We are now about one eighth the way through 2016, which isn’t a particularly noteworthy landmark, but I’m getting impatient to give a recap of some of the picture books (plus one early reader) that I’ve read recently. This list includes both books that I loved and books that I didn’t care for quite so much. In case anyone is wondering, my two favorites are the two whose covers are shown. For the record, there are plenty of good picture books that have come out in the past six weeks that I haven’t seen yet, so if your favorites aren’t on the list, that’s why.
Worm Loves Worm by J.J. Austrian, 2016
Worm and Worm decide to get married, but Cricket and Beetle and the Bees and Spider all have ideas about how the wedding has to be. In the not-so-surprising ending, Worm and Worm do get married. I’m not sure whether the author intended political implications. (Both worms are both bride and groom, which could be a social commentary, or it could be simply because all earthworms are hermaphrodites.) At any rate, young readers will find it humorous and will enjoy the plot. The simple, bright, two-dimensional artwork with a solid white background is eye-catching and age-appropriate for toddlers and preschoolers alike.
A Recipe for Bedtime by Peter Bently, illustrated by Sarah Massini, 2014. (First American edition, 2016)
This bedtime book for babies and toddlers follows the night routine of a curly-haired baby and his (or her) stuffed animals. Most pages have just a few words, and the text rhymes, making this book appropriate for either a library storytime or a bedtime story at home. The artwork is perhaps slightly more nuanced than is typical of books geared towards this age range, but the colors are bright enough to appeal to very young eyes. Although I could see myself recommending this book to someone specifically looking for baby bedtime books, it’s not going to be finding a place on any best-of list from me.
Love Monster and the Last Chocolate by Rachel Bright, 2016
When Love Monster gets back from vacation, he finds a box of chocolates on his doorstep and is conflicted about whether he should share them with his friends. The title and the cover art give away the ending: the box only has one chocolate, which his friends left for him. The simple plot and bright pictures make this a feasible choice for a preschool storytime, especially (but not necessarily) around Valentine’s Day.
Snappsy the Alligator Did Not Ask To Be in This Book by Julie Falatko, illustrated by Tim Miller, 2016
Snappsy is just having an ordinary day, but someone is narrating his every move. And Snappsy doesn’t appreciate what the narrator is saying. The story is fun and humorous, and the artwork is simple, bright, and appealing. I would recommend this book to parents looking for something funny to read at home to their preschooler or kindergartner, or to a teacher who wants a fun classroom read-aloud for that same age group.
Frankencrayon by Michael Hall, 2016
It would have been a wonderful picture book, and green, orange, and purple were so excited to be starring together as the Frankencrayon monster. But now the book has been cancelled on account of a horrendous scribble. This unique book will keep preschoolers giggling all the way through, and it’s about the right length (maybe just a tiny bit long) to make a good storytime book. The story is hilarious and the bright, simple artwork is pleasing to children’s eyes.
I Hear a Pickle (and smell, see, touch, and taste it, too!) By Rachel Isadora, 2016
Caldecott honor winner Rachel Isadora’s new book is, as the title implies, about the five senses. Each of the five sections of the book shows children experiencing objects through one particular sense, and includes examples of not using that sense. (“ I don’t hear the snow falling”, “I don’t smell. I have a cold.”) In my opinion, this book is a little too long for a picture book that doesn’t tell a narrative story.
The Huey’s in What’s the Opposite by Oliver Jeffers, 2016
Bestselling author and illustrator Oliver Jeffers’ new book is a simple concept book about opposites, but it’s a little different from similar books because of the way the text is framed as a dialogue between two characters. The book offers plenty of opportunity for reader interaction, making it perfect for a toddler or preschool storytime or for a caregiver to read at home to a young child. To be honest, I’m not a huge fan of Jeffers’ two-dimensional, minimalistic artwork, but Jeffers’ many fans will enjoy this book, too.
Mine! By Susie Lee Jin, 2016
Two rabbits are sledding when they find a carrot. They fight over it and then drop it. It is first picked up by a larger rabbit, then grabbed by a group of smaller rabbits, before the rabbits discover that it belongs to a snowman. They generously give it back, but in a funny twist ending, the snow melts and one of the rabbits reclaims the carrot. This entire story is told using just three words: mine, ours, and yours. The effect is similar to a wordless picture book. This book is simple enough to hold appeal for toddlers, and will be great for preschoolers to read (or look at) on their own.
Shh! Bears Sleeping by David Martin, illustrated by Steve Johnson and Lou Fancher, 2016
This rhyming book about the seasons features beautiful oil artwork of nature scenes. My favorite part is the bluebird that appears at the beginning and the end. Although the rhythm of the text is a little stilted at times, it’s overall very poetic and pretty. This would make a lovely preschool storytime book, especially if the theme is winter or bears, and it would also make a good bedtime story at home. The double page of facts at the end is a nice touch.
What this Story Needs is a Hush and a Shush by Emma J. Virjan, 2016
In this follow-up to last year’s What This Story Needs is a Pig in a Wig, the pig is trying to find a quiet place to sleep. Although the bedtime-story theme is appealing and the vibrant, two-dimensional artwork is just as cute as in the original, the story lacks the simplicity of the fun progression of words that made the first book so likable. These two books appear to be the beginning of a series that will have a lot of similarities to Mo Willem’s Elephant and Piggie series, although, in my opinion, not quite as funny.