Monday, December 28, 2009

Best Children's Book Covers 2009 - Julie's Picks

As a friend wrote recently, "It's the end of the Aughts (or the Oughts, or the Should'ves)" which means it's time for The Best of the Year lists, as well as a few Best of the Decade lists. Not able to get my head around a whole decade, which stretches back to the innocent little year of 2000 (pre-Bush, pre-9/11, pre-Afghanistan, pre-Iraq, pre-Madoff, pre-bailout....), I will offer up only what my sequestered memory can handle - my Favorite Kids Book Covers of 2009, along with a few reasons why:

1. WAITING FOR WINTER by Sebastian Meschenmoser - A strange choice, maybe. This is a quiet cover. I love the scruffy fur, the outstretched hand, the leaf (not falling, but near falling) - love the patience of it, the subdued palette, the static (perfect for its subject: waiting) scene, the elegant mix of fonts. Why have I never heard of this artists before? He's fantastic.

2. TALES FROM OUTER SUBURBIA by Shaun Tan. You simply can't see anything behind the glass of the mask - what's in there?? If I were a kid, I'd have to buy this book just to find out. Shaun Tan is one of the most brilliant illustrators around - don't you love the barnacles at the top of the head, the suggestion of continents? It could be Jules Verne down 20,000 leagues, couldn't it?...but what are those 1950's houses doing in the background?

3. THE LION AND THE MOUSE by Jerry Pinkney. Such an obvious choice, but how not to choose it? If you watch five-year-olds in the kids' section of a bookstore, they walk straight to it as if they're metal filings and it's a magnet. Irresistible force, that cover. I'm not convinced the book should get the Caldecott (I would have liked more text) but how to argue with the illustrations? It made all the difference, of course, not to put any title/author name on the cover, and to move the mouse so that he's only visible if you open the cover to its full length.

4. HIGHER, HIGHER by Leslie Patricelli - simply because it's hard not to laugh when you look at it. The guy pushing her is so far-down, her smile is so up-high, and that right foot really is about to touch the clouds - don't we all remember what that feels like? Besides, I love the simplicity, the almost handwritten quality of the font, bold primary colors, and the exuberance of those exclamation marks (!!)

5. CHICKEN LITTLE by Rebecca and Ed Emberley - You know they're crazy. And they're all looking right at you.And by the way, have you noticed how much it resembles the cover for STITCHES by David Small?. Both are books about Crazies (poultry and people) so I'm making them co-winners of the last slot of my favorites:

Oh, boy it hurts to stop with five/six. Here are five Almosts: Going Bovine by Libba Bray (gnome in sunglasses), Moonshot by Brian Floca (floating in space), Perpetual Check by Rich Wallace (optical illusion), The Odd Egg by Emily Gravett (pure charm.) And actually, the cover that stopped me in my tracks this year, the one that is most odd-man-out compared with these whimsical favorites, was Remember Little Rock by Paul Robert Walker (the girl in the foreground, yes, but those girls standing behind her, taunting her and screaming....that's just painful to look at.)

Can't wait to see what Carol chose! and to whoever is out there, reading this: We would love to have your opinions of the Year's Best Covers for Kids' Books. Add your opinion in the comments...?


  1. Gah! I almost put Shaun Tan, too! And I gave lots of thought to Waiting for Winter. I have to admit, I'd never seen the cover of Stitches before. I love how you've compared it to the Emberley.

  2. Love your choices. Waiting for Winter is one of my favorites--such a scruffy, uncute squirrel!

  3. Daphne, we are agreed re: the appeal of scruff.