What are the most interestingly designed children's books?
March 25, 2016 1:32 PM   Subscribe

What are the most interestingly designed children's books? I am wanting to find ones with holes in the pages, unusual bindings, strange covers, textures inside, or simply unusual illustrations. Any advice?
posted by mortaddams to Media & Arts (40 answers total) 58 users marked this as a favorite
The Very Hungry Caterpillar.

Pat the Bunny.

All of Ezra Jack Keats.
posted by Melismata at 1:34 PM on March 25, 2016 [3 favorites]

Mix It Up! is great for little ones- the illustrations are simple blobs of paint with directions to the child to interact, and when the page is turned, they see the results of the interactions (colour mixing, smearing, etc). If a kid already owns a tablet this is old hat, but if they're not used to interactive screens, it's great. Here's a video of a kid reading the book.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 1:36 PM on March 25, 2016 [3 favorites]

posted by avocado_of_merriment at 1:36 PM on March 25, 2016 [1 favorite]

We just checked That's My Hat out from the library and my children were both totally enchanted by it
posted by goggie at 1:36 PM on March 25, 2016 [1 favorite]

Beautiful Oops has all sorts of textures, overlays, etc.

The author of Mix it Up has other books in the same style like Press Here.

One Boy has cutouts over words, so that some letters are reused from page to page.

Indestructibles books have possibly unusual bindings (machine washable/dishwasher safe!), but aren't necessarily interesting from a design standpoint otherwise.
posted by cogitron at 1:45 PM on March 25, 2016

And Whoo? Whoo? shows pieces cut out of the paper on one page, with the pieces rearranged and glued onto the next page to form an animal shape.
posted by cogitron at 1:48 PM on March 25, 2016

I was pleasantly surprised with Paul O. Zelinsky's "The Wheels on the Bus." It has a lot of pop-up and interactive features that are genuinely fun to play with.

My kiddo is also a big fan of books with interesting cut outs - like The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Peek-a-Who, and AlphaBlock.
posted by galvanized unicorn at 1:49 PM on March 25, 2016

For very little kids, it is hard to beat the quiet majesty of FEELY BUGS. My daughter, who is six now, still picks it up every now and then and crows "Sticky bug!"
posted by Kafkaesque at 1:54 PM on March 25, 2016

I'm fond of the Ology books which are aimed rather older than most of those mentioned. They're a bit like fancy scrapbooks.
posted by Diagonalize at 2:00 PM on March 25, 2016 [1 favorite]

The Water Hole.
posted by Dansaman at 2:14 PM on March 25, 2016

"The Onion’s Great Escape" by Sara Fanelli is amazing. The story actually liberates an onion as it progresses. The end result is sort of two books, one with an onion-sized hole and the onion book. The story is a little more like a journal, but interesting for a slightly older kid. "Keep Our Secrets," from the McSweeney's children's imprint uses thermal ink on the pages that reveal hidden surprises when touched. Another under the McSweeney's imprint (not a bad place to start your search) is Crabtree which has large pages that fold out to support the humor in the story of a man with too much stuff.
posted by LKWorking at 2:16 PM on March 25, 2016

Little Blue and Little Yellow.

The Monster at the End of This Book. It has meta-holes.

Scratch 'n' sniff books are always cool; my favorite is The Sweet Smell of Christmas.

Feed the Animals by H. A. Rey, or any other book with fold-out surprises.

My Book About Me, Dr. Seuss.
posted by Melismata at 2:20 PM on March 25, 2016

Look! Has textured pages, cut outs, movable parts.

Magritte's Marvelous Hat Has illustrations with plastic overlays that change the scene.

The Eyes Game
Has cut out eyes on a variety of characters.
posted by terooot at 2:25 PM on March 25, 2016 [1 favorite]

In this Curious George Pat-a-Cake book, the George in the middle of the book is a puppet where you use your fingers to clap his hands along with the lyrics as you read.
posted by gatorae at 2:36 PM on March 25, 2016 [1 favorite]

Wabi Sabi is absolutely one of my favorite unique kid's books. The coolest part (aside from the lovely story) is that the illustration style itself (which I think is modeled after chigiri-e?) is designed to evoke the Wabi-sabi ideas of finding beauty in imperfection.

Super fun.
posted by Deeleybopper at 2:45 PM on March 25, 2016 [1 favorite]

Came hear to say "The Monster at the end of this Book," but Melismata beat me to it -- the main character in the book, Grover, is aware that he exists in a book, and that pages can be turned, and that's how you progress through the book he exists within. Somewhat mind-blowing if you really think about it.
posted by AzraelBrown at 2:46 PM on March 25, 2016 [1 favorite]

You should take a peek at Wink Books, which is all about that sort of thing.

(Disclaimer: I write for them.)
posted by The corpse in the library at 2:50 PM on March 25, 2016 [1 favorite]

Depending on age, Maisy Mouse books are great. My kids used up several volumes when they were toddlers
posted by mumimor at 2:54 PM on March 25, 2016

Check out Betsy Snyder's I Can Play and I Can Dance

(Mobile, too lazy for links, sorry.)
posted by pecanpies at 3:47 PM on March 25, 2016

The Jolly Postman
posted by radioamy at 4:00 PM on March 25, 2016 [2 favorites]

The Book about Moomin, Mymble, and Little My.

One of my favourite kids books anyway, because it appeals to my absurdist sense of humour, but also lovely illustrations, and the page cutouts are woven amazingly into the story. The story will refer to a hill in the distance (and you see the hill through a cutout in the page), but turn the page and its the hair of another character! So well done.
posted by Joh at 4:00 PM on March 25, 2016 [2 favorites]

Again! by Emily Gravett is about a dragon, and on the last page the dragon blows a big thing of fire, and the back cover has a hole that looks like it was burned through by the dragon's fire. It was a huge hit with my son.
posted by banjo_and_the_pork at 5:09 PM on March 25, 2016 [1 favorite]

The Slant Book by Peter Newell -- it's slanted! -- but the apex of the art of the peculiar child's book is anything and everything from Harlin Quist. Images like this, this (note tribute to Sendak!) and this entered my head as a child and never, ever left. The text and the illustrations are masterpieces of quiet surrealism. Eugene Ionesco wrote a number of stories that were published by Harlin Quist, which tells you a lot about the house style and quality, I think...

(Speaking of Sendak, I think In the Night Kitchen was overshadowed by Wild Things and did not get the praise it deserves -- its imagery was much more galvanic to young me than anything else he did. It's pretty weird.)
posted by kmennie at 5:30 PM on March 25, 2016 [1 favorite]

Hang Glider and Mud Mask has to be one of the most unusual children's books out there, and it's two sided - flip it over for the other story. The characters and stories, however you interpret them, meet in the middle or continue on forever. My kids loved it from when they were very young and my 8 year old still likes to pick it up and look at it (he's reading Harry Potter 5, otherwise).
posted by pekala at 6:37 PM on March 25, 2016

There Are Cats in this Book has cut-out shaped pages, flaps, and the reader is an active participant (Are you strong? Can you turn a whole page?). This book gets a lot of air time out our house!
posted by jrobin276 at 6:47 PM on March 25, 2016

Yellow, Yellow. It's probably impossible to find. (I have a copy :) But the pictures in it are amazing, crazy-detailed and crazy trippy. As a kid I spent hours just looking at the pictures because they are so wack (nonsensical zany to a kid, an adult would say it's mindfuck.. )

Edit to add: Press Here, because it's a really cute book and fun for kids.
posted by k5.user at 7:06 PM on March 25, 2016

For unusual illustrations, I love Who Needs Donuts? by Mark Alan Stamaty. Every page is full of hilarious detail - the website says the age range is 2 - 7, but the drawings are full of jokes that only a grown-up will get.
posted by Daily Alice at 7:15 PM on March 25, 2016

Go Away, Big Green Monster! has cut outs that layer the monster's body parts. I didn't think much of it myself, but my kids loved it.
posted by SLC Mom at 7:19 PM on March 25, 2016 [2 favorites]

Duckie's Rainbow elegantly turns into a rainbow at the end (she journeys through different colored landscapes, and each page is smaller than the last). It's a real pleasure to read.
posted by veery at 7:31 PM on March 25, 2016

Anno's Magical ABC is hard to get your hands on these days, but it's really cool. All the pictures are heavily distorted (and drawn that way, not manipulated later). But if you put a mirrored tube in the center, you can see them properly. This site has some examples
posted by Caravantea at 7:56 PM on March 25, 2016

Yeah, you basically want anything by Herve Tullet
posted by aetg at 8:23 PM on March 25, 2016 [1 favorite]

These are some of my favourite dynamic books:

Lois Ehlert (mixed media collage, often "holes" and cut-out pages) Snowballs, or Hands, or Leaf Man (and lots more including Chicka Chicka Boom Boom with Bill Martin Jr, who did Brown Bear Brown Bear with Eric Carle).

Life-Size Zoo is a larger-than-average book that brings you on a tour through a zoo while showing to-scale photographs of animals. Author is Teruyuki Komiya and there are more books in the series.

Leo Lionni's Let's Make Rabbits includes collage and touches on basic philosophy. It's short, beautiful and delightful!

Look and See: What Am I? (by La Coccinella) is a book about animals. Each page has a set of yellow eyes that are cut-out holes, showing the next page's yellow eyes, which show the next page's yellow eyes, which show the next page's yellow eyes etc...

B.J. Novak has The Book With No Pictures. It has the reader making silly sounds and voices, usually to the great delight of the audience.

The Wide-Mouthed Frog features several animals with pop-up mouths. The crocodile is particularly impressive! Author is Keith Faulkner.

And for an older group, maybe 4 years old and up: The Black Book of Colors describes the experience of a blind child and encourages the listener to feel the pages (the images are entirely black and made of raised textures). Author is Menena Cottin.

Great topic, thanks! I'm looking forward to amassing more gems!
posted by eisforcool at 9:00 PM on March 25, 2016

Zoom - pictures only, endlessly zooming out, is super cool for kids and adults.
posted by mygothlaundry at 2:40 AM on March 26, 2016

Imagine by Norman Messenger.
The Rabbit Problem by Emily Gravett.
posted by fourpotatoes at 6:14 AM on March 26, 2016

Round Trip The illustrations and story can be read straight through and then you can clip the book and read it upside down with "new" pictures.
posted by Burn.Don't.Freeze at 6:20 AM on March 26, 2016

There have been a few related suggestions, but children's books that break the fourth wall are a lot of fun. My favourite is "We are in a Book" by Mo Williams from the Elephant and Piggie series.

On a recent episode of the 5by5 podcast Road Work, the author of this book sent John Roderick a copy. It looks to be fantastically illustrated. Not particularly unique, but visually top notch.
posted by jamaal at 7:26 AM on March 26, 2016

Seconding The Monster At The End Of This Book... and adding Another Monster At The End Of This Book.

Very creatively written to give that feel of something unique and special, when they didn't have the ability to actually adapt the pages. Definite kid favorites.
posted by stormyteal at 10:11 AM on March 26, 2016

You want the inimitabile children's books by design genius Bruno Munari.
posted by progosk at 4:03 PM on March 26, 2016

A recent favorite of mine is Open :"This Little Book" by Jesse Klausmeier, illustrated by Suzy Lee. It's a picture book that has ever smaller books tucked inside the next book. There is a lot of different patterns to find throughout the books. I read it one week to all 15 of my classes, and each time someone pointed out a new thing that I had not noticed.
posted by momochan at 11:05 PM on March 27, 2016

B.J. Novak has The Book With No Pictures. It has the reader making silly sounds and voices, usually to the great delight of the audience.

Seconding this. Universally loved by kids, it seems (possibly works best with kids old enough to understand what you're saying but not old enough to read yet).
posted by EndsOfInvention at 4:02 AM on March 29, 2016 [1 favorite]

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