I’m frequently asked on the agent side of things about picture books I’ve read and enjoyed, so I thought I’d share some recent favorites and elaborate a bit on my #mswl.
“Deliciously dark picture books”
When I talk about ‘deliciously dark’ picture books, I’m talking about the humor you can find in the two books below.
Penguin Problems by Jory John and Lane Smith
Woe is Penguin!
It’s way too early. His beak is cold. All the other penguins are too noisy.
Everything is terrible!
I just love this whiny penguin, who is somehow still endearing despite all of his complaints. And while perhaps a debut author couldn’t get away with the twist ending, I love that Penguin stays true to his ‘misanthropic’ self… all the way to the end.
A Hungry Lion, or A Dwindling Assortment of Animals by Lucy Ruth Cummins
There’s a hungry lion, a birthday party, and a slowly dwindling assortment of animals.
I feel like I can’t tell you too much without giving away the twists, but I love that – just when you think all is well – there’s another surprise in store. This is exactly the kind of ‘deliciously dark’ picture book I’m looking for when I send out my #mswl as an agent!
“Non-fiction about unsung heroes and heroines”
For non-fiction books about heroines, I’ve really loved the two picture book biographies below. (Please note that I’m also looking for non-fiction about unsung heroes and heroines of color.)
I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark by Debbie Levy and Elizabeth Baddeley
What I love about this book (and the one following) is how Levy brings us from RBG’s childhood through adulthood, while skillfully explaining the unique challenges that RBG would have faced as a woman trying to make it in law school, as a professor and eventually, to the Supreme Court.
I also appreciated the way the relationship between RBG and Martin Ginsburg was addressed, in terms of how their separation of parenting duties was more equal and was certainly not like a lot of RBG’s female peers at the time.
I think Levy does a great job of placing RBG in the context of her time, and that context only heightens how remarkable RBG’s accomplishments really are.
Hillary Rodham Clinton: Some Girls Are Born to Lead by Michelle Markel and LeUyen Pham
This is another book where I feel the author did an excellent job at bringing us through Hillary’s childhood through adult accomplishments, but skillfully weaved in the context of the time period.
Regardless of your political views, I’ve noticed that a lot of non-fiction biographies in my query box are lacking information about the way the world was during the time that the biographical subject was alive. But a child knows only the limited world they live in right now, and so they place the person’s accomplishments in that context. Picture book biographies are opportunities to teach not only about the accomplishments about that particular subject, but also about how things have changed over the course of history. (And of course, those two are inextricably linked in a picture book, where there is only room to focus on how the subject worked on or overcame those particular restrictions during their time.)
If you’re querying me with a picture book at BookEnds, I hope that gives you a better sense of what I’m looking for in terms of ‘deliciously dark’ picture books and non-fiction biographies. (Or if you’re writing a picture book biography, I hope that gives you something to think about in your work-in-progress!)
And if you’re a picture book reader, I hope you’ll check out some of the books above!