Children's books with complicated pictures
March 25, 2010 3:05 PM   Subscribe

For my son's 2nd birthday, I am looking for ideas for children's books with complicated pictures full of different objects. He adores Richard Scarry books where he can spend ages pointing out all the different things he can see in a scene. But I have had enough Richard Scarry for this lifetime. What other books have similarly rich, complex pictures?
posted by beniamino to Media & Arts (38 answers total) 37 users marked this as a favorite
Where's Waldo.
posted by sciencegeek at 3:05 PM on March 25, 2010

Best answer: Our kids adore the I Spy books.
posted by Sassyfras at 3:07 PM on March 25, 2010 [7 favorites]

The Golden Egg Book, illustrated by Margaret Wise Brown.
posted by Carol Anne at 3:11 PM on March 25, 2010

Best answer: Animalia by Graeme Base

This is a beautifully and lavishly illustrated alphabet book. Each page is filled with items beginning with the designated letter. It is fun and lovely.
posted by SLC Mom at 3:12 PM on March 25, 2010 [10 favorites]

Seconding the I Spy Series, our kids love them.
posted by ExitPursuedByBear at 3:12 PM on March 25, 2010

2nding, 3rding, etc Graeme Base' book - I have a copy, and constantly find new things in it (and I'm all grown up). Gorgeous.
posted by dbmcd at 3:19 PM on March 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

I came here to recommend the Eleventh Hour, also by Graeme Base. As a child, I LOVED this book. The book also contains a wickedly entertaining mystery to solve.
posted by elisebeth at 3:21 PM on March 25, 2010 [5 favorites]

Best answer: I can never stop recommending the incredible cross-sections books - they're busy, full of facts, and he's the right age for them
posted by Think_Long at 3:24 PM on March 25, 2010

Ha! I read "2nd birthday" as "2nd grad" for whatever reason. Disregard my advice until he's older I suppose, but the books are still awesome.
posted by Think_Long at 3:29 PM on March 25, 2010

One Dragon's Dream, by Australian author and illustrator Peter Pavey is amazing. First published thirty years ago, it's recently been reissued.
posted by hot soup girl at 3:33 PM on March 25, 2010

Best answer: I like the books by Rotraut Susanne Berner. They follow the adventures of various town folk throughout the year. As an adult, I have a lot of fun finding all of the little stories taking place. Example: (on successive pages) Woman wearing distinctive hat, wind blows off hat, bird takes hat up into tree, woman goes to department store and tries on new hats, woman sits at a cafe wearing her new hat. And that is just one of the dozens of small dramas happening. So, Scarry-like, but different enough to save your sanity.
posted by munichmaiden at 3:40 PM on March 25, 2010

My mom gave my 2 year old a subscription to Highlights High 5 Magazine. One of the features of the magazine is the hidden pictures page. It's a lot simpler than the hidden pictures featured in the regular Highlights magazine (which I used to *love*), but my kiddo really enjoys them. She also really likes getting new issues in the mail, and I like retiring them once they have been read to death.
posted by omphale27 at 3:50 PM on March 25, 2010

Best answer: These might be a bit older, but depends on what he likes:

Anno's Journey and other books by that illustrator, Mitsumasa Anno. Like a more-beautiful Where's Waldo with a story.

A number of books by Peter Sis have very detailed illustrations.

David Macaulay is famous for his books with very complex pictures, eg of the construction of a castle or pyramid, 'The Way Things Work' etc. He has some books for younger kids but I haven't seen them.

Gyo Fujikawa has lovely illustrations for toddlers; I've linked to "Oh What a Busy Day" but I haven't seen this one personally.

People by Peter Spier is a neat one that I found through another Askme; again it might be a little old for him.

You could also look for a picture dictionary; there are several of these for kids and they might be fun for him.
posted by LobsterMitten at 3:51 PM on March 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

It's not a book with hundreds of little details on every page, but you might look at Round Trip, by Ann Jonas. Every page has a gorgeous reversible illustration (a different scene upside-down), so you read it forward, flip the book over, and go back the way you came. I spent hours as a kid just rotating the book in endless disbelief. The author has a number of other similar books but I haven't seen those, personally.
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis at 3:55 PM on March 25, 2010

Best answer: My three-year-old loves the drawings in What Makes It Go? What Makes It Work? What Makes It Fly? What Makes It Float? by Joe Kaufman. It's dated, both in technology and language, but still great. Here are some examples of illustrations from it: 1 and 2.
posted by The corpse in the library at 4:27 PM on March 25, 2010

I like the "1000 Words" book. I found one for English, German, French in the library. Those pictures are awesome, especially the older version from the 70's.
posted by lhude sing cuccu at 4:31 PM on March 25, 2010

Maurice Sendak and David Wiesner are two more authors you should definitely be looking at. Wiesner's wordless stories (e.g. Tuesday) might work better for a child a year or two older, though.
posted by RogerB at 4:37 PM on March 25, 2010

Best answer: I like Joelle Jolivet's Zoo-ology and Almost Everything a lot.
posted by box at 4:43 PM on March 25, 2010

Seconding David Wiesner. As RogerB says, his stuff might be better when he is a bit older, but Flotsam might work now, and perhaps Tuesday. You could check them out and see what you think.
posted by gudrun at 5:02 PM on March 25, 2010

The pictures in Goodnight Moon used to absolutely fascinate me when I was young.
posted by SisterHavana at 5:13 PM on March 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

As a child, I really loved A House Is a House for Me.
posted by amelioration at 5:36 PM on March 25, 2010

Strongly seconding the 1000 Words rec. I spent hours and hours of my youth finding the rubber duck that's hidden on each page. The illustrations are cute and each scene is surrounded by mini-pictures taken from the larger scene that depict each word, so you can search for the corresponding image in the bigger picture. Not sure if the books are still in print, but a few years ago I found 1000 Words in Italian on ebay for some random fun, so you should be able to track down a copy.
posted by KatlaDragon at 5:50 PM on March 25, 2010

Best answer: My kids both loved the Usborne first words books (1, 2).
posted by plinth at 6:01 PM on March 25, 2010

nthing David MacCaulay, and also suggesting, Gnomes by Wil Huygen.
posted by ThaBombShelterSmith at 6:08 PM on March 25, 2010

Definitely I Spy. The Look-Alikes books by Joan Steiner are awesome as well.
posted by jrossi4r at 6:09 PM on March 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

Ten Minutes Until Bedtime. I kid you not, I was still discovery new wonderful details even after I'd been reading it to my son regularly for six months.
posted by alms at 6:11 PM on March 25, 2010

The Ultimate Alphabet by Mike Wilks isn't really for two year olds, but your son can grow into it. The artist is incredible. I cannot do it justice.
posted by mearls at 6:41 PM on March 25, 2010

The Way Things Work has been my now 11 year old's favorite book since he was a toddler. He'd ask what something was, I felt compelled to answer and he learned. Great book!
posted by littleflowers at 7:20 PM on March 25, 2010

Someone mentioned Peter Spier's People, which does have lots of tiny little drawings. I'd like to recommend other Peter Spier works, especially "Bored...Nothing To Do" and "Rain"

Nthing Graeme Base's Animalia and all of the Mitsumasa Anno books.

Also, on a slightly different path, my two-year-old absolutely loves The Story of Ferdinand and the illustrations are mind-blowing pen and ink masterpieces.
posted by sleeping bear at 7:39 PM on March 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

The Look-Alikes series of books by Joan Steiner. She takes everyday objects and uses them to creates scenes & landscapes-- I adore the Christmas book.
posted by KingEdRa at 12:42 AM on March 26, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks for the great suggestions! I can already see from Amazon's 'look inside' that some of these will be perfect (I've already marked those as best). I'll will go and investigate the rest in a bookshop.
posted by beniamino at 2:14 AM on March 26, 2010

For toddlers, I love to recommend You Choose, (also available without stickers). Each page has a question, like, "where would you like to go?" and then an illustration of all the different options. It's great for stimulating conversation with little ones, and there is lots to look at and discuss.
posted by featherboa at 3:51 AM on March 26, 2010

Don't forget Who Needs Donuts!
posted by Ash3000 at 6:19 AM on March 26, 2010

2nding The Eleventh Hour.

I love all of Jan Brett's books, especially The Mitten, The Owl and the Pussycat and The Night Before Christmas. The illustrations are rich and intriguing. Bonus: more age-appropriate then the Eleventh Hour.

Oh, and Alphabeasts by Wallace Edwards.
posted by KathyK at 6:20 AM on March 26, 2010

Just the other day I was trying to remember a kid's book I had 20 years ago, I think it was a Mercer Mayer book, with monsters hiding on every page, A to Z. Animalia and Jumanji too maybe. And I always felt like there was a ton going on visually in any fairy tale book illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman.
posted by ifjuly at 7:41 AM on March 26, 2010

10 Minutes Till Bedtime was mentioned before but I'd add ANY books by Peggy Rathmann--Good Night, Gorilla, Officer Buckle and Gloria, etc. She creates little subplots in the illustrations, and you can often find characters and scenes from the other books in the background of the book you're reading. She's great.
posted by eve harrington at 7:50 AM on March 26, 2010

Yes - the Jan Brett version of the Owl and the Pussycat, with Caribbean themed illustrations, has subplots among the tropical fish below the waterline.
posted by LobsterMitten at 10:26 AM on March 26, 2010

Anything by Steven Kellogg. The Island of the Skog for instance. Very rich illustrations, charming characters.
posted by ericost at 6:01 PM on March 26, 2010

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