Confession: You already know me well enough to know I’m crazy about books. And children. Do you know I’m also crazy about pointlessness, in certain ways? That is, not nihilism or worthlessness, but the nonsense-hilarity of living and being human in this world. Just that. I love when art and literature and life experiences push me here. I laugh a lot in that space, and my eyes are wide with the surprise of it.
Here are three children’s books that I love for that aspect. Two of them are actually series. (What is the plural of series? Serieses? Seriesi?) They are excellent read-alouds for children, who take them at face value, and for adults, who can fully appreciate the quirkiness. I hope you will like them as much as we do.
Tell Me a Mitzi
Lore Segal wrote three stories about Mitzi, a city-dwelling girl with a little brother named Jacob. They are one-step-forward, three-steps-back kind of tales, and they do my heart good because no one can get anywhere and it’s so delicious. The illustrations (Harriet Pincus) are colorful, charmingly ugly, and outrageously fascinating.
Here’s another review of the Mitzi books, with some sample pictures – I’m not the only one who feels this way. But it’s a lesser-known set, no longer being printed. You can buy it used on Amazon or Abe Books.
This book contains three stories: Mitzi Takes a Taxi, Mitzi Sneezes, and Mitzi and the President.
Vintage work with a twist.
The Hat Books
In contrast, the work of Jon Klassen is modern and clean cut, with few words and dressed-down fabulous illustrations. The pictures often belie the text, for a really fun teasing kind of story. His narratives make me think about what it means to be human, even though his characters are fish and turtles and bears and things. They make me think about truth: what we tell ourselves, what we tell others, and how we persuade minds and reshape reality.
That sounds like a point, but meanwhile it’s just silly fun. The naughty characters get what’s coming to them, but we don’t have to watch, only guess.
The Hat Books include This is Not My Hat, I Want My Hat Back, and We Found a Hat. They are sold together in a boxed set, called, adorably, the Hat Box.
The best of humor.
Baby Monkey looks like another chapter book by Brian Selznick, with almost 200 pages, but reads in the time it takes for a normal picture book, since most of it is told visually.
The illustrations are some of my favorites, by David Serlin – super-charming and ultra-detailed pencil work, with only a little red color for emphasis at key points – and a main character you want to pick up and snuggle.
Baby Monkey is a detective, who performs the same actions to solve his cases over and over (he has a lot of trouble getting his pants on)… until we go backstage and find he’s still a baby, first and also.
Do you know these books already? What do you like about them?
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I love books too and especially children’s books! I haven’t read any of these besides “I Want My Hat Back” and I laugh loudly everytime I read that one. Have you ever read “The Seven Silly Eaters” by Mary Ann Hoberman? It was one of my favorites as a child and I still love it! The illustrations are so detailed and interresting!
We love The Seven Silly Eaters! It has a definite point to it 🙂 🙂 and I like for my children to read it from time to time. Haha! Great story and super fun pictures. We love all of Mary Ann Hoberman’s work!
When I saw the first book my imediate question was, Did we have the same public library as children? I remember getting Mitzi stories as book and cassette. Brian selznick’s books are pure genius in their ability to tell stories in pictures. Haven’t read this book yet though. Delightful choices.
Oooh, did the library in International Falls have them? That would explain why they were vaguely familiar to me when I discovered them as an adult… though I had no conscious memories of them. So fun.
Jon Klassen is fantastic, the Hat series is delightful, but I think my favorite book of his is Triangle.
I second the Seven Silly Eaters that Heidi suggested.
I will have to add David Selznick to my ThriftBooks list (this week is a good time for that, since it’s BOGO for children’s books there!).
I’ve enjoyed his other work too, but I never read Triangle. Thanks!
I love watching which books my kids love. My oldest son loves Mike Mulligan and both of my kids thought the 10 little lady bugs was great as very small kiddos. I also am putting in orders at thriftbooks.
Virginia Lee Burton’s books are favorites here too! ❤ Good machines.
Have you ever read Peter Spier’s children’s books? A good one is Bored, Nothing to Do. Our library had it a number of years ago.
Never read that one. We like his Noah’s Ark and The Fox Went Out… Thanks for the recommendation!
The Mitzi series looks delightful! I’m happy for some suggestions to finish out my countdown to Christmas books. Jon Klassen is wonderful. We love his “Extra Yarn” title.
I overpaid for a copy of Baby Monkey, Private Eye when it was first released. Took it home from the school’s book sale, read it, + promptly went back for 2 more to give as gifts 😉 Now I read it to my upper grade students every school year.