Why is a raven like a writing desk?* More on topic, how is a bad query sent to an editor like a personal ad? Last April The Rejectionist sought to answer this very question in Love is Like a Bottle of Query and I couldn’t help but figure that it would make a superb Valentine’s Day link for you all.
That seems insufficient fodder for today’s post, though. So just for the heckuvit, here is a list of my favorite romantic picture books. Howsoever you wish to interpret them.
The Duchess of Whimsy by Randall de Seve, illustrated by Peter de Seve – Not only was it written by a husband and wife team (an inherently romantic proposition) but it also features one of my favorite love stories. You have a Duchess who is only interested in whimsical things and the practical fellow who loves her. I’m a fan. Plus it’s a real treat to the old eyeballs.
The Marzipan Pig by Russell Hoban – The saddest Valentine’s Day book on this list and long out of print. Nevertheless I love that book, and I love the little film that was made of it long long ago. You can catch a section of it here if you like:
The Owl and the Pussycat by Edward Lear, illustrated by Stephane Jorisch – I understand that there are as many different picture book versions of this book as there are drops of water in the sea. Everyone from Hilary Knight to James Marshall has adapted this poem at some point (probably because it’s the rare standalone poem that converts to the picture book format so easily). My personal favorite amongst these versions, however, is Jorisch’s. This isn’t just a story about two different species getting together. No, in Jorisch’s world it’s two different lifestyles. The owl is all buttoned up business suit and the cat this Greenwich Village, thick soled boot-wearing artist. Yet impossibly they get together and wed. How awesome is that?!
Henry in Love by Peter McCarty – A love story appropriate for the schoolyard set. More of a crush really. In this sweet tale a little cat has a crush on a rabbit in his class. They reach a mutual understanding all thanks to a bright blue muffin. Aside from making me hungry for muffins (particularly those of irregular colors) McCarty employs a really gorgeous pen to the illustrations in this book. Little wonder it appeared on the 2010 New York Times Best Illustrated list (caveat: I’m not impartial when I say that).
Ms. Rubinstein’s Beauty by Pep Montserrat – One of the stranger little picture books out there but a true beauty. Monstserrat is primarily known as a Spanish artist, but this unconventional love story is one of the more charming offerings you’ll find on your library shelf. Or maybe you won’t find it! The book really didn’t get a proper amount of attention when it came out. Hopefully Montserrat will get more jobs here in the States and soon. Aside from his work on the McElderry Book of Greek Myths, I’ve only seen his art twice (though there may be more).
And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell, illustrated by Henry Cole) – Because not only is it a sweet romantic story between two male penguins but a lovely one about starting a family as well. Who says Valentine’s Day can’t be about families as well as couples? A great book.
The Bearskinner: A Tale of the Brothers Grimm by Laura Amy Schlitz, illustrated by Max Grafe – Seems to me I should put at least one fairy tale on this list. Seems to be that this one is one of the best. Not just because of the pedigree (Laura Amy Schlitz don’t write no junk) but also because it’s one of the rare Brothers Grimm stories where I like the love story even as a grown-up. How many can you think of where that’s the case?
Bloom by Maria Van Lieshout – If a marzipan pig’s love isn’t enough for you, how about two pigs in love with one another? I know that some reviewers of this book pooh-poohed the idea that kids could understand the nature of romantic love, but I’ve always maintained that it was a subject of particular interest to me as a kid. Ipso facto, I would have loved Bloom back then. It’s a little hard to resist.
So happy Valentine’s Day, folks! And be sure to spread a little love if you’re able.
*My favorite answer to this is “Because Poe wrote on both” though I also harbor a fondness for “Because the notes for which they are noted are not noted for being musical notes.”