Follow This Blog: RSS feed
A Fuse #8 Production
Inside A Fuse #8 Production

Cult Picture Book Favorites

Not to be confused with picture books about cults.  *shudder*  There’s a genre we needn’t plumb.

WhoNeedsDonutsNo, today I’m talking about those picture books that are released, do moderately well, or maybe not well at all, fall out-of-print, and then long after their demise accrue a kind of cult following.  The fans swell, demand that it be republished, and sometimes it actually is.

I mention all this because the other day I found out that a friend of mine is a big time fan of Who Needs Donuts? by Mark Alan Stamaty.  A cult picture book in the truest sense of the term, the book’s post mortem popularity really and truly did lead to its re-publication a couple years ago.  Basically this is a book for people who’ve picked up titles by Peter Sis, looked at the man’s meticulous pointillism, and though, “Surely he could have crammed much more work into this).  Stamaty’s book uses every possible smidgen of space and then some.

Lonely_Doll_CoverNot entirely the same is the cult of The Lonely Doll.  Seen by some as a beautiful example of black and white photography and dreamlike images, others can’t really get over the strange tale and spanking sequence (frilly underwear and all). What no one can argue with is the fact that it’s still a memorable book.  Once for Halloween I went as The Lonely Doll (a fairly easy costume if you just find a pink gingham dress and blond wig) and my husband went as Mr. Bear. BECAUSE THAT’S HOW WE ROLL!

For a time one of my own favorite picture books saw a brief resurgence.  I’ve posted before about picture books beloved of children’s librarians.  In fact, I have good reason to believe that one of these days we may seNoisyCountingBooke the republishing of Jessica Souhami’s Old MacDonald (a.k.a. the best version of Old MacDonald ever created).  But a couple years ago it was The Noisy Counting Book by Susan Schade and Jon Buller that really made my heart skip a beat.  I could kill in toddler time (metaphorically) if I read that book.  That was MY book.  And then, oh joy of joys, they republished it in a board book format.  Fascinatingly it’s out of print in board book form (though you can get a used copy on Amazon for $389.77) but the Kindle version is alive and well.

SamEmmaYesterday I spoke with someone who adores Donald Nelsen’s Sam and Emma, illustrated by Edward Gorey (!).  It’s basically an awesome story about xenophobia, but told with furry animals rather than people.  It also sports some amazing rhyming cadences.  Vintage Kids’ Books My Kid Loves covered this title back in 2009.  Looks like Dutton published it back in the day (circa 1971) so Penguin?  Ball’s in your court now.

I’d be interested in other people’s cult picture book favorites. What are the books that are long since gone that you think have enough underground fans to make a comeback?

About Elizabeth Bird

Elizabeth Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.


  1. Great topic! (And creepy as hell Halloween costume — brava.)

    I wrote about Tell Me a Mitzi, which both I and the author Lore Segal are utzing to get back into print. IT’S SO WEIRD AND GOOOOOOOOOOD!

    I also think And the Story Goes On, by the late Aileen Fisher, with luminous layered art by Mique Moriuchi, should be back in print. It’s perhaps the single best little-kid book about death I’ve ever read.

  2. Two personal faves: Scarlett Angelina Wolverton-Manning and The Tapestry Cats

  3. The King Who Rained Paperback by Fred Gwynne — book with hysterical homonyms and illustrations

  4. Elisabeth says:

    I’m happy to see that my cult favorite, Wanda Gag’ s Nothing At All, is back in print. Jenny Linsky and Horace the Friendly Octopus aren’t picture books, so they don’t qualify. (Though Jenny is also back in print–yay!)

  5. Denis Markell says:
    A Little House of Your Own
    Beatrice Schenk De Regniers – fantastic book about personal space and “Me time.” I think she’s completely unknown these days, sadly.

    • Elizabeth Bird says:

      Not entirely. She won a Caldecott Award, after all. But beyond that, I’m afraid so.

      • Denis, I don’t know that one! I just bought it used on your recommendation!

        My kids loved loved loved loved loved What Can You Do With a Shoe — and for de Regniers’s text as much as Sendak’s illustrations. That one, thankfully, is still in print. (May I Bring a Friend was never as big a hit in our house — it too is still available. I don’t think I know any of her other books!)

    • I adored A Little House of Your Own as a child — still have my copy. (Marjorie, I think it is right up your alley.)

  6. I’m sure I’ve mentioned this before, but my favorite cult book for older kids is The Animated Thumbtack Railroad Dollhouse & All-Around Surprise Book (Evening Edition).

  7. Tony’s Hard Work Day by Alan Arkin (the 1972 original with illustrations by James Stevenson) – kids LOVE this story about little Tony, unappreciated by his family until he builds them a new house, all by himself, in just one day! (This was republished in 2002, but with very bland artwork.)

  8. Who Needs Donuts is pretty great. Tell Me a Mitzi was my absolute favorite book as a kid. There’s also Tell Me a Trudy (illustrated by Rosemary Wells), but my heart belongs to Mitzi.

  9. THE SHRINKING OF TREEHORN by Florence Parry Heide illustrated by Edward Gorey and the two sequels are cult favorites!

  10. Kathy Jarombek says:

    Bring back HI, PIZZA MAN! by Virginia Walter! Talk about killing in toddler storytime.

    • Elizabeth Bird says:

      I would call that one the #1 out-of-print hit amongst librarians. Every time I write an OOP post, it gets mentioned. At the very least they should reprint it with a new illustrator.

  11. KT Horning says:

    SUZUKI BEANE by Sandra Scoppetone and Louise Fitzhugh is my own cult favorite. It’s a parody of Eloise, about a beatnik kid who lives in a pad on Bleeker Street.

    • Elizabeth Bird says:

      I’m with you there. If I could have any tattoo, I’d have one of Suzuki Beane dancing.

  12. Eric Carpenter says:

    Fortunately by Remy Charlip is my go to book for first read aloud of the school year. It’s one I didn’t know growing up but wish I had.
    Every so often when I introduce Fortunately a kid will tell me that they have a copy at home and I immediately think that they must have cool parents.

    • Fortunately was part of the writing curriculum when I used to teach 3rd grade–it’s a phenomenal writing prompt book!

      My parents read me pretty much everything by Nancy Willard, who won Newbery and Caldecott for A Visit to William Blake’s Inn but whose other titles aren’t very well known today.

  13. WHO NEEDS DONUTS and TELL ME A MITZI are out of print? How can that be???

  14. Huge fan of Jolly Roger Bradfield’s books: Pickle Chiffon Pie, Benjamin Dilly’s Thirsty Camel, The Flying Hockey Stick and Giants Come in Different Sizes. Ordered them in the mail as a child in the 60’s and still have them. I hear they are going to be rereleased

  15. Amy Miele says:

    Sweet Dream Pie by Audrey Wood with pictures by Mark Teague. I used my copy all the time for Kindergarten story time until it disappeared.

  16. Where’s Wallace by Hilary Knight.

  17. Maria Simon says:

    Open Me…I’m a Dog by Art Spiegelman
    And YES Hi Pizza Man

  18. Elisabeth says:

    Lisa and the Grompet by Patricia Coombs speaks to the universal tiredness and frustration of being a kid who is always told what to do. It is long for a picture book, but I love it.

  19. Timbuktu by Paul Auster
    Woolvs in the Sitee by Margaret Wild
    Gertrude is Gertrude is Gertrude is Gertrude by Jonah Winter

    • Elizabeth Bird says:

      Oh! No one ever talks about Woolvs in the Sitee. That freaky freaky book. I should do a post on it. Good call!

  20. How about Dave McKean’s and Neil Gaiman’s The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish? Has cult written all over it:)

  21. Happily, “Who Needs Donuts” is very much in print!

  22. Nothing Ever Happens on My Street by Ellen Raskin!


  1. […] was excited to see that my recommendation of Donald Nelson’s Sam & Emma made it into a School Library Journal post about cult children’s books—so I asked Bird, 37, about her area of […]

  2. […] energized to see That my recommendation of Donald Nelson’s Sam & Emma built it into to University Library Journal publish About cult kid’s guides -so I Requested Chicken, 37, About Her region of […]