The Most Astonishingly Unconventional Children’s Books of 2018
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 . . .
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 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.
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 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.
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”.
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 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 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.
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 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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow him on Twitter: @100scopenotes.
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