The Best Illustrated Childrens Books

I have always loved picture books. Part of me realizes that I always will.

Throughout the ages, children have been introduced to reading by means of texts bearing pictures as well as words, but it is only in recent years that critical distinctions have been drawn between books where the function of such pictures is merely to illustrate the verbal material, and those where, in one way or another, the pictures have a major role to play in the narrative and characterization, a role which is complementary or sometimes even contradictory to the verbal text. The artwork in both types of book is often of a high standard, frequently receiving its own plaudits from art critics. … The development of such criticism has gone hand in hand with picturebook evolution itself, notably in the years since the publication of Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are (1963). — From: Children’s Literature (Readers’ Guides to Essential Criticism) by Pat Pinsen

makewayforducklingsbookcoverChildren’s literature has never looked this good!

Watch this video and share your thoughts on WatchMojo’s list of the Top 10 Illustrated Children’s Books.

Also see The New York Times Best Illustrated Children’s Books of 2016.

One of my favorite books on the WatchMojo list is Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey. Here is more about it:

“Robert McCloskey’s unusual and stunning pictures have long been a delight for their fun as well as their spirit of place.”—The Horn Book

Mrs. Mallard was sure that the pond in the Boston Public Gardens would be a perfect place for her and her eight ducklings to live.  The problem was how to get them there through the busy streets of Boston.  But with a little help from the Boston police, Mrs. Mallard and Jack, Kack, Lack, Nack, Ouack, Pack, and Quack arive safely at their new home.

This brilliantly illustrated, amusingly observed tale of Mallards on the move has won the hearts of generations of readers. Awarded the Caldecott Medal for the most distinguished American picture book for children in 1941, it has since become a favorite of millions. This classic tale of the famous Mallard ducks of Boston is available for the first time in a full-sized paperback edition.

Make Way for Ducklings has been described as “one of the merriest picture books ever” by the New York Times. And it is ideal for reading aloud.

“This delightful picture book captures the humor and beauty of one special duckling family. … McClosky’s illustrations are brilliant and filled with humor. The details of the ducklings, along with the popular sights of Boston, come across wonderfully. The image of the entire family proudly walking in line is a classic.”—The Barnes & Noble Review

“The quaint story of the mallard family’s search for the perfect place to hatch ducklings. … For more than fifty years kids have been entertained by this warm and wonderful story.”—Children’s Literature

One of my favorite books on the New York Times list is Freedom in Congo Square by Carole Boston Wetherford.

School Library Journal said:

This vibrant picture book examines Congo Square in New Orleans. A foreword and author’s note explain how, historically, slaves in Louisiana were allowed Sunday afternoons off. This custom continued after the territory joined the United States, although in time, New Orleans established one location for all slaves to gather: an area that became known as Congo Square. This unique practice helped enslaved and free Africans maintain cultural traditions. The impact was felt far beyond New Orleans as musicians, dancers, and singers developed, explored, and shared rhythms that eventually grew into jazz music.

freedom-in-congo-square-9781499801033_hrThe text is realistic but child appropriate. Couplets count down the days to Sunday in a conversational tone (“Slavery was no ways fair./Six more days to Congo Square.”). The writing is accompanied by folk art-style illustrations, with paint applied in thick layers. Some images, such as faces, are more detailed, while others are presented as silhouettes. Collage with painted elements is incorporated on occasion. The architecture portrayed evokes the New Orleans setting. Bright colors suggest the exuberance displayed at Congo Square. Spreads where the slaves are finally able to sing, dance, and express emotion contrast effectively with the forced restraint of those depicting the work week. VERDICT Unique in its subject and artistic expression, this beautiful book belongs in most collections.


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