Posted in April 2012

The Legion of Honor’s “Making the Modern Picture Book”

The Legion of Honor’s “Making the Modern Picture Book”

A few days ago, I paid a visit to the Legion of Honor’s exhibit on Making the Modern Picture Book, and all imperfections aside, the books themselves were… gorgeous. The exhibit showcased the works of four authors: Walter Crane, Randolph Caldecott, Kate Greenaway, and William Nicholson. Continue reading

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Corduroy by Don Freeman, 1968

Corduroy by Don Freeman, 1968

So, in my intention to initially look at some of the “classics” of the illustrated world, I had wanted to bring Corduroy into the mix. But sadly, in revisiting the little bear many years later, the truth of the matter is that Corduroy ain’t what I remembered him to be. Now, no need to totally rip Corduroy apart, he obviously can have his positive effect on kids. We can say he belongs to a time and a place– but that time and that place does not jibe with my adult sensibilities. Continue reading

Johnny Crow’s Garden by L. Leslie Brooke, 1903

Johnny Crow’s Garden by L. Leslie Brooke, 1903

1903… it’s an old one, and one that has obviously appealed to reader’s for a very long time. Published over and over again for over 70 years, Johnny Crow’s Garden doesn’t seem to be enjoying quite the popularity it once had. Perhaps now thought to be somewhat archaic (for the style of the drawings?), this awesome little picture book brings back a time of yore, both in style and in sentiment. What goes beyond the illustrations, however, is an act of pure, indulgent nonsense masking a fairly straight-forward social commentary. Continue reading

Go the F**K to Sleep by Adam Mansbach, 2011

Go the F**K to Sleep by Adam Mansbach, 2011

When I said that illustrated books aren’t necessarily just for kids, this isn’t really what I had in mind. And as for literary value, I’m not going to be the one to call Mansbach’s picture book a quality book, except perhaps in the way that it may always be a classically and universally applicable moment in humor. This book doesn’t really belong on this blog. But the other weekend… Continue reading

Quick Question for the Controversial Classics

We are a culture of consensus (just look at the power invested in Yelp), and “the classics”– books that are assumed to better than all other books via their perseverance through time– are an attractive place to start looking for good books.  There already exists a vague sense for the illustrated classics– think Where the Wild Things … Continue reading

Kick off: what makes a picture book good, besides the pictures?

Alright. This mission to steal back the illustrated book needs a kick-off. As well as some parameters and some caveats for this whole idea that these books are worth reading. So to break it down, this is where I see the success of a kid’s book. Simple, yes. Simplistic, no. Instructive, most likely. Pedantic, definitely not. Always bigger than itself, always asking for your imagination to fill in the blanks, asking you to put yourself in there, and never telling you how. And most importantly… never trite or overly sentimental. It basically comes down to: if you can read it now as a “grown up”, not throw up in your mouth, and leave it feeling like a better person, it’s doing something right. Of course, how that all goes down… well, that’s what we get to look at from here on in. Continue reading