Peculiar Picks

Peculiar Picks are a selection of odd, funny, interesting, curious, moving, irreverent, and otherwise wonderfully awesome, but perhaps not well known, reads. Peculiar Picks are books for younger readers and their grown-ups, handpicked by the Library's Youth Services Manager, Joshua Carlson.

As 2021 wraps up, I thought I’d focus on some of my favorite peculiar picture books of the year that haven’t been featured in other Peculiar Picks posts.

The Little Wooden Robot and the Log Princess by Tom Gauld
Library Catalog / eBook
Selected as a New York Times/New York Public Library Best Illustrated Book of the Year, I really hope this book wins awards and more recognition. The Little Wooden Robot and the Log Princess is a quirky, heartfelt and inventive modern fairy tale with some absolutely wonderful illustrations and filled with magic, adventure, compassion and the bonds of love and family. I was completely surprised by this absolutely delightful picture book and I hope to see Gauld, a cartoonist for The Guardian, create some more children's books.

Myth Atlas: Maps and Monsters, Heroes and Gods from Twelve Mythological Worlds by Thiago de Moraes
Library Catalog
My daughter became enamored with mythology this year. While it was especially true with Greek and Norse mythology, she loves hearing myths and legends from around the world. Myth Atlas definitely scratches that itch, by exploring myths from various places and cultures. The illustrations are rich, vibrant and intriguing, and the oversized format provides ample room for them. The stories are short, but engaging, and provide a springboard for wanting to delve deeper.

The Rumble Hunters by Courtney B. Dunlap, illustrated by Nazar Horokhivskyi
Library Catalog
I was fortunate enough to be on the judges panel for The Selfies Book Awards U.S. this year which honor independently published works. I pushed for The Rumble Hunters to be recognized (it received an honor, coming in only second to the also awesome How to Fold a Taco by Naibe Reynoso). The book excels at showing both childhood fears (of the dark and things that go bump in the night) and courage (to confront those fears), the vivid power of imagination (Horokhivskyi’s illustrations bring that imagination wonderfully to life), and the joys of family. Such a great read.

Vampires of Blinsh by Daniel Pinkwater, illustrated by Aaron Renier
Library Catalog / eBook / hoopla

Evie and the Truth About Witches by John Martz
Library Catalog / eBook
I’m not sure there are two books I read this year that more exemplify the raison d’etre of this column than The Vampires of Blinsh and Evie and the Truth About Witches. If you enjoy the macabre, The Addams Family, and Edward Gorey, these are for you. If you wish it were Halloween year round, these are for you. If you like your picture books to be weird, humorous, strange and, dare I say, even creepy, these are for you.

I remember reading some Pinkwater’s chapter books as a youth (Lizard Music, The Snarkout Boys and the Avocado of Death, among others) and being enthralled with the bizarre, funny and fully-realized worlds that he created that existed within and alongside our own. Vampires of Blinsh is no exception. A travel guide through the town of Blinsh and the country it resides in, this is one strange and funny book. Renier’s illustrations only add to the macabre humor – the pages are filled with things to look at (be sure to start looking for all the red eyes that give vampires away!) and you are engrossed in the overwhelming oddness of it all.

My daughter and I were reading Evie and the Truth About Witches and it was just a nice, cutesy little book about a girl who gets a book from a bookshop (for free – which gave me the opportunity to let my daughter know about the trope of bookstore owners giving free books away to children, only for those books to lead to adventure and/or danger) and then has a happy fun time with some witches. Only then. Then, it’s not so nice and cutesy. Let’s just say, we were both surprised, shocked, perhaps even horrified, by the ending of the book. It’s not scary, per se, but definitely creepy and unexpected! My daughter’s reaction, especially to the spell words on the final page and their implication based on the story, was priceless: she slammed the book shut and yelled “NO!” while putting her hands over my mouth so I could not read the spell out loud. A reaction like that earned this book a place on my favorites of the year.

Categories: Authors & Books, Featured, Homepage Kids, Kids, and Library News.

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