31 Days, 31 Lists: 2023 Picture Book Reprints
Every picture book author has or will experience the sad day when one of their books goes out of print. Like a candle, it will do so softly and without fanfare. And yet… and yet… there are rare moments when a book is brought back to life by a publisher. But why? They know that a reprinted picture book can win no awards. They know that the likelihood that it will earn great gobs of cash is unlikely. No, my friends. The brave publishers that bring such books back do so for one reason and one reason alone: love. The love of the people who remember that book from their childhood. The love of the author and/or illustrator who put their heart and soul into those pages. This is the only explanation, and so today we honor that love. We honor that commitment. That raspberry in the face of capitalism that demands that everything be new and shiny. Today, and only for today, we honor the reprints.
Here is a pdf of today’s list, if you’d like one.
Care to see the previous years’ lists? Then check these out:
2023 Reprinted Picture Books
The Cat at Night by Dahlov Ipcar, with a tribute from Carl Little
50 points to you if you read this book’s title and don’t immediately start singing it to the tune of “Deep in the Heart of Texas”. I admit to not knowing a lot about Ipcar, though she had a “four-decade creative run” (great phrasing at work there) from the 1940s to the 80s. This book is really quite simple. It follows a black cat with white belly and paws as it roams about outside all night. “But what does the cat do out there in the darkness all night long?” The book makes it clear that the cat can see better at night than you or I by doing fun things with black silhouettes against a deep blue sky. Kids are given a chance to guess what those silhouettes are, before they are revealed. The cat’s adventures finally end in the morning, back at the house, where it falls asleep in an armchair as the farmer says, “What a lazy cat. He sleeps all night and he sleeps all day, too!” There’s a lovely little tribute at the end by Carl Little where he offers both a biography of Ipcar and a consideration of her work. “Her young audience, and those of us more advanced in age, experience a kind of enchantment when we turn the pages, as we look for the hidden animal or are dazzled by her designs.” For the people of Maine, she is considered a treasure. Makes sense for the rest of us to feel the same way too.
The Chimpansneeze by Aaron Zenz
Zenz is back! But did he ever really leave us? One thing that did leave us is this book, and what a kooky journey it has had. Eleven years ago it appeared as a two dollar paperback only via Scholastic Book Club fliers. If you’re familiar at all with Zenz’s wildly successful Hiccupotamus (which I still find in my holiday catalogs that I receive in the mail) then it won’t surprise you to hear that Chimpasneeze here was intended to be a companion picture book. Trouble is, the way it got sold, no one really knew it even existed. Heck, I didn’t even know about it, and I’m a big time fan of its predecessor. This year Zenz decided to put his back into it and convince his publisher that this book was worth returning to the market and it worked! Now they’re releasing this as part of the “Hiccupotamus and Friends” series, which is good news for all of us. And the book? Utilizing his usual clever rhymes, he tells the story of a sneezy ape and the hijinks that inevitably ensue. I like it because at the beginning you meet the chimpanzee and its best friend, a kinkajou. You may be wondering, as I did, why a kinkajou? Well, it takes the whole book, but at the end there is (and if you guessed this then you’re a cleverer person that I) a kinkachoo!
The Fearless Little Farm Boy by Astrid Lindgren, ill. Marit Törnqvist
I love me a little Astrid Lindgren and this Marit Törnqvist character seems to know what she’s doing. Originally published in Sweden in 1991, and then eventually in England under the title “Goran’s Great Escape” (and I can’t decide if I like that title better than this one or not), the original text is actually from 1950. This version seems to retain the original art from that 90s edition and concerns a bull that is being, as we say in my family, a bit of a pistol. One day the normally placid Goran, the bull, decides he’s in a bad mood, so he determines to escape. This happens on, of all days, Easter Sunday and proves to be the entertainment this small town so desperately craves. Trouble is, now that Goran’s in the yard and not in the barn, how is anyone going to get him back in. It takes one small boy with “small, dirty, farm-boy fingers” and kind words to do the deed. It’s just about the sweetest thing you’ve seen without ever getting saccharine, so give it a looksee when you’ve a chance. It’s a bit of a charmer.
Friends by Mies Van Hout
This year we saw the rerelease of Happy by Mies Van Hout (see below) come out in tandem with another reprinted title (on American shores anyway) Friends. These are Dutch titles, but their peppy, electric coloring is of universal appeal. Part of what I like so much about Hout’s books is their disinclination to slide, even ever so slightly, into pablum. Now with a title like “Friends” you might be wondering just how precisely the book’s creator, placing only a single solitary word on each page, could simplify without utter simplification. Well, the first word in this book might be “Play” but that is quickly followed up by “bore”, “tease”, “fight”, “cry”, “ignore,” and “embarrass.” Don’t worry. Things turn around after that. Best of all, the monsters on these pages are always different, so you’re not following the same pair across all these different emotional journeys. Is this a Social and Emotional Learning book? You bet your sweet bippy it is. It just also happens to be a legitimately good book on learning what emotions are as well. Covering all kinds of different areas, these brightly colored monstrosities against their black backgrounds are bound to capture a few hearts along the way.
Hansel & Gretel by Neil Gaiman, ill. Lorenzo Mattotti
Like this year’s Bea Wolf by Zach Weinersmith, the true reason the public didn’t initially embrace Neil Gaiman’s interpretation of Hansel & Gretel has nothing to do with his wordsmithing (totally a word) or tone and everything to do with the fact that this book was published in black and white. You know, as much as I am ready, willing, and able to tell you that the American public is capable of handling black and white art in their children’s literature, the simple fact of the matter is that when it comes to American parents, colorless narratives freak them out. Sorry, but it’s true! The generation raised on He-Man and TMNT has very little ability to deal visually with what artist Mattotti calls “the evocations of shapes, the realm of the imagination.” Still, this is a wonderful book, Gaiman’s writing is above par, and TOON Books believed enough in this publication to reprint it after its 2014 release, back in the day. And I? I, for one, am HERE for it! It’s a straight retelling of the original tale. You can read my full review of the book when it originally was released here. As I said at the time, “It’s not about what we fear happening to us. It’s about what we fear doing to ourselves by doing terrible things to others. The fat from the meat is running down our chins. Best to be prepared when something comes along to wipe it up.” And no. I have no idea what I meant by that.
Happy by Mies Van Hout
Who’s happy? I’m happy! Why am I happy? Because Happy by Mies Van Hout has been republished a full 11 years after it first came out! I can actually remember its first printing, and I was unaware that it went OUT of print in the first place. Fortunately this new Pajama Press printing boasts “extra-heavy pages that will endure through countless readings.” Good thing too because with its brightly colored fishies splayed across the page against deep black backgrounds are featured alongside single descriptions like “shy” or “brave”. This book has a simplicity that can be hard to find in a lot of older picture books. Little wonder it will be turned into a board book in 2024.
Little Red Riding Hood retold and illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman
Clever little Holiday House. With its 40th anniversary nigh, this book was perfectly timed in one particular way: It came out after Jason Chin’s Caldecott win. Did you happen to hear Jason’s Caldecott acceptance speech when he gave it? I’ve watched Jason present many times over the years, starting with the publication of his book Redwoods, and I’ve always found him to be an engaging, if a slightly quiet, speaker. But man, when he gave that speech I was absolutely riveted. It turns out that he has, what I would consider to be, a most unlikely mentor. Much in the same way that Jarrett Krosoczka was influenced by Jack Gantos, Chin was friends in his youth with Trina Schart Hyman. Now both Chin and Hyman have an ability to render reality in unique ways. Her strength always came in the faces of her characters. As he writes in his introduction for this republication, “Remarkably, Trina never asked anybody to pose for her. She just drew them from memory, a fact that still leaves me dumbfounded.” I also love that he alludes to the fact that this book was challenged back in the day due to the fact that Red Riding Hood is bringing Granny a great big old wine bottle (quoth Chin, “book banners be damned!”). The book itself is rendered beautifully, the colors popping as brightly as they did the day they were conceived back in 1983. Of course now I’m hoping that we get to see more Jason Chin intros to Trina Schart Hyman books in the future. Would love to see what he’d do with King Stork . . .
Need a House? Call Ms. Mouse! by George Mendoza, ill. Doris Susan Smith
I cannot express to you in words just how desperately I wanted this to be a new book when I first saw it this year. Yes, I know it was published by the New York Review of Books and that they specialize in reprints, but there was just such a charming sensibility to the book that I hoped against hope (though the whole copyright being named “by the Estate of George Mendoza” probably should have been a tip off). As it stands, this really is a reprint of an old book. The original came out in 1981 and it feels like nothing so much as a modernized version of those old Brambly Hedge tales I used to read as a kid. So the real question becomes, is this something a kid would enjoy? Of course it is! Ms. Mouse (love than it’s “Ms.” right there) is this killer female architect, so right there, folks. Right there. Plus every house for every animal she makes is just so clever and filled to brim with neat details. I love intricate pen work, and Doris Susan Smith delivers over and over again. I confess that I suppose that I should have guessed that it was a reprint from the modernist styles utilized, but since everything old is new again, I simply wasn’t sure. As for kids, they can read through this and decide which of the houses they like best (and would like to live in someday). One of those books that makes me sad my kids are too old for picture books anymore. I would so read and reread this.
The Mushroom Man by Ethel Pochocki, ill. Barry Moser
Life’s too short not to occasionally rediscover something as thoroughly charming as this incredible and unconventional picture book about a lonely man finding a friend. Author Ethel Pochocki was a woman after my own heart. She worked for New York Public Library for many years (while raising EIGHT children) and wrote children’s books on the side. This book’s text was paired with the art of the incomparable Barry Moser, and I was so happy to see that with this 30th anniversary reprint Barry has offered a little essay at the back about working on this book. His piece is really worth the price of the title alone, but let’s just get into the story a bit. Our hero, the titular Mushroom Man, is a lonely fellow teased by the people of his town, particularly the local children (and no one does a horrible child’s face better than Barry Moser). He’s terribly lonely, and one day he befriends a cat. The cat remains with him a while, but ultimately abandons him. Bereft, he soon thereafter makes the acquaintance of a mole. Next thing you know, the two are absolute best friends, enjoying a Christmas together (“The mushroom man gave the mole a tin of worms imported from France..”). You will probably not find a sweeter story than this. This is one reprint that should be hailed to the hills as an incredible find!!
The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame, abridged by Lou Peacock, ill. Kate Hindley
While I am naturally wary of abridged titles on the whole, I have to admit that if you’re trying to capture the original language of Grahame, but you don’t want to slog through “The Piper at the Gates of Dawn” chapter, maybe abridging The Wind in the Willows isn’t the worst way to go. Think of it as a gateway book. Then, if the kid likes it, you might wait a year and then try them out on the proper version (though I don’t envy you trying to decide which illustrated edition to use). Here we see art from one Ms. Kate Hindley who is perfectly comfortable with depicting powdered wigs, suspenders, bobbies and more. There’s no Pan, but it’s a rather charming compendium just the same.
Hope you enjoyed these! Here are the lists you can expect for the rest of this month:
December 1 – Great Board Books
December 2 – Picture Book Readaloud
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 – Older Funny Books
December 20 – Science Fiction Books
December 21 – Fantasy Books
December 22 – Comics & Graphic Novels
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 – Audiobooks for Kids
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.
SLJ Blog Network