Great Day For Up by Dr. Seuss; ill. Quentin Blake (Random House, 1974) The first Dr Seuss book not illustrated by the man himself, Great Day For Up was brought to life instead by the redoubtable — and equally inimitable — Quentin Blake. The rhythm is slippery at times but the book verily fizzes with joyous exuberance.
The Monster at the End of This Book by Jon Stone; ill. Mike Smollin (Western Publishing Company, 1971) Little Golden Books are for the most part unreadable, yet here amongst them lies a classic. Grover, learning of the eponymous monster at the end of the book, attempts by persuasion and then fortifying illustrations to prevent the reader from turning pages.…
The Great Blueness and Other Predicaments by Arnold Lobel (World’s Work, 1970) One day during the Great Greyness a wizard invents colour. This fairy tale starts off with grey illustrations then makes memorable use of colours in explaining how the world (after several mishaps) came to be the bright, beautiful place that it is.
A Very Wombat Christmas by ‘Hachette Australia’, ill. Lachlan Creagh (Lothian, 2015) Creagh’s illustrations are lush and playful but it is unsurprising that no-one was willing to put their name to the text of this poetically dire Australian ‘Night Before Christmas’ pastiche. Rhyming couplets are great but DeVito and Schwarzenegger do not Twins make.
The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson, ill. Axel Scheffler (Macmillan, 1999) The rhyming couplets don’t always flow, but the word and plot repetitions are effective and Scheffler’s illustrations bring a bright, magical cheeriness to what otherwise might be an anxious tale of a mouse living off its wits in the deep, dark wood.
Ten Apples Up On Top by Theo LeSieg [aka Dr Seuss], illustrated by Roy McKie (Collins, 1961) A lion, tiger and dog give each other a lesson in counting (and outrageous one-upmanship) when they compete to see who can balance the most apples on their heads. This rambunctious story has stayed with beginner readers well into their adult years.
Lester and the Unusual Pet by Quentin Blake (Picture Lions, 1975) Known for illustrating other people’s books (most notably Roald Dahl’s), Quentin Blake also writes many himself. Lester and the Unusual Pet showcases his understated absurdism — Salvador Dalí for children, almost — in a joyous, freewheeling, lazy afternoon paean to young imaginations running rife.