29 April 2009

Picture Book Hall of Fame?

The American Booksellers Association recently announced “the first three inductees to the Indies Choice Book Awards Picture Book Hall of Fame”:

In addition, the organization named these finalists:
  • Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, by Judith Viorst and Ray Cruz
  • Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, by Bill Martin, Jr. and John Archambault and Lois Ehlert
  • Corduroy, by Don Freeman
  • Curious George, by H.A. Rey
  • Goodnight Gorilla, by Peggy Rathmann
  • The Little Engine That Could, by Watty Piper
  • Madeline, by Ludwig Bemelmans
  • The Napping House, by Audrey Wood
  • Stellaluna, by Janelle Cannon
  • The Story of Ferdinand the Bull, by Munro Leaf and Robert Lawson
I have no strong impression of The Napping House, but otherwise recognize all these titles as classics in the genre. Nonetheless, I think it's worthwhile to consider what's or who's not listed here.

Anything by Margaret Wise Brown, particularly The Runaway Bunny and Goodnight Moon. Anything by Virginia Lee Burton, particularly The Little House and Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel.

The Story of Babar, by Jean de Brunhoff. Harold and the Purple Crayon, by Crockett Johnson. The Very Hungry Caterpillar, by Eric Carle.

Anything by Chris Van Allsburg, who spearheaded the picture-book revival of the 1980s. Anything by Dr. Seuss who, though he became synonymous for easy readers, wasn't bad at the old art. Anything by Richard Scarry, who filled up pages with words and pictures as well as anyone.

The Monster at the End of This Book, a monster seller for the Sesame Street Workshop produced by Jon Stone and Michael Smollin, which has delicious fun with the form. The Poky Little Puppy, by Janette Sebring Lowrey and Gustaf Tenggren; this title from the first Golden Books list helped bring full-color picture books to wider audiences and keeps selling.

My personal list would have a place for Ellen Raskin, now better known as a novelist but one of the masters of the picture-book form when most creators were expected to provide their own four-color separations.

But if this hall of fame is supposed to represent the range of American picture books and their history, I think the biggest omission is The Snowy Day, by Ezra Jack Keats. Do any of the chosen titles and finalists feature black people?

At Fuse #8, Betsy Bird has been doing the VH1 thing with a top 100 picture books. She's just reaching the high teens, where we might expect to see the most overlap between her voters' list and the ABA's list.


Sam said...

I'm curious to know which Ellen Raskin book you'd put on that list.

While I'm a huge fan of her art as well as her mid-grade writing, I'm not sure I'd put any of her picture books in the league with these.

My favorite, however, is "Who said Sue Said Sue."

J. L. Bell said...

Spectacles or Nothing Ever Happens on My Block.

J. L. Bell said...

At Fuse #8, The Snowy Day ended up as #4 on the list of the top 100 picture books by poll.