This season, in the land of children's books, there be giants and dragons, wimps and blue horses.
First, about the giants. They're not imaginary ones. In fact, they're quite familiar.
Dr. Seuss and Shel Silverstein.
New books from both classic authors are coming this month — Seuss' "The Bippolo Seed and Other Lost Stories" (Random House) and Silverstein's "Everything on It: Poems and Drawings" (HarperCollins).
"New" isn't exactly the correct word to use — "Bippolo Seed" gathers together stories that Seuss, who died in 1991, published in magazines in the 1950s; while Silverstein, who died in 1999, left behind numerous drawings and poems that make up the content of "Everything on It." The books, aimed at ages 6 and up (Seuss) and ages 8 and up (Silverstein), present perfect combinations of pictures and stories that will appeal to young readers as well as their parents, who probably first read these wonderful authors long ago.
Thank them for being so prolific — and for publishing so much and in so many places that some of it is still out there to be discovered. It's like they've never left us.
Other major names of the giantish variety include Eric Carle, who returns with more of his vibrant, collage-style artwork in "The Artist Who Painted a Blue Horse" (Philomel, October); and "Wonderstruck" (Scholastic, September) by Brian Selznick, whose distinctive blend of images and prose earned him a Caldecott Medal in 2008 for "The Invention of Hugo Cabret." Both Carle and Selznick revel in youthful inner vision and imagination in their new books.
Carle starts his latest picture book, for ages 3 to 6, with an artist at his canvas, explaining the animals he paints — a blue horse, a red alligator and so on — in one long, linked sentence. At the book's end, Carle includes two pages on a personal hero, the German expressionist Franz Marc, whose work he first encountered as child in World War II Germany. Selznick's book follows the lives of two children, Ben and Rose, in two parallel stories. Though separated by 50 years, each is led to the same destination, the American Museum of Natural History in New York City — and anyone already familiar with Selznick's work knows that there's bound to be an unexpected connection between them.
In "The Chronicles of Harris Burdick" (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, October), a variety of bestselling authors — including Lemony Snicket, Stephen King, Kate DiCamillo and Lois Lowry — take the enigmatic illustrations in Chris Van Allsburg's 1984 book "The Mysteries of Harris Burdick" and tell stories to fit each eerie, black-and-white image.
Like Carle and Selznick, Allsburg celebrates the powers of imagination in his many works ("The Polar Express" and "Jumanji," among them), but no other book of his is quite like "The Mysteries of Harris Burdick." There, one finds 14 images, each accompanied by single-sentence captions, all supposedly created by an elusive children's author: They challenge the reader to shed a passive role and turn into a storyteller himself — something the writers in "Chronicles" seek to do for readers ages 10 and older.
As for dragons and wimps, Christopher Paolini's successful fable of dragon riders and warfare in the realm of Alagaësia, told in the books "Eragon," "Eldest" and "Brisingr," continues with "Inheritance" (Knopf Books for Young Readers, November). Eragon and his dragon Saphira are pitted against the evil Galbatorix in a battle much-anticipated by the series' millions of fans (and to think, it all started years ago when Paolini's parents self-published the first book!).
Greg Heffley's problems certainly aren't as life-threatening as Eragon's, but in "Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Cabin Fever" (Amulet, November), he's still in big trouble. Everyone suspects he's behind some damaged school property, but the investigation halts when a huge blizzard strikes. What's worse — facing school administrators or being stuck indoors with your family? For Greg, of course, that's a hard question to answer!