I’ve got multiple stacks—huge ones—of 2015 picture books on my desk, many of them early, unbound copies. Some of the ones I’ve already received will be published as late as October, and there are many other books for every month prior to that. I took a look at them all the other day, and it was fun to get a first glimpse of how the year might look in picture books, though there is certainly a whole lot more to see.
But today I want to write about a small handful of reprints. There are some older books seeing publication again in these early months of the year. Let’s start with Margaret Wise Brown, who was such a talented author.
The reissue of The Golden Bunny, illustrated by Leonard Weisgard, was published just this week, and it’s the first time in a long while it’s been available on shelves. It’s a collection of 17 short stories and poems from Brown, originally published in 1953, and it features—you guessed it—bunnies bunnies ALL bunnies. I admit I’m partial to the poems, though the stories are good ones, because I think no one else wrote children’s poetry quite like Brown. These are poems and stories for the youngest of readers. One poem reads:
By the dark gray river in the soft white snow
I caught a little Rabbit and let him go
Bounding deep in the deep soft snow.
Many of the offerings here are a celebration of nature (and the Easter Bunny shows up in one, if you’re already weary of winter and dreaming of spring), and Brown wrote with such respect for very young children. The lush paintings of Weisgard, who was awarded the 1947 Caldecott Medal (for a book on which he collaborated with Brown), are terrific to see.
Also back in print in January, speaking of Caldecott winners, will be Peter Spier’s The Book of Jonah. Spier won the Caldecott Medal in 1978 for Noah’s Ark (and a 1962 Caldecott Honor for The Fox Went Out on a Chilly Night: An Old Song), and he’s known for his detailed and drama-packed artwork. This book tells the Old Testament story of Jonah and the whale. The illustrations teem with movement, his line work is compelling, and the palette, dominated by greens and blues, is striking.
In March, readers will see the anniversary edition of two-time Caldecott Medalist Chris Van Allsburg’s Just a Dream, his 25-year-old environmental wake-up call to children. It includes a downloadable audio version of the story, read by Van Allsburg. We’ll also see Jean Merrill and Ronni Solbert’s The Elephant Who Liked to Smash Small Cars, originally released in 1964, from The New York Review Children’s Collection. This bare-bones story is as mischievous and subversive as all get-out, and it makes me laugh. It’s just what the title tells you: An elephant, who is way into the destruction of public property, learns his lesson when he meets a car salesman who won’t put up with it. The spare crayon drawings and make-no-apologies story of destruction (what toddler doesn’t like to smash things?) is unlike anything else you’ll see this year, most likely—and was quite possibly unlike anything else seen back in 1964.
Finally, in April, Flying Eye Books will release Dahlov Ipcar’s Black and White, originally published in 1963. The story, evidently inspired by the U.S. Civil Rights movement, celebrates nature with Ipcar’s rhymes and cool, compelling colors. The Flying Eye design team, as I wrote about here last year, works meticulously to restore Ipcar’s artwork to its original form. (Islandport Press, I learned after writing that piece, also works with Ipcar to reissue many of her books.) Black and White is a beauty.
While we wait to see what other new 2015 titles will appear, we can enjoy these treats from the way-back machine that is the world of reissues. Happy reading!
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.