Today, Ursula Dubosarsky is sharing her five favourites.
What Do You Do, Dear? (1963, USA), written by Seslye Joslin, illustrated by Maurice Sendak
Very absurd, very funny series of situations about good manners. What do you do when a lady polar bear walks into your igloo in a white fur coat? that kind of dilemma. I loved the satirical gaiety of it, I loved the illustrations (these were really my only knowledge of Maurice Sendak until I was an adult, I didn’t read his picture books for some reason) and I loved the form – the set-up of the crazy situation, the repeated question, “What do you do dear?” and then the equally absurd solution.
Gone is Gone (1935) USA written and illustrated by Wanda Gag
I was given this before I could read by a friend of my mother’s. I loved the shape of it (small hardback), I loved that it was mine. I loved the storytelling style (a retelling of a traditional tale), the strange words, the madcap humour and I loved the black and white pictures with all the crazy details – the baby, the little dog, the cow on the roof eating the grass. I remember being fascinated by the details of rural life – churning the butter, cutting the crops, gathering the vegetables and so on. Beautiful deep illustrations.
The Complete Adventures of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie, including Little Ragged Blossom and Little Obelia (1940) Australia. Written and illustrated by May Gibbs
I bought this at a book stall at a fete at Gladesville Hospital – at least my dad bought it for me – when I was about eight. I distinctly remember loving the language of it, especially the individual sentences. I also loved the picaresque nature of the storytelling, with simply one strange thing following another and then suddenly ending. And I devoured the illustrations where the modern world is recreated in the world of the bush creatures – the cinema, the (sea) horse races, the restaurants, the art school and so on – I was fascinated by the ingenuity and satirical absurdity of it.
Biquette the White Goat (1953) USA written and illustrated by Francoise
I was given this for my 6th birthday and I still know it off by heart, so clearly I read it again and again and again and again and again. It’s the story of a sick little girl who must have goat’s milk to get better. I think it’s a masterpiece! – of beautiful clear gripping storytelling and equally beautiful clear gripping painted illustrations. As an adult I have sought out as many of Francoise’s books as I’ve been able to.
I Had Trouble in Getting to Solla Sollew (1965) USA. Written and illustrated by Dr Seuss.
This was also a birthday present, when I turned eight. Again, I still know this book off by heart and often recite it to myself when I’m trying to fall asleep or feeling at a loose end. It did and does bring me the most enormous pleasure – the sounds of the words, the ingenious and silly rhymes, the invented words, the crazy sudden characters who disappear just as suddenly, the ridiculousness of the whole premise, the haplessness and openness of the main character, the vanity of human wishes (well not quite human) – it’s got it all! Wonderful, rich literature.