An esoteric and distinctly biased list of 50 children’s books you probably really should read (part two)

The Jolly Postman – Janet & Allan Ahlberg

This book is one of those that rewards persistence. Every double page spread has a *something* that can be pulled out of the envelope,  and be read. I love the layers that are at work here and how, very subtly and cleverly, the concept of story is played with and expressed to the utmost.

Similar to : The Jolly Christmas Postman

When The Wind Blows – Raymond Briggs

Possibly one of the finest and most heart-breaking graphic novels produced this century, Where The Wind Blows is full of rage and hopeless anger. Superbly, and subtly constructed, it is the story – and the painful conclusion – of a husband and wife dealing with the impact of nuclear war.

Similar to : Maus

Dear Grandma Bunny – Dick Bruna

The brilliance of the Miffy books is undoubted, but Dear Grandma Bunny is one of the finest. Dealing with the death of Grandma Bunny in quiet, clear imagery, it is superb and reaches much deeper than it appears to. Worth hunting out.

Similar to : Nothing.

Cloudland – John Burningham

A picture book made of magic, Cloudland is the story of the children up in the clouds and the games they play. Albert, out walking with his parents in the mountains, falls off the edge of a cliff and instead of falling to his doom is caught by the cloud children. Stylistically this book is incredible, told in a mixture of cut-outs overlaid on the most beautiful of images. It’s very beautiful.

Similar to : Helen Oxenbury (hee)

Stanley’s Stick – John Hegley / Neal Layton

A vivid, screaming to be read out loud, tribute to imagination and the sheer joy of play, Stanley’s Stick is a delight. Stanley goes through the book discovering everything his stick can be. A charming, beautifully constructed book.

Similar to : E Nesbit (I know there’s an age difference but hey, esoteric remember? 😉 )

Rosie’s Walk – Pat Hutchins

Don’t let the front cover fool you, this book is superb and not at all dated . Witty and sparky with a constant hive of activity in the background, it’s one which pays off the reader in slapstick by the barrel load. Brilliant.

Similar to : Laurel and Hardy

A Ball for Daisy – Chris Raschka

Poetic, wordless, lush imagery tells the story of Daisy and her ball. Raschka’s use of line is bold and thick and vivid, and Daisy herself is a gorgeously vivid creation. One of the books that makes you think words aren’t always necessary.

Similar to : The Chicken Thief

The Five Senses – Herve Tullet

I have a lot of love for Tullet’s work primarily because of the sheer, irrepressible exuberance of it. Nominally an exploration of the five senses, this book provides a journey into the act of reading (can you tell I love an interactive, active engagement with a text?!). This book’s awesome, passionate and full of joy.

Similar to : Press Here

Pride – Brian K Vaughan

A deceptively simple alternative look at the invasion of Iraq. It’s told through the eyes of a pride of lions accidentally freed from Baghdad Zoo. This book is alternatively terrifying, heartbreaking, and laugh out loud funny. It’s a visual tour-de-force.

Similar to : Persepolis

Runaways (Volume One) – Brian K Vaughan

This book  revolutionised my perception of graphic novels and the first couple of volumes in the series are stunning. Based on the simple premise, what if your parents are really evil, Runaways is awesome. Want strong female heroines? Want them to mention things like puberty? Want a dinosaur? Done.

Similar to : Famous Five meets the X-Men

A Ball For Daisy : Chris Raschka

A Ball for DaisyA Ball for Daisy by Chris Raschka

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A Ball For Daisy is a potent, poetical picture book. Told in vivid, brilliant hues of thick luscious colour, it tells the story of a dog who loses her ball.

It’s a slight story, yes, but simple? No. Not really.

A Ball for Daisy is wordless but Raschka conveys so much through his bold thick usage of lines and deceptively relaxed imagery. Daisy herself is a shaggy dog of a thousand breeds but she sings on these pages. Every image involving her is beautifully done; there’s just so much – dog – here.

There’s one double page spread with Daisy on a sofa and all it does is show her in different positions before being eventually comforted by her owner. It’s done so skilfully though that with what is essentially a fixed frame we witness the passing of time through the subtle use of color wash behind the sofas and we can almost feel the hours bleeding into each other through the continuous use of line of the ‘stacked’ sofas. I won’t put a picture up of it as it’s a fairly pivotal moment and I don’t want to spoil the joy for you.

It’s books like these that make picture books an artform. There’s so much going on here and at no point do we slip into overt moralising or didacticism. It’s just the story of a dog and her ball but it’s also about friendship and love with a very gorgeous little twist at the end that made me smile from ear to ear.

I loved this. So much.

I just want a dog now.
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