My eyes are big this week, and I don’t want to write about just one picture book. So, here goes something different, my list of Seven Lovely Fall 2013 Picture Book Surprises.


Surprise #1: Tea Parties Can Be Fun Again. Let’s face it. We see all kinds of picture books about whimsical tea parties, and sometimes they just all run together. A refreshing, new tale, one of my favorite Fall picture books, is Ame Dyckman’s Tea Party Rules, illustrated by K.G. Campbell. It’ll be on shelves very soon, once October shows her invigorating face. This book does one of my favorite things: It manages to be very funny, while also not parading its cleverness. Both author and illustrator do what they need to do and then get out of the way to let the inherent comedy of the story shine.


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Surprise #2: Some of the Most Exciting Illustrations You See This Year Might be in Tiny, Easy-to-Overlook Little Golden Books. Yes, Little Golden Books are still published. New ones, not just reprints. (Thank you, Random House.) Just this August, we saw SuRobots Everywheree Fliess’ Robots, Robots Everywhere!, illustrated by the one and only Bob Staake and a book well-worth your time. Another favorite is the quiet little book from a Dutch author-illustrator duo, Fiona Rempt’s Rico the Brave Sock Monkey, illustrated by Noëlle Smit and also released last month. Both women are from Amsterdam and tell the story of a beloved, though once rejected, toy; it’s a book you can shelve right next to your copy of The Velveteen Rabbit. Smit’s fluid lines and animated characters reflect a boundless energy that makes this one…well, golden.


Surprise #3: A World-Renowned Cartoonist, Whose Name You May Not Know, Tells a Story That is All-Wet. Ricardo Liniers Siri, better known as Liniers, is a celebrated illustrator and cartoonist from Buenos Aires, whose works have been published in nine countries, yet never here in the States. Just this week, Toon Books changed that, releasing The Big Wet Balloon in their series of award-winning comics for children. It’s the story of two young girls, a red balloon and one very rainy day, inspired by Liniers’ own children. It’s a warm and endearing tale, every inch of it. 


Surprise #4: Yet Another World-Renowned Illustrator You’ve Perhaps Never Heard of Lifts the Veil from Muslim Faith. Kelly Cunnane’s Deep in the Sahara, to be released in early October, tells the story of a young West African girl who longs to wear a malafDeep Saharaa, just like the other Muslim women in her family. She yearns to be beautiful and mysterious but then learns that the traditional veil is really about faith. Iranian illustrator Hoda Hadadi has won many international prizes for her artwork, but this is her first picture book release in the U.S. An informative note from Cunnane and a glossary close this beautiful, lyrical picture book.


Surprise #5: Don Brown Makes Great Graphic Novels, Too. Picture book biographer extraordinaire Don Brown tackles his first graphic novel this fall. The Great American Dust Bowl is a gripping account of one of the 20th century’s most calamitous natural tragedies, the Dust Bowl of the so-called Dirty Thirties. Brown explains what caused the disaster, as well as its prolonged effect on the economy and terrain of our country. Plus, that eye-popping cover art is mighty impressive. Could this be this year’s most dramatic cover?  

Great American Dust Bowl


Surprise #6: I’m Blogging about an Activity Book. I don’t tend to do that. Blog about activity books, that is. I stick to stories. But if I’m going to talk up an activity book, by all means, let it be The Goods from McSweeney’s. The Goods, as their site notes, is a “gallimaufry of games, puzzles, comics, and other diversions, appearing in newspapers across the U.S. and Canada…[featuring] a cavalcade of artists and writers from the world of children’s books.…” (They had me at “gallimaufry.”) These newspaper treats are funny and clever, intended for all ages, and now Big Picture Press, a new imprint from Candlewick, has published a collection of 44 Goods installments in one giant volume (Volume 1), also to be released in early October. Edited by Mac Barnett and Brian McMullen and featuring the likes of Mo Willems, Laurie Keller, Jon Scieszka, Jon Klassen, Carson Ellis, Bob Shea, Adam Rex, Christian Robinson, and much more, this is for those children with a more offbeat sense of humor.


Surprise #7: Bob Graham Made a Picture Book Whose Plot Spans One Minute in Time But Is Really and Truly about Nearly Everything. Well, you’ll just have to see this one, come early October. It’s called The Silver Button; it’s a powerful and moving book; and I know it’s going to go down as one of my 2013 favorites. The starred Kirkus review calls it “an elegant piece of living theater.” That’ll do for now.


And what picture book surprises, if any, have you seen this year?


Julie Danielson (Jules) conducts interviews and features of authors and illustrators at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast, a children's literature blog primarily focused on illustration and picture books.