As we wrap up our Awesome 80s month here at BCPL, I thought it might be fun to take a look back at some of the best picture books from the 1980s. How many of these titles do you remember fondly? Which do your children or grandchildren still love today?
The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch, illus. by Michael Martchenko
Rating: 4.5/5 Stars
Genre: Picture Book– Fairy Tale/Humor
After a dragon burns down the castle and kidnaps her fiancé, Princess Elizabeth is slightly singed and has nothing to wear but a paper bag. But Elizabeth doesn't let the loss of her finery stall her for long as she intrepidly goes off to rescue her Prince, armed with nothing but her wits. This is a quick, lighthearted read with plenty of humor and a twist at the end. The drawings—especially the characters' expressions—perfectly reflect the text. This is a great book for teaching resourcefulness and independence. Budding young feminists (and their like-minded parents) will love it. Ages 3 to 5.
Doctor De Soto by William Steig
Rating: 4/5 Stars
Genre: Picture Book– Humor
Doctor De Soto will make a great story to build up a child's courage before a dreaded dentist visit. Dr. De Soto is a very dedicated mouse-dentist in a world where animals act as humans.They drive cars, push baby strollers down the road, and visit a mouse-dentist for their toothaches. Of course, Dr. De Soto wisely refuses to treat animals—such as cats!—that might be tempted to eat him. That is, until the day a fox, in tears from the pain, begs Dr. DeSoto for his help. The story is slyly humorous and engaging from beginning to end. The kiddos will be fascinated by the ludicrous size discrepancies: Dr. De Soto uses a ladder to treat large animals and a pulley, operated by his wife/assistant, is necessary to reach the extra-large ones. He even climbs inside their mouths, "wearing rubbers to keep his feet dry" and is able to do such delicate work that his patients "hardly feel any pain." Subtle visual cues, like the separate large and small staircases outside the office, keep the size theme running throughout. And of course there is plenty of amusement to be derived from Mr. Fox's guilty desire to snack on his dentist and the De Sotos' clever plan to outfox the Fox. This is one of the shortest books (32 pages) ever to be named a Newbery Honor Book; it also shared the 1983 National Book Award for Children's Books with Barbara Cooney's Miss Rumphius. Ages 4 to 7.
King Bidgood's in the Bathtub by Audrey Wood, illus. by Don Wood
Rating: 5/5 Stars
Genre: Picture Book– Humor
King Bidgood apparently loves a good bath, and instead of dealing with the business of the kingdom, he decides to hold all his meetings and events in the bathtub. Meanwhile, various members of the court are attempting to persuade him to come out. I had a huge smile on my face all the way through this one, beginning with the copyright and dedication pages, which shows a young page lugging a large, leaking cask of water up the winding castle stairs. The story is delightfully silly, and the illustrations are amazing, with plenty of little details to linger over. There is the Duke baiting a hook with a wiggling worm while fish watch eagerly; the page always pictured off to the side, watching and cleaning up after the court's antics; and, of course, the members of the court, clad in elaborate Elizabethan dress, emerging drenched and dripping from their failed attempts to lure the King from his bath. Unsurprisingly, this delightful book was a 1986 Caldecott Honor book, losing out only to the much loved book The Polar Express.
More Great Picture Books from the '80s:
Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin Jr and John Arachambault, illus. by Lois Ehlert (1989)
If You Give a Mouse a Cookie by Laura Numeroff (1985)
by Chris Van Allsburg (1981)
Lon Po Po: A Red-Riding Hood Story from China
by Ed Young (1989)
by Barbara Cooney (1982)
by Jan Brett (1989)
The Mysteries of Harris Burdick (1984)The Napping House
by Audrey Wood (1984)
by Jane Yolen, illus. by John Schoenherr (1987)
The Polar Express
by Chris Van Allsburg (1985)
The Relatives Came
by Cynthia Rylant, illus. by Stephen Gammell (1985)
The True Story of the Three Little Pigs by Jon Scietzka (1989)
The Very Busy Spider by Eric Carle (1984)
Where's Spot? by Eric Hill (1980)
Where's Waldo? by Martin Handford (1987)
What's your favorite '80s picture book? Did I leave your personal favorite off the list?