Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Illustrator Daniel Jennewein shares his 5 favorite picture books

Daniel Jennewein, debut illustrator of IS YOUR BUFFALO READY FOR KINDERGARTEN? written by Audrey Vernick, is not only a fanastic illustrator, he is also my husband. Even though we don't have kids (yet at least), we have over 100 picture books on our shelves. Today, Daniel shares 5 of his favorites.

Rotten Island by William Steig
This book is actually my nr. 1 favorite. It is wildly funny and irreverent. In it, Steig introduces many creatures that compete in ugliness and evilness. They roam in the most horrific island imaginable, surrounded by boiling sea. I love its’ originality and freshness. Sample line: "Nothing could make these monsters shake so hard with laughter as to see another one suffering pain. They loved their rotten life. They loved hating and hissing at one another, taking revenge, tearing and breaking things, screaming, roaring, caterwauling, venting their hideous feelings." Don't worry - there is a happy ending!

Where the Wild Things are by Maurice Sendak
My mother read this book to me when I was small and I am so familiar with it that it feels like a person I know. I think the German translation is great and I will always know the text by heart. I also think the book design is spectacular – how the illustrations grow larger as Max is more and more swept into his fantasy world, and then smaller again as he begins to want to return home. This is a classic for good reason, and I'm still not sure whether I should chance seeing the film or not.

Zeralda's Ogre, Tomi Ungerer
Tomi Ungerer is one of my biggest influences, and has been a favorite illustrator of mine since I was a young child. I am a huge fan of most of his books, but this is arguably my favorite. He often introduces horrible characters in his stories that start to grow on you while you read. This particular book is about a cannibal who loves to eat little children and how he meets a little girl called Zeralda who changes his life. By the way, if you are ever in Stra├čburg, France, you should definitely check out the Tomi Ungerer Museum.

Duck, Death and the Tulip, Wolf Erlbruch
This is a picture book about death, not such a common topic for the genre. I think it is amazing how it deals with such a difficult subject in such a light and accessible way. It is sad and funny and foreboding at the same time. Warning: It can make you cry. Unfortunately the English translation is not able to capture the simple and poetic language of the original German. Still, I think it is quite a powerful book.

Not a Box, Antoinette Portis
This book is based on a great concept and demonstrates the power of imagination. It is beautifully designed by the author Antoinette Portis and the wonderful HarperCollins Creative Director Martha Rago (with whom I was lucky to work with on the Buffalo books). I first became aware of this title when Martha spoke at a SCBWI meeting in Paris a few years ago. She told us that they found this gem in the slush pile! So it can happen. There is also a sequel called NOT A STICK which I like as well.

Thanks Daniel! Visit Daniel's website to see his work. You can see some spreads from IS YOUR BUFFALO READY FOR KINDERGARTEN? too. The next Buffalo book comes out summer 2011 and is called TEACH YOUR BUFFALO TO PLAY DRUMS. It is even cuter than the kindergarten book (if such a thing is possible).

He also maintains an illustration blog where he uploads a new drawing everyday.


bermudaonion said...

I'm woefully behind in the picture book market - the only one of those books I know is Where the Wild Things Are.

Zibilee said...

All of these are great! I am not familiar with most of them, but a few of them look like they would be really great to bring home. Thanks, Daniel!

Anonymous said...

I love Where the Wild Things Are! When I started buying books for my daughter when I found out I was pregnant, this was the first one I added to her collection. ;)

Audrey said...

A couple of new ones for my reading list here. I loved reading this--thanks Lenore and Daniel!

Liviania said...

Do see the Where the Wild Things Are movie. I think the director made good choices with the story and the cinematography is lovely. It isn't a visual version of the book, but it is a good movie.

Daniel said...

Thanks, Liviana. I think I will watch the movie. I only heard good things about it.

Ladytink_534 said...

The only one I've heard of here is Where the Wild Things Are. :(

Anonymous said...

Of these, the only one I've read is WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE, and I love that. I really like the covers for the last two.

Jen said...

Lovely list! I don't have children, either, but I've been known to purchase beautifully illustrated picture books just to have them on my shelves (they keep my childhood books company --- and stand ready for my niece and nephew when they're older). :)

Staci said...

I would read Where the Wild Things Are every night for years for my two your choices!

Shweta said...

Where The Wild Things Are is one of my fav too..Yet to see that movie..Have noted down other choices for future reference :)

Sandy Fussell said...

Three of these are all time favourites for me. Especially Death, Duck and the Tulip. But as I had't even heard of number 1, I'll definitely be searching it out tomorrow

Pragmatic Mom said...

Thank you for this list. I love Where the Wild Things son does too. I am working on a list of picture books for artistically inclined kids so I will be going to the library for Not a Box.


Pragmatic Mom
Type A Parenting for the Modern World
I blog on children's lit, education and parenting