Nearly every reader has memories of their favorite picture books as a child. Maybe you still own a copy, maybe you continue reading picture books to this day. These three picture books all create compelling little worlds for anybody, regardless of reading ability, to get lost in.
1. The Littlest Family’s Big Day by Emily Winfield Martin
A family consisting of a tiny father bear, a tiny mother bear, a tiny child bear, and a tiny baby fox move to their new place in the forest. They go on a walk and meet several other creatures and fairies, but before long they are lost. Actually, they’re “Lost” with a capital L, letting us know what the problem in this picture book is.
Aside from this mention of being Lost, the conflict in the book is not clear. An owl finds them and takes them home, and they have a party with all of the critters they met on the way. It turns out, they are even smaller than the family!
Martin has written and illustrated three other picture books, The Wonderful Things You Will Be, Dream Animals: A Bedtime Journey, which won the Gelett Burgess Children’s Book Award in 2013, and Day Dreamers: A Journey of Imagination. She’s also written a children’s novel, Oddfellow’s Orphanage, and a popular crafts book, The Black Apple’s Paper Doll Primer: Activities and Amusements for the Curious Paper Artist.
2. Du Iz Tak? by Carson Ellis
This little world of bugs and nonsense language looks absolutely enthralling. Two insects greet each other and puzzle over a growing shoot. All the bugs marvel at the plant as it grows, build a fort in it, exclaim as it produces a spectacular flower (“Unk scrivadelly gladdenboot!”), and then disappear one by one as the season changes. All the characters are richly detailed, with hats, and glasses, and miniature love serenades to boot.
The drama of life and conflict unfolds around this plant. When the plant dies, as it must, spring eventually comes along to bring about new growth. This little world is surrounded by lots of white space, emphasizing the diminutive nature of the world. Ellis gently emphasizes that this world, though tiny, is as full of goings-on as our full size human experience.
Ellis Carson is the illustrator of a number of books for kids, including New York Times bestsellers Home, The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart, The Composer Is Dead by Lemony Snicket, and The Wildwood Chronicles by her husband, Colin Meloy. Colin Meloy is the lead singer of The Decemberists, and Carson does all of the album artwork for the band, too.
3. We Found a Hat by Jon Klassen
This adorable hat-based series reaches a peak in We Found a Hat by Jon Klassen. Klassen’s earlier books in the series, I Want My Hat Back and This Is Not My Hat, were released in 2011 and 2012 respectively. The two have a combined 1.5 million copies in print worldwide, have spent more than 90 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list, and have been translated into 22 languages.
The book is separated into three parts. In the first part, the two turtles come across a hat and decide it looks good on both of them. The problem is immediate: there are two turtles and only one hat. To preserve their friendship, they decide to leave the hat where it is. One turtle, though, begins to struggle with selfish thoughts and still wants the hat. The tension builds in the second part, and the third part presents us with the all too familiar moral dilemma. Klassen has created a beautiful world of honest feelings and friendships, all around two turtles and a hat.
Do you still enjoy picture books? Would you pick up any of these and get lost in their worlds?
YouTube Channel: Moving Picture Books
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