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Picture Books to Love

By Adrienne Ehlert Bashista
Posted Saturday, February 28, 2004

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a column about books for kids

To all of you have ever read a children’s picture book and said to yourself, ‘I can do that,’ I’m issuing a challenge: try it yourself. Once you do you will discover that picture book writing – that is, good picture book writing – is one of the hardest kinds of writing there is. I’ll admit that I’ve been guilty of making that foolish statement myself. The results weren’t pretty.

I stand in awe of those picture book writers and illustrators who consistently produce quality work.

Because I have such respect for how difficult it is to create one of these 32 page illustrated wonders, I stand in awe of those picture book writers and illustrators who consistently produce quality work, year after year after year. Here are some new offerings from three prolific and talented picture book creators: Denise Fleming, Peggy Rathmann, and Todd Parr.

Buster (Henry Holt and Company, 0-8050-6279-3) is the latest from Denise Fleming. Buster is a dog that leads a happy life. He has dishes with his name painted on them, a yard to play and sleep in, toys, a radio that plays his favorite song, and Brown Shoes, who takes him to the park whenever he wants to go. One day Brown Shoes brings home a box. When Brown Shoes opens the box Buster is shocked and disappointed. It’s a kitten, Betty. Buster doesn’t like cats. What will Buster do? How will he get away from the annoying Betty, who gets in his way and messes up his stuff? In vivid poured cotton illustrations that look like a cross between batik and torn paper, Fleming tells the universal story of a dog who is forced to adjust to a new addition to the household.

The Day The Babies Crawled Away (G.P.Putnam’s Sons, 0-399-23196-X), by Peggy Rathmann, is a fun little rhyming story about a bunch of babies who run away despite the efforts of an older boy to prevent them. Rathmann, who was awarded a Caldecott Medal for a previous book, shows the action of the story entirely through black silhouettes on the background of a brilliant sky. Little readers will identify with the older boy, perhaps three or four, in his attempts to corral the babies and protect them from danger. The boy ultimately returns the babies, parents none the wiser. A hint to readers: look for the upside-down baby silhouette. There’s one in every illustration.

Lastly, Todd Parr, author of The Daddy Book, The Mommy Book, and seventeen more like-titled, gives us The Family Book (Little, Brown, 0-316-73896-4). Parr’s signature bright, simple, graphics showcase different kinds of families: some that are large, some that are small, some that like to eat the same things, some that like to eat different things, and so on. At the end of each series of same/different spreads, there’s a two-page illustration of something all families have in common, like the one that explains that all families like to celebrate special days together. What I like best about this book is that it includes virtually every kind of family there is, without being over-the-top preachy or politically correct. My absolute favorite line in this book? “Some families adopt children,” because that’s a sentence that applies to my own family. I bet you’ll be able to find your own family in this book, too.


Adrienne Ehlert Bashista is a writer, librarian, and mother of two small children who lives near Silk Hope, NC. Her website is

Copyright 2004. Adrienne Ehlert Bashista. All rights reserved.

Related info:
Book Talker
e-mail E-mail this page
print Printer-friendly page
Picture Books to Love

Related info:
Book Talker