31 Days, 31 Lists: Day Sixteen – 2017 Oddest Books of the Year
Keep Children’s Literature Weird. There. There’s your rallying cry for the day. Now Travis Jonker has been nice and consistent on this front, producing his lists of The Most Astonishingly Unconventional Children’s Books every year since 2012. You’re bound to see some overlap with this list, but I’ve a couple of my own particular favorites to add in as well. These are the books that make it clear that brains are remarkable things, capable of thinking up some truly kooky stuff.
Right off the bat I’m also going to point out that an inordinate number of books on today’s list are translations. Now I once had the honor of speaking at a conference on the topic of children’s book imports and why it is that Americans often find them so “weird”. So for me to turn right around and start parading some of these books as oddities is a bit two-faced, yes/no? But let us be clear. Not every imported children’s book that graces our fair shores is peculiar. They are as wide ranging as the seas. There are really only a few that make the average jane on the street scratch her head and say, “Hunhuna?” An ode to those then.
Baby Loves Quantum Physics by Ruth Spiro, ill. Irene Chan
Two words: Schrödinger’s kitten.
Find Me: A Hide-and-Seek Book by Anders Arhoj
Not the premise, which is keen. Not the art, which is lovely if standard. No, this book gets included for the cubicle sequence:
I wish I could blow this up larger. Suffice to say, this spread is everything to me. Everything.
Firefighter Duckies! by Frank W. Dormer
I go in for a certain type of illogical logic. Remember that magnificent Rowboat Watkins book last year Rude Cakes? That’s the kind of thing I’m talking about. Dormer’s book here really taps into that same Rude Cake vibe, only this time it’s more of a rude/evil cupcake variation. I also was distinctly reminded of Chickens to the Rescue by John Himmelman. Oh, delightfully illogical logic.
How It Feels to Be a Boat by James Kwan
Oddities can also be sweetness incarnate, and this book is sweet as all get out. It’s also not the kind of book you should think about too hard for fear that your brain might start to sweat. The band. The superhero. Why it is that we’re being asked to think about what it feels like to be the mode of transportation in the first place. Good times.
Grandfather and the Moon by Stéphanie LaPointe and Rogé
This one was a surprise. A mild little mix of chapter book and copious pictures. It seems to sane and sound at the start. Just another sad book about a beloved older relative losing their grasp on the world around them. And then the heroine goes to the moon. Wait. What? A good example of when a book hits you with something that’s completely out of left field.
Monty Python’s Book of Silly Walks by David Merveille
North South! You’re getting silly again! Actually I rather liked this book but more in a I’m-going-to-give-this-to-my-Monty-Python-loving-brother kind of way than a I’m-going-to-hand-this-to-a-child kind of way. Honestly, this feels like a variation on the M. Hulot books. Who illustrated those, by the way? Oh. Merveille? Ah. I see.
My Pictures After the Storm by Eric Viellé
No. Seriously. I’m going to put this book on every other list on this 31 Days countdown until you read it. Go on. Shoo.
My Valley by Claude Ponti, translated by Alyson Waters
Travis Jonker recently called this the Weirdest Book of the Year, and I won’t argue with him. For me that’s one of its top selling points. At the same time, it’s one of the few books this year that you can honestly call beautiful as well as bizarre.
Nothing Rhymes with Orange by Adam Rex
Look, if you can name any other books this year where Friedrich Nietzsche dances like there ain’t no tomorrow, I’d certainly like to know about them.
The Only Fish in the Sea by Philip C. Stead, ill. Matthew Cordell
Maybe this book doesn’t fit on this list. Maybe it’s only here because I just like it so much. But there are some distinct oddities to this storyline that I just adore. Technically it’s a sequel, but its predecessor (Special Delivery) can’t hold a candle to its successor. In this book two friends and their faithful bandit monkey friends set off to rescue a goldfish dropped summarily into the briny deep, still in its plastic bag. The aerial shot of the “town” is worth the price of admission alone. Cordell may win the Caldecott for Wolf in the Snow this year, but I’d be happy as a clam if this got some kind of an Honor.
Rot: The Cutest In the World by Ben Clanton
I’m trying to imagine the pitch with this one. “So, see, there’s this potato, right? And it’s all rotten, but at the same time it wants to win a beauty contest for cutest ever. Because it has dreams, y’know?” Yup. Not sure where exactly Mr. Clanton plucked this idea from, but who cares? Rotten potatoes deserve a little happiness too sometimes.
Super Slug of Doom: A Super Happy Magic Forest Story by Matty Long
Another sequel. Epic quest picture books just fascinate me. They’re so rare, and it’s particularly odd when they’re macking off of cultural references most 6-year-olds won’t get. That said, who doesn’t love an evil slug with a handlebar mustache?
What Does Baby Want? by Tupera Tupera
You Can’t Be Too Careful! by Roger Mello
Maybe “odd” isn’t the word that best describes this. Utterly, wholly, entirely, uniquely one-of-a-kind might be better. What do you think?
Interested in the other lists of the month? Here’s the schedule so that you can keep checking back:
December 1 – Board Books
December 2 – Board Book Reprints & Adaptations
December 3 – Wordless Picture Books
December 4 – Picture Book Readalouds
December 5 – Rhyming Picture Books
December 6 – Alphabet Books
December 7 – Funny Picture Books
December 8 – CaldeNotts
December 9 – Picture Book Reprints
December 10 – Math Picture Books
December 11 – Bilingual Books
December 12 – Translated Picture Books
December 13 – Books with a Message
December 14 – Fabulous Photography
December 15 – Fairy Tales / Folktales
December 16 – Oddest Books of the Year
December 17 – Poetry Books
December 18 – Easy Books
December 19 – Early Chapter Books
December 20 – Comics for Kids
December 21 – Older Funny Books
December 22 – Fictionalized Nonfiction
December 23 – American History
December 24 – Science & Nature Books
December 25 – Transcendent Holiday Picture Books
December 26 – Unique Biographies
December 27 – Nonfiction Picture Books
December 28 – Nonfiction Chapter Books
December 29 – Fiction Reprints
December 30 – Middle Grade Novels
December 31 – Picture Books
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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