When I started my children’s picture book series, I never imagined creating over 25 posts full of our favorite books. From robots to gardens, dogs to fairies, and everything in between. Now it’s time to celebrate a handful of fun children’s books just because, no theme required!
The Cosmobiography of Sun Ra by Chris Raschka. Biographies are hard to get right in picture book form. Too often the writing is dry, recounting the facts about a person’s life. Not so here! Raschka writes from the premise that musician Sun Ra was 100% correct when he claimed to be from Saturn. After all, writes Raschka, “it would explain so much.” What follows is a fascinating tale even if you don’t know the first thing about Sun Ra or his music. Raschka picks interesting details instead of following a straight biographical line of key events, and the book is stronger for it. A great place to start learning about Sun Ra, African-American musicians, or just to enjoy.
The Boy of the Three-Year Nap by Dianne Snyder, illustrated by Allen Say. A poor Japanese widow has a lazy son, Taro, who spends his days napping. When his mother presses him to get a job, he comes up with a plan instead – a plan to ensure the rest of his life will be just as lazy. But he’s not the only smart one! I was so tickled by the turnabout at the end of this story, and Boy Detective ate it up. Say nails the classical art style that makes the story feel like a timeless fable.
Leopardpox! by Orna Lan, illustrated by Omer Hoffman.
Sadie wakes up one morning feeling strange. She doesn’t think she should go to school… and it’s good that she didn’t, because she’s come down with Leopardpox, a bizarre disease that turns people into leopards! Her distraught mother must find a cure. As cute as baby leopards are, a leopard is no replacement for a daughter. Boy Detective loved this one, and I love the understated way it communicates how much parents love their children. It’s funny where it should be, sweet where it should be, and Hoffman’s drawings are both fresh and comforting at the same time. I also appreciated finding a story with no sibling conflict. Sadie’s three brothers help pick up the mess their leopard sister is making, accompany Mom to the various places they visit trying to get help, and make well-intended suggestions on how to cure their sister. (I’m sure they wouldn’t act that way all the time in real life, but it was nice.)
A Few Blocks by Cybèle Young. Boy Detective is an only child, so all the coaxing-of-child-to-do-something around here is done by adults. In this book, an older sibling is stuck with the coaxing. Viola has to get Ferdie, her younger brother, to walk to school. He doesn’t want to. Her response is far more positive and creative than I might be in that situation, and as a result both children have much more fun… until Viola runs out of steam and needs a little help herself. The story is full of imagination, but what really stands out here is the art. From what I can tell, Young took photo-realistic drawings, cut them up, layered them, and took photographs? That’s my best guess knowing she’s an award-winning paper sculptor. The result is fascinating fantasy landscapes for the children to walk through, composed of bits and pieces of the real neighborhood around them. The color shifts from page to page of the imaginary landscapes are just lovely.
Meet the Dullards by Sara Pennypacker, illustrated by Daniel Salmieri. For most parents, children being interested in the circus is a normal part of life. For the Dullards, though, it’s an emergency! It’s bad enough the Dullard children are reading books instead of the nice blank paper they were given, but books about lions and tightrope-walking? What’s a pro-boring family to do? Clearly they’re in a bad neighborhood. It’s moving time. But between the neighbors visiting and colorful wallpaper, will the Dullard family be able to find a place dull enough to protect their children from bad influences? I was reading this aloud to our seven year old son while my husband was putting away laundry, and he couldn’t help but get sucked in, even without the visuals. There are so many good jokes in this book. We did show him a few pages, though, so he’d get more of the experience. My seven year old had recognized straight off that Salmieri was the artist of Secret Pizza Party, another one of our favorite kids’ books. We love his zany style, and the facial expressions on the characters in this book are hilarious.
Fiona’s Luck by Teresa Bateman, illustrated by Kerry Murphy. Boy Detective loves stories where characters outwit the bad guys, so this was a big hit. Fiona lives in Ireland. Things are not great for the Irish, because the leprechaun king has locked up all the luck. He’s been worried that the “big people” were soaking it all up and leaving nothing for his people. Now the big people’s farms are failing. Fiona decides it’s up to her to save her people, using her wits since she doesn’t have any luck. Her triumph is quite satisfying! Bateman’s text makes what could have been a dry, straightforward tale into a suspenseful, fun story. Murphy gives the clever Fiona life and energy. Boy Detective and I loved the depiction of luck as tiny stars. (For adults, it’s probably inescapable to read this as a folktale version of The Great Famine, an alternate reality account where a strong Irishwoman saves the country.)
The Night Our Parents Went Out, written by Katie Goodman and Soren Kisiel, with art by Cat Tuong Bui
Evil unicorns. Ostriches guarding a top secret lab. Vampires at the movie theater. Parents going on a date could be a disaster!!! I was not expecting such a wild and fun book. Goodman and Kisiel bring their strongest comedy game here, with a strong improv vibe. This is a perfect example of creating an engaging and entertaining story while also addressing a Very Important Topic, this one about anxiety when your parents leave you with a babysitter. Bui draws cute kids, cute hipster parents, and a babysitter with glasses that I totally covet.
And that’s a pretty good list of fun children’s books, hope you enjoy!