Friday, July 19, 2013

Illustrated children's books (for parents)

One of the best things about having children is being able to buy and read children's books without fear of embarrassment. But getting children to enjoy beautiful, arty books can be problematic. Like buying beautifully crafted wooden toys for children and getting them to eat organic vegetables, say, all too often children don't appreciate what's best for them and would prefer, say, a bright pink plastic toy and chips instead.

Luckily, my daughter has plenty of good taste, so does appreciate (most) of the following (all of which are years old and referred to as 'vintage'. I'm sure there are good new children books. I don't know, like children's TV, they all seems so mawkish nowadays. I know, I could feel this way as I'm in my 40s):

The Lorax Dr Suess
Yes there's his Cat in his Hat, but we've all read that; and the Grinch is a cinch. So try the Lorax (1971), concerned with environmentalism and anti-consumerism, recently made into a terrible film.

Barbapapa is just brilliant. The French words 'barbe à papa' literally means daddy's beard but in French means candyfloss.

Barbar the Elephant
Like Barbapapa, Barbar is also French. After his mother is shot by hunters, Barbar flees to the city and brings back the benefits of civilisation.

Fungus The Bogeyman Raymond Briggs
Anything by Raymond Briggs is great.

Haunted House Jan Pienkowski
A childhood favourite, this took the pop-up book to new heights.

Henri In Paris Saul Bass
Originally published in 1961 and subsequently hard to get for decades, Henri in Paris has recently been republished. Saul Bass, famous as a film poster and title designer, uses the same simple yet graphic technique in his only children's book.

The Book about Moomin, Mymble and Little My Tove Jansson
I was a bit disappointed to discover that Moomin books are mostly black and white comic strips or novels. Luckily there are some beautifully imaginative picture books, including this one.

Mr Benn
Always dressed in black suit and bowler suit, Mr Benn's visits to a fancy dress shop always result in him trying on a costume and being transported on an adventure particular to the costume he's wearing. Mr Benn hails from 52 Festive Road, Putney.

The Witches Quentin Blake
Growing up, Quentin Blake's illustrations were synonymous with Roald Dahl's words.

Rupert the Bear
The modern cartoon is just terrible; the original books just delightful and beautifully detailed.

The Tiger Who Came To Tea Judith Kerr
Kerr, who recently celebrated her 90th birthday, has just had a book released of her life and work. She also produced the Mog the cat series ('I was enchanted by the strangeness of cats', she says). Funnily enough, both her and Jan Pienkowski live in Barnes, South West London.

Where The Wild Things Are Maurice Sendak
Justly famous for his Where The Wild Things Are, Sendak wrote and illustrated dozens of other books.

Little Nemo in Slumberland Windsor McCay
Though more a comic strip than a book (collections of the strips are available in book form, mostly very expensive), I've been wanting an excuse to mention Little Nemo for a while. Windsor McCay's comic strip first appeared in the comic supplement of the New York Herald in 1905. Wildly inventive with beautiful drawings and stunning colours, each strip consisted of Little Nemo going on a wild dream adventure and the last frame always had him waking up and falling out of bed.

Check out the blog Vintage Kids' Books My Kids Love

Previously on Barnflakes:
Ant and Bee
Baby books and TV programmes
Being Mr Benn
Fake Tintins
Rainbow Magic books


Caspar said...

Oh yus, Dr Seuss, Rupert Bear & Little Nemo are all brilliant.
By the way, it's Maurice SendAk, not Sendek. Trust me – I'm a sub-editor.

Barnaby said...

Noted and amended. You can sub-edit my blog on a regular basis if you like. I can pay you with cups of tea and Jelly Babies.

Caspar said...

I note how highly you value my services.
Oh, alright then.

Velda said...

This is cool!