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The Wildest Children’s Books of 2013

I tend to think we are in the midst of a great period of creativity in children’s books. In many ways, there seems to be a loosening of the tie, with unexpected combinations of illustration, text, and design popping up all over the place. Below are a few 2013 books that had me saying “huh?!” in the very best of ways.

Click here for the Wildest Children’s Books of 2012

Little Ghost Party by Jacques Duquennoy

ABRAMS | August 20, 2013

It’s dance party time and Little Ghost is playing host. He invites all his friends to join in the fun.

Why it’s Wild: One word: chains. Duquennoy incorporates thin chains into his illustrations, allowing the reader to tilt the book to create different motions and moods. It’s a board book, sure, but it’s the sort of inventiveness that will delight anyone who picks it up. I really wish there was a video for this one so you could see it in action.

*Update* Ask an you shall receive! The folks at ABRAMS made a video for this book:

The Hole by Øyvind Torseter

Enchanted Lion Books | September 10, 2013

A man/creature finds a hole next to the door in his apartment. He can’t explain it. Maybe the local laboratory can?

Why it’s Wild: We’ve all seen die cuts before, but few like this. A single small hole runs through the entire book, moving into and out of the story.

Open This Little Book by Jesse Klausmeier; illustrated by Suzy Lee

Chronicle Books | January 1, 2013

A cast of animal characters lead the way as the reader is encouraged to open a series of smaller and smaller books.

Why it’s Wild: A book within a book within a book within a – you get the idea.

Topsy Turvy World by ATAK

Flying Eye Books | July 2, 2013

If Salvador Dali made a picture book, it might look like this. In this surreal world, everything is the opposite of what you’d expect.

Why it’s Wild: Each page presents a bizarro version of reality, where horses jockey jockeys, babies feed grown-ups, and butterflies net kids. I’m working on a theory: the fewer the letters in a picture book creator’s name, the higher the chances he/she makes wild books.

Battle Bunny by Mac Barnett and Jon Scieszka; illustrated by Matthew Myers

Simon & Schuster | October 22, 2013

A boy takes a saccarine bunny story and puts his own spin on it.

Why it’s Wild: There are plenty of books made to look like they were created by kids (see: The Adventures of Super Diaper Baby), but a “kid” taking one story and giving it a complete overhaul? Can’t say I’ve seen that before.

That Night, a Monster… by Marzena Sowa; illustrated by Berenika Kolomycka

Uncivilized Books | November 12, 2013

In this picture book/graphic novel, a boy wakes up to find that his mother has been replaced with … a giant fern.

Why it’s Wild: Some of the books on this list are here for unique design elements – this one is unique in story. Leave it to a Polish author/illustrator team to turn a book about a fern into a child-relatable meditation on the fear of a maternal disappearance.

Odd ducks – keep doing what you do.

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.


  1. Fun list, Travis! Can’t wait to check these out. Hope you are enjoying your summer!

  2. An intriguing group of books! I’m likely to order several of them, in fact! A footnote on The Hole: Peter Newell did die-cut pages a century ago. Check out The Hole Book and The Rocket Book.

  3. Heidi Apol says

    Great List! BTW, we have been talking about you at the MRA Summer Reading Conferenece! :-)

  4. Nathalie Bromberger says

    Thanks for the great list. Exactly the kind of books that I would have enjoyed as a child (and still do). Good to know that there still are wild books. I will look out for The Hole and Bunny.

  5. Dana Jones says

    Can’t wait for Battle Bunny! I showed my daughter a review of the book and we ended up at Half Price books that same day to look for a book she could alter. A board book called “Love and Kisses” is now called “Zombie Kisses.”

  6. Stacy Dillon says

    I *adore* Suzy Lee! Yay! And as for the chains….I am having a muscle memory of something in my grandma’s basement….a board book of some kind where all the noses where chains. Any ideas?

  7. How about The Dark too? By Lemony Snicket. Is it wild enough for you?

  8. Great post, Travis! I can’t wait to check these out! It does seem like picture books are embarking on a creative period filled with playful, interactive, and whimsical books. Looking forward to see what odd balls make this list in the years to come :)

  9. Sharon Verbeten says

    Great stuff, Travis! I hadn’t seen some of these. I’ll have to share with my co-workers and seek some of these out. Like another poster, I love Snicket’s The Dark, but I don’t think it’s really all that weird; just kind of follows a bit of a “dark” trend we’ve been seeing! Gotta get you writing for CAL again!