oh for the love of picture books

The success of graphic novels has taught us that adults are never too old for pictures. I knew this was true for me, but I am glad that it’s an across-the-board thing as well. There’s less shame in a crowd (not that I should be ashamed of loving pictures, but it’s…well…you probably know what I mean). While I’ve yet to really dive into the world of graphic novels, I do appreciate a beautiful picture book, and still find them almost as refreshing and wondrous as I did as a child.

Beautifully illustrated versions of fairy tales from my childhood probably count for much of my attraction to the genre of retellings today. And I recently read two fairy tale-type picture books that made me wish I’d found them in my younger years. Such fun and flights of fancy! In honor of Once Upon a Week, I’m doing mini-reviews of them here.

Princess Hyacinth by Florence Parry Heide and Lane Smith

Princess Hyacinth has a problem: she floats. And so the king and queen have pebbles sewn into the tops of her socks, and force her to wear a crown encrusted with the heaviest jewels in the kingdom to keep her earthbound. But one day, Hyacinth comes across a balloon man and decides to take off all her princess clothes, grab a balloon, and float free. Hooray! Alas, when the balloon man lets go of the string…off she goes. Luckily, there is a kite and a boy named Boy to save her.

This book is beautifully designed, with the perfect blend of quirky, hip and traditional. It’s also practically and humorously written, and the final lesson, that not all problems can be solved, but life can be made interesting, is healthy and fun. It’s a great blend of the weight of real life and the lightness of childhood and curiosity. It also made me wonder whom I would invite to a popcorn and tea party.

Instructions by Neil Gaiman and Charles Vess

Trust Dreams.
Trust your heart, 
and trust your story.

A renowned storyteller whose words have transported readers to magical realms and an acclaimed illustrator of lushly imagined fairy-tale landscapes guide a traveler safely through lands unknown and yet strangely familiar…

…and home again.

Vess’ illustrations take what is essentially a poem that could be read like anything (well, not anything, precisely, but you know what I mean) and turn it into a fairy tale adventure featuring a finely rendered fox man. Gaiman’s mastery with words and Vess’ detailed illustrations make this not only a pretty collector’s piece for the Gaiman fan, but also a story and a ‘guide’ of sorts to myth and fairy tale for children of all ages. Even the adult ones.

Have you found any recent picture books that you especially loved?

These books also count for the Once Upon a Time Reading Challenge. Hurrah!


Andrea said...

I haven't read either but both sound great. And Neil Gaiman...doesn't usually get any better.

Melissa (i swim for oceans) said...

This a such a lovely ode to picture books :) I wish I could say I'd found some new ones recently....

Tales of Whimsy said...

These sound grand! :)

Ginny Larsen said...

awesome! love the covers on both of these... just might have to check them out! :D

i love how you're open to the idea of pictures :D

Jenny said...

Those both look pretty--I love picture books too. I wish I'd known about these before I got my little cousin's birthday presents. Never mind, I got her Brave Irene and that's a classic for the ages. :)

Carrie at In the Hammock Blog said...

i loooove illustrated fairy tale books like these too!! i have so many on my bookshelves :)

Britt said...

Very cool. We may have to try these with the monkeys! :)

sRy_ said...

I only know Neil Gaiman, but with a different style :)

PragmaticMom said...

Your blog is so beautiful. LOVE it. And thanks for the post on the Princess book... will check it out.

Pragmatic Mom
Type A Parenting for the Modern World

I blog on children's lit, education and parenting.

Andrea said...

Oh hey. I checked out the Princess Hyacinth book for bedtime reading and it was really cute and my little boy liked how she floated in the sky. Thanks for the rec!

Cecelia said...

Andrea: I'm so glad he liked it!

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