Wednesday, December 8, 2010

David Gavril's Picture Book List

David Gavril is a picture book writer and illustrator. His books include, Hector and the Noisy Neighbor,  Penelope Nuthatch and The Big Surprise, and Chicken Soup, a collaboration with author Jean Van Leeuwen. He lives with his wife and daughter in Brooklyn, New York.

I’m pretty heartbroken to not have any books on here by the Provensens or Richard Scarry but thought a few of these lesser known books might be deserving of some attention. 

The Tomten and The Fox by Astrid Lindgren illustrated by Harold Wiberg
Wiberg's beautiful watercolor illustrations of the winter night really make this one shine. There's another book by them called simply 'The Tomten" that is its equal, but this is the one I fell in love with first. 

Possum's Harvest Moon by Anne Hunter
Anne Hunter’s illustrations are wonderful and she has a real gift for portraying the natural world. This contemporary book is very underrated. 

Yummers by James Marshall
Most James Marshall books are masterpieces, even the more obscure books (of which there are many, he was as prolific as he was brilliant). This one was created in 1972, about the same time as the first George and Martha. If you are lucky enough to find a hardcover copy with dust jacket there is a wonderful picture of James leaning over his drawing board. George and Martha are pretty cool too. 

Who Needs Donuts by Mark Allen Stamaty
When I was a kid this book really blew my mind and it still does.  Its main messages/themes: run away from home, talk to strangers and eat a lot of junk food, probably won't win over too many parents, but the richness of Stamaty’s imagination just might. My mom, children's writer Jean Van Leeuwen, actually edited this book (it was difficult).  She remembers Mark at the time as being very poor and often hanging around the office hoping someone would buy him lunch. Small in the Saddle, a picture book from around the same time period is also pretty great. 

Owl at Home by Arnold Lobel 
I love anything by Arnold Lobel. Of course Grasshopper, Uncle Elephant, and Mouse Tales are all terrific but I think Owl equals the Frog and Toad books in terms of flat out undeniably classic stories. Read Tear-water Tea, Strange Bumps, Upstairs Downstairs, The Guest and see if you don't agree. 

The Bear and the Fly by Paula Winter
 Some years back when I worked in a second hand children's book store I discovered this wordless gem. The dark humor and (most likely) small sales history will probably guarantee that it is never reprinted but it deserves to be rediscovered. 

Snow by Uri Shulevitz
I love the mood of this book. The illustration of the woman on the television saying "No snow" is probably one of my favorite all time illustrations.  No two Shulevitz books are alike and I continue to admire his versatility. Best snow book ever! (Waiting for Winter by Sebastian Meschenmoser is also a winner in the snow book category.) 

Amos and Boris by William Steig 
William Steig was a childhood favorite. His original book Shrek (long before the movie) actually inspired me to try my hand at children's books. Sylvester and the Magic Pebble might be the more popular pick but Amos and Boris is still the one I like best. 

The Shrinking of Treehorn by Florence Parry Heide illustrated by Edward Gorey
I'm a huge fan of Edward Gorey's drawings, but I often find I like his work best when he is working as an illustrator. The Treehorn books are all wonderful; I find them unbelievably sad and maybe just a little wordy. Abrams did a great anthology collecting them all in one volume. When I was first starting out I saw some of the original art for Treehorn and was struck by the large amount of white out used. "There is hope!" I said to myself. 

On My Beach There Are Many Pebbles by Leo Leonni 
Here Leonni is like Philippe Petit walking the high wire and he pulls off something miraculous. I don't think we have to worry about any of our celebrity author friends attempting a children’s book like this (come on Madonna, try it!). This book is more like Mozart or Picasso, great art by a master.


  1. I'm so happy to see The Bear & the Fly on this list. I'd forgotten about this book, but seeing it here brings back memories of dying laughing with my brothers over the illustrations. And it breaks my heart to read that Stamaty was very poor. He obviously put his heart and soul into the amazing illustrations in Who Needs Donuts?

  2. Nice to see there is another 'Bear & the Fly' fan out there! Paula winter also illustrated the original version of 'The Forgetful Bears', which has it's moments too. These may be her only children's books, I've never seen anything else by her.

    Mark Alan Stamaty definitely created a work of enduring genius with WND. Don't worry about him though, his financial fortunes have improved and he has even done Elvis impersonation's at the white house in recent years.

    My apologies to Florence PARRY Heide, for misspelling her name(!) Wonderful interview with her here re: working with Gorey on Treehorn:

  3. Thank you for the update. Doing an Elvis impersonation anywhere--let alone the White House--is a sign of good fortune in my book!