61 02/06/2011 contests

KidsLit Superstar: Oliver Jeffers

I like to feature an amazing author that everyone should now now and then, and today, it’s Oliver Jeffers.

Oliver Jeffers is one of those quiet geniuses of the picture book format. He’s not a wild and rollicking class visit favourite like Mo Willems, nor a solid booklist classic, like Eric Carle. Instead, he writes and paints lovely, lovely picture books over and over in his own distinctive style. From his list of wonderful things, here are three titles, each a little different, to give you a little taste of his work.

LostAndFound-OliverJeffers.jpgLost and Found
Philomel Books
ISBN: 978 0 39 924503 9
Audience: ages 2-6 yrs

This was the first of Jeffers’ books to catch my attention, and I almost missed it at first glance, how delightful it is. A quiet, moody story of friendship and finding your place in the world, this book stars only a boy and a penguin who find each other, say goodbye, and come back together as partners in a lonely world.

With spare but beautiful watercolour paintings, distinctive people, and wide-open skies, these books look like no one else’s, and use saturated washes of colour to gorgeous effect. The writing is similarly bare, leaving much to be understood by the reader, something few authors trust their young audiences to do. In the end, his works are mature, yet accessible, powerful, yet restrained. So refreshing!

To my great delight, I recently tripped across a short movie version of Lost and Found, animated in a style that stayed remarkably true to the illustrations and the mood of the story. I haven’t found a source for the movie yet, but have found trailers for it on YouTube, here, so you can get a little sneak peek at it. Meanwhile, you can preview the book here!

up and down.jpgUp and Down
ISBN: 978 0 00 72384 4
Audience: ages 2-6 yrs

The friends from Lost and Found do everything together in this sequel, including trying to figure out how to make the penguin’s dream of flight come true. The penguin really wants to do this himself, though, and one day, he sees something that might just make it happen, and off he goes. The boy looks everywhere for him, and finds him just in time to bring him back home, satisfied with having tried it.

The message about chasing a dream and discovering that you had
everything you needed is handled lightly, as all Jeffers’ points are, and the warmth of the friendship is immediately apparent, from the first page. The warm colours in this book echo this, and give the whole thing a sweet, cozy, feel, while retaining the signature style that made the first book so delightful. My only complaint is a small bit of book design that sets charcoal text on a black background, making one page hard to read. Otherwise, this may be one of the perfect picture books of last year.

book-eating boy pop.jpgThe Incredible Book-Eating Boy
ISBN: 978 0 39 924749 1
Audience: ages 5-9 yrs

Henry loved books – to eat. And the more he ate, the more he knew, until somehow, things started to get a bit jumbled, and he had to rediscover what reading was all about.

The darker, sepia-drenched illustrations in this title play on vaudeville and old, musty books cleverly, adding a maturity to this book that makes its audience a little older than in Lost and Found.

This reads both as a brilliant little parable on information overload and the gap between knowing a fact and understanding for older readers, and as a funny story for younger ones, for Jeffers is at his sly best in the humour department here.

heart and bottle.jpgThe Heart and the Bottle
ISBN: 978 0 00 718230 5
Audience: ages 4 and up

Last year’s The Heart and the Bottle is a beautiful, moving take on grief, healing, and the magic to be found in an open heart and mind. It centres around a young girl “whose head was filled with all the curiosities of the world,” until the day that her father ‘s chair is empty, and she protects her heart by locking it away, and with it, her sense of wonder. It is not until she meets a young girl, years later, that she is able to reclaim her heart and her joy and interest in the world again.

The illustrations in this title manages to mix together collage effect and the amazing sweeps of colour and expansive landscapes that I love to create a whole that is at once a retro-style charmer and a fresh and airy beauty. Again, this tale can be read at face value as a curious little story with younger children, while older readers may take away the deeper message.

Check here for a look around inside.

Want to bring some of this goodness home to your kids? How about winning some?
I have one copy of The Heart and the Bottle and one pop-up edition of The Incredible Book-Eating Boy to give away! Just leave a comment below with an author you have found delightfully unusual. Contest closes February 21st, so you have time to think of a good one…

  • tinad

    Robert Munsch!

  • Julie

    My boys and I have always gotten a kick out of Dahl’s books. He’s kooky.

  • happygardener

    My favorite author of all time is robert Munch..Love his books,i can read them over and over again

  • dphumphrey

    Dr. Seuss, Audrey Wood, Todd Parr and Lemony Snicket delight the kids in our family!

  • nancynyx

    Robert Pottle is definitely worth a look or three.

  • murphy

    Kevin Henkes has some great books for children.

  • sparky

    I am a big fan of Mem Fox’s books for children.

  • tennille

    We love Lost and Found! My son is 2 son we are totally into Curious George right now!

  • eabeier

    Robert Munsch is still an all-time favorite

  • ek03yr

    I think Dr. Seuss was pretty unusual!

  • mwatt

    All my kids love Robert Munsch. But there really are a lot of great children authors out there it’s hard to pick a favourite.

  • crystal

    Dean Koontz’s take on the childrens story is always entertaining to me. My daughter thinks he is a scream!

  • flogan

    for sure R. Munsch

  • cindy323

    Love Dr. Seuss

  • frugalfeline

    Love Margaret Atwood’s children’s books!

  • ChrisB

    My all time favorite is Dr. Seuss. When it comes to the unusual, he fits the bill.

  • Marlene V.

    I love the unusual Dr. Seuss — thanks for the chance to win.

  • ang

    Our son loves the Eric Carle books – especially The Very Hungry Caterpillar!

  • violet_wine

    Anything by Robert Munsch is fun to read and his writing style has a sing-song style that I love.

  • winnermb

    I agree….Robert Munsch!

  • Alysha

    Robert Munsch!!!!!!!! He was my favorite as a little girl now he is my daughters favorite

  • bushcampcafe

    Dr Seuss has been a family favorite in our family for his fun and unusual books for 3 generations…myself, my son, and now my granddaughter!!

  • tobyhir

    ROBERT MUNSCH has ny vote!! 😀

  • yellatac

    Judy Blume is my favorite my parrents let me pick my brothers middle name so I used farley. (lol of course my brother is not impressed)

  • Dianne

    Robert Munsch was the first writer who came to mind. Pigs!, David’s Father and the Paper Bag Princess are always a good laugh for kids and adults.

  • Betty

    Superfudge by Judy Blume. Easy to read and hilarious

  • erin2470

    I always loved Robert Munch

  • sweetheart

    Dan Brown’s books are really intriguing and make an interesting read.

  • misslisag

    I loved the french series Emilie, although it has no author just Domitille Pressensé (de) . I do have a collection I cannot wait to share with my children.

  • hannasmom

    I agree with a couple posters above. I enjoyed Roald Dahl books as a kid and am looking forward to sharing them with my daughter soon, now that she is a bit older.

  • star84

    I’ve always loved the magical Roald Dahl books!

  • freddybob

    I like Robert Munschs new book.

  • shonna_bechtel

    We love Anna Dewdney. She’s so nice to read and the stories just flow. Love all her books. Books about llama’s in pajama’s are definitely unusual.

  • Carrie

    We recently became aware of a new author/illustrator thorugh my husband’s work connections. Her name is Emily Mullock and she has the most delightful book published called “Go Away Unicorn”. We can’t wait for her second book to come out

  • lisa

    We loved author Patricia Wrede’s Dealing With Dragons series. They were great to read outloud and we all enjoyed listening to the series. Thanks

  • saskmom

    My kids love Mercer Meyer. They are wonderful stories that always capture their attention.

  • bumble

    Although not original my guys love either Robert Munsch or any of the Dr. Seus books.

  • mom2girls1974

    Easy Tove Jannson – she writes among other things the Moomen books – they are just amazing lovely books from the 40’s to I think the 70’s written in Finland and now here and they are just the sweetest – really go find them. My daughter is just in love with the Moomens, and Snork Maiden and Sniff – need I say more?

  • katylava

    David Shannon is a great unusual author in my opinion! He has such a good grasp of the way a child’s mind works, and his illustrations are priceless!

  • Michelle

    I loved Enid Blyton growing up – her stories were imaginative.
    Still would love to read them again.

  • lhennigar

    Since you said unusual, I must say Robert Munsch. His stories are unusual in that they are often based on a true story/encounter by the author, but he retells them in silly and funny ways!!

  • jen s.

    Edward Monkton – sweet and original

  • dmhaen

    Would have to say Eric Carle books especially The Hungry Caterpillar

  • A. Smith

    I love all of the quirky Eric Carle books

  • flower

    Robert Munsch’s book Angela’s Airplane was always a hit !

  • Angela F

    I love Oliver Jeffers! I’m always looking for new books by him at the library. As a huge fan of great illustration in children’s books, I love Marie-Louise Gay, the Charlie & Lola books, and so many more!

  • babylove818

    I like Robert Munsch but I would say Dr. Seuss, Cat in the Hat is timeless.

  • bcgirll

    Robert Munsch, of course!

  • cheryl

    Robert Munsch is unusual. My daughter and I read all his books together. We saw some live plays portraying his books.

  • Aliya D.

    When I was a kid, my favourite (yet, slightly unusual) author was Robert Munsch. I read so many of his books, that I can likely quote them by heart 20 years later. Thanks!

  • patk

    My girls (7 and 4) are really into Lemony Snicket books these days. My older one had started the Unfortunate Events novels but she still enjoys the picture books with her sister. Lots of fun to be had.

  • Charleydog

    Amy Tan’s children’s books are very good.

  • p23ag

    Phoebe Gilman’s Jillian Jiggs books are really fun and the illustrations have my grandson in stitches. He just loves the facial expressions.

  • lovelylindy

    I absolutely love all the Robert Munsch books.

  • Tracey

    I love, Love, LOVE Oliver Jeffers.. we only have a few of his young-ages stories, but I find his artwork incredibly pleasing – really, really delightful.
    I’ve always loved R. Munsch and Richard Scarry ever since I was a child, and I’m delighted to share those treasures with my kids now.

  • Elaine Miller

    I would have to say R. Munsch!

  • elkhornchris

    I love anything by Robert Munsch.

  • slp


  • dhudon

    J.K. Rowling – the best of the best in our house!

  • Tonya

    I do love Sophie Kinsella – not completely unusual, but entertaining nonetheless!!

  • Cindy

    My children and I have always loved Richard Scarry’s books.

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