Donald and the . . .

by Peter F. Neumeyer & Edward Gorey, 1969

An amusing and touching story of Donald who finds a pet worm.

"Let me keep it, Mother" he said. Donald feeds it and pokes holes in the lid. But the next day Donald has "painful ribs" and stays in bed. After a time, he fetches his jar and what do you think he finds inside? The most beautiful rainbow winged, furry footed, enormous eyed, peculiar mouthed . . .

WHO WILL LIKE IT? any child who has ever wanted a furry pet.

Gerald McBoing Boing & In Henry's Backyard

by UPA Studios, 1952, 1948

The look and design of UPA animated cartoons influenced legions of contemporary illustrators.  Gerald McBoing Boing penned by an uncredited (at least in the book version) Dr. Seuss, retells the Oscar-winning film's story of Gerald McCloy who didn't talk words but went, "Boing boing!" instead.

The artwork by Mel Crawford (illustrator of many a Little Golden Book) takes its visual cue from the innovative, groundbreaking short.

In Henry's Backyard: The Races of Mankind was based on the UPA short Brotherhood of Man. Here, the beautifully graphic endpapers depict a Green Devil taunting Henry with naughty, racist misinformation, "Don't speak to these people, Henry!" it whispers. "You won't like them. They're different!"

WHY WE LIKE THEM: Elegant design. Tasteful illustration. Evil-looking green devils. Little boys who can bark and toot and honk and hoot.

The Mountain-Bounder

by Dr. Heinrich Hoffman, 1871-mid 1880s

From the creator of Struwwelpeter. These stories were discovered in Hoffman's notebooks after the author's death in 1894. Colored by one of his grandchildren in the style of Dr. Hoffman, the stories were first published in Germany in 1924 under the title, Besuch bei Frau Sonne.

The first American edition was published in 1964 with translations by a young Jack Prelutsky.

WHY CHILDREN WILL LIKE IT: many playful animals, a humorous drowning, a cloven runner.

Bow-Wow Bugs a Bug

by Mark Newgarden and Megan Montague Cash, 2007

A Wordless book about a canine's pursuit of an insect.

Clever sight gags in the tradition of Buster Keaton and Ernie Bushmiller.

WHY CHILDREN WILL LIKE IT: the book's innovative use of color, shapes, design, even the gutters will captivate children of all ages. There is also butt sniffing.

KEYWORDS: Bugs, bedtime, butts, sequential art, surrealism.
SEE ALSO: the many Bow-Wow board books.

Robert Francis Weatherbee

by Munro Leaf, 1935

Munro Leaf was the author of the series of Can Be Fun books whose covers tempted with such enticing titles as Manners Can Be Fun, Health Can Be Fun and Safety Can Be Fun. Mun, as he was known to his friends, was best known for penning The Story of Ferdinand. That book was illustrated by Robert Lawson (Ben and Me), but Mun could easily have illustrated it himself as he was also an accomplished draftsman. Our favorite Leaf book, Robert Francis Weatherbee showcases Leaf's draftsmanship at its best with little Robert in a variety of poses. Some examples. . .

The book, whose size is compact for small children's hands, teaches boys and girls if they don't go to school they cannot become Prime Minister of England. Or a sailor.

 Mr. Leaf's signature, 1936.

A Head for Happy

by Helen Sewell, 1931

It's why they call them PICTURE books. The highest honor a children's book can receive is the Caldecott Award. It is given for the pictures. As stated under Caldecott Criteria, "The committee make[s] its decision primarily on the illustration..."

Helen Sewell, original illustrator of Little House on the Prairie, did not win the Caldecott Award for A Head for Happy. The best book of any given year usually doesn't. Also the Caldecott wasn't created until 1937. Still it wouldn't have won anyway.

A Head for Happy tells the tale of a girl named Letty and her quest to find a head for her doll, Happy. She travels the world on a surreal, picaresque journey from New York to, with a few detours, the island of Guam, where a cocoanut makes for the perfect head. This book was published in 1931. Presumably cocoanuts in New York were scarce due to the Great Depression. Here are some sample pages. . .

WHY WE LIKE THIS BOOK: the lead character has no head.

SEE ALSO: The Headless Horseman from The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving. Jack Pumpkinhead from The Marvelous Land of Oz by L. Frank Baum.

The Wizard of Oz

by L. Frank Baum, illustrated by Arnost Karasek, 1962

WHY WE RECOMMEND IT: a magical, inspirational story. Exciting dialog. A perfect text for reading aloud.

WHAT DO READERS NEED TO KNOW? They probably won't be able to read it aloud. The text is in Czech.

WHY WE LIKE THE ART: ever wonder what the Tin Woodman would look like if rendered by Paul Klee?

Or the Scarecrow?

Klee-like spot illustrations appear throughout the book.