Cult Picture Book Favorites
Not to be confused with picture books about cults. *shudder* There’s a genre we needn’t plumb.
No, today I’m talking about those picture books that are released, do moderately well, or maybe not well at all, fall out-of-print, and then long after their demise accrue a kind of cult following. The fans swell, demand that it be republished, and sometimes it actually is.
I mention all this because the other day I found out that a friend of mine is a big time fan of Who Needs Donuts? by Mark Alan Stamaty. A cult picture book in the truest sense of the term, the book’s post mortem popularity really and truly did lead to its re-publication a couple years ago. Basically this is a book for people who’ve picked up titles by Peter Sis, looked at the man’s meticulous pointillism, and though, “Surely he could have crammed much more work into this). Stamaty’s book uses every possible smidgen of space and then some.
Not entirely the same is the cult of The Lonely Doll. Seen by some as a beautiful example of black and white photography and dreamlike images, others can’t really get over the strange tale and spanking sequence (frilly underwear and all). What no one can argue with is the fact that it’s still a memorable book. Once for Halloween I went as The Lonely Doll (a fairly easy costume if you just find a pink gingham dress and blond wig) and my husband went as Mr. Bear. BECAUSE THAT’S HOW WE ROLL!
For a time one of my own favorite picture books saw a brief resurgence. I’ve posted before about picture books beloved of children’s librarians. In fact, I have good reason to believe that one of these days we may see the republishing of Jessica Souhami’s Old MacDonald (a.k.a. the best version of Old MacDonald ever created). But a couple years ago it was The Noisy Counting Book by Susan Schade and Jon Buller that really made my heart skip a beat. I could kill in toddler time (metaphorically) if I read that book. That was MY book. And then, oh joy of joys, they republished it in a board book format. Fascinatingly it’s out of print in board book form (though you can get a used copy on Amazon for $389.77) but the Kindle version is alive and well.
Yesterday I spoke with someone who adores Donald Nelsen’s Sam and Emma, illustrated by Edward Gorey (!). It’s basically an awesome story about xenophobia, but told with furry animals rather than people. It also sports some amazing rhyming cadences. Vintage Kids’ Books My Kid Loves covered this title back in 2009. Looks like Dutton published it back in the day (circa 1971) so Penguin? Ball’s in your court now.
I’d be interested in other people’s cult picture book favorites. What are the books that are long since gone that you think have enough underground fans to make a comeback?
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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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