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 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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