Picture Books Are Always in Season

“So …have you read King Bidgood’s in the Bathtub?”


“Hmm. What about The Stinky Cheese Man?”

A sound of polite, incredulous aversion comes from the backseat. “No….”

I’m driving my male horde home from elementary school, plus the three children of a family friend. Their children and mine share a few interests, the main one being a love of reading.

The older girl pipes up, “We don’t read picture books.”

Her sister: “Yeah; I’m reading chapter books now.”

Which is fine, of course, seeing as how she is in second grade. She is the baby of their four children and they are all precocious. The only boy has already moved up a grade and is 2-3 grades ahead in mathematics.


Our Books

“I love picture books,” I say. “There are a lot of really good ones out there, so I like to go back and read them again.”

“Yes, that’s true,” the older girl acquiesces. I often feel I’m sitting at a British tea party with her, although she’s midway through fourth grade.

My boys, meanwhile, are each immersed in reading something educational like Captain Underpants or Magic Pickle. I’m not a fan of the graphic novels, but am fine with their perusal if mixed with a range of literature. That, and graphic novels include everything from less-than-desirable illustrations and potty humor to really well-done works like The Cardboard Kingdom.

I drop the friends off. Their mother comes out for a quick chat. “Your girls say you don’t have any picture books around anymore,” I say, in a friendly way.

“Oh. Yeah.” She laughs. She’s extremely intelligent, an excellent quilter, and one who does not seem to mind being a stay-at-home mother. I’m always in awe of her. “I unintentionally donated ours to the classroom and haven’t replaced them.” She sighs a bit, which is usually her way of segue. “They don’t really seem interested, so I probably won’t.”

To each her own, of course, but a little bit of me cries inside to hear it. Like my music preferences, my reading tastes cover many genres. -Except romance. Ugh.

Besides that, my collection of books is …sizeable. When I read Fahrenheit 451 in school, I wanted to be the old lady with the enormous library. I would feel torn between saving myself or my books. I …have a bit of a problem with control whenever I shop the book department in thrift stores.

D.I. Books

After a recent thrift store trip.

Which leads me back to picture books. I love picture books. I cannot imagine not having any in my house. I read to my children from them, and then from novels as they age (time permitting).

I also enjoy reading to other children. Last year I offered to read to my son’s fourth grade class once a week, to give the teacher a few minutes of preparation time at the end of the day. What did I read? The Jolly PostmanThe Sweetest FigBark, George; and Oh, Were They Ever Happy!

I remember visiting with the teacher once after we finished up. “Thank you for coming in every week,” she said. “It gives me time to get ready and I really appreciate it.”

I smiled. “Oh, you’re welcome.” Then, I hesitated, knowing most of these kids were beyond the target age for the books I shared. “Are you okay with me reading picture books? I know they might be a little young for them.”

“Of course!” she said. “They love them! I don’t think they’re too young for them at all.”

Our Picture Books

Most of our picture book library.

You may think I will ask whether you agree or disagree, but I know you are all smarter than that. Instead, what are a few of your favorite children’s stories? They can be picture books, graphic novels, beginning chapter books, or Harry Potter-sized novels. Which do you love, and why?


After fondly reminiscing, read what I posted this past week:
Wednesday, April 3: Encouraged cathartic ranting over bad bosses in “Just Another Perk of Working.

Thursday, April 4: “The Cure for Depression: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy,” another suggestion in a series originally posted over at The Bipolar Writer Mental Health Blog.

Friday, April 5: Winner of the Weekly Terribly Poetry Contest. Congratulations to Molly Stevens!

Saturday, April 6: Announced the 21st Weekly Terrible Poetry Contest. The theme is parodies of famous poems. PLEASE ENTER!

And, answered Peregrine Arc’s writing prompt with “Smells Like Reanimated Spirits.

Sunday, April 7: “Olympic Achievement,” a poem response to Carrot Ranch‘s prompt.

Monday, April 8: “Wilhelmina Winters, Eighty-Nine.”

Tuesday, April 9:  An inspirational quote by Jodi Foster.

Wednesday, April 10: Today.

I also posted all this week at my motherhood site. Highlights were “Just Don’t Buy It?,” “Moderate Momming,” and “Bedtime, a poem.”


Photo Credit:

48 thoughts on “Picture Books Are Always in Season

  1. Oh gosh…. with grandchildren I’ve discovered some I never knew of. My fav is/was Cat in the Hat, and Pippi Longstocking books. I guess I longed to show my rebellious side (rebellion is a sin, don’t cha know!)

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  2. My favourite books as a child remain my favourite books to this day – namely fairy stories. Not modern fairy stories, but real fairy stories (of which there are thousands) such as Cinderella, and the Three Little Pigs and Jack, and the Beanstalk, etc etc Of course Disney has ruined quite a number of them.

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  3. Son now loves the graphic novels of Dracula and Hound of The Baskervilles. But just a few years ago it was so different. Favourites (I loved them as well) included The Big Scary Monster, The Gruffalo and The Snail and the Whale. I must admit I was reading a couple of the Mr Men books last week.

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  4. I probably missed the picture book phase, mainly due to my generation. When I was a kid, picture books weren’t exactly…scintillating. Dick, Jane and Spot and that ilk. Not until Dr. Seuss did authors begin to imagine…more. But the boom came after I had outgrown them, so I never got into them much. I have a friend who doesn’t understand why Sesame Street is the best memory of my childhood life. Simple reason – it didn’t exist until I was beyond that. I had Romper Room and Captain Kangaroo. So I guess really the only picture books I can say I fondly remember are Dr Seuss and Are You My Mother?

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    1. Those are great ones, and favorites of my former sixth grade teacher. Because of her love for Are You My Mother (and its featuring in The Higher Power of Lucky), I pick up a copy for my ‘potential presents’ pile downstairs


  5. If you are talking picture books, who can get by life without Where the Wild Things Are? Of course these days I just reread old (newspaper) comics when I need pictures, like Calvin and Hobbes, The Far side and early Peanuts…

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    1. trentpmcd, Maurice Sendak is one of my all time favorite Children’s artists. He was a truly gifted artist with such vision. My sons and grandchildren loved his books and his art!

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        1. The Wild Things is my favorite, but my mother had us listen to In The Night Kitchen as well. I’m not sure I would’ve loved the book so well without its audio. 🙂
          He also illustrated a few, like The Little Bear series.

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    2. Yes, check out his other works. His style is so unique that it is easily identifiable. I was a child in the 1950’s and early 60’s. I remember his work before WTWTA. MS started out illustrating for other authors, including his brother. I remember how his early drawings lit up children’s books when I was little. He had a very interesting style. In the late 60’s when I took two children ‘s literature classes as part of my training to become an elementary school teacher I did a report on him. He was an interesting man. He lost family members during the Holocaust and it seems that horror influenced his art. For me personally, I’m usually drawn to softer images in illustrations (Think Kate Greenaway) in children’s literature, but his work is mesmerizing. And as a person who started out as an art major but switched to elem. education, the images in his children ‘s books is uniquely special.

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  6. The Dr. Suess books are almost mystical… especially the ones that show a convoluted reality like Happy Birthday to You and McElligot’s Pool. My boys did the chapter books early on, as well, but they were always up for a Dr. Suess book read by their dad.

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  7. Wonderful post!!!!! Oh my, how do you choose a favorite???? Ever since my first children’s literature class in college I fell love with children’s books and began collecting them. I gathered up all the Newbery and Caldecott winners and kept them in my classroom. I saved most of them and took them home with me when I retired so my grandchildren could enjoy them. (My own children read them too). I also brought my own special illustrated books from my childhood and read those to my students. All those books now line the shelves in my office. Picture books and chapter books are indeed fabulous for all ages. The child in us never goes away!!!!

    The artwork in the Caldecott award winning books is timeless. I am a bit of a kiddie Lit geek and will only save books with art from the original artists. I don’t purchase new versions of novels with updated art. To me it ruins the authenticity of the story. Example, “Alice in Wonderland” has got to have Sir John Tenniel’s illustrations, and Sherlock Holmes’ Adventures MUST have drawings by Sidney Paget or they are worthless to me. I have countless book on children’s artists featuring just their art. And now my grandchildren get to enjoy Beatrix potter’s original drawings from the Peter Rabbit stories (from books that were from my childhood) and also illustrations of AA Milne’s Winnie the Pooh with drawings by EH Shepard. Oh and Arthur Rankin’s Shakespeare drawings. There are so many wonderful artists from the late 1800’s and early 1900’s who made brilliant illustrations for children’s books. That is the charm of picture books. They tell the story in pictures. I used to recite the Longfellow poem, “The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere” every year from a wonderful children’s picture book with drawings by Ted Rand. The action was exciting for the children and brought the poem to life. These were 4th and 5th graders who loved that picture book!!
    Picture books captures imaginations. I just bought and read Chelsea Clinton’s picture book “She Persisted”. It is wonderfully illustrated and now sits on my book shelf among older books. I have a 2nd and 3rd grader for grandchildren and they still go to read and enjoy the picture books. Both of my grands love to draw and while my grandson has written his own version of Captain Underpants stories he has the pictures down pat. My grand daughter likes to draw Flopsy and Mospsy and Peter Rabbit to a T. I still love, “Make way for Ducklings”. It evokes my childhood. And “Madeline” will always be a favorite. Oh… and Horton hears a Who…. THAT was the very first Dr. Seuss book that was read to me in Kindergarten and now 65 years later I still have that book on my shelf and my grandchildren gravitate towards it now and then even though they are both currently reading the Harry Potter books which are also on my shelf. Along with graphic novels of all Shakespeare’s plays. I love ALL those books. Children love pictures and a good story combined with a lovely image is perfection!!!!!!!!!!!!! Thanks for appreciating Children’s Literature and for also letting your boys read their own brand of humorous stories. They do love those silly books don’t they???

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    1. I love that you are so picky. I’m fairly similar. Mostly, at this point, I get hardback versions of art I like.

      The kids are more likely to even try reading a book if it’s available, right? 🙂

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      1. Yes! And I’ve gone on eBay to find vintage books with specific illustrators. I was watching a movie the other day mentioning Charles Lambs’ Tales from Shakespeare which has been out of print for decades but the referred to Arthur Rackham as the illustrator and I freaked out. Now I had the book which I got in the 70’s when an old Library closed and gave away copies, but not with him doing the drawings. So I went on eBay and found a pristine version from a woman whose mom passed and had it on her shelf. It went for next to nothing. I probably should make a list of my valuable vintage books. I have a set of Mark Twain books with his signature in them that my mom bought from an antique store in the 40’s. They are my prized possessions. Gold gilding on the binding.

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        1. Yes, you should make a list! I don’t think that even your kids know all the books that you have that are worth something, even if it’s mostly sentimental. I think our most valuable book is a copy of The Hobbit in really good condition.

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          1. Yes, I really should. I’ve got a first edition printing of Dorothy Parker’s enough Rope, some wonderful pocket sized leather books that were my mother’s when she was little. Poetry, Shakespeare, and they were not new when she got them. The books then were made of soft leather from Victorian Times and men would carry them in their waistcoats so they were rather small. She had several of those. She was born in 1920 (The year women got the vote) and as a kid and a teen she often wore her brother’s slacks and a hat over her short bob which was stylish back then, so she could play sports. She’d have a book in her pocket at all times. A woman before her time. She kept a detailed journal from the time she wS a child until she died. It’s extraordinary. Her talent for writing far surpasses anything I could do. Had she been born later she would totally have been a photographer and a journalist. So I’m lucky that I have most of my childhood books that she bought me. My Little Women is an unabridged copy. Quite wonderful. Yes, I’ll have to make a list for sure. I loved the Hobbit BTW.

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  8. “Stinky Cheese Man” is a great one. After than I could go on forever. I like Dr. Seuss, but especially “Yertle the Turtle”. I like the “What a Mess” books. My favourite when I was young was Pierre Bear.
    This is a great post.

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  9. The last gift my best friend gave me — from her deathbed — was a picture book. “Polar Bears Danced on the Night You Were Born.” She wanted me to remember that I was loved. Picture books are our first language, and even the most masterful of writers write in images from their minds to ours. You hold onto your picture books! And get The Polar Bears…

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