To celebrate Children’s Book Week, Mental Floss spoke with twenty-five of the comic industry’s top kids’ comics creators to find out what children’s book most inspired them and had the biggest impact on their life and work.
From Raina Telgemeier (Drama, Smile, Sisters) talking about Robert C. O’Brien’s beloved classic Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh to Mike Maihack (Cleopatra in Space) and Brit Wilson’s (Cat Dad, King of the Goblins) picks of the more controversial works of Maurice Sendak and Roald Dahl, Mental Floss spotlights some of the greatest children’s books of all-time and gives us a look into the how these books have inspired a whole new generation of creators!
Here’s James Kochalka, author of The Glorkian Warrior Delivers a Pizza:
I read [Tove Jansson’s] Moominland Midwinter as a child, but now I re-read it every winter to my own children. It’s vivd description of Moonintroll’s first experience with winter enhances our own experience with the bitter winters where we live, in Vermont. It has loneliness, fear, the joy of discovery, and even a great deal of humor and adventure. Also, Tove Jansson has a piercing ability to see into the truth of human nature and depict each character with extreme clarity and sensitivity. It’s a work of deep poetic genius and, although it may be written for children, I think it stands toe-to-toe against any adult novel.
Jeff Smith, Eisner and Harvey award-winning creator of Bone, notes that “I had many favorite books, but the ones that stayed with me, that I revisited year after year, were my comic books. Specifically Uncle Scrooge & Donald Duck when they were written and drawn by the incomparable Carl Barks.” Smith elaborates on the inspiration he still draws from Barks’ work as an artist and storyteller:
Carl Barks, known among us kids as “the good duck artist,” had a distinctive style that set him apart from the other Donald Duck creators. In fact, he was probably the best artist and writer working in the entire field of comics. His stories were very different from the simple animated cartoons about a hot tempered duck, often taking Donald and his nephews around the world on fascinating adventures. The stories were longer, tightly plotted, and he had a way of moving the characters across the panels in a way that made them come to life in the readers’ imagination. You always knew what one of his characters was thinking or worrying about. You cared what happened! Ingenious, clever, and funny, the Barks Duck Books are still available and published around the world. And they are as readable and immediate to me as an adult as they were when I first discovered them as a child.
Kazu Kibuishi, creator of the bestselling series Amulet, fondly remembers:
When I was just beginning to learn how to draw and write stories, The Caboose Who Got Loose by Bill Peet, Garfield by Jim Davis, and the cartoons of Mort Drucker in MAD Magazine were my biggest influences, and it’s amazing to see how much of those influences appear in the work I do today. As a kid, I was obsessed with finding ways to draw things that looked like they could jump off the page, and it was mostly Bill Peet and Mort Drucker’s work that really showed me how immersive cartoons can be. I still see images of Katy Caboose in my head when I draw trains and vehicles. These days I read Bill Peet books to my son, who absolutely loves them!
Along with these great creators, others included are Andy Runton (Owly), Noelle Stevenson (Nimona, Lumberjanes), Eleanor Davis (How to Be Happy), Ben Hatke (Zita the Spacegirl), and so many more!
To celebrate Children’s Book Week and reading in general, check out the full list of creators and their stories about the books that inspired them here!
Contributing Editor Caitlin McCabe is an independent comics scholar who loves a good pre-code horror comic and the opportunity to spread her knowledge of the industry to those looking for a great story!