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Who's who on our cover

A guide to the 21 children's book characters on our cover and opening illustration.

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The characters in this picture—which appears in part on our September/October cover and in full at the opening of this article—were all painted by Elisha Cooper ’93, who modeled them faithfully after the images in the original books. (All characters are copyrighted and were used with permission. All rights reserved.)


Allow us to introduce you:


1: The pigeon of Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus (2003) has a temperament that every parent of a young child will find familiar. The Bus and several other Pigeon stories were all written and illustrated by Mo Willems, who has won Caldecott Honors three times. © Mo Willems


2: This is one of the many (hundreds of?) chickens drawn by Sandra Boynton, who was the 2008 recipient of the National Cartoonist Society’s highest honor. Chickens, and other barnyard animals, populate innumerable books that she has written. © Sandra Boynton


3: The one and only Pippi Longstocking—an extraordinarily strong, strong-minded, and cheerful young girl—was created by author Astrid Lindgren and drawn by artist Ingrid Vang Nyman. 2020 marks Pippi’s 75th year. © Astrid Lindgren


4: This elephant, who sits on the cover of A Sick Day for Amos McGee (2011), was created by a married couple: writer Philip C. Stead and artist Erin E. Stead. Erin received a Caldecott Medal for her work. © Philip C. Stead and Erin E. Stead


5: Kevin Henkes wrote and illustrated the black-and-white book Kitten’s First Full Moon, in which a very young kitten quite understandably mistakes the moon for a bowl of milk. Henkes won a Caldecott Medal for the illustrations. © Kevin Henkes


6: The little boy looking at his own footprints is Peter, experiencing his first snowfall in The Snowy Day (1962). The book, by writer and artist Ezra Jack Keats (d. 1983), won the Caldecott Medal and was one of the first children’s books about a black child to gain national acclaim. © 1962 Ezra Jack Keats, © 1990 Martin Pope.


7: Locomotives don’t usually chug past Sterling Library. But this Locomotive (2013) is taking a transcontinental train trip in the summer of 1869. Writer and illustrator Brian Floca won a Sibert Honor and Caldecott Medal for the nonfiction book, which retold a true story. © Brian Floca


8: Make Way for Ducklings (1941), written and drawn by Robert McCloskey, not only received the Caldecott Medal but stopped the (fictional) traffic in Boston. It has sold more than two million copies. © Robert McCloskey


9: The Story of Ferdinand (1936) is that he was mistaken for bullfight material, but all along, he was a bull who wanted only to sit in the grass and smell the flowers. He was scripted by Munro Leaf and drawn by Robert Lawson. © Munro Leaf and John W. Boyd


10: Maurice Sendak received a Caldecott Honor and a good deal of controversy for In the Night Kitchen (1970); on some of the pages, the young hero, Mickey, is nude. But on others, Mickey is swathed in cake batter and flying in an airplane made of bread dough. © Maurice Sendak Foundation.


11: The Elephant and Piggie books—more than two dozen of them, published from 2007 through 2015—are by Willems, who drew and wrote them for very young readers. © Mo Willems


12: With the help of artistic hole-punching by author and illustrator Eric Carle, The Very Hungry Caterpillar eats his way through his own book before becoming a butterfly. The book has won many international awards and has been translated into 40 or more languages. © Eric Carle

13: In Christian Robinson’s wordless picture book Another (2019), a girl with beaded braids leaves her bed to explore a brightly colored dream world. © Christian Robinson

14: Sibling protagonists Adéle and Simon have been on adventures in China, France, and America in a series of books by author-illustrator Barbara McClintock. Besides the fun of travel, young eyes get to search the pages for belongings that Simon has a way of losing. © Barbara McClintock


15: The title character in Julián Is a Mermaid is a young boy who, after seeing a trio of women dressed as mermaids on the subway, simply must devise his own mermaid costume. Author-illustrator Jessica Love’s 2018 debut was praised for its message of acceptance. © Jessica Love

16: Jerry Pinkney has said he wanted to capture “the beauty and the expansiveness of the African Serengeti” in his wordless retelling of Aesop’s fable The Lion and the Mouse. The book won the 2010 Caldecott Medal, making Pinkney the first African American illustrator to be awarded that honor. © Jerry Pinkney

17: The 2018 Caldecott Medal went to another wordless book, Matthew Cordell’s Wolf in the Snow, which turns the tale of Little Red Riding Hood on its ear by depicting a girl in a red coat befriending a wolf as they help each other find their way home in the snow. © Matt Cordell

18: Popping up behind Commons is the titular structure from Hello Lighthouse (2018). Written and illustrated by Sophie Blackall, the book tells the story of a lighthouse and its last keeper. It won last year’s Caldecott Medal. © Sophie Blackall

19 Tove Jansson, a native of Finland, invented her own extensive world of small creatures in her Moomin books (1945–1970). The shy, thoughtful, and adventurous Moomintroll is at its center.  © Moomin Characters™

20: The panda with a laptop comes from Elisha Cooper’s own 8: An Animal Alphabet (2015), which is full of animal facts. The title reminds readers that for each letter of the alphabet, one of the animals is depicted eight times. © Elisha Cooper

21: Georgie the cat is the hero of Where’s the Party (2016) and Georgie’s Best Bad Day (2017), both by Ruth Chan. The books celebrate the power of friendship in overcoming problems. © Ruth Chan

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