by Debbie Vance
Following the example set by of a recent BrainPickings article–“7 (More) Obscure Children’s Books by Famous ‘Adult’ Lit Authors” by Maria Popova, which includes Aldous Huxley‘s The Crows of Pearblossom, Gertrude Steins‘ The World is Round, and James Thurber‘s The 13 Clocks–here is our own list of obscure (maybe) but beautiful children’s books (not necessarily by famous “adult” lit authors):
1. In the Hall of the Mountain King by Allison Flannery, illustrated by Vesper Stamper (with music by Edvard Grieg included on CD). The story is based on Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg‘s musical masterpiece and Henrik Ibsen‘s timeless characters (Peer Gynt) and is both a follow-along lesson in music as well as an enchantingly magical tale (with beautiful illustrations, to boot!) We love this one.
2. Shadow by Suzy Lee. This book has no words, but its series of two-tone illustrations (black and yellow) create a captivating story of one girl, alone in an attic, with only her imagination. It gave me chills. The power of pictures is truly displayed here.
3. Fairy Tales by E.E. Cummings, illustrated by Meilo So. (See Conundrum Press’ post on this book: “Fairy Tales from a Cubist Poet.”) This collection of four tales offers a unique glimpse into the well-known (and loved) poet’s child-like imagination. “The collection of four stories was published posthumously, and the original preface, written by Cumming’s widow, Marion Morehouse Cummings, said, ‘These tales were written for Cumming’s daughter Nancy, when she was a very little girl.’ (Although it is believed that one tale, ‘The Elephant & The Butterfly,’ was written much later, and for his grandson.) They are sweet stories, simply told, of ‘lonely and extraordinary characters finding friendship in unlikely companions.’ Definitely a surprise twist in Cummings’ extensive, modernist, poetic career. And a welcome one.”
4. Letters from Father Christmas by J.R.R. Tolkien. Though not exactly a children’s book, per the usual story-standards, this book is a collection of illustrated letters to Tolkien’s old kids–stories, as it were, from the perspective of Father Christmas. Each year, Tolkien’s children would receive a new letter from Father Christmas: “They told wonderful tales of life at the North Pole: how the reindeer got loose and scattered presents all over the place; how the accident-prone North Polar Bear climbed the North Pole and fell through the roof of Father Christmas’s house into the dining room; how he broke the Moon into four pieces and made the Man in it fall into the back garden; how there were wars with the troublesome horde of goblins who lived in the caves beneath the house, and many more.”
5. Comet in Moominland by Tove Jansson. The Moomin books are a Finnish series, and add a quietly beautiful, at times surreal quality to the universal escapades of imaginative children–played out by the lovable Moomintroll. Not to be missed. (Bonus: If you go to England, you can get loads of Moomin paraphernalia. There’s even a cartoon series.) This particular episode centers around the discovery that a giant comet is coming straight towards Moominland. Moomintroll and his friend Sniff leave their homeland to find answers, only to learn that the comet is headed directly to Moominvalley, their home…