Sunday, October 24, 2010

Emily Jenkins' Picture Book List

Portrait by Heather Weston

Emily Jenkins is the author of Love You When You Whine, illustrated by Sergio Ruzzier (me!), plus other picture books including Skunkdog, That New Animal, both illustrated by Pierre Pratt, What Happens on Wednesdays, illustrated by Lauren Castillo, and The Little Bit Scary People, with pictures by Alexandra Boiger. She won two Boston Globe/Horn Book honors for picture book writing and also wrote Toys Go Out and Toy Dance Party, both for middle-grade readers, illustrated by Paul O. Zelinsky. I do hope to work with Emily again soon.

Let's see what are ten of her favorite picture books:

Here is my own list, though it's a bit off-the-cuff.  I'm so glad you asked me, as it made me think about what I value in picture books.

1. A VERY SPECIAL HOUSE by Ruth Krauss, illustrated by Maurice Sendak. This book has such amazing rhythms and it's like a window into the mind of a child. She was just a phenomenal writer.

2. A GLORIOUS DAY by Amy Schwartz. I think Schwartz is the best picture book writer working today. This is maybe my favorite, but I also love What James Liked Best and A Teeny Tiny Baby. I love them all, actually. A Glorious Day follows the kids in a single, small apartment building through their day. It is an ordinary day -- but glorious. She has such an ear for truth and humor in small things.

3. MEET WILD BOARS by Meg Rosoff, illustrated by Sophie Blackall. This just makes me laugh. Those boars are so wonderfully horrible. I would love to be able to think up something like this book.

4. TRACTION MAN IS HERE! By Mini Grey. She is operating at so many different levels here. And it just makes me happy. "Traction Man is guarding some toast." I love that he figures out how to deal with his horrid knitted green romper by unraveling it into a tight little bathing suit. Joy!

5. MR. GUMPY'S OUTING by John Burningham.  Mr. G invites all these creatures to ride on his boat if only they don't behave as their natures dictate they should. The children mustn't squabble, the pig mustn't muck about, etc. And in the end, they all collapse and do what they mustn't; they capsize the boat - and he invites everyone back for tea and says they should come again.  It's just true, about people and their foibles, and none of the foibles mattering in the end.

6. WE'RE GOING ON A BEAR HUNT by Michael Rosen, illus. by Helen Oxenbury. It's an old finger-play game, masterfully retold. I see something new in Oxenbury's illustrations every time I've read it. The family is so connected, the bear so menacing yet so lonely, the dog so loyal and yet skeptical.

7. FIRST TOMATO by Rosemary Wells.  This one chokes me up every time, with so little ammunition.  A bunny has a bad day, and envisions an alternate reality where her mother sends her to to see if any tomatoes are ripe. There's only one ripe one, and she wants to eat it -- but abstains, and brings it home as she was asked to do. Later, her mother serves her "first tomato soup, because I love you so."

8. BLUEBERRIES FOR SAL by Robert McCloskey. This book makes you notice things. It makes you pay attention. To words, rhythms, sounds, life.

9.  THE SNOWY DAY by Ezra Jack Keats. It is just a perfect book.

10. SEVENTEEN THINGS I'M NOT ALLOWED TO DO ANYMORE, by Jenny Offill, illustrated by Nancy Carpenter. This, like Meet Wild Boars, is a naughty book. Like A Very Special House and Traction Man, it is a look into the mind of a child that is not at all what other people wish the mind of a child to be.  I love it. And Nancy Carpenter pulls out all the stops here. The illustrations as hilarious and incredibly inventive.

Oh dear. I have left off so many, many books that I love.


  1. Great list! And oooh! oooh! I'm a big Amy Schwartz fan, too. (I had her over at the blog this year for a "breakfast" interview.) She really does make these fabulous child-centered books.

    I love reading these lists...

  2. I'm so glad someone mentioned Blueberries for Sal! Everyone always talks about Make Way for Ducklings, but I've always liked blueberries best.