all in pictures, and has a similar dreamlike feel.
Finally, Adam Rex has a both delightful and dark book called Pssst! about a girl who can hear all the animals talk in the zoo — and they won’t stop asking her to smuggle things in for them.
Anyone know something I’m missing?Â Mo Willems is also very charming, though I’m not sure how many times I can get excited about telling the pigeon not to do things.Â Sooner or later, the pigeon is just going to have to learn from his mistakes.