This is the time of year when just about everyone weighs in with their “best of” lists. Whether it’s books, music, politics or even the top stories of the-year-that-wasn’t, you bet there’s a list for it. (There’s even a list for the year-end-list-readers.)
Read more of the best picture books of 2011 before we ring in the new year.
We’re creeping up on 2012, and there are many 2011 best-of children’s book lists already published. I wonder about next year and what the picture book landscape will bring us. Of course, even though I wish it were my own secret superpower (but only after invisibility), I can’t look into the future. But wouldn’t it be fun, I thought, to casually ask some picture-book folks what they’d like to see in 2012.
Responses varied, the most no-nonsense from blogger and librarian Travis Jonker: “Two words. More. Klassen.” And author/illustrator Jan Thomas’ thoughts on the upcoming year? "I'm thinking about adding a bear and a hat to all my books."
A few other common threads reared their heads. Several people talked about picture books in digital form. Perhaps they read this late-November interview, which looks at the children’s e-book market with Karen Lotz, the group managing director of London’s Walker Books.
“I'm excited to continue to watch picture books assimilate into the digital format,” Harry Bliss said. “It's very exciting to think of the possibilities the technology might bring to both creators and readers. I'm very optimistic.” But over in the UK, Mini Grey says, bookshops are rapidly disappearing. “I'd like to see everyone rushing to buy their picture books in real actual three-dimensional shops where you can really turn the real pages in low-tech, but imagination-boosting, paper-type books. Call me a Luddite.”
I, for one, have difficulty wrapping my brain around the notion of a digital picture book, but Bob Staake suggests that perhaps we need to think about the entire notion in a different way: “We'll always have books for kids, but smart creators will exploit the intrinsic traits of the traditionally printed book [pop-up elements, die cuts, surface textures, etc.] and will equally take advantage of the unique benefits of e-books and digital apps [animation, sound, touch screen, etc.]. Print books will have to do what they do best, and e-books will have to do what only they can do. It will become apparent that both forms can co-exist [in the same way that radio and television did]…Three years from now, we'll ultimately realize just how wrong the ‘e-book’ moniker was in the first place and will recognize these things for what they really are: a completely new form of interactive entertainment with its own merits and benefits rather than simply a usurper and destroyer of traditional print.”
A few star-struck folks pointed out the need for more celebrity picture books. “I would like to see more,” Lane Smith says. “2011 saw a dip in these titles, especially when compared to the boom years of ’09 and ’10. C'mon, people. As Munro Leaf said, ‘We can do better.’ ” Blogger Elizabeth Bird is Team Lane on this one, wanting books “preferably from celebrities who are completely and utterly inappropriate as authors for the young. Margaret Thatcher's Very Big Book of Rhyming Couplets. Fun with Cream by Matthew Barney. A sci-fi novel by Stephen J. Hawking…Oh wait.”
But perhaps Dan Santat says what’s on all our minds: “I'd like to see Kim Kardashian write a wordless picture book.”
Yup, that’s your inner sarcasmometer going off. Good work, sarcasmometers.
Others asked, do we need more oomph in our picture books? “I wish to see more audacity and sincerity in picture books in 2012,” Sergio Ruzzier says. “Real stories full of humor and heart, irreverence and relevance,” Bonnie Christensen adds. “Won't someone please discover a filing cabinet full of new James Marshall stories?” And John Rocco would love to see “more books that tackle difficult subjects not often dealt with in the picture book form. I am specifically thinking of Wolf Erlbruch's Duck, Death and the Tulip.” Illustrator Don Tate is rethinking the many shades of didacticism in children’s literature after his 10-year-old son expressed an interest in more stories in which he can “learn a lesson about life.”
Picture books incorporating elements from comics would make Barbara Lehmann happy, but can we stem the tide of alphabet books published in 2012, asks blogger and librarian Adrienne Furness? “I trust that authors and illustrators will continue to surprise me with books I didn't know I needed, and I understand that I'm a librarian who's supposed to want to alphabetize everything, but…I added way too many [alphabet books] to the collection in 2011, and I need to balance things out. Maybe books about shapes or counting or children who use their hair as napkins. Just not the alphabet. Unless it's really good. Then I'll probably buy five copies.”
Horn Book editor Roger Sutton would be happy with simply “more picture books that had three things: a beginning, middle and end.”
And me? I’d be happy with more discussions like today’s, conversations about picture books, even more of what occurred in 2011.
So, here’s to picture books in 2012. Will it be the Year of Klassen or Year of Thatcher? I can’t wait to see how it all plays out.
Julie Danielson (Jules) has, in her own words, conducted approximately eleventy billion interviews and features of authors and illustrators at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast, a children's literature blog focused primarily on illustration and picture books.