31 Days, 31 Lists: Day Sixteen – 2017 Oddest Books of the Year

Keep Children’s Literature Weird. There. There’s your rallying cry for the day. Now Travis Jonker has been nice and consistent on this front, producing his lists of The Most Astonishingly Unconventional Children’s Books every year since 2012. You’re bound to see some overlap with this list, but I’ve a couple of my own particular favorites […]

31days

Keep Children’s Literature Weird. There. There’s your rallying cry for the day. Now Travis Jonker has been nice and consistent on this front, producing his lists of The Most Astonishingly Unconventional Children’s Books every year since 2012. You’re bound to see some overlap with this list, but I’ve a couple of my own particular favorites to add in as well. These are the books that make it clear that brains are remarkable things, capable of thinking up some truly kooky stuff.

Right off the bat I’m also going to point out that an inordinate number of books on today’s list are translations. Now I once had the honor of speaking at a conference on the topic of children’s book imports and why it is that Americans often find them so “weird”. So for me to turn right around and start parading some of these books as oddities is a bit two-faced, yes/no? But let us be clear. Not every imported children’s book that graces our fair shores is peculiar. They are as wide ranging as the seas. There are really only a few that make the average jane on the street scratch her head and say, “Hunhuna?”  An ode to those then.

Baby Loves Quantum Physics by Ruth Spiro, ill. Irene Chan

BabyLovesQuantum

Two words: Schrödinger’s kitten.

Find Me: A Hide-and-Seek Book by Anders Arhoj

FindMe

Not the premise, which is keen. Not the art, which is lovely if standard. No, this book gets included for the cubicle sequence:

FindMeCubicle

I wish I could blow this up larger. Suffice to say, this spread is everything to me. Everything.

Firefighter Duckies! by Frank W. Dormer

FirefighterDuckies

I go in for a certain type of illogical logic. Remember that magnificent Rowboat Watkins book last year Rude Cakes? That’s the kind of thing I’m talking about. Dormer’s book here really taps into that same Rude Cake vibe, only this time it’s more of a rude/evil cupcake variation. I also was distinctly reminded of Chickens to the Rescue by John Himmelman. Oh, delightfully illogical logic.

How It Feels to Be a Boat by James Kwan

HowFeels

Oddities can also be sweetness incarnate, and this book is sweet as all get out. It’s also not the kind of book you should think about too hard for fear that your brain might start to sweat. The band. The superhero. Why it is that we’re being asked to think about what it feels like to be the mode of transportation in the first place. Good times.

Grandfather and the Moon by Stéphanie LaPointe and Rogé

GrandfatherMoon

This one was a surprise. A mild little mix of chapter book and copious pictures. It seems to sane and sound at the start. Just another sad book about a beloved older relative losing their grasp on the world around them. And then the heroine goes to the moon. Wait. What?  A good example of when a book hits you with something that’s completely out of left field.

Monty Python’s Book of Silly Walks by David Merveille

MontyPythonSilly

North South! You’re getting silly again!  Actually I rather liked this book but more in a I’m-going-to-give-this-to-my-Monty-Python-loving-brother kind of way than a I’m-going-to-hand-this-to-a-child kind of way. Honestly, this feels like a variation on the M. Hulot books.  Who illustrated those, by the way?  Oh.  Merveille?  Ah.  I see.

My Pictures After the Storm by Eric Viellé

MyPicturesAfterSorm

No. Seriously. I’m going to put this book on every other list on this 31 Days countdown until you read it. Go on. Shoo.

My Valley by Claude Ponti, translated by Alyson Waters

MyValley1 copy

Travis Jonker recently called this the Weirdest Book of the Year, and I won’t argue with him. For me that’s one of its top selling points. At the same time, it’s one of the few books this year that you can honestly call beautiful as well as bizarre.

Nothing Rhymes with Orange by Adam Rex

NothingRhymesOrange

Look, if you can name any other books this year where Friedrich Nietzsche dances like there ain’t no tomorrow, I’d certainly like to know about them.

The Only Fish in the Sea by Philip C. Stead, ill. Matthew Cordell

OnlyFishSea

Maybe this book doesn’t fit on this list. Maybe it’s only here because I just like it so much.  But there are some distinct oddities to this storyline that I just adore. Technically it’s a sequel, but its predecessor (Special Delivery) can’t hold a candle to its successor. In this book two friends and their faithful bandit monkey friends set off to rescue a goldfish dropped summarily into the briny deep, still in its plastic bag. The aerial shot of the “town” is worth the price of admission alone. Cordell may win the Caldecott for Wolf in the Snow this year, but I’d be happy as a clam if this got some kind of an Honor.

Rot: The Cutest In the World by Ben Clanton

 Rot

I’m trying to imagine the pitch with this one. “So, see, there’s this potato, right? And it’s all rotten, but at the same time it wants to win a beauty contest for cutest ever. Because it has dreams, y’know?”  Yup. Not sure where exactly Mr. Clanton plucked this idea from, but who cares? Rotten potatoes deserve a little happiness too sometimes.

Super Slug of Doom: A Super Happy Magic Forest Story by Matty Long

SuperSlugDoom

Another sequel. Epic quest picture books just fascinate me. They’re so rare, and it’s particularly odd when they’re macking off of cultural references most 6-year-olds won’t get. That said, who doesn’t love an evil slug with a handlebar mustache?

What Does Baby Want? by Tupera Tupera

WhatBabyWant1

Nuff said.

You Can’t Be Too Careful! by Roger Mello

YouCantCareful

Maybe “odd” isn’t the word that best describes this. Utterly, wholly, entirely, uniquely one-of-a-kind might be better. What do you think?


 

Interested in the other lists of the month? Here’s the schedule so that you can keep checking back:

December 1 – Board Books

December 2 – Board Book Reprints & Adaptations

December 3 – Wordless Picture Books

December 4 – Picture Book Readalouds

December 5 – Rhyming Picture Books

December 6 – Alphabet Books

December 7 – Funny Picture Books

December 8 – CaldeNotts

December 9 – Picture Book Reprints

December 10 – Math Picture Books

December 11 – Bilingual Books

December 12 – Translated Picture Books

December 13 – Books with a Message

December 14 – Fabulous Photography

December 15 – Fairy Tales / Folktales

December 16 – Oddest Books of the Year

December 17 – Older Funny Books

December 18 – Easy Books

December 19 – Early Chapter Books

December 20 – Graphic Novels

December 21 – Poetry

December 22 – Fictionalized Nonfiction

December 23 – American History

December 24 – Science & Nature Books

December 25 – Transcendent Holiday Titles

December 26 – Unique Biographies

December 27 – Nonfiction Picture Books

December 28 – Nonfiction Chapter Books

December 29 – Novel Reprints

December 30 – Novels

December 31 – Picture Books

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