Saturday, October 04, 2008

Best Picture Books for Kids - Really?

In the Norfolk Examiner, Diane Petryk Bloom shares The 25 Best Picture Books for Children. Here is an excerpt from the introduction.
Here, presented countdown style, are the twenty-five best picture books ever written for children. These are, of course, limited to those written or presented in the English language.
Books are ranked here by weighing their impact, artistic merit, and just how beloved and enduring they are. We agonized over selections and placement, even while recognizing the subjective nature of the task. Most of the authors included have other titles which, it could be argued, belong here as well. There is no guarantee your favorite picture book will be here.

But there is one guarantee. It comes from long-time children's bookseller Peter Glassman who consulted on this list: If your children explore the works of the authors included here, they will have rich and wonderful reading experiences as well as insight into their literary heritage.
Okay folks, I'm going to highlight one sentence again. There is no guarantee your favorite picture book will be here. I read with caution, but still found myself shaking my head and saying, "Really?" Here is the list. You can find annotations and more information in the article.
25. Little Tim and the Brave Sea Captain by Edward Ardizzone, 1936
24. Hey, Al by Arthur Yorinks, 1989
23. The Two Sisters by Elizabeth MacDonald, 1975
22. Wump World by Bill Peet, 1970
21. Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson, 1955
20. Lentil by Robert McCloskey, 1978
19. A Pair of Red Clogs by Masako Matsuno, 1960
18. Officer Buckle and Gloria by Peggy Rathman, 1995
17. Little Toot by Hardie Gramatky, 1939
16. And To Think I Saw It On Mulberry Street by Dr. Seuss, 1937
15. The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Gray Bridge by Hildegarde Swift, 1942
14. Swimmy by Leo Leoni, 1963
13. Babar by Jean De Brunhoff, 1931
12. Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey, 1941
11. The Sailor Dog by Margaret Wise Brown, 1953
10. Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel by Virginia Lee Burton, 1939
9. Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter, 1909
8. Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak, 1963
7. Curious George by Margaret and H. A. Rey, 1942
6. Corduroy by Don Freeman, 1968
5. Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans, 1939
4. Sneetches and Other Stories by Dr. Seuss, 1961
3. The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf, 1936
2. Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss, 1957
1. The Little Engine That Could by Watty Piper, 1930
There is much I could say here. Some of the titles bring back memories of first sharing them with William. When he was 2 he received Babar as a Christmas gift. I hadn't read it in years, so I was shocked and a bit disturbed to find/remember that his mother dies (is killed, actually, when she is shot by a hunter). Later in the book the king of the elephant dies after eating a poisonous mushroom. We do still read it once in a while, and I continue to get the "But why did his mom have to die?" question. We read Madeline over and over for years. In fact, William had most of the book memorized, so often I would read it incorrectly just to see if he would catch me at. He did.

Books I've never read include 11, 15, 19, 20, 23, 24 and 25. That's a whopping 28% of the titles! For someone immersed in print throughout her life who also does the same for her child, I'm surprised that I've missed so many "best" books.

The oldest book on this list was published in 1909. The most recent in 1995. Have no new "classics" or best books been published in the last 13 years? I wonder ...

I'm writing this while sitting in a coffee shop and am hungry for conversation, so let's have one! What do you think of this list? Do you think it startlingly lacking in diversity? Should that be a criterion for putting together a list of best books? Should a list like this simply be based on number of copies printed and length of time in publication? What book do you think is missing from this list? What books would you not have included that are listed here?


  1. Where to begin? I'm not a fan of lists like that one. I'll just say that I do like Little Tim and the Brace Sea Captain (Edward Ardizzone, number 25 on the list). There are several Little Tim books, but the first is my favorite. Let me know what you think if you read it!

  2. There are some good ones on this list but I can't believe "Good Night Moon" is not on it!

  3. There have been some wonderful books written since 1995, of course. But since they haven't stood the test of time, we can't comfortably say they are among the "best."

    For instance, a decade ago you might have put Dinotopia there. And now the book has almost faded into oblivion. Why? Don't know. Peter Glassman says that could even happen to Harry Potter. He
    says that at one time Captains Courageous was as big a phenomenon as Harry Potter is now. And almost no one reads it now.

    I think Harry will last. But its too soon to be absolutely certain.

    My disclaimer was the subjective nature of the task. On top of that any "Best" list will fluctuate with time. But sample these authors...that's the guarantee. You'll find greatness there. No particular title can appeal to all.

    You might be interested to know that Peter Glassman wanted Miss Rumphius right up there with Where the Wild Things Are. It didn't make the cut, but it will lead the next list!

    Diane Petryk-Bloom

  4. I've never read 11, 19, 23, and 25. I am always chagrined at these lists. My own point of view is so narrow.

  5. Hmm, I haven't read some on this list, but I was very happy to read this post because of #19. You see, for the past few years I've been trying to locate this book, as a very vague childhood memory, and had no idea of the title, author, or even more than a very sketchy recollection of the plot. When I read the title I immediately looked it up, and lo and behold, this is it!

    The truth is that I don't even remember enough about it to know if it's worth buying a copy now, but I did have fond memories of reading it as a young child (I'm 36) and now I know what to look for to find it again!

    (Just delurking to mention that-- though I do really enjoy your blog even though I don't comment!)

  6. I understand the limitations on lists like these, but I wonder why the following didn't make the list?

    -Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs
    -Strega Nona
    -Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day
    -one of Russell Hoban's Frances books

    I could probably come up with others, but these came to mind immediately.

  7. Hi! I came over from Jen Robinson's page.

    I love these lists because I always disagree with them. :) It's so subjective, and gives so many people the chance to say - "what about?" I love arguments like this!

    For example, I am sort of surprised by the Dr. Seuss choices. I would have chosen "Are You My Mother?" and "The Lorax." And there are several I don't care for, like "Corduroy."

    Then again, I would far rather we be arguing over this list than about - I don't know, American Idol results or something!

  8. nobody noticed that the links for the article dont´t work???!

    ps. Nice work. My sincere congratulations for your blog. Very inspiring and, of course, poetic.