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Courier & Press Article by Carol Cariens
Sunday, September 30, 2012

Priceless Picture Books: Poll Reveals Top 10 Favorites

I've always been a list-maker, a trait inherited from my Mother's gene pool. Weekly grocery lists, that's a given. Then there are lists labeled "household chores to finish before out-of-town guests arrive" and "things to pack for vacation". I love other people's lists, too. I always gravitate to magazine articles featuring such information as "5 no-no's to avoid when thinking of retiring", or "25 perfect vacation spots". So, this summer when School Library Journal announced its 2012 "Top 100 Picture Books Poll" I was a captive audience. While the entire list reads like a who's who and what's what of children's lit, we'll just look over the Top 10 plus one. Many thanks to Elizabeth Bird of the NYPL and the Fuse # 8 Production staff for tabulating readers' votes. And the top vote-getters are:

Rating the number 1 spot is (fanfare, please)....Maurice Sendak's "Where the Wild Things Are", the tale of naughty Max who was sent to bed without supper, sailed to the land of the wild things, and becomes their king. Awarded the Caldecott Medal in 1964, Sendak's text and stunning illustrations helped define the concept of picture books in the 1960s.

Number 2: "The Very Hungry Caterpillar" by Eric Carle. Part concept book, part science book, Carle's simple text and bold, colorful artwork interpret the change from caterpillar to butterfly. Produced with die-cut pages, this tale is a perennial favorite with kids and parents alike. By the way, the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in Amherst, Massachusetts is on my personal lists of "must-see's".

Number 3: "Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus" by Mo Willems. The first picture book by Willems has been pure money. "...A preschooler's temper tantrum in the guise of a pigeon who pleads, wheedles, and begs his way through the story..." garnered Willems his first Caldecott Honor nod.

Number 4: "Goodnight Moon" by Margaret Wise Brown. The quintessential bedtime story.  Brown's quiet, repetitive text and illustrator Clement Hurd's depiction of "the great green room" is still the perfect gift for parents-to-be or grandparents-to-be.

Number 5: "The Snowy Day" by Ezra Jack Keats. In 1962 Keats' understated story of young Peter's day in the snow "...transformed children's literature with its pioneering portrayal of an African-American child..." Awarded the Caldecott Medal.

Number 6: "Make Way for Ducklings" by Robert McCloskey. Mr. and Mrs. Mallard look for a suitable place to raise their eight ducklings near Boston's Public Garden. Quick now, who can remember the names of all the ducklings? Although the oldest book in the Top 10, the story and illustrations will never be dated. Received the Caldecott Medal in 1942.

Number 7: "Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale" by Mo Willems. The only author to rate 2 books in the Top 10! Though some-"bunny" has been left behind at the Laundromat, readers will identify with little Trixie who tries her best to tell Dad. Caldecott Honor book.

Number 8: "Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day" by Judith Viorst, pictures by Ray Cruz. Viorst's story, based on her youngest child, relates how "...Alexander had to endure gum in his hair, the middle of the backseat, and lima beans--all in one day...". Yep, a bad day indeed. Poor baby!

Number 9: "Bark, George by Jules Feiffer. A personal favorite for story time, Feiffer's humorous tale of a pup who instead of barking "arf" produces a veritable barnyard of other sounds. A visit to the vet to alleviate the situation is the highlight of the story. Guaranteed giggle-maker.

Number 10: "The Monster at the End of This Book" by Jon Stone, pictures by Michael Smollin. Featuring "lovable, furry old Grover", this story has been the best-selling Sesame Street book of all time. Is there a monster at the end of the story? Grover will try to stop you from finding out.

If by chance you're wondering what book ranked 100 on the list, wonder no more. It is "The Carrot Seed" by Ruth Krauss with illustrations by her husband, Crockett Johnson. Even though everybody tells him that it will not grow, a little boy plants a carrot seed, then patiently weeds and waters and waits for "...something very special." An interesting sidelight to Krauss and Crockett: back in the 1950s and 1960s they mentored an up-and-coming young artist by the name of Maurice Sendak. Yes, THAT Maurice Sendak whose book is number 1 on this list. Ah, the list comes full circle.