Horn Book Recommended Fantasy Books

There's a long list of recommended fantasy books on the Horn Book blog today, ranging from picture books and primary to fiction for intermediate and older readers (all published within the last several years). Here are some of my favorites from each category, most of which I meant to review when they first came out!

Picture books
The Boy in the Garden by Allen Say (Houghton Mifflin, 2010). A beautiful garden, a bronze statue, a Japanese folktale come to life. I'm always interested in Allen Say's work, and this is particularly lovely. I couldn't remember having seen any other picture books by Say since this one, but it looks like The Favorite Daughter (Arthur A. Levine) just came out on May 28; maybe I will review that one!

Earwig and the Witch by Diana Wynne Jones (Greenwillow, 2012). A great introduction to DWJ and a Baba Yaga story to boot. Ordinarily I love Paul Zelinsky's illustrations, too, but these are a little creepy. Maybe that's why we preferred the audio.

I love middle grade, but apart from A Cabinet of Earths by Anne Nesbet (HarperCollins, 2012; how have I not written about Cabinet here? I've already read the sequel, A Box of Gargoyles), I'm not too excited about the books on this list. Sage Blackwood's Jinx is on it, at least.

Older fiction
Perhaps I've aged into this category. I loved everything about Seraphina by Rachel Hartman (Random House, 2012), and there are quite a few others here I also enjoyed. Not to mention one I'm reading right now: A Corner of White by Jaclyn Moriarty (Levine/Scholastic, 2013). Review to follow, really.

How to Draw a Bear

I love the Guardian's How to draw... series by children's book illustrators. Today it's Jon Klassen with "How to draw...a bear thinking about something." The finished bear will look familiar if you've seen Klassen's I Want My Hat Back (Candlewick, 2011); I was under the impression that the bear in that book was rendered digitally, but you can draw (or rather paint) your own with brown ink or watercolor. After the success of the Oliver Jeffers-inspired moose, I think we will try to paint some Klassen bears this weekend. What do bears think about?

Six Degrees of Peggy Bacon's children's books

Peggy Bacon was an American artist and printmaker who also wrote and illustrated a lot of charming children's books--one of which, The Ghost of Opalina (Little, Brown, 1967), is reviewed today at Charlotte's Library. I was curious about Bacon and delighted to discover that she's the subject of an exhibition, Six Degrees of Peggy Bacon, now showing at the Smithsonian's Archives of American Art (I haven't seen it yet; the photograph is by Michael Barnes, from a Virtual tour of the exhibition on Peggy's Facebook page).

The exhibition focuses on Bacon's connections to people in the art world, but I wonder if we could do the same thing for children's books? Bacon herself illustrated books by everyone from Lloyd Alexander (My Five Tigers: The cats in my life; Thomas Y. Crowell, 1956) to Betsy Byars (Rama the Gypsy Cat; Viking, 1966--I still have my childhood copy of this one, fortunately). She seems to have been the go-to illustrator for cats in the 1950s and 60s, and a fascinating person besides. More Peggy Bacon, please!

Best Horn Book Cover Ever?

My long-awaited copy of the January/February 2012 issue of The Horn Book arrived today and it is gorgeous.  The cover illustration is by Salley Mavor, who illustrated the 2011 Boston Globe-Horn Book picture book award winner, Pocketful of Posies: A Treasury of Nursery Rhymes (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; link is to my review). You can see and read more about the process of making the cover illustration (I love the way she renders the Horn Book logo in particular. Also the little girl dressed as a lamb) and enter a poster giveaway on Salley's blog, or just order your poster directly from The Horn Book.

I've been a Horn Book subscriber for two years now (the inside of the magazine is just as good). Other favorite covers are Marla Frazee's hollow tree (May/June 2011), which also appears in her illustrations for the picture book Stars by Mary Lyn Ray (Beach Lane Books, 2011); and Anita Lobel's guardian angel (November/December 2010).

Which are your favorites? [There are lots more to choose from in the Horn Book Magazine's gallery of covers, too.]