100 Scope Notes
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The Wildest Children’s Books of 2014

The amount of cleverness in children’s literature never ceases to amaze me. While some decry the sameness of picture books, I believe that there are plenty of bold and unique books coming out, once you start looking around.

What follows are a few 2014 books that made me and Salvador Dali double take – in a good way.

Click here for the Wildest Children’s Books of 2013

Click here for the Wildest Children’s Books of 2012

Jim Curious: A Voyage to the Heart of the Sea by Matthias Picard

ABRAMS | April 15, 2014

A boy’s wordless trip to the bottom of the sea.

Why It’s Wild: Sporting a huge trim size and incredibly detailed illustrations, this picture book/graphic novel mashup takes things to the next level with spectacular 3-D Vision.

The Secret Life of Squirrels by Nancy Rose

Little, Brown | October 21, 2014

An unconventional squirrel realizes he could use some company.

Why It’s Wild: There are definitely books out there that use nature photography in unique ways, but, dare I say, never with this level of wonderful goofiness. Nancy Rose, you are a dedicated gal. Click here to read about how Rose gets these photographs.

The Flat Rabbit by Bárdur Oskarsson

Owlkids Books | September 9, 2014

A dog and a rat come upon, well, a flat rabbit. What to do next?

Why It’s Wild: You don’t see many picture books dealing with the topic of roadkill. You also don’t see a book use it as a jumping-off point to explore death and compassion.

This Book Just Ate My Dog by Richard Byrne

Henry Holt | October 7, 2014

A girl takes her dog for a walk when it gets gobbled up by the book itself. Let operation dog recovery commence!

Why It’s Wild: I’m sure there’s a precedent out there, but I can’t recall  the “gutter” (the seam in the middle of a picture book) being used in exactly this way. It’s some inventive picture book making that kids are going to dig.

(photo credit: Carter Higgins)

Out the Window by Cybèle Young

Groundwood Books | February 25, 2014

A furry animal’s ball bounces out the window – what exactly is going on out there?

Why It’s Wild: This book takes the concept of the page turn and turns it on its head. This accordion-style board book shows the protagonist’s perspective on one side, then the mystery is revealed on the other.

Aviary Wonders Inc. Spring Catalog and Instruction Manual by Kate Samworth

Clarion Books | March 4, 2014

It’s 2031 and bird species are disappearing. Not to worry – with the help of Aviary Wonders, you can build your own!

Why It’s Wild: You don’t see a lot of satire in picture books, but this one has it in spades.

What There Is Before There Is Anything There by Liniers

Groundwood Books | October 14, 2014

Every night, when the light goes off, a boy is visited by a cast of creepy characters.

Why It’s Wild: Its cyclical ending dares to leave things creepily unresolved – something you don’t see much in picture books. It’s also my winner of the 2014 The Dark Award – I give this award to a book that, like The Dark by Lemony Snicket and Jon Klassen, could swing from mildly spooky to completely terrifying, depending on how the reader chooses to deliver the tale.

Here’s to wild books.

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. If you have a chance look up my amazing new childrens picture book The Possible Police on net galley and let me know what you think ;)

  2. Oh my gosh, FLAT RABBIT! I’ve been wanting to post about that book but don’t know quite what to say. It’s the flat-out weirdest book I’ve seen all year. I keep going back to it to try to figure it out. It’s also deeply funny in a weird-ass way.

    And I LOVE the Liniers’ book and plan to post about it later. It’s good for all the reasons you name.

    • Travis Jonker says

      Ha – thanks for seconding the wildness of Flat Rabbit! I had a lot of fun putting this list together

  3. Love it! Thanks for catering a spreadofor folks like me!

  4. These are irresistible! I am headed for the bookstore. Must see them all (especially the rabbit). Thank you for posting.

  5. Sam Bloom says
  6. So much wonderfulness!

    Can’t wait for THIS BOOK JUST ATE MY DOG. My kind of kid funny.

  7. Cynthia Miller says

    What a terrific collection! Great article, thanks for sharing these!

  8. I’ve got another one for you: Ronan Badel’s The Lazy Friend (Gecko Press, 2014). The back cover summarizes it succinctly: “A wordless adventure story about a sloth who does absolutely nothing.”

  9. What about WEIRD THE BEARD, a children’s picture book about a beard that, choosing his friends unwisely, is transformed by an electric razor into Murry the Moustache. If you peruse the history of world literature, this is the only book whose protagonist (or any character for that matter) is a beard. Wild goofy fun with a message = choose your friends wisely.

  10. Thanks for the wonderful review of my book. I a getting pretty excited with release date quickly approaching. If you liked these photos, there are many more hiding in my computer waiting for a chance to write a follow-up story.