There is cause for celebration this year in the world of children’s books, as several iconic picture-book characters, modern classics, or popular series are marking significant milestones.
I’m sure many readers will fondly remember these books, either as children, or as parents or grandparents. It’s satisfying to know that with so much change in this world, these wonderful characters and books have and will continue to enrich the lives of children.
Jean de Brunhoff first brought Babar to life in 1931 in The Story of Babar, which was inspired by a bedtime story created by his mother. The creativity remained in the family when his son, Laurent, picked up the pen after de Brunhoff’s death and continued Babar’s legacy.
James and the Giant Peach was inspired by a cherry tree behind her father’s writing hut, according to Roald Dahl’s daughter, Lucy.
Allegedly, birds were constantly eating the fruit before it could ripen, so the author hypothesized what would happen if the cherries were allowed to grow bigger. Musing that the inside of a peach would be more fun to live in, Dahl eventually decided to have his main character enter that fruit.
The Snowy Day, written and illustrated by Ezra Jack Keats in 1962, follows a boy as he explores his city neighborhood after winter’s first snowfall.
Published during the civil rights movement, the book was groundbreaking for its portrayal of a young African-American protagonist, and it was awarded the 1963 Caldecott Medal for outstanding illustration.
In 1971, while working in advertising, aspiring British cartoonist Roger Hargreaves wrote and illustrated a children’s story called Mr. Tickle, after his son Adam asked him what a tickle looked like.
This little book launched the Mr. Men series, joined in 1981 by Little Miss, with all titles referring to their protagonist’s personalities.
A jungle-themed board game springs to life in Chris Van Allsburg’s Jumanji, which itself has had a vibrant life, winning the 1982 Caldecott Medal and having been adapted as a feature film in 1995.
The Magic School Bus series first rolled out in 1986 with The Magic School Bus at the Waterworks.
Eleven additional adventures about Ms. Frizzle and her class have followed, as well as a television series, which has been on the air for 17 consecutive years.
Two decades have passed since Susan Meddaugh’s Martha ate her first bowl of alphabet soup in Martha Speaks, and the talkative pup hasn’t stopped chattering since.
This picture book led to five additional titles, and a PBS television show, which attracts more than four million viewers each week.
–– Maureen Curry is the chief librarian at the Vernon branch of the Okanagan Regional Library.