Being curious about what the children's books that I like best have in common, several days ago I sat down on the floor next to one of our bookcases and started glancing through the books. I later commented to a friend that the majority of books I like best are written AND illustrated by the same person. She started pointing out one classic author after another that has books illustrated by someone else--A.A. Milne, Lewis Carroll, Laura Ingalls Wilder. I conceded initially, but then pointed out that none of those are picture books, they're "just" children's books that happen to have pictures. This afternoon I decided to test my theory with numbers, and was only going to pull out the first ten picture books that I like. I got a bit carried away and pulled out a whole lot more, and then three certain little girls started getting excited because I had all the best books in a stack, and they got all mixed up and I no longer have any idea in which order I took them off the shelf. Anyway, for what it's worth, and in no particular order, here are some author-illustrators I like very much:
Ezra Jack Keats
We have multiple titles by most, if not all, of these 19 author-illustrators. We also have additional books illustrated, but not written by, several of them. Anything illustrated by Eric Carle is wonderful, no matter what. Same with Tomie dePaola and Helen Oxenbury. I also always like Maurice Sendak's illustrations, but we have some that I only keep because his illustrations are so wonderful, not the story (written by someone else). None of the books written by, but not illustrated by, Dr. Seuss are on my "favorites" list. I don't blame him for using yet another pseudonym for the books illustrated by someone else.
And here are the authors and illustrators of the books on the other pile:
Russell Hoban and Lillian Hoban
Else Holmelund Minarik and Maurice Sendak
Astrid Lindgren and Ilon Wikland
Bill Martin Jr. and John Archambault (co-authors) and Lois Ehlert
Jean Marzollo and Walter Wick
Margaret Wise Brown and Clement Hurd
Margaret Wise Brown and Felicia Bond
Laura Joffe Numeroff and Felicia Bond
Edward Lear and Helen Oxenbury
Only eight authors and eight illustrators, and note that Maurice Sendak and Helen Oxenbury, as I said before that I like anyway, are two of those illustrators. And I kind of stretched it including some of these at all. I don't like all of Margaret Wise Brown's books, the Astrid Lindgren picture books are really for an older age-group than the rest, I think I really only like the Frances books (Russell and Lillian Hoban) because of the nostalgia factor, Laura Joffe Numeroff (If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, ...a Moose a Muffin, ...a Pig a Pancake, etc.) was cute the first time but I have no desire to have any more of her books, Edward Lear is just fine without any illustrations, Walter Wick actually made the illustrations FIRST for the I Spy... books and then Jean Marzollo wrote the rhymes, and so on. Another book that would have made it to this pile if it had happened to have been on the ONE shelf I went through (we have picture books on shelves in at least four different rooms, not to mention NOT on shelves all over the house...) is "Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?" which I'm pretty sure is by Bill Martin Jr. and I know is illustrated by Eric Carle, and another is "Animals, Animals" which is a collection of poems by many authors, illustrated by Eric Carle. Come to think of it, I think my favorite book on this pile (probably Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, written by Bill Martin Jr. and John Archambault, illustrated by Lois Ehlert) would still come below my least favorite from the first list. Nah, maybe I'd put Arnold Lobel underneath. Maybe.
And I was just going to put all those books away so that I could write down that I'd done so, and I discovered that the vast majority are no longer stacked on the couch behind me, but are stacked on the floor with three certain little girls very peacefully absorbed in them...