Book Hunting Expeditions Oddballs and Misfits Reading Themes

BHE (42): Launch of Bimonthly Theme – Oddballs and Misfits, the Surreal and the Peculiar: A Celebration of Beautiful Strangenesses


We are officially launching our new bimonthly theme for March/April: Oddballs and Misfits, the Surreal and the Peculiar: A Celebration of Beautiful Strangenesses {and Love to our Own Bookshelves}.

Wonderful widget crafted by the extremely talented Iphigene.
Wonderful widget crafted by the extremely talented Iphigene.

Too often, people still balk at the strange and the weird and the unbelievably complex and allegorical in children’s literature. The very exact same things that captivate us, GatheringBooks ladies (Iphigene, Fats, and myself), about children’s lit and young adult fiction (ok, fine, even adult literature).

And so, we thought that it’s about time that they move out of the fringes even for just two months as we give these ‘outsiders’ much-deserved love and recognition. We are also paying homage to our bookshelves, growing thicker each year with our collected books, most of which we haven’t read yet. It’s time that we dust off the odd and the weird from our shelves, give them love, and read them, finally.

I used an iPhone photo filter to edit Iphigene’s lovely artwork.

Essentially, we are looking for the following books:

  1. Books with characters who are perceived to be odd, weird, strange – maybe because they are way too creative, bright, emotionally mature, with unlikely predilections, or just plain… odd.
  2. Stories with surreal artwork, fantastical illustrations that render complexity and beautiful nuance to the narrative.
  3. Peculiar tales with a fresh voice and quirky twists – definitely not the mainstream, universally-loved ones – yet will grow on you with the telling and the revelations.


Here are a few books that I borrowed from the library and book-hunted from my own bookshelves for our theme. I have a feeling this would grow as the weeks progress.

Library Loot


We would definitely be giving a lot of love to Tomi Ungerer. I’m glad to have found this odd-looking book: Otto: The Autobiography of a Teddy Bear and Louise Verity’s Pollyhester.


Now these are old books that I have already featured for BHE and borrowed from our library, so pardon me for the double-post – but I was saving them for this month’s theme. Edward Gorey is the Master of Odd and Florence Parry Heide, well she is a league of her own too.

Florence Parry Heide: Treehorn’s Treasure with drawings by Edward Gorey; The Day of Ahmed’s Secret by Florence Parry Heide and Judith Heide Gilliland and illustrated by Ted Lewin; Some Things are Scary (No Matter How Old You Are) as illustrated by Jules Feiffer; and Tales for the Perfect Child with pictures by Victoria Chess.


Oh yes, there will be a lot of Shaun Tan and Gary Crew: also old features from January’s BHE but absolutely perfect for this theme:

Memorial by Gary Crew and Shaun Tan and Troy Thompson’s Excellent Peotry Book by Gary Crew and Craig Smith.

Hunted from my Own Bookshelves

Admittedly, it was a tad strange hunting through my own bookshelves, but it was fun too! I know that I have a lot of treasures that I have not gotten around to reading, so now is the time to give them some love. And odd little girl that I am, I have more than a handful of books that would fit this theme perfectly. I haven’t even hunted down the YA fiction books yet, since realistically, I have a feeling I won’t have time to read them with everything else that is on my plate as of the moment.

Chris Van Allsburg Love


Another genius when it comes to surreal artwork and allegory in picture books: Chris Van Allsburg, one of our absolute favorites here in GatheringBooks. I have a few of his books that I have not yet read here in my shelves: The Sweetest Fig, Ben’s Dream, The Wretched Stone and the fantastical Zathura.

Allen Say


I’ve read Home of the Brave before from the library, and I found it surreal and strange and intensely powerful. I hope I find the time to feature this book. I wanted to save it for our War and Peace theme – so we shall see how that goes. Tea with Milk looks like a book about a woman who felt displaced and felt set apart from the people that she’s with. Yet despite this lack of belonging, she decided to go after what she wants – as I was able to deduce from the summary found in the jacketflap of the book. I’m excited to read it.

Anthony Browne


We can not have this theme without showing love to THE Anthony Browne. Here are a few books that I own and are in my shelves (most are from the Singapore Library Warehouse Sale – as is pretty evident in the tags): King Kong, Little Beauty, The Night Shimmy with Gwen Strauss.

Raymond Briggs


I am definitely going to borrow Fungus the Bogeyman from our libraries (also by Raymond Briggs) as it is absolutely perfect for our theme. Here are two more books by Briggs that I thought would be great – Ug: Boy Genius of the Stone Age and The Man.


I thought that these books are likewise a good fit: Jenny Angel by Margaret Wild and Anne Spudvilas (the duo from the famous Woolvs in the Sitee)Wings by Christopher Myers, and The Dream Keeper by Robert Ingpen.


And simply because I am a huge fan of Roberto Innocenti’s beautiful artwork and J. Patrick Lewis’ narrative: The Last Resort. I flipped through the pages of The Merchant of Marvels and the Peddler of Dreams by Frederic Clement and it looks very promising indeed.


From the title alone, The Fool of the World and the Flying Ship: A Russian Tale by Arthur Ransome and Uri Shulevitz sounds like our kind of book. Graves Family by Patricia Polacco and the classic The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf and illustrations by Robert Lawson are also perfect books to highlight.


I could do a 3-in-1 post for these three girls: Matilda who told Lies by Hilaire Belloc and pictures by Steven Kellogg, Eloise in Moscow by Kay Thompson and drawings by Hilary Knight, and Natalie Babbitt’s Phoebe’s Revolt. They all sound like formidable girls.


Finally, some love to Maira Kalman in Hey Willy, See the Pyramids, Crictor by Tomi Ungerer yet again and Baa by David Macaulay.

Do you have other books that you’d like to recommend to us for our theme? Please do let us know in the Comments Section and we promise to hunt down these books for you.

How about you, dear friends, what books found their way into your hands this week?

4 comments on “BHE (42): Launch of Bimonthly Theme – Oddballs and Misfits, the Surreal and the Peculiar: A Celebration of Beautiful Strangenesses

  1. Pingback: Monday Reading: On Courage and Colors, Black Dog and Extra Yarn and February Winner of AWB Reading Challenge |

  2. I think I’d better get going on the AWB challenge-busy month was February! Lots of loot here for sure, Myra. For your new theme, I would add books by David Almond, like Skellig. I recommend it often, but many of my colleagues have never heard of it, or him. Hope you can check them out, or perhaps you know them already!


    • Hi Linda, I’m so glad you mentioned Skellig – it’s one of my favorite novels of all times, and I’ve actually used it in the original GatheringBooks book club several years ago. I think I also mentioned to you that “My Name is Mina” happens to be its prequel. I also read that one. Beautiful. 🙂 Anything by David Almond is a gem.


  3. Pingback: BHE (43): Anthony Browne, Berkeley Breathed, Raymond Briggs, Freya Blackwood and More |

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