A prolific commercial cartoonist with over 2,000 published cartoons in more than 200 publications, Syd Hoff also successfully channelled his brand of absurdist humour to his well-loved children’s books, which are distinct in the style of their illustrations (naturally), as well as the stories’ unique blend of reality and fantastical scenarios.
For instance, a seal/bear wandering the streets without causing a commotion, a woman who keeps 25 pet mice and brings them out without anyone so much as blinking an eye, a friendly museum dinosaur who comes alive to be a boy’s playmate, and a boy who has an imaginary horse.
And, in spite of the simplicity of the language used, many of his easy readers managed to touch on complex themes such as displacement, oppression, freedom, belonging and friendship — all while remaining remarkably uncynical. (Apparently, much of his inspiration came from his Jewish background.)
Although he wrote around 150 children’s books, only a very small number are still in print — including our top picks which are pictured here: Sammy the Seal, Mrs. Brice’s Mice, the Danny and the Dinosaur series, Grizzwold and The Horse in Harry’s Room.