Sunday, October 24, 2010

Julie Danielson's Picture Book List

Julie Danielson (in her own words) has conducted approximately eleventy billion interviews and features of authors and illustrators at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast, also known as 7-Imp, a children's literature blog, focused primarily these days on illustration and picture books. When forced to count, she thinks it's more like between 250 and 300 features of book-creators over the past three years. Give or take a two. Having devoted the beginning of her professional life to Sign Language Interpreting, she then got her Master's degree in Information Sciences at The University of Tennessee, with a focus on children's librarianship. Her most recent librarian position involved putting the two degrees together and working at the Tennessee School for the Deaf. She now works from home, while raising two young imps of her own, and is writing this year with Elizabeth Bird and Peter D. Sieruta about the edgier side of children's literature and its untold stories in a book which will see the light-of-day in Fall 2012 from Candlewick. 

This was difficult. I'm a tremendous picture book nerd. In fact, in grad school, I had to narrow my favorite picture book titles down to my own personal "Best 100" after spending the semester reading a whole heapin' ton of picture book titles from past and present, and I found even 100 difficult. Needless to say, narrowing to ten was challenging.

I decided to choose older titles. The most recent one on this list is 2001. Including more contemporary picture books would have made it even crazier for me, so having this focus helped me a bit. I hope that works. Yes, I decided to make up my own rules here.

1. WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE by Maurice Sendak, 1963. But of course. I'll always remember Chris Raschka's comment about this book. He visited the blog in 2009 and recalls the first time he ever saw the book as a child, sitting on his friend's kitchen table. There was "something mysterious and nearly exotic about the book," he told me. Yeah. THAT. I had the same response as a child. I didn't own it, but my friend across the street did, and even just the cover captivated me, though I was too shy to pick it up and read it then. I didn't truly discover it till adulthood. It is a force of nature.

2.  GEORGE AND MARTHA by James Marshall, 1972. Best Picture Book Duo Ever. I almost don't care who comes along next. No one can top them. I do unsightly snort-laughs whenever I read Story Number Three, "The Tub": "George was fond of peeking in windows." Gets me every time.

3. IN THE FOREST by Marie Hall Ets, 1944. She was a master of books for early childhood, and she made it all look easy. A quiet hush falls when I read her books. I could pore over them for days.



4. MILLIONS OF CATS by Wanda Gág, 1928. Maybe not a surprising title for this list, given that it's the oldest American picture book in print and we talk and talk about it and study it and revere it for its wonderfulness and Gág brought us the double page spread and this story with such momentum and amazing line and shape and all this and all that. But my favorite thing about it? How funny it is. It really is a hoot in spots.

5. FLOSSIE AND THE FOX by Patricia C. McKissack and illustrated by Rachel Isadora, 1986. For its joy. For the way Isadora depicts sunlight in those woods. 

6. THE OTHER SIDE by Jacqueline Woodson and illustrated by E.B. Lewis, 2001. A poem of a picture book.

7. MR. GUMPY'S OUTING by John Burningham, 1970. Burningham is a genius. This book is flawless. I'm VERY fond of hyperbole -- in fact, with the white-hot intensity of a skerjillion suns --  but it's all true. He's brilliant. And I love how there's a wordless feast in so many of his titles. Mmm.


8. THE GARDENER by Sarah Stewart and illustrated by David Small, 1997. For the look on Uncle Jim's face when Lydia Grace gives him his cake, the look on his face when he hugs her, and the rays of sunlight on the final spread.

9. THE HAPPY DAY by Ruth Krauss and illustrated by Marc Simont, 1949. For that one little flower growing in the snow. Oh, that yellow!

10. HENRY HIKES TO FITCHBURG by D.B. Johnson, 2000. Daniel Pinkwater visited the blog in 2009 and told it like it is: "D.B. Johnson is a genius."

Since I already made up my own rules for doing this, can I cheat and do 12 titles?

11. SAM, BANGS AND MOONSHINE by Evaline Ness, 1966. So much emotion. Giant tomes could be written about this book and what Ness does with line and shape and color and composition. Beautiful.

12. THE STINKY CHEESE MAN AND OTHER FAIRLY STUPID TALES by Jon Scieszka and illustrated by Lane Smith, 1992. For the design (the great Molly Leach). For making me want to study children's lit. For the wicked humor of "The Really Ugly Duckling" and its last line.


  1. Great list, Jules! As expected, there's some stuff on here I need to look up. Love that JB!

  2. Matt, you did get the John Burningham book Candlewick released last year, right? I think you told me you did. PERFECT for us JB fans. (And have you seen his new one he did with Helen?)

  3. Hmm haven't seen that one yet. Need to look it up! And, yep, I do have the artist's book. I keep it close by.

  4. Here you go, Matt: This was very recently posted over at PW. I keep meaning to post about the new book.