31 Days, 31 Lists: 2022 Picture Book Reprints
It’s not as flashy as a CaldeNott list. Less poetic than the poetry. It’s old. Maybe a little dusty. But doggone it, if you’ve ever worked as a children’s librarian, or a bookstore employee even, then you’ve seen that look that comes into people’s eyes when they recount some of the more obscure picture books of their youth. The fact of the matter is that while most of the books on the 31 Days, 31 Lists round-up are from the current year, what about the backlist?
In answer to that call, I’ve long since decided that it makes sense to celebrate reprints. These are the picture books that saw the light of day again because there was something about them that just stood up to scrutiny. And now you too can celebrate them with some kids.
Books so nice they published them twice.
Care to see the previous years’ lists? Then check these out:
2022 Picture Book Reprints
Bea and Mr. Jones by Amy Schwartz
I discussed this book with my sister on our podcast Fuse 8 n’ Kate recently in part because I knew that this reprint was on the calendar. I didn’t have it in hand at the time of our recording, so I wasn’t able to compare the newer to the older edition then. Now I have the 40th anniversary edition in my hot little hand and I can see if any significant changes have been made. For the most part, not really. Bea’s still strutting in her power suit (and though the book remains black and white, I like to imagine that her tie is garishly colored). Mr. Jones is still happy as a clam, superhero lunchbox in hand. Now the book is a bit larger than the original but I believe it’s safe to say that none of the images have been cut off or trimmed at all, which was a relief. Of course, some changes have taken place. The conspicuous closet full of alcohol is no longer present in Bea’s boardroom and the word “BAMBI” has been stricken from a move poster near the end of the book. Beyond that, it’s faithful enough that if you enjoyed the original you’ll find plenty to love here as well.
The Book of Mean People by Toni Morrison and Slade Morrison, ill. Pascal Lemaître
How did I miss this the first time around? I was already familiar with Toni and Slade Morrison’s other picture books for kids. Surely you guys also remember when they started redoing some of Aesop’s fables in weird, original ways, in the Who’s Got Game? Series. Those books started coming out in 2003, and much like this book, were sort of overlooked, in spite of their heavyweight champion of an author. But even before that series came out (and I pray it’s due for a rerelease in 2023 too) The Book of Mean People was released in 2002. This book is interesting for a wide range of reasons. For one thing, there’s this rather fascinating Afterword at the back by Jewell Parker Rhodes. In it she ponders why this book didn’t get a lot of the accolades it deserved. She writes, “possibly it’s because subversive texts didn’t play as well in 2002 as they do today.” I suspect that subversive texts may play slightly better today but have a harder time getting to our shelves than they did in 2002. Whatever the case, this book is a friggin’ trip. It feels like a natural companion to the works of Tomi Ungerer and Judith Viorst. The story is unafraid to be straight with kids. It doesn’t sugarcoat a child’s feelings, allowing them to state that other people are “mean”. I know that my own kids have called me mean for some of the things I’ve demanded of them, as listed in this book. It’s kind of rare to see books these days that let kids say these things. Pair it alongside I Hate Everyone by Naomi Danis for a thorough deep dive into kids being themselves (as much as grown-ups would rather that they not).
Mouse Seasons by Leo Lionni
I mean, who can resist a Leo Lionni book in general? Not that they’re all created equal, but I found that this one in particular really leans into its own charm. At the beginning it’s just asking a range of different questions. “Who grows the four-leaf clovers in June?” “Who melts the ice?” The answer? Mice, baby! There’s a Springmouse, a Summermouse, a Fallmouse (“Fallmouse”, by the way, would be an excellent character name), and a Wintermouse who do all of that stuff. There is a gaping void, eternally hungry for seasons-related picture books, out there. This book falls into it neatly and will please many a child and adult alike.
The Tale of the Tiny Man by Barbro Lindgren, ill. Eva Eriksson, translated by Julia Marshall
Hey, that’s a nice heart you’ve got there. Mind if I rip it out of your chest? You don’t mind? Well, I’m feeling a little sleepy so why don’t I just let this book do it for me instead? By all accounts this is a 1979 classic work of Swedish children’s literature. It was re-illustrated by the highly talented Eva Eriksson in 2010, and now at long last we get to see it here in the States in 2022. Mind you, this book truly does deserve its “classic” status, since there’s not a thing about it that has aged. I compare it to a picture book version of It’s a Wonderful Life, not because there are any suicide attempts or angels at work (though the tiny man does bear a bit of a resemblance to Clarence) but because the first half of this book is SO sad, and is then redeemed entirely by the second. Our hero is a lonely, tiny man. Other men trip him on purpose and set their mean dogs to bark at him. At night he cries to himself and wonders, “Why doesn’t anyone like me? I’m a kind person.” Into his life comes a dog. Over time, the two not only bond but the tiny man adopts it. All is well until a neighbor girl comes by and the dog likes her too. This book taps so perfectly into that feeling kids get when they have to share their friends. And let me tell you, NOBODY draws a smug man smiling at making another man miserable quite as well as Eriksson. You can import more of her books into this country anytime, folks.
‘Twas the Night Before Christmas or Account of a Visit from St. Nicholas by Clement C. Moore, ill. Matt Tavares
Like “Mary Had a Little Lamb” the controversy surrounding the “real” author of “Account of a Visit from St. Nicholas” is shrouded in a bit of mystery. And yet this book is the only picture book edition of that particular poem I’ve seen to acknowledge that fact. Fascinating! I admit that I didn’t realize that this was a reprint when I first saw it. Full disclosure, I actually glanced at the cover and thought, “I didn’t know Chris Van Allsburg adapted Moore’s poem!” Whoops! Originally this book came out in 2002 and I can’t help but wonder if they’re reprinting it now because of the massive success of Tavares’ picture book Dasher (to say nothing of his work on Red and Lulu) would just make good clean sense. It’s a lovely edition, all black and white, and I love the original text inside. Such a cool addition to our shelves. Of all the picture book authors/illustrators working today, I think Matt Tavares can officially be deemed The Official Holiday Creator.
The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams, ill. Erin Stead
And the 2022 Award for Most Inevitable Pairing goes to . . . Margery Williams and Erin Stead!! But seriously, I want to clap on the back whosoever thought to ask Ms. Stead to illustrate the 100th Anniversary Edition here. Isn’t she just the ideal person to do it? The book has always occupied this odd space where it’s just a little too long to be a picture book but is published at too large a format to be an early chapter book. The best way to describe it? It’s a bedtime book. Stead’s natural affection for the run down and floppity stands her in good stead here (no pun intended). She’s just hitting this one out of the park. Tonally, no one could have been a better mix, and I mean that truly. Now let’s play the game where we think up other classic books for her to handle. Hmmm…
Where Is Everybody? by Remy Charlip
I mean, kind of a no-brainer. I’m not familiar with the entire oeuvre of Charlip but if I had to guess, I’d suspect that the man had relatively few duds. Of course, even when I read this book, I start thinking about those parents that would set out to read this to their kids. There is a kind of specifically artsy/hipster parent out there that thinks it cool to have a bunch of beautifully produced reprinted picture books in the home. This Charlip title in particular doesn’t indulge in much in the way of colors or busy designs. What it does do is present this neat sequential dive into building stories in the simplest way possible. It was originally published in 1957, and you could have a lot of fun examining where the page colors change from white to gray, the green endpapers, the yellow of the sun, and then there are the questions the reader is being asked throughout. Pay attention! It looks simple, but there’s a lot going on here.
Want to see other lists? Stay tuned for the rest this month!
December 1 – Great Board Books
December 2 – Picture Book Readalouds
December 3 – Simple Picture Book Texts
December 4 – Transcendent Holiday Picture Books
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 – Gross 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 – Unconventional Children’s Books
December 18 – Easy Books & Early Chapter Books
December 19 – Comics & Graphic Novels
December 20 – Older Funny Books
December 21 – Science Fiction Books
December 22 – Fantasy Books
December 23 – Informational Fiction
December 24 – American History
December 25 – Science & Nature Books
December 26 – Unique Biographies
December 27 – Nonfiction Picture Books
December 28 – Nonfiction Books for Older Readers
December 29 – Best Audiobooks for Kids
December 30 – Middle Grade Novels
December 31 – Picture Books
Filed under: 31 Days 31 Lists, Best Books of 2022
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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