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!