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The Most Astonishingly Unconventional Children’s Books of 2018

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Here’s to keeping it strange.

Pushing the envelope. Pushing boundaries. Pushing buttons. Here’s to children’s books that expand our assumptions of what a children’s book can be.

Previously . . .

The Most Astonishingly Unconventional Children’s Books of 201720162015201420132012

Sam's Hamburger

Sam's Hamburger 1

Sam’s Hamburger by David Pelham

Candlewick Press | May 8

Why It’s Unconventional: The story (a follow-up to Sam’s Sandwich) is about two kids concocting a gross plan to trick a thief, but it’s the physical book (a three-dimensional paper hamburger) that is the showstopper. That smoke you see is librarian brains overheating trying to figure out where to shelve it.

Door

Door by Jihyeon Lee

Chronicle | October 2

Why It’s Unconventional: The creator’s last book, Pool, established her as a picture book maker who isn’t afraid to get weird. The surreality continues in Door, about a kid’s journey into the unknown.

Mushroom Fan Club

Mushroom Fan Club 1

The Mushroom Fan Club by Elise Gravel

Enfant | May 8

Why It’s Unconventional: There will be a lot of books about love in 2018, but none will be more weird, funny, tender, informative, and enthusiastic than Elise Gravel’s ode to the fungus. A passion project in the best way.

Inside the Villains

Inside the Villains 1

Inside the Villains by Clotilde Perrin

Gecko Press | September 1

Why It’s Unconventional: Just when you think the iconic fairytale villains have been dissected in every sort of retelling, Inside the Villains literally dissects them. Featuring flaps and foldouts that allow readers to explore their guts, and ultimately, their souls.

Little Barbarian

Little Barbarian 1

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The Little Barbarian by Renato Moriconi

Eerdmans | August 21

Why It’s Unconventional: A wordless epic journey with a twist ending that makes you look at the cover again and say “It was right there in front of me the whole time”.

Bubble

Bubble 1

A Bubble by Geneviève Castrée

Drawn & Quarterly | June 26

Why It’s Unconventional: Once you know the backstory it’s the most affecting (and, truth be told, sad) board book I can recall. Geneviève Castrée, dying from cancer, drew it as a final gift to her daughter. Heartbreaking and beautiful.

Vacation

Vacation 1

Vacation by Blexbolex

Enchanted Lion | February 27

Why It’s Unconventional: Leave it to the creator of Ballad to craft one of the most unique graphic novels I’ve ever laid eyes on. Vacation is a dreamlike story about a girl and her grandfather and their unexpected elephantine summer guest. Blexbolex gets inventive on just about every page – playing with the concept of panels and finding inventive ways to present the passage of time.

I Hate Everyone

I Hate Everyone 1

I Hate Everyone by Naomi Danis, Cinta Arribas

Pow! | May 1

Why It’s Unconventional: A children’s book about hate (or as A Fuse #8 Production calls it “the four-letter-word of the kingdom of children”), which of course means it’s also a children’s book about love.

Funeral

Funeral 1

The Funeral by Matt James

Groundwood | April 3

Why It’s Unconventional: A lot of books call themselves children’s books, but they’re just the thoughts of a grown-up wearing short pants. Hand it to The Funeral, then, for being a children’s book that fully inhabits the mind of a girl attending her grandfather’s funeral with her family. Kids have yet to learn the conventions of grief, and James displays masterful perspective in depicting a situation that is at turns sad, happy, and contemplative.

Find Colors

Find Colors 1

Find Colors by Tamara Shopsin and Jason Fulford

Phaidon | June 11

Why It’s Unconventional: Board book as toy, Find Colors encouraging kids to use it as DIY viewfinder, adding their own found colors to the die cut images.

Anty War

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An Anty-War Story by Tony Ross

Andersen Press | September 1

Why It’s Unconventional: The most surprising and darkly funny picture book conclusion of the year. An ant joins the forces charged with protecting the ant colony. But what happens when real war comes to the doorstep?

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About Travis Jonker

Travis Jonker is an elementary school librarian in Michigan. He writes reviews (and the occasional article or two) for School Library Journal and is a member of the 2014 Caldecott committee. You can email Travis at scopenotes@gmail.com, or follow him on Twitter: @100scopenotes.

Comments

  1. What a wonderful roundup! Thanks.

  2. These look wonderful, thanks Travis!

  3. This is great! We need a little jumpstart to get through the summer.

  4. Hooray for weird! I’ve been wanting to check out the Genviève Costrée book for a while. Thanks for reminding me!

  5. Castrée! Oops.

  6. Tony Ross says:

    What an honour, and indeed a pleasure to be incluced in this list! Tony Ross

  7. What a fantastic round up – I’m jotting them all down to make sure they’re at my library. Love Elise Gavel. And Inside the Villains looks a perfect fit for my kid.

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