Giraffes Ruin Everything Author Heidi Schulz on Picture Books Then, and Now

Heidi Schulz

Heidi Schulz is the author of the swashbuckling middle grade Hook’s Revenge series, which chronicles the adventures of young Jocelyn, the daughter of legendary high seas villain Captain Hook. Her first picture book, Giraffes Ruin Everything, takes a hilarious look at the perils of inviting a giraffe to a birthday party, the movies, or even just to the park. We asked Ms. Schulz to share a few of her favorite picture books with us, and we’re so glad she did!

I’m firmly convinced that picture books can be enjoyed by anyone, at any time of life. Take a look with me at my favorites Then, Then, and Now.

Then—When I Was A Young Child
Dorrie & the Weather-Box, by Patricia Coombs
The Dorrie the Witch series was my absolute favorite when I was a young girl. My local library had a pretty good selection and I faithfully checked out a different one each week, starting over again once I had read them all. I loved Dorrie’s crooked hat, her mismatched stockings, and her often disastrous attempts to work spells beyond her abilities. Just looking at this cover immediately brought to mind the smell and feel of the pages, as I sneakily read past my bedtime, dime-store flashlight under the covers. Sadly, this series is out of print, though used copies are available. I’m working on rebuilding my collection.

The Velveteen Rabbit, by Margery Williams and William Nicholson
I asked my mom to read this to me over and over when I was young. She obliged, surprisingly—this is a very long picture book. I was fascinated by the idea of my stuffed animals becoming real. Though in all honesty, this book probably contributed to some neuroses, like the guilt I felt when I would play with one toy more than another. I ended up created a rotation system so none of my toys would feel left out.

Still, despite this and some of its inherent creepiness* (what the heck is a “Skin Horse?”), the story still holds a special place in my heart.

*Or more likely, because of its inherent creepiness.

A Bargain for Frances, by Russell and Lillian Hoban
This was another series I wore ragged after multiple check-outs from my public library. I related to Frances so much. The lessons I learned in her stories sunk deep, but probably none quite as deep as this, from A Bargain for Frances: “Being careful is not as much fun as being friends. Do you want to be careful or do you want to be friends?”

This book also taught me that red flowered, plastic tea sets are highly inferior to china ones painted in blue.

Then—When I Was The Mother Of A Young Child

The Little Mouse, The Red, Ripe Strawberry, and the Big Hungry Bearby Don and Audrey Wood
This was my toddler daughter’s all-time favorite book. She loved the sneaky narrator, scaring the mouse into sharing his red, ripe strawberry. (I did too.) I read it so often that, once when it was left behind while we went on a camping trip, I recited from memory it in our dark tent, telling my daughter it was just too dark to see the pages.

No, David!, by David Shannon
An anthem for naughty children everywhere! Some parents I knew didn’t enjoy this book as much as my daughter and I did. They felt their toddler and pre-school aged children heard “no” so often, they didn’t want to revisit it at storytime, but I think that’s what we loved about it. Seeing David get into big mischief—him running nude down the street was a favorite page—always brought the giggles, and the discovery that his mother would love him no matter how naughty he acted was a sweet reminder for my little girl. We almost always acted out the hug at the end, with me saying, “Yes, Hannah, I do love you.”

That’s How I Became a Pirateby Melinda Long and David Shannon
My husband and I both liked reading this one, about a boy whose beach outing turns into high-sea adventure. The pirate crew echoed the captain’s commands, prompting us all to shout along with them

“Bring out the meat!”

“THE MEAT!”

This story also influenced one of the characters from my middle grade Hook’s Revenge duology: Blind Bart. (One of David Shannon’s illustrations shows a pirate wearing patches over both eyes.)

Now—When Young Children Come To Visit On Rare Occasions And I Am Buying Picture Books For The Joy Of Reading Them Mostly To Myself (Which Is Allowed And Encouraged At Any Age)

I have so many favorites, I could make a list that goes on for pages, but instead, I’ll share a few that I’ve enjoyed recently.

Snappsy the Alligator (Did Not Ask to Be in This Book)by Julie Falatko and Tim Miller
I do love a narrator that inserts him/herself into the story. Poor, harassed Snappsy.

I Am Otter, by Sam Garton
Sam Garton has perfectly captured a precocious young girl in adorable otter form. Bonus points for the blaming of Giraffe when things go wrong. (Giraffes do ruin everything, you know.)

Grace for Presidentby Kelly S. DiPucchio and LeUyen Pham
Excellent, timely, and a great way to explain (or better understand oneself) the electoral collage.

Dream Animals: A Bedtime Journey, by Emily Winfield Martin
The illustrations in this book are absolutely stunning, and, for lack of a better word, utterly dreamy. This is my go-to gift for new parents.

I Don’t Like Koala, by Sean Ferrell and Charles Santoso
Koala is the most terrible terrible, but this book—about what to do with a stuffed animal that gives you the creeps—is wonderful.

Yaks Yak: Animal Word Pairs by Linda Sue Park and Jennifer Black Reinhardt
I am such a sucker for word play. It is combined here with fun watercolor-and-ink illustrations to great effect.

A Hungry Lion, or A Dwindling Assortment of Animalsby Lucy Ruth Cummins
Hilarious, subversive, surprising, and wonderful, wry illustrations. My current favorite. If you haven’t read it yet, do so immediately and thank me later.

What picture books do you have fond memories of? What ones are you enjoying now? I’d love to hear about them in the comments.

Giraffes Ruin Everything is on B&N bookshelves now!

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