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There are a few cool things about the postmodern trend in picture books that set them apart from the rest of the pack. Postmodern picture books are avant-garde things that go against the rules of traditional picture book formats in order to provide delicious, funny and entertaining stories to their young readers. The techniques used to classify a picture book as “postmodern” typically go as follows:

  • A non-linear course of history
  • A confidence that often breaks the fourth wall and speaks directly to the reader (this is a book that is aware that it is a book).
  • Reader Involvement (why yes, readers – you will be an integral part of the story’s evolution!)
  • Unique formatting and beautiful graphics

There are already some postmodern heavyweights in the picture book world like Anthony Brownes Voices in the Park and everything from Jon Scieszka and David Wiesner, but we wanted to highlight some hidden gems and new talent.

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Zero by Kathryn Otoshi

Zero is very aware of the large hole in their center. She also knows that she is always left out when counting the other numbers (1, 2, 3 …). She tries everything to stretch herself to be like the other numbers and eventually realizes that she can only be zero, and that’s perfectly fine. This story of self-acceptance uses beautiful watercolor illustrations and offbeat formatting to tell Zero’s story.

The book without pictures by BJ Novak

Really: there are no pictures. But there’s a catch: you have to read every word in this book aloud, no matter how silly and nonsensical the word is. The book uses colorful text and font sizes to keep each page visually interesting, and makes for an incredibly good reading session that kids will love.

Wolves by Emily Gravett cover

Wolves by Emily Gravett

All Rabbit wanted to do was learn about wolves from a book he’d borrowed from the library. However, it has not crossed his mind that if you are so engrossed in learning about wolves on your way home, it might prevent you from noticing the actual wolf chasing you all the way. The art style for this one is pretty clever, as it depicts an unsuspecting, chased rabbit side by side.

The little red fish from Taeeun Yoo

Jeje brings his pet fish to visit his grandfather’s library and falls asleep during his visit. His fish has disappeared when he wakes up … and he has a creeping suspicion that his fish has fallen into a magical book that also draws him into the depths of the ocean. Jeje’s pet fish rescue is magnificently illustrated with very little dialogue, so readers can build the story further from the pictures.

Black cat, white cat by Silvia Borando

Black Cat is a day hiker. White Cat is a night walker. These two cats don’t meet until they decide to leave their comfort zones and explore each other’s day and night worlds. The illustrations are sparse and minimalist, using mostly black and white until the end.

Press here from Hervè Tullet

This interactive picture book requires your direct participation, dear reader. You need to read and follow the directions carefully as you may be asked to press this button here, or shake the page, or give directions that are meant to stimulate the imagination and make your little readers feel like they are part of the magic!

Lost & Found by Shaun Tan

A lost girl finds a tree in the forest. A boy finds a lost creature and takes it home. A group of creatures are driven from their homes by invaders. These three stories of losing and finding things are told with an art style reminiscent of surrealist painters like Salvador Dalí, who has great impact on capturing strong emotions and relying more on descriptive images rather than words on the page.

Chester by Mélanie Watt

Writer and narrator Mélanie wanted to tell a certain story about a mouse in her house … except that her cat Chester hates that story. So much so that it has its own descriptions with a red mark on each page. Follow the duel between Mélanie and Chester to take control of the narrative and who will star the book (Chester really wants to make sure you know he is.)

Black and White by David Macaulay

Have you ever tried reading four stories at once? You can try black and white as each page is divided into four quadrants to tell you four stories at a time. It doesn’t necessarily have to happen at the same time. Is it all the same story, just in four parts? Or are they all different? You have to decide that, dear reader.

Alma and how it got its name from Juana Martinez-Neal

In this story we hear the story of Alma’s name: Alma Sofia Esperanza José Pura Candela. Every part of their name is part of the story as their father guides them through the person they are named after, how they looked, what they were special, and what Alma has in common with them. The images are soft and beautiful, and convey to us and Alma the story and love behind one name (or, in Alma’s case, six names!).