Top 100 Picture Books Poll Results (#60-56)
Here’s a cold shower for those of you enjoying the Top 100 list so far. As I compiled my notes and weighed by votes, I found a disturbing trend amongst the books nominated for this list. We’ve had plenty of women. Plenty of older titles, books created by two person teams, and stories that have been printed prior to the 21st century. We’ve had long books, short books, tall books, skinny books. Now think about it. What haven’t we had?
How about books by people who aren’t white?
Oh, sure. There have been exceptions to this. Shaun Tan and . . . . . whoo boy. No. As of yet, there hasn’t been much of anyone aside from Shaun Tan. I suppose this is the danger of the popular vote, isn’t it? Though a fair amount of you did vote for multicultural books, you didn’t all vote for the same ones. So this list, which could never have been called cannon-worthy to begin with, takes a drubbing. Of course today we see the premiere of the Dillons, but one might say it’s too little too late.
Something for you to chew on as you read.
#60: King Bidgood’s in the Bathtub by Audrey Wood, ill. Don Wood(1985)
22 points (3 votes, #1, #2 & #10)
Such lush artwork, filled with details to pore over! With a style reminiscent of the Renaissance period (my favorite), Don Wood is definitely the Caravaggio of the picture book world in the way he handles light. – Lori June
The hubby thinks I’m weird for loving this one as much as I do, but I can’t help it. Another that I just thought was fantastic when I was younger and I’m always recommending it now. Not too many people have heard of it anymore, but with the funny story and fabulous illustrations, I’m always happy with recommending it. It’s a Caldecott Honor book too, so maybe my posting about it will help some of you that haven’t heard about it or just forgotten, run back out to your library and check it out for your kids. – Amanda Snow
On the contrary, Amanda. A sufficient number of people voted on your King to give him an enviable slot up here at #60.
King Bidgood may have been the first Wood title I ever saw. I missed their books for the most part in my childhood, though in the case of this particular book I do remember seeing it in the possession of the younger siblings of one of my friends. It would be years before I came to know Audrey and Don’s work any better. What we have here is a Caldecott Honor winner and in 2005 there was even a 20th Anniversary edition, complete with a CD of six original songs.
Here’s the description of the plot from School Library Journal: "In this humorously original tale, various members of the Court, all clothed in elaborate Elizabethan dress, try to dislodge the King from his bubbly tub. Instead they are drawn into it with him, to ‘do battle’ with toy ships and warriors; to eat a lavish feast; to fish and to dance. It is the young page who finds a solution, finally, by pulling the plug. Much of the delight is in Don Wood’s meticulous oil paintings, which juxtapose the starched, overdressed, ‘shocked’ demeanor of the Court with the King’s twinkling, sensual, even lascivious manner. Minute details in the paintings emphasize this contrast; the red-haired naked King frolics while the fully-clothed courtiers emerge dripping from the bath with literally all their starch taken out."
This marks the second Aubrey and Don Wood title on the Top 100. The first was The Little Mouse, the Red Ripe Strawberry, and the Big Hungry Bear coming in at #93. The only question remaining? Has The Napping House missed its chance or will it appear further up the list?
Newbery Award winner Susan Patron reviewed this book for SLJ and called it, "A voluptuous book whose rich range of colors and tones reflect the passing hours of the day."
#59: Chicken Soup With Rice: A Book of Months by Maurice Sendak (1962)
23 points (#3 & #4 & 3)
". . . a little book that takes you through the months AND around the world." – Kristen M.
Sendak appears for a second time on our list, having premiered as the illustrator for Ruth Krauss’s A Hole is to Dig back at #88. Yet this little book, and I do mean little, marks the ONLY Nutshell Library title to make it onto the Top 100 list. The Nutshell Library was a miniature four-book set, consisting of the titles Alligators All Around, One Was Johnny, Pierre, and Chicken Soup With Rice. The books remain popular to this day, though my library doesn’t box them together much anymore.
Here’s my plot description of this particular tale: "This is ostensibly a book meant to teach your children the different months of the year. Each month gets its own rhythmic poem and accompanying illustration. These are fairly simple pen and ink drawings with the occasional splash of blue (in varying shades), yellow, gray, and green. You may wonder how an author could ever hope to come up with twelve highly original soup-related poems. I mean, honestly, how much is there to say about even the fanciest soup, let alone chicken soup with rice? Quite a lot, as it happens. In the cold winter months soup is supped while sliding on ice, while celebrating the birthday of a snowman, and in a gusty gale as a whale. In the spring there’s robin’s nest soup, soup to cure drooping roses, and soup stolen by jealous March winds. By the end our hero postulates the potential joys that could come of being a cooking pot, stewing soup or (oddly enough) as ‘a baubled bangled Christmas tree’."
As the editor Ursula Nordstrom said, "We wanted to do the Nutshell because children would love perfect tiny books."
Of course no discussion of this book is complete without bringing up Carole King’s musical Really Rosie. This musical was built around The Nutshell Library, setting many of the tales to music. I am well and truly familiar with the show because I worked on a live production of it behind the scenes when I was ten or so at the Kalamazoo Civic Theatre. It was also animated as a little movie, which you can sometimes find in libraries (we have a VHS copy for checking out, in case you’re interested). Now the dubbing appears to be off a bit in this video, but I’m just including it so as to give props to the song. Watch it in good health.
Or just read the whole thing here!
#58: Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People’s Ears: A West African Tale (1975) by Verna Aardema ill. Leo and Diane Dillon
23 points (#10, #2, #6, #3)
The fact that two people manage to illustrate picture books together so seamlessly still manages to blow my mind. The fact that they can do it and make fabulously, modern-yet-timeless-looking jungle creatures that remind me of traditional Ashanti masks rendered in neon. Aardema’s retelling is tight and pretty much flawless; cumulative folktales such as this one run the risk of becoming tedious (it’s the reason I can’t stand ‘This is the House that Jack Built’) but her text is just rhythmic enough to stay lively through repeat read-alouds. Bonus: the ‘Lion’ character gives you ample reason to channel your inner James Earl Jones. – Brooke Shirts
One of these days I’m just going to hire Brooke to write all my book summaries for me.
Just yesterday I wondered aloud whether or not y’all would be able to guess what the eleven Caldecott Award winning books on this list were (in addition to Kitten’s First Full Moon and Officer Buckle and Gloria, of course). If there are those amongst you that thought of Mosquitoes, give yourself a pat on the back. I remember most picture books from my youth because my parents read them to me. There are a couple notable exceptions to this, however, and one of them is this book. It’s vibrant art and ear-catching storytelling ensured that not only would I remember it, but so too would people across the country for years and years to come.
Here’s my old Amazon encapsulation of the plot: "In a kind of Chicken Little series of events, a lying mosquito sets off a chain reaction ending, ultimately, in the sun no longer rising. When the animals of the forest slowly track down the reasons behind the sun’s disappearance, they reach the conclusion that mosquito is the one to blame. Ever since, mosquitoes will sometimes ask people whether or not ‘everyone’ is still angry at them. The answer is a satisfying (I love this descriptive sound) KPAO!"
Booklist‘s starred review said of it, "Elegance has become the Dillons’ hallmark. . . . Matching the art is Aardema’s uniquely onomatopoeic text . . . An impressive showpiece."
#57: Flotsam, by David Wiesner (2006)
23 points (#9, #2, #8, #3, #10)
There is no finer example of unbridled imagination than Wiesner’s 2006 wordless story about a boy who finds amazing things inside old camera washed up on a beach. As the storyline unfolds, the reader discovers that undersea life may be much more sophisticated (and whimsical) than previously thought. A cyclical ending shows the camera washed up again, ready for the next passerby to continue the story. – Travis Jonker
Well, we’re just having a Caldecott Award run here. Two in a row! Yes at long last David Wiesner makes an appearance on today’s list. The three time Caldecott Award winner is going to have to stop making books someday if he doesn’t want to cause a revolt amongst all the other author/illustrators out there. Of course, that would mean not getting anymore Wiesner books and we cannot have that, can we?
My description: "A scientifically minded young man is closely examining the various critters and crabs he finds washed up along the beach shore when he’s suddenly doused in a wave. When he emerges he’s sitting on the sand with an old-fashioned camera beside him. On its front are the words, ‘Melville underwater camera’. Intrigued, the boy plucks out the film and takes it to a one hour photo store. The pictures he gets back, however, are nothing a person could imagine. Mechanical fish swimming with real ones, hot-air pufferfish, entire civilizations living on the backs of gigantic starfish… and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. The last photo, however, is the most interesting of them all. In it, a girl holds a picture of a boy holding a picture of a boy, holding a picture of a girl, and so on. Our boy gets out his magnifying glass and sees even more pictures of kids holding pictures of kids. And when he gets out his microscope he can see all the way back to the very first picture in the batch ever taken. When last we see of our hero he has taken a picture of himself holding the last photo with the Melville camera. Then he tosses it into the sea, where we see it acting out a couple of adventures until the last picture in the book; A girl on a tropical beach reaches for the camera, half-buried in the sand."
I have always remembered and been fond of the book trailer that was constructed for Flotsam. Here you can see it. Full discloser, my husband is an acquaintance of the creator, being a film student and all:
Aw, what the hey. I’m in a video mood. Here then is Mr. Wiesner talking about winning the Caldecott for this book:
School Library Journal‘s starred review said of it, "Shifting perspectives, from close-ups to landscape views, and a layout incorporating broad spreads and boxed sequences, add drama and motion to the storytelling and echo the photographic theme. Filled with inventive details and delightful twists, each snapshot is a tale waiting to be told."
Booklist added, "Like Chris Van Allsburg’s books and Wiesner’s previous works, this visual wonder invites us to rethink how and what we see, out in the world and in our mind’s eye."
Kirkus put in, "In Wiesner’s much-honored style, the paintings are cinematic, coolly restrained and deliberate, beguiling in their sibylline images and limned with symbolic allusions. An invitation not to be resisted."
And Publishers Weekly said, "New details swim into focus with every rereading of this immensely satisfying excursion."
#56: Diary of a Worm by Doreen Cronin, ill. Harry Bliss (2003)
24 points (3 votes #5, #5, #9, #1)
Another book that to me, captures the experience of childhood. Kids can feel powerless a lot of the time. What seems more powerless that a lowly worm? But that worm has adventures and interesting experiences. – Chris Rodas
A confession? When Diary of a Worm first came out I disliked it for the silliest reason imaginable. Go on. Guess. Guess why I didn’t like this charming combination of Cronin plus Bliss. Were you around then? Do you remember? Diary of a Worm came out around the same time as Diary of a Wombat by Jackie French and to my mind (at the time) it stole Wombat’s thunder.. It was one of those strange publishing coincidences that only occur once in a blue moon to madden authors and cause the folks in marketing and sales no end of distress.
On top of all that, Diary of a Wombat was actually on this Top 100 list until fate and circumstance forced it off. I am not pleased, but while I could resort to my usual blame-the-worm-game, I shall resist. I have grown up enough to recognize that it is a thoroughly charming book. Though this is not Cronin’s MOST famous work, it does pretty well for itself. As for Mr. Bliss, he has been stealthily making his way into the hearts and mind of our nation’s children. I call it the Ian Falconer Effect. Soon the little tots won’t know what hit ’em.
School Library Journal said, "This quirky worm’s-eye view of the world makes these ubiquitous invertebrates a little more understandable and a lot more fun."
Said Booklist, "The pictures are both silly and affectionate, whether the worm holds a pencil or hugs his favorite pile of dirt. And there’s always the elemental child appeal of how it feels to be tiny in a world of giants."
And said Kirkus, "Each turn of the page will bring fresh waves of giggles as a young worm records one misadventure after another."
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About Betsy Bird
Betsy Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.
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