Recommendations for Children's Stories to Illustrate?
August 18, 2006 11:29 AM   Subscribe

Can you recommend a good children's story or poem which could be adapted into an illustrated book?

I'm getting ready to take a Children's Book Illustration class for the second time. We're working with existing stories, nothing that we've written ourselves, so that we can focus on the drawings and not the words. We also have the option of using an existing children's book and re-illustrating it, but I'd prefer not to do that, as I don't want to be influenced by another artist's choices.

I know that there are tons of great stories out there, and that's why I'd like some help in narrowing down my choices. I'd like to find a story that works to my strengths; something with silly monsters or strange creatures or fun places would be great. "Fun" is the keyword here. I'm not really interested in using a quiet or serious story.

Poems are great, too, if they're long enough that I could get 32 pages out of them. As an example, the first time I took this class, I used "The Tale of Custard the Dragon" by Ogden Nash.

Thanks in advance for any suggestions!
posted by Nedroid to Media & Arts (15 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
William Steig's "Rotten Island" is pretty weird, and full of monsters - but I think it might be sacrilege to replace his illustrations with new ones...
posted by chr1sb0y at 11:38 AM on August 18, 2006

Is there an age group that interests you? I have always liked Roald Dahl and his version of Goldilocks and the Three Bears. It might be suitable for 7 to 10 year olds as it turns the original story on its head.
posted by greedo at 11:46 AM on August 18, 2006

I think Rudyard Kipling's Just So Stories is public domain now.

I love the story of The Elephant's Child or the beautiful sing-song rhythm of Old Man Kangaroo.
posted by Gucky at 12:26 PM on August 18, 2006

How about something by Edward Lear? (author of the well-known "The Own and The Pussycat") he has lots of poems and some of the them are long-ish. I don't know every single one of them, but browse through - some look like great fun. Maybe The Pelican Chorus?
posted by GuyZero at 12:40 PM on August 18, 2006

Two little boys...
posted by popcassady at 12:44 PM on August 18, 2006

Then again, perhaps a little too serious.
posted by popcassady at 12:45 PM on August 18, 2006

"Is there an age group that interests you?"

I think something like 6 to 10 sounds like a good range (bearing in mind that I really know very little about children). I'd like something for kids who are old enough to want to read through on their own and explore the book and find any hidden little details, but who are still young enough to enjoy a story that's goofy and fun.

These are all great suggestions so far, by the way. Thanks to everyone.
posted by Nedroid at 12:52 PM on August 18, 2006

"Then again, perhaps a little too serious."

Yeah, I think it's more serious than something I'd like to use, but it's a great poem regardless. Thanks.
posted by Nedroid at 12:55 PM on August 18, 2006

Here are my (very anglocentric) suggestions:


The Jabberwocky by Lewis Carroll
You are old Father William by Lewis Carroll
Jim Who Ran Away From His Nurse and Was Eaten By A Lion by Hilaire Belloc
Been done before but it's a great poem: "The Owl and The Pussycat" by Edward Lear

More modern stuff:

I love Chocolate Cake by Michael Rosen and lots of kids do too, but it's a bit on the long side. He has another about drinking peach juice from the fridge, the name of which escapes me, but kids love that one too. :-)

Mr Nobody

My Doggy Ate my Homework by Dave Crawley.

There are some great children's poetry books out there - The BBC's Nation's Favourite Poems of Childhood and The Works series are fun and good quality.
posted by pootler at 1:27 PM on August 18, 2006

The first thing I thought of when you said "silly monsters or strange creatures" is Where The Wild Things Are, which I'm surprised no one has suggested yet.

Then, when you mentioned "any hidden little details" I immediately thought of Graeme Base, who in my eyes has a superb handle on placing hidden details in his illustrations, and is one of all-time favorite illustrators. Check out his The Water Hole for absolutely gorgeous artwork and incredibly imaginative hidden animals.

Good luck, and I'd certainly be interested to hear what you wind up deciding on.
posted by mrhaydel at 1:46 PM on August 18, 2006


As I child, I was fascinated by a frank illustrated depiction of Homer's Odyssey, complete with the Cyclops' blinding.

If you're willing to skew for a slightly older audience, you could do some stanzas from The Highwayman.

Longfellow's Paul Revere's Ride, or even The Wreck of the Hesperus would be a safer choice for the younger set... but I dislike Longfellow's simplicity and determinedly literal presentation.

My 'dream project,' the work I'd do myself if I had the talent, or would commission if I had the disposable funds, would be illustrations of Tennyson's Lady of Shalott, perhaps transposed to steamboat-era Mississippi, with shadings of New England mill towns...
posted by The Confessor at 1:46 PM on August 18, 2006

Maybe you could find Hairy Tales and Nursery Crimes by Michael Rosen. Bound to be a pile of good stuff in there (my brother loved it at that age), though probably already illustrated.
posted by Leon at 3:31 PM on August 18, 2006

It may be too long, but how about Bad Jelly the Witch by Spike Milligan. There are some pictures with it already, line drawings by the author in my version, but it would be cool with big, lush pictures too. Alternatively you could get hold of the recording and transcribe, that way you wouldn't be influenced by Spike's vision (while also having the atmosphere etc from his reading). I've been re-listening to it the last few days bringing back all kind of childhood memories.

Spike wrote all kinds of other children's poems too if you'd prefer.
posted by shelleycat at 4:30 PM on August 18, 2006

"come into my parlour"
said the spider to the fly
"'Tis the prettiest little parlour
That ever you did spy.
The way into my parlour
Is up a winding stair;
And I have many curious things
To show you when you're there."
"Oh, no, no," said the little fly;
"To ask me is in vain;
For who goes up your winding stair
Can ne'er come down again."...

The Spider and the Fly by Mary Howitt 1812
posted by meeshell at 5:15 PM on August 18, 2006

Also, please let us know what you go with! And send me a copy. My kids go through books like kleenix. :)
posted by GuyZero at 7:53 AM on August 21, 2006

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