I used to collect children's books, that is before I became a chronic disposer anyway. I loved the big hard cover ones and I still have most of them. The first really good kid's book I ever bought was Animalia written and illustrated by Graeme Base. It's fantastic. Each page features a respective letter of the alphabet and is illustrated in this crazy maximalist style, and packed with objects and beings that begin with the respective feature letter. Check out the C page pictured above. Crafty Crimson Cats carefully catching Crusty Crayfish are surrounded by a castle, chalet, calculator, clock, cork, chair, cauldron, cactus. You get it. It's pretty dreamy.
The book was released in 1987 and the author, an Australian, released a contest along with it. Whoever could go through the entire book and list every single item that he had painted into its illustrations would win $10,000 and a trip to Australia. At 14, I loved lists almost as much as the chance to prove myself, so I began to scan the book while reading the dictionary. Every time I got came across a word I didn't know, I'd search the respective picture for any indication of the word and then write it on the list. It's how I learned the word 'akimbo', which is how the tiny Australian Aborigine, hand on hip, is standing at the bottom of the A page, pictured below. To this day, when I hear the word, I picture that little guy.
I made it through A and much of B, but that C page sure was daunting. (Hello, look at it - a double-page spread!) I left my list unfinished, so didn't bother writing the author. I also never found out who won the contest after all. I always pictured him to be some young, quirky kid, spending his Sunday afternoons at home in the basement, reading the dictionary.