The Liszts

As it should be with all Perfect Picture Books, first the title catches your eye, then the cover draws you in…

Title: The Liszts
Written by: Kyo Maclear
Illustrated by: Julia Sarda
Tundra Books, 2016, fiction
Suitable for ages: 5-9
Themes/topics: lists, unexpected, spontaneity

The Liszts made lists.
Scritch, scratch.
They made lists most usual.
And lists most unusual.

Brief synopsis (from
The Liszts make lists. They make lists most usual and lists most unusual. They make lists in winter, spring, summer and fall. They make lists every day except Sundays, which are listless. Mama Liszt, Papa Liszt, Winifred, Edward, Frederick and Grandpa make lists all day long. So does their cat. Then one day a visitor arrives. He’s not on anyone’s list. Will the Liszts be able to make room on their lists for this new visitor? How will they handle something unexpected arising? Kyo Maclear’s quirky, whimsical story, perfectly brought to life with the witty, stylish illustrations of Júlia Sardà, is a humorous and poignant celebration of spontaneity.

Activities and Resources:

  • What kinds of lists do people you know make?
  • Game: Write the alphabet down the margin of a piece of paper. Choose a topic or category (such as food). Each person writes their list with one item starting with each letter without sharing any ideas with others. Do as many as you can. Then share what you wrote. Give points for any items that are unique. For example, if 3 people write apple for A, no one gets a point. But if only one person writes asparagus, he or she earns a point. Learn to think past the expected.

Why I like this book:
Perusing the bookshelf at the library, I saw the title on the spine. A book about the composer? I pulled it out and viewed the cover. Wow! Interesting!

This is not your typical picture book. Which is really what the book is all about – the unexpected. With the incredible combination of text and illustrations, the book reminds me of a Wes Anderson movie, (and this hit me prior to seeing that Publisher’s Weekly dropped his name as well). The characters are Addams Family meets Royal Tannenbaums. Well-crafted and succinct, the story delivers a refreshing message that is so clear without being didactic. Take your time and read it again to appreciate its endearing quirkiness.

As a writer, what’s really intriguing is to think of the illustrator receiving the manuscript, just words, and then creating the amazing pictures that bring so much more to the story. That’s talent!

Visit author Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Books for a plethora of picture books listed by title and topic/theme, each with teacher/parent activities and resources.

13 thoughts on “The Liszts

    1. I think it’s a great book for writers to look at since we’re told there are certain expectations when writing a picture book. Well….sometimes letting yourself explore other avenues opens up all kinds of possibilities. The best way I can describe it is refreshing!


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