31 Days, 31 Lists: Oddest Children’s Books of 2018
Bit of a judgement call, today’s title, don’t you think? What one person might consider “odd” could easily be another’s cup of tea. It’s important, then, to clarify that I don’t see “odd” as a bad thing at all. Every year peculiar books for kids sneak into the publishing cycle. You see, in general lot of children’s literature is pushed to be familiar. After all, the safe and recognizable has been proven to sell very well with parents. But if, like me, you have to read the same stories over and over and over again, you begin to pity the children. It’s healthy for a kid to see a book written for their age level that’s outside the norm and dares to get a little bit freaky.
Travis Jonker at 100 Scope Notes, always the gentleman, has a much better term for these types of books. He calls them “The Astonishingly Unconventional“. Not “odd” or “weirdo” or anything so judgemental. Just a calm, acknowledgement that the norm is not always what’s best for a book for children.
Here then, are the 2018 titles that dared to be strange in some way. May they inspire others in the future!
Oddest Children’s Books of 2018
A Bubble by Geneviève Castrée
Is it for children? Is it for adults? A mother posthumously publishes a book written from her young daughter’s p.o.v. about her terminally ill parent. This may well be the book version for kids of the “You May Want to Marry My Husband” New York Times article that Amy Kraus Rosenthal wrote before she died.
The Day We Lost Pet by Chuck Young, ill. Aniela Sobieski
A good strange children’s book makes you want to return to it over and over again. Sometimes, because with each subsequent reading you get something out of it. Sometimes, because you didn’t quite get it the first time. Sometimes both. Chalk this one up in the “both” field.
The Forest by Riccardo Bozzi, ill. Violeta Lopíz & Valerio Vidali, translated from Italian by Debbie Bibo
Okay. Now we’re getting ridiculous. How many times has this book shown up on one of my lists? Three times? Four? Sorry, guys. I hate repetition as much as you do but the fact of the matter is that it is everything I’ve already said and more. Translated, check. As Caldecott-worthy as it is ineligible, check. And original? You bet it is.
Hiznobyuti by Claude Ponti, translated by Alyson Waters
If any book on today’s list typifies what an “oddball” book truly is in its heart, it’s the latest (in America) from Ponti. You pick it up and read it and then in your most American accent you look at it and say, “You ain’t from around these here parts.” No, it ain’t. And it’s highly highly unlikely that it could have gotten published here originally. Thank goodness for the publishers that take chances on translations. Where would books like this one be without them?
I Hate Everyone by Naomi Danis, ill. Cinta Arribas
Already made a nice appearance on the funny picture books list, but please make no mistake when I tell you that it’s a strange little buggy. First off, using the word “Hate” not just in the title but repeatedly in the text is normally considered a real no-no by publishers. Some parents, after all, avoid the word like the plague. Its got guts, this book. To those nervous parents, I should report that I’ve read this to my own kids multiple times and neither the seven nor the four-year-old have ever used the word once. So it doesn’t have some magical properties that will turn your children rude. Phew!
Impossible Inventions: Ideas That Shouldn’t Work by Matgorzata Mycielska, ill. Aleksandra Mizielińska and Daniel Mizielińska
A co-worker of mine went gaga for this book and his sheet enthusiasm for it just happened to pull me along. I believe it’s Polish in origin, and it contains a slew of crazed and crazy inventions. Alas, there’s no backmatter, so good luck reading up on some of these. Still, about the time you get to the invention of a pad you stick in your underwear to stop the smell of farts, you’re pretty much hooked.
The King of Nothing by Guridi, translated by Saul Endor
Another book that I’m not entirely certain I “got” on a first read. The New York Review of Books said that this was “a playful book of first philosophy and fundamental psychology for kids.” All I know is that it’s what I imagine would happen to Harold from Harold and the Purple Crayon if he grew up and spent too much time on his own. A title that looks long and deep into the definitions of “nothing” and “something”.
The Mushroom Fan Club by Elise Gravel
I’ve rarely been so proud of my library’s 101 Great Books for Kids list committee than this year when, in a fit of defiance, they decided one and all to include this Gravel book on the 2018 list. The title says it all. Elise Gravel likes to collect mushrooms, so she has drawn them all here with some identifications. The more you read, the more you want to find some mushrooms of your own. Who knew mycology would define fun in 2018?
My Little Small by Ulf Stark, ill. Linda Bondestam, translated by Annie Prime
Yeah, if anyone else can figure this one out, please let me know. I’m going to try to read it backwards. Perhaps it’s in code. I like it, don’t get me wrong, but what the heckety heck?
Samurai Scarecrow: A Very Ninja Halloween by Rubin Pingk
Just your average Halloween/samurai/haunted scarecrow storyline. Geez o’ petes, between this and Small Spaces by Katherine Arden, 2018 was not a good year if scarecrows haunt your nightmares. I think I’ve read this book to my kids long after Halloween came and went, so it stands up any time of year. But boy, it’s like nothing else out there, that’s for sure.
Square by Mac Barnett, ill. Jon Klassen
To compare any author/illustrator to Maurice Sendak is a terrible notion, but hear me out for just one second here. One of the things you couldn’t help but like about Sendak was his willingness to take risks and to have those risks pay off for him. Barnett and Klassen as a duo tread very much in the great man’s footsteps. Consistently, they produce books that are weird in the purest sense of the term. These books aren’t like anything else out there, and they sell. They sell well. Love ’em or hate ’em, you always want to see what these guys have coming out next.
The Take-It Take-It Lady by Kveta Pacovska
I’m sorry. Did the cover give it away?
We Are All Me by Jordan Crane
I kind of want to set this book to music, but I haven’t found the right pairing yet. If you can find a tune that would work with the words here, please let me know. It kind of deserves to be sung.
Interested in the other lists? Here’s the schedule of everything being covered this month. Enjoy!
December 1 – Board Books & Pop-Ups
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 Books for Kids
December 11 – Bilingual Books
December 12 – Translated Picture Books
December 13 – Books with a Message
December 14 – Fabulous Photography
December 15 – Fairy Tales / Folktales / Religious Tales
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
Filed under: 31 Days 31 Lists
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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