31 Days, 31 Lists: 2019 Picture Book Reprints
Shel Silverstein once wrote, “The saddest thing I ever did see / Was a woodpecker peckin’ at a plastic tree.” Maybe that was true for you, Shel, my man, but for me the saddest thing are the great picture books that go out of print. Nothing worse than seeing your pet favorite disappear into the mists of time. Of course, every once in a while they get resurrected in some form. You might see the book find new life in a new printing, or perhaps a new illustrator on an old text. Today we celebrate the books that crawled their way back onto bookstore and library shelves in 2019. The few. The brave. The worthy.
I like this collection, but I would like to offer a request. One thing this list is lacking, are reprints of picture books of the past by historically marginalized authors and illustrators. And don’t tell me such books are hard to find. Consider the Everett Anderson books (many of which are out of print) or pretty much any of the books on this list. The time is right.
Oh, and just to make things confusing, there are a couple board books on this list as well. Why I opted to put them here and not on the board book reprint list is a mystery for the ages. You’ll never be able to crack my logic because I haven’t been able to crack it myself!!
2019 Picture Book Reprints
Angela’s Christmas by Frank McCourt, ill. Raúl Colón
I’m not crying. YOU’RE crying! A bit of a pity the name changed but I guess that when Netflix decided to adapt this into a film they didn’t like the idea of dealing with the name of Jesus in there (the original title was Angela and the Baby Jesus). Ah well. The story of the little girl who just wants to warm up the cold little baby in the creche holds up.
Arm in Arm by Remy Charlip
How funny. Kate and I will be discussing a Charlip book on our podcast tomorrow (it’s not this one). And boy, am I glad they brought this man’s books back. 2019 marked the 50th anniversary for this book. Just think about that. As feet walked on the moon for the first time, Charlip was creating this beautiful, smart, slightly psychedelic fare. The perfect audience for this book? My 8-year-old. I wonder if we can convince kids her age that picture books are cool by implying that they’re just proto comics. Hm. In any case, this book is full of jokes, riddles, pretty good puns, pretty bad puns, tongue twisters, you name it. I plan on leaving it open in my house, maybe occasionally reading from it. Long story short: Love it.
Button & Popper by Oili Tanninen, translated by Emily Jeremiah
Housing insecurity vis-a-vis pixies.
I call this section “Picture Book Reprints” but how do you categorize a book that was originally released 1964 but was never published in English until 2019? Is that a reprint or an original publication? There is no denying that the look of the book is classic in terms of its limited color palette, but the story has an odd timeliness to it too. In her Foreword, Tanninen recounts how the book was written in the fall of 1963 after she and her family failed to find any apartments in Helsinki. Out of her frustration she made this story of a very large family of pixies and their own housing troubles. Extra kudos to translator Emily Jeremiah, who manages to retain its old-fashioned feel with some contemporary, kicky writing.
Can You Eat? by Joshua David Stein, ill. Julia Rothman
Clever ducks. They figured out that if you take the last page out of Stein and Rothman’s CAN YOU EAT THAT? (a family favorite in my household, particularly that page) and spread it out into a board book then you essentially have another great book all by itself. The ending here is slightly different from the original’s in that they actually gave it an ending. Otherwise, it’s the same deal and that deal is super fun.
A Child’s Calendar by John Updike, ill. Trina Schart Hyman
Sing your happiness far and wide. This little beauty more than deserves its republication. Hyman was always a master illustrator and it’s marvelous to see her in her element here. One of my favorite seasonal books for kids (and poetry besides!).
The Dream Keeper by Robert Ingpen
There you are, you luscious, wild, weird little book. I have a problem with this title, actually. Due to it very name, I am not allowed to describe its art as “dreamlike” for fear of repetition. Unfair, sez I! How else am I supposed to invoke what Ingpen is working with here? This book is one of those fascinating combinations of story and catalog. I remember seeing this book when it first came out in 2006, and it hasn’t aged a day. Just a perfect gift book for that child who’s a little bit dreamy and a little bit scientific.
The Golden Rule by Ilene Cooper, ill. Gabi Swiatkowska
Now that’s interesting. Not that they re-published this book. I mean, it’s nice and all. I liked it when it first came out back in 2007. But they’re republishing it this year with a John Green Foreword. This, to me, suggests that with his own children growing, Mr. Green is on the precipice of writing for younger ages. If true, we might be seeing some very interesting books in the years to come. And, if not, at least we have this one. I’ve always enjoyed Swiatkowska’s European style anyway. It’s goofy and good. Precisely what you need for a book of this sort.
Hello, Ninja by N.D. Wilson, ill. Forrest Dickison
Which is to say, hello again, Ninja. I admit, I’m a little amazed. Back in 2013 I had the board book version of Hello, Ninja, which I would read to my adorable kidlets time and again. It’s hard to go wrong with an uber-simple story of a ninja partaking of some very ninjaish (and very un-ninjaish) capers. Now Netflix, it would seem, has turned the book into a whole series. Well done there! We’re glad to have you back.
Hey, Black Child by Perkins by Eugene Useni Eugene, ill. Bryan Collier
Now the original of this title was released in 2017 and contained a poem from 1975 written by Chicago playwright Perkins. Occasionally people get confused and attribute it to Countee Cullen or Maya Angelou but it’s Perkins all the way. Just in a smaller, harder format. Good to see it, no matter where it is.
I Love You the Purplest by Barbara M. Joosse, ill. Mary Whyte
All right. I admit it. There’s probably no good reason for this book to be in board book form. It was perfectly serviceable as a picture book when it first came out back in 1996, but darned if Joosse somehow manages to be touching without goo. This book is, I can recognize, a rare thing. Granted, the kids look like they just walked out of an episode of Northern Exposure (the mom’s a dead ringer for Shelley) but we’re getting far enough from the late 90s now that we can begin to call this historical fiction. And, of course, it’s probably the cleverest book out there to discuss what a parent should do when two of their kids keeps asking “who’s the best?” at one thing or another. Darn, I like this book.
Mermaids On Parade by Melanie Hope Greenberg
So few people outside of NYC are aware of the Mermaid Parade that happens at Coney Island every year. Melanie knows the parade very well, and this book is chock full of real people and cameos. I loved it when it first came out and I’m pleased as punch to hear that it is back in print and available for all your mermaid loving needs. It’s a cool glimpse at what it might be like to actually live at Coney Island, plus the variety of costumes is stellar. Watch out, though. It may make you pine for your own Mermaid Parade, far from NYC.
Moonshot: The Flight of Apollo 11 by Brian Floca
Heh. I remember when this book originally came out and I speculated that the Caldecott Award would go right over the moon on the cover. It only won a Siebert Honor, but then Brian later went on to win a Caldecott for Locomotive, so that assuaged some frustration. Lovely to see this back in print, and “Expanded for the 50th Anniversary of the First Moon Landing” no less. Expanded how? I was curious. I practically have this book memorized so I peeked inside. Same stuff…. Same stuff…. Same stuff… same…. What the HECK is THAT?!? Oh my gosh! The women of Hidden Figures are there now! And now there’s a section on how they got back up to the Columbia from the Moon (which I always kinda wondered about). Reentry is also included. Can you do that? I didn’t know you could just update everything like that. That’s wonderful! And a guide for other great children’s works of Nonfiction published in the past too, don’t you think?
Poppleton and Friends by Cynthia Rylant, ill. Mark Teague
Sometimes you forget just how charming the Poppleton books were when they first came out in 1997. How would anyone be incapable of not loving a bus full of old ladies calling themselves “The Sassy Sues” who then teach our hero how to win at poker? Such a delight to see these being republished under the Acorn imprint. I hope lots of kids discover them anew.
Prince Bertram the Bad by Arnold Lobel
In my household we have a book of collected Lobel picture books, far beyond the easy books he made. Of the four stories collected inside, this is a true family favorite. Is there anything quite so satisfying as encountering a bad person in a book? Bertram’s just the worst and his comeuppance is a delight. This reminds me of nothing so much as a Fractured Fairy Tale from back in the day that had kind of the same plot. Happy to see it return.
When Everyone Was Fast Asleep by Tomie dePaola
Such a strange, lovely little book. Honestly, this feels like nothing so much as dePaola channelling Sendak. And with its 1976, I do wonder if the man ever saw it. Listen to the description here: “When everyone was fast asleep, two children awakened by Token, the Fog Maiden’s mysterious cat, and sent into the enchanted night.” It feels like an opera or play. It feels like a folktale but without a moral. It is both directionless and full of purpose. It’s a contradiction in terms, this book. This is what you read to children to fill their heads with feelings and memories they’ll never be able to quite grasp again when they grow old. I’m impressed that Holiday House has released it once more. A nice change from Strega Nona.
The Wizard’s Tears by Maxine Kumin and Anne Sexton, ill. Keren Katz
As with all the books I read, I like to go into each one as blind as humanly possible beforehand. And because I am a cur, unaware of the trappings of great American poets, the names “Maxine Kumin and Anne Sexton” meant relatively nothing to me when I read this. I have probably killed my mother stone cold dead with this statement. Sorry, mom. So imagine my surprise when I not only find that the book is quite delightful, but also that it’s a re-illustrated version from 1975. I like the story’s fable-like structure and its whimsy. Its honest-to-goodness authentic whimsy. Now it’s not perfect, I’ll be the first to tell you. For all that they acquired a 21st century illustrator, Katz has a lot to learn about diverse representation (I think one of the background characters is supposed to be black, but it doesn’t look like she wanted to draw any dark skin, so I’m not impressed). Also, for some god knows reason, Kumin wrote a piece in The Roots of Things excerpted here with the title “Kiddielit with Anne Sexton”. Why in the world she would use that much detested term, I have no idea. I may have to check out her book to find out. *shudder* Fortunately, the rest of the book is strong.
Yellow Yellow by Frank Asch, ill. Mark Alan Stamaty
When people say that folks don’t take a chance on picture books anymore, this is what they’re possibly referring to. I had no idea that this book even existed until this year. For a long time I’ve been a proponent of the cult classic Who Needs Donuts? (a.k.a. The stranger danger book) for years. Had I but known that it essentially had a companion volume out there, I would have been insisting on its re-publication from the start. If anything, Stamaty is even more creative in this book, and you can see him toying with the notion of going in the direction of a Crumb or some kind of Underground Comix. His unshaven men in particular are practically works of grotesque art. You’re reading all this and wondering if the book was even intended for children. YES! YES IT IS! Children deserve weirdness! They deserve books so chock full of details that they spend countless hours just poring through them. They deserve this book and I am so so pleased that they can have it. Be the weird aunt or uncle in your niece or nephew’s life. Buy them this book.
Interested in the other lists? Here’s the schedule of everything being covered this month. Enjoy!
December 1 – Great Board Books
December 2 – Board Book Reprints & Adaptations
December 3 – Transcendent Holiday Picture Books
December 4 – Picture Book Readalouds
December 5 – Rhyming Picture Books
December 6 – Funny Picture Books
December 7 – CaldeNotts
December 8 – Picture Book Reprints
December 9 – Math Books for Kids
December 10 – Bilingual Books
December 11 – Books with a Message
December 12 – Fabulous Photography
December 13 – Translated Picture Books
December 14 – Fairy Tales / Folktales / Religious Tales
December 15 – Wordless Picture Books
December 16 – Poetry Books
December 17 – Easy Books
December 18 – Early Chapter Books
December 19 – Comics & Graphic Novels
December 20 – Older Funny Books
December 21 – Science Fiction Books
December 22 – Informational Fiction
December 23 – American History
December 24 – Science & Nature Books
December 25 – Unconventional Children’s Books
December 26 – Unique Biographies
December 27 – Nonfiction Picture Books
December 28 – Nonfiction Books for Older Readers
December 29 – Older 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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