I did not get to go to the Bologna Children’s Book Fair this month (someday…). However, I did go to Europe–for the first time ever. EUROPE Europe, where they speak not-English. It was a difficult trip. It was also a wonderful trip, but wow, was it scary for me to be in such unfamiliar territory. I don’t want to tell you how many times I cried. Not daily, because I didn’t cry on each calendar day, but if you average things out… pretty much daily.
I spent most of my time looking for a mix of the familiar and unfamiliar that made sense to me. The best success I had with that? Picture books. Of course.
I had already planned to go to Chantelivre* in Paris because someone had recommended it to me, but I wound up going to something like twelve different bookstores to look at kids’ books. England had a lovely selection; Paris had an AMAZING one; Germany, meh (but I didn’t look in as many places there). I had to really, really reel myself in from buying too many picture books–they’re expensive and heavy, and we were supposed to be traveling light.
These are the ones I found worthy of allowing my arm to be wrenched off:
1. A possum’s tail, by Gabby Dawnay, illustrated by Alex Barrow. Tate Publishing 2014
This was my one picture book purchase in England, partly because there’s a lot of crossover between American and British children’s publishing, so a lot of the great stuff makes its way across the pond eventually. This one, according to Amazon, is due for US release in November 2014. When it does come out here, pay attention to illustrator Alex Barrow‘s deft inclusion of people of color on every spread.
Also, pay attention to the endpapers. These endpapers!!
I am going to show you a lot of endpapers in this post.
2. De sma synger, by Gunnar Nyborg-Jensen, illustrated by Bitte Böcher. Host & Sons 2005
This is a reprint of a 1948 Dutch children’s song book. The illustrations are very sweet:
Even so, I probably wouldn’t have bought it except that it came from a tiny (I mean like 8’x8′) children’s bookshop in Bristol called Benjamin’s. As we walked in, a fella, I’m assuming Benjamin, jumped up from a tiny table and said “Hello! I’m about to have a coffee! Would you like one?” We politely declined as we were already well caffeinated, and I chatted with him a bit about his store. It’s a labor of love. Benjamin’s sells some new, some used children’s books, and he tries to have a stash on hand that cost under a pound so children can buy them with their pocket-money (as Roald Dahl would say). He also has storytimes. Seems like a lovely small business to support, so Bristolians, stop by.
3. Le chat botté, by Charles Perrault, illustrated by Clémentine Sourdais. Helium 2013
I found this one at the bookstore in the Musée d’Orsay, unwrapped and gathering dust on a top shelf.
A very sweet English-speaking employee checked their stock for me and found that this was the last copy, so they offered me a small discount. Win! This was one of two accordion-style Perrault books published in 2013 by Helium, whose books I loved everywhere I saw them. Here’s the illustrator, Clémentine Sourdais, who is fantastic.
Also I want to give this book props because I saw another gorgeous cutout book on this trip in which the pages behind the cutouts interfered with the illustrations, and Ms. Sourdais (and/or the design team) did not allow this to happen. Good show.
4. La plus mignonne des petites souris, by Étienne Morel. Flammarion 2013
This is part of a series of reissues called Les Albums du Père Castor, and I almost bought all four of the ones on display because they are so gorgeous. They seem to be a bit like Golden Books, and originated during the American era of Leonard Weisgard and Esphyr Slobodkina. Here’s the story of the original series.
Les Classiques du Père Castor
I so, so wish Étienne Morel’s work had made it to the states!
5. l’Abécédaire illustré de Stanislas, by Stanislas Barthelemy. Editions Thierry Magnier 2008
I loved this book’s limited palette and graceful linework. The beautiful hand-lettering catapulted it onto my must-buy pile.
Though a little credit must go to the endpapers:
If I could read French, I could tell you more about the illustrator, who appears to be primarily a cartoonist.
6. Rockin’ Johnny, by Eric Senabre, illustrated by Merlin. Didier Jeunesse 2013
Okay, I think I went a little soft over this one. It’s a French picture book set in Memphis, Tennessee, about little kids who love rock n’roll. I think.
I may have bought it mostly because it comes with a CD of the book, read by Dominique Pinon, that contains the classic rock tunes referenced within. Remember that I am a homesick tourist.
Which is not to say that the illustrator is not quite good–he is, and he draws a mean fight scene.
7. Le petit Roro (mon tout tout premier dico), by Corinne Dreyfuss, illustrated by Benjamin Chaud. Actes Sud Junior 2012
A familiar name! We’ve started seeing Benjamin Chaud in the States, first with Pomelo, then in a burst of glory (imho) in 2013 with The Bear’s Song.
I’d love to see this one get translated. The colors and faces are delightful. I also like the positive breastfeeding image, and that little Roro’s aunt and uncle appear to be people of color.
And I do love a tiny little dog in a sweater. Dead ringer for my guy.
8. Les grand livre des mots, by Richard Scarry. Albin Michel Jeunesse 2010
The homesickness won on this one. It’s exactly the same as the US version… except for slight cover modifications that happen to be BEAUTIFUL. The color is richer, and the typefaces used for the title are divine.
Richard Scarry nut here. Yeah, I know. Interesting to note: the changes described in this blog post (updates to the illustrations between the 1963 and 1991 printings) did not make it into this French version, published in 2010.
9. Bienvenue à Dreamland, by Kristina Brasseler. Sarbacane 2014
Just eye candy. Gorgeous, gorgeous color–I could live in this book. And eat it.
It’s similar to Mamoko in design and in that you have to find the same characters on every page. Lots of fun. This one was originally published in Germany. Will we see a US release??
10. La princesse attaque! by Delphine Chedru. Helium 2012
This one. SO cute.
It’s a story about a princess who attacks. That’s about as much as I could glean from the French text. There’s something modern-day-Tomi-Ungerer about the art. And? It’s a choose-your-own-adventure book!
This, I assume, is the crazy disco scene.
And a brutal murder for such a lady.
I got all excited seeing this one everywhere because I thought Helium was the press that had just paired up with SF-based Chronicle to launch the imprint Twirl. But I was wrong; it’s Éditions Tourbillon. (Still excited) (And still hoping for a translated Princess Attacks!)
11. 20 illustre Katzen und 44 weitere tolle Tiere zeichnen, by Julia Kuo. Editions Fischer 2013
Now we have arrived in Germany.
Germany is beautiful, but I struggled there more than in France. I do not have a passing familiarity with German, as I do with French (lots of words are similar to Spanish), and also I happened to be reading a vivid and excellent book set during the Holocaust. I do know that much has changed since then. But I am an anxious traveler with an active imagination.
Anyway, this book was originally published in America, by Quarry, and the illustrator is American. (Julia Kuo illustrated the cover for The Thing About Luck!) I bought it because it has only very simple words (animals!) in German, so I could read it. The drawings are beautiful. Nice variety of styles.
I could have bought it for the endpapers alone.
Ladies and gentlemen, the greatest endpapers of ALL TIME:
12. Y Gath a Gollodd ei Grwndi, by Elfyn Pritchard. Gwasg Gomer 1975
I only bought this because the kitty was cute. And it is in Welsh, and I like the way Welsh looks. I found it at Jacob’s Market in Cardiff, a fantastic old antique shop that’s great for a wander. Lots of taxidermy.
Not cats, thankfully.
Illustration school: let’s draw happy people, by Sachiko Umoto. Quarry 2008
I picked this up in Sheffield–really cute, and fun to draw the little people.
Craftydermy, by Tracey Denton. Cicada Books 2013
Bought for a friend. Can’t be described. Must be seen.
Matilda, by Roald Dahl, illustrated by Quentin Blake. Puffin 2013 (orig. 1988)
I bought this in Manchester Airport because all the villages we were seeing in England made me think of Matilda’s village. I love that book. Bonus, we ended up visiting Llandaff, the part of Cardiff where Dahl lived for a while.
Illustrating Children’s Books, by Martin Ursell. Crowood Press 2013
‘Cause a girl can dream, right? Sigh.
*For a few of these places I’m linking to a review of the store rather than their actual site because that will be more useful for English-only readers, and these reviews do link back to the store’s website if you want to see it.