105 Ways to Give a Book

Weird-Ass Picture Books Follow-Up

I have a new contender for Weird-Ass Picture Book of the Year (I am so going to make that a new award for January). You can even find it yourself. Try searching “giant imaginary fish” in Google. Go ahead, I’ll wait.

Clara and AshaLet me guess. You found the Eric Rohmann book Clara and Asha. I have to say, these days you really have to work hard to find a phrase that will not be represented on the Internet at least a thousand times. It is quite a sign of how quirky your book is when the main describing phrase has been used by no one. Kudos.

Clara is a little girl with a big imagination, big enough to accommodate one giant fish. When it is time for bed she opens her window and waits for Asha. The text is simple, and for pages and pages, actually nonexistent. The story is simple — Clara and Asha just play and fly together. The pictures are extraordinary. Weird-ass, that’s for sure, but extraordinary. You would think Clara’s black bullet-hole eyes might creep me out a bit, since that is one of my issues, but they are softened by the painting and mostly I tried not to think about it. Now, if the Caldecotts had just waited, they could have awarded Eric Rothmann for this book and avoided the whole My Friend Rabbit Incident of 2003.

Sleeping BobbyAlso, Sleeping Bobby came into our library yesterday, reminding me of one of my favorite weird-ass illustrators. How could I forget Giselle Potter? I respect that she is expressing her style of art, and I respect that many people like it. I happen not to be one of those people. I will continue to try to appreciate her art, but I can’t imagine a day when I will be a convert. This book is the latest of Will Osborne and Mary Pope Osborne’s series (what is with Mary Pope Osborne and series?) of picture books that take fairy tales and give them a female protagonist. I am with them in concept. After all, why not have a strong female as the main character? It works. But I think it works better in some tales than others. I liked Kate and the Beanstalk. But this book left me cold. Sleeping Beauty is one of the weaker fairy tales anyway, I mean, the prince (or in this case princess) happens to try to enter the castle when the curse ends, so the thorns part and allow entry. Wow, that was hard. My other problem with Giselle Potter for this story, is that beauty is integral to the story — a beautiful princess and handsome prince — but she does not make beautiful illustrations, per se.

Giselle Potter also illustrated of one of the strangest picture books of all time: Trudi and Pia, which was taken from Ursula Hegi’s (German) book Stones from the River. The original adult book, about a dwarf child growing up in wartime Germany, was very good, but I would never in a million years have said, “They should make a picture book out of this material.” Very, very strange. One could even say weird-ass.

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