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Off Topic: Ellen Raskin's picture books are as rich as her novels

They're just harder to come by.

Ellen Raskin was a children's author whose complex, playful novels are enormously rewarding for adults as well as kids. Sadly, she only wrote four of them - four puzzle-mysteries which I return to often, because they are always revealing new aspects, new elements. (I say sadly, but I only half mean it - we are so lucky to get those four novels.)

And Raskin was an illustrator as well as a novelist. She created over 1000 book jackets, including classics like the original cover of A Wrinkle in Time. And alongside the jackets, she created children's picture books - large format, bold designs, a story or poem to lead you from the start to the finish.

Over the last few years, having become a proper Raskin-head, and having even made the pilgrimage to her house in Greenwich Village (a memorable day!), I've started collecting the picture books. Most if not all are out of print here, if they ever made it over at all. I spot them on eBay and at funny old book auctions - only online; you never see one in a charity shop. What I love about them being out of print is that it's exciting to track them down, and then get your copy in the post and find out that it has library binding, or an Ex Libris plate from somewhere unusual.

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