CreativeMornings Book Lists

10 Books on Childhood

January 8, 2014

Our third book list developed in collaboration with CreativeMornings, a breakfast lecture series for the creative community, each with a monthly theme, is based on January’s theme: “Childhood.”


CreativeMornings illustration by Ed Nacional

Here are 10 titles that appear on the book lists of Designers & Books contributors that relate to childhood in different ways—from creating for children (books, toys) to finding your inner child (limitless possibilities) to keeping yourself creative. In a recent interview with Designers & Books, for example, architect and urban planner Denise Scott Brown recalled: “I was told as a child by a loved art teacher that you could not be creative unless you learned from what was around you.”

If you have books on this theme that are important to you, and that you would like to note and recommend to the CreativeMornings community, you can do so by going to our Community Book List on Childhood, click “Add to list,” and add your recommendation there.

Architecture on the Carpet Brenda Vale
Robert Vale

— Design writer Allison Arieff comments on Architecture on the Carpet:

“‘Explores everything from gender bias to class distinctions of construction toys and reading it made me wish even more that Lego would move away from promoting its meticulously directed kits and more toward less-programmed piles of bricks.”

Beyond the Pawpaw Trees Palmer Brown

—Landscape designer Margie Ruddick comments on Beyond the Pawpaw Trees:

“I must have read this book several hundred times as a child—a pure escape from, and then restoration to, urban life; a mix of love and loss and landscape.”


Charlotte’s Web E. B. White
Illustrations by Garth Williams

— Interior designer Sheila Bridges comments on Charlotte’s Web:

“About life, friendship, and the passage of time. It’s a book that every child (and adult) should read.”

— Graphic designer Chip Kidd comments:

“This was the first book I read that was really about the power of design and typography. I would say that Charlotte’s typographic web-o-grams represent the first depiction of a successful ad campaign in children’s literature.”

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close Jonathan Safran Foer

—Architect Billie Tsien comments on Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close:

“A reminder of what it feels like to believe in magic.”

Harriet the Spy Louise Fitzhugh

Product designer Inga Sempé comments on Harriet the Spy:

“A very unusual children's book that tells the story of an 11-year-old girl in New York being shunned by her friends and classmates, because they caught her writing notes about them in her diary after she spied on them. My mother did the illustrations for the French version of this book (Harriet l’espionne, illustrated by Mette Ivers) when I was already a grownup, but the book is so subtle and original, that I have read it several times.”

Jimmy Corrigan, the Smartest Kid on Earth Chris Ware

Graphic designer Chip Kidd comments on Jimmy Corrigan:

“No creative person I know who’s encountered this book has not been deeply moved by it, both by its astounding feat of craft and its heartbreaking depth. . .” 

Just Kids Patti Smith

—Architect Galia Solomonoff comments on Just Kids:

“A painful and lovingly written story about young creative talent struggling to survive in New York and making it!”

The Little Prince (Le Petit Prince) Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

—IDEO founder David Kelley comments on The Little Prince:

“The Little Prince had a big impact in my life when I was young and impressionable. It offered my earliest lessons in prototyping, iterating, and stretching your imagination.”

Product design company president Alberto Alessi comments on The Little Prince:

“A poetic overview of our world—which a designer should always have!”

The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet Reif Larsen

—Visual literature expert Warren Lehrer comments on The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet:

“The protagonist of this novel is a precocious kid (all of 12 years old). He is traumatized by the death of a family member, goes on a long journey, meets many interesting people, and discovers unexpected things along the way. The young T. S. Spivet travels solo by train from Montana to Washington, D.C. to receive a prestigious award from the Smithsonian given to him for his unusual brand of cartography. The squarish book pairs the primary narrative of the road trip with side columns that annotate Spivet’s inquisitive mind and his archaeological dig into his (heretofore secret) family history. His elaborate maps have little to do with geography and more with diagramming experience and speculation—from cross-talk at the dinner table, and the pleasures of McDonalds, to mythical wormholes in the Midwest.”

Sparkle and Spin: A Book About Words Ann Rand
Paul Rand

—Graphic designer Steven Heller, author of Paul Rand: American Modernist, comments on Paul Rand:

“Paul Rand did not set out to create classic children's books, he simply wanted to make pictures that were playful. Like the alchemist of old, he transformed unlikely abstract forms into icons that inspired children and adults and laid the foundation for two books that have indeed become children’s classics.”

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