The Simple Joy of Picture Books: Fun for All Ages
Salutations! Greetings! Ahoy!
Whatever introduction is preferred, I simply want to express my joy and excitement in joining the illustrious cast of contributors at Hobbes Lives. Hopefully, I will not disappoint. Specifically, I’d like to thank Scott, Ian, and Alex for introducing, accepting, and getting me set up, respectively.
Now, on to the inaugural post!
When it comes to all things, it is important to start at the basics and work our way to the complex. Literature is no exception. No one is reading Dickens while in diapers or Tolstoy as a toddler, so why not start at the beginning for this first literature post?
The inspiration, as always, is a girl. This particular one happens to almost be one year old and is the daughter of my close cousin. Not only does this mean that I get a young mind to mold and craft passively without consequence, but it also means I have to decide what role I will fulfill in her life as an adult uncle: the cool one, the funny one, the weird one with a van and candy, or something else.
Considering my nerdiness, terrible joke timing, and sense of decency, I settled on being the one who tells great stories. This means for my niece’s first birthday I was going to give her the gift of reading. Since she’s turning one, that pretty much means picture books. For me, it means reliving my kindergarten days.
Here is my list of five amazing picture books to give any child or yourself, because we all need books with better picture-to-word ratios.
It’s a Book by Lane Smith
My first selection is not a classic but more of a modern-day childish satire. Its premise is simple: what is a book? The question is posed by the Donkey to his Ape friend who happens to be thumbing through pages. As the Ape tries to read, the Donkey continually attempts to understand what the hell this book thing is. Essentially, the Donkey can’t comprehend how something that doesn’t involve a computer, a plug, or social media can be so engaging. Eventually, the Donkey starts to read and realizes how truly engaging and worthwhile a good book can be.
The book is simple, direct, and contains great commentary on the state of reading and children. As a future parent, I anticipate keeping this book ready for when my future child starts to read. At the rate technology is advancing, I may really have to explain what exactly a book is.
Hint: you don’t need to charge it.
It’s a Book truly holds merit for adults by showcasing the awkwardness we face as the last generation who knows how the world functioned before cell phones, internet, tablets, and all things electronic.
Did I mention this great social commentary is all done in around 150 words?
The Pigeon Wants a Puppy by Mo Willems
Although I selected The Pigeon Wants a Puppy specifically, my recommendation is to obtain any of the Pigeon series by Mo Willems. The Pigeon is absolutely adorable in that reckless, silly abandon kind of way. The protagonist has a false, clueless bravado. Essentially, he is a feathered Mr. Magoo simplified for children.
The story arc and style is amazingly interactive. In each book, the Pigeon desires something, and it’s the reader’s job to change the bird’s mind. The plot engages the mind to instinctively want to react and speak out loud, while the pictures are silly, crude, effective, and inspire me to try and draw. (That inspiration lasts only long enough to draw a line on a piece of paper. Then I give up and go eat a cookie.)
I am not ashamed to admit that as a grown twenty-something-year-old I found myself reading this book aloud to another twenty-something in my local bookstore. Both of us were laughing and enjoying these highly comedic and interactive children’s books. In this particular version, the Pigeon wants a puppy and on each page pleads with the reader to have the pet. Although, with each Pigeon comment, the reader steadily begins to notice the Pigeon has no idea what a puppy requires.
Know a child just beginning to read? Then introduce the Pigeon and his antics into their young lives. As this book is a part of a series, it provides a story and character that will have some longevity. Also, each story is something you can read with the child again and again.
The Rainbow Fish by Marcus Pfister
Do you remember The Rainbow Fish? For most, it was a staple childhood story with fantastic illustrations and those very shiny scales. You may not remember the story, but you almost certainly recall those vibrant scales. The story itself is rooted in one of the most important lessons to teach any child (and adult): sharing is important.
One of the best parts of having a picture book is seeing the illustrations. They are the visual cues that keep children interested and help form those important connections between what they see and the words that represent those ideas. The Rainbow Fish has incredible art. The details and beauty of these oceanic portrayals are amazing, and the glistening scales can catch your eye from even across the room. This should be stocked in any child’s library.
Here’s perhaps the best part: The Rainbow Fish is no longer alone! There is a whole series involving the shiny-scaled aquatic protagonist. If the original is a hit with the child, there is more waiting. from the same sparkling well.
The Foot Book by Dr. Seuss
From Green Eggs and Ham to One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish, Dr. Seuss has produced a plethora of picture books that appeal to any generation. Before the child inevitably ends up watching the How The Grinch Stole Christmas television special or The Lorax movie, sit down and read the original books. It is important for children to learn early on that all the great stuff they see on television or in the movies was first on paper and is probably way better.
My specific review is a personal favorite: The Foot Book. Why is it my favorite of all the Dr. Seuss books? Upon re-reading the book recently, I honestly have no idea. It probably has something to do with The Foot Book being the only Dr. Seuss I owned as a kid and hence could re-read the book as many times as I wanted. That, and as a child I must have been enthralled by the unbelievable skill required in rhyming “feet” with “feet.”
Overall, I highly recommend at some point taking a trip down memory lane and into the children’s section of a local bookstore. Browse the titles and see how many titles you remember, and maybe you can even spend some time flipping through the ones that catch your attention. If you need an excuse, just say you have a niece or nephew. Just don’t go into the children’s section with any semblance of a moustache, candy, and sunglasses.
These are other great picture books and authors that you should consider adding to any child’s library.
The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
If You Give a Mouse a Cookie by Laura Numeroff
Swimmy by Leo Lionni
Art & Max by David Weisner
If You Hold a Seed by Elly MacKay
Leonardo the Terrible Monster by Mo Willems
Ali Hasanali is a contributing writer to Hobbbes Lives and is the author of Prythvii: The Forgotten Heirs. He also dabbles in law and can solve a Rubik’s Cube in under a minute without switching the stickers.