As a child growing up in northern California, my favorite activity was visiting nearby Agate Beach to explore the tide pools. And my favorite book was Pagoo, the story of a hermit crab who inhabited that wonderful world. I spent hours poring over the pages, which were full of information about the sea life encountered by the tiny hero. Pagoo was one of the most inspiring books of my youth and provided the foundation for a lifelong love and appreciation of nature. Years later I came across a reissue in the gift shop of the Monterey Aquarium. I picked it up and all the dreamy afternoons I spent following Pagoo resurfaced—I was thrilled to bring it home. I had just as much fun reading it in my 20s as I did when I was 9.
That was the first of many picture books for children that I bought as an adult before I was even thinking of having children. I found many of them in museum gift shops. I came across Henrik Drescher's Simon's Book, about a boy whose drawings come to life after he falls asleep, and Lane Smith's The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales while I was working at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Once I had kids, I continued to indulge my habit; alongside more traditional purchases like Richard Scarry's What Do People Do All Day? I bought books that pleased my own artistic sensibility, like Calef Brown's Polka Bats and Octopus Slacks and J. Otto Seibold's Mr. Lunch Borrows a Canoe.
Many children's picture books are illustrated by artists who work on a multitude of different projects, including editorial illustrations for magazines with serious subject matter. They bring a level of sophistication to the artwork that appeals to readers of all ages, regardless of the narrative.