I decided that right about now would be a good time for another post on picture books. But when I started putting this post together, I realized I had notes on way too many to list them all. So this list includes only the ones that have attracted a lot of attention and the ones that I especially liked. My favorites are the ones for which I’ve included the cover.
Before I Leave by Jessixa Bagley, 2016
When a young hedgehog finds out that she is moving, she is sad to leave her anteater friend behind. This simple story with its lovely pen and watercolor drawings is beautiful both for its artwork and for the friendship that it depicts. This book is likely to appeal to a wide audience, especially because some families like to find children’s books about moving shortly before going through a move themselves.
That’s Not Bunny! By Chris Barton, illustrated by Colin Jack, 2016
Hawk is trying to hunt a rabbit, but Rabbit keeps fooling him by posing vegetables to look like a rabbit. The digitally-created artwork is colorful and silly, and this is a story that will keep preschoolers laughing. It is definitely a good choice for storytime, especially where the theme is either rabbits or vegetables.
Biscuit Feeds the Pets by Alyssa Satin Capucilli, illustrated by Pat Schories, 2016
In this newest installment in the Biscuit series, Biscuit the puppy is just as likable as in the other books. Biscuit and his girl are helping Mrs. Gray with her many pets, but Biscuit makes a mess. The text, which features lots of animal sounds, is easy enough for a beginning reader to understand, but the book still has a discernable plot. Unlike most of the books on this list, this is a reader rather than a picture book.
Just a Lucky So and So: The Story of Louis Armstrong by Lesa Cline-Ransome, illustrated by James Ransome, 2016
This picture book biography features quotations from Louis Armstrong and gorgeous artwork that falls halfway between realistic and stylized. Both the written description and the actual artwork are vivid and show an appealing picture of New Orleans culture, jazz music, and the poor but happy boy who grew up to be a famous musician. The text is written at approximately a second-grade level, almost most children at that age would find this to be a quick read. I would recommend it to elementary-school aged children who have a specific interest in the subject matter.
Spot, the Cat by Henry Cole, 2016
This black-and-white wordless picture book shows a cat escaping out the window of its home and wandering the city. As Spot’s boy searches for Spot, the reader can have the fun of searching for Spot on each double-page spread. The reading experience is similar to that of a Where’s Waldo? book, except that the artwork itself is very different in style. This book will appeal to a variety of ages, even kids who thought they’d outgrown picture books.
Bloom by Doreen Cronin and David Small, 2016
Bloom isn’t a typical fairy. She has heavy feet that leave a trail of mud wherever she goes. The people of the beautiful glass kingdom are glad when she leaves, but after a number of years, all of that beautiful glass is falling apart, and the king decides that he needs a fairy to save the kingdom. This beautiful book has the tone and appeal of a traditional fairy tale, even if Bloom isn’t a traditional fairy. Bloom is a great example of a picture book for older readers; I would recommend it for kindergarten through second grade, although readers older than that could still enjoy it.
The Night Gardener by Terry Fan and Eric Fan, 2016
Every night on Grimloch Lane, another tree turns into a topiary. William eventually meets the gardener who is responsible and they work together. This beautifully illustrated book has a simple plot that I personally didn’t find very remarkable, but the intricately drawn leaves on the trees and the realistic-looking buildings were enough to make this book an enjoyable reading experience. I would recommend it for children around the age of Kindergarten.
The First Step: How One Girl Put Segregation On Trial by Susan E. Goodman, illustrated by E.B. Lewis
In Boston, Sarah Roberts started school in 1847. But because she was black, she was kicked out of the Otis School and sent to a school for black children. Her parents found a lawyer and fought for desegregation of the schools. In 1855, Boston finally integrated its schools. However, it took nearly a century for the rest of the country to follow suit. This beautifully illustrated book tells Sarah’s story in language appropriate for a second or third grader. It also includes six pages of further information about integration, including a timeline.
When Spring Comes by Kevin Henkes, 2016
This beautiful picture book with an average of one sentence per page will likely be a favorite of many toddlers and preschoolers. The plot (the changing of the seasons) is simple enough to appeal to even a baby, and the acrylic artwork is gentle and full of animals that will appeal to the young reader. This book is appropriate for library storytimes, a read-aloud at home, or a child who is learning how to read.
Good Night Like This by Mary Murphy, 2016
In terms of the simple, rhyming text and the ink and watercolor art, this book is already a pleasant and worthwhile bedtime story. But what really makes the difference is the extras. Between every page, there is a half-page flap to turn, and the final page has sparkly stars and text that will delight toddlers. Although I disagree with one review that hailed this book as the new Goodnight Moon, it is a great bedtime story that I would recommend.
Parachute by Danny Parker, illustrated by Matt Ottley, 2013 (First American edition 2016)
Some kids have a security blanket. Toby has a security parachute. It makes him feel safe, and one day, it helps him rescue his cat Henry. The artwork plays with perspective, sometimes showing how big and intimidating things look to Toby, and sometimes showing Toby straight-on. Adults will find this book sweet and sentimental, and young children will enjoy the story and the illustrations. It is short and simple enough to work in a preschool storytime.
Squirrel Me Timbers by Louise Pigott, 2016
This fun pirate-themed story tells about a squirrel named Sammy who finds a map and uses it to search for nuts. It features clever rhyming text and cutesy cartoon pictures of Sammy. The leaves and acorns are more intricate and quite beautiful.
Bathtime with Theo & Beau by Jessica Shyba
Even babies will appreciate this story about a boy and a dog taking a bath. It is illustrated with photographs. Adults will enjoy it for the cuteness factor. I would recommend this for a storytime book or a bedtime story at home for children under the age of three.
Some Birds by Matt Spink, 2016
This simple, short rhyming book is most notable for its unique artwork. Each bird is drawn in a colorful, intricate mosaic-like pattern. The large text and relatively limited vocabulary make this a suitable book for beginning readers, but it would also make an excellent storytime book, even for young children.
Tree by Britta Teckentrup, 2015
The rhyming text describing the change of the seasons is nicely done, and the colorful illustrations are eye-catching, but the real appeal of this book is its peek-through nature. Cut-out shapes in the pages revel an owl, bear cubs, birds, and bees in the tree. Although it’s a clever idea, it’s not quite unique enough to make this book remarkably distinctive, but I would still recommend it, either for a storytime and a read-aloud at home for toddlers or preschoolers.
The Almost Terrible Playdate by Richard Torrey, 2016
When a girl and boy get together to play, they can’t agree on what they should play. But when they split up and start building with blocks separately, they realize that they can have lots of fun combining their imaginary worlds. The simple, sketch-like artwork consists of only two colors and will look familiar to fans of Harold and the Purple Crayon. Although I wouldn’t list it as one of my favorites, this is definitely a likable book.
Looking for Bongo by Eric Velasquez, 2016
This bilingual book about a boy looking for his stuffed animal is likable for its gorgeous, mostly realistic, oil-painted artwork. In fact, I would consider it a contender for both the Pura Belpre and Coretta Scott King illustrator awards. (Both the author and the protagonist are Afro-Latino, according to the book jacket.) However, the story is not particularly remarkable, and the ending is strangely abrupt. Although I would highly recommend this book for its pictures and for its positive portrayal of a minority culture, I would not recommend it for its text.
Freedom in Congo Square by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie, 2016
This book uses catchy rhyming text to tell about the slaves of New Orleans, who eagerly awaited their time off on Sunday afternoon, where they were allowed to meet with each other in Congo Square. A foreword and an author’s note give historical information for the older child or adult, but the majority of the book is simple enough for a preschooler. The highly stylized artwork gives this book an appealing African American flair. I suspect that this book will be a contender for the Coretta Scott King illustrator award, and I would be glad to see a medal on its cover.
How Do Dinosaurs Stay Friends? By Jane Yolen, illustrated by Mark Teague, 2016
Like the other books in this series, this story begins with a question, in this case, what a dinosaur does when he gets in a fight with his friend. Then, in question form, it shows dinosaurs exhibiting atrocious behavior that will make young readers laugh, before revealing that the answer is no, that is not how dinosaurs act. The book ends by showing the nice things that the dinosaurs do. The colorful artwork, which shows large dinosaurs interacting with tiny human parents, is humorous, and the rhyming text is appealing. This particular book is a bit wordier than some of its precursors, which in my opinion, detracts from the young-child appeal just a little.
What To Do With A Box by Jane Yolen, illustrated by Chris Sheban, 2016
The title is pretty self-explanatory. This clever book is about all the fun things a creative child can do with a cardboard box. The concise, rhyming text makes it a good read-aloud for preschoolers and the pictures will be appealing to that same demographic. (Since the color palette features cardboard brown, it isn’t colorful enough to appeal to a baby or toddler.) The labels and stamps on the box add a fun little feature and a layer of reality to the imagination-themed story.
Be a Friend by Salina Yoon, 2016
Dennis is a mime who feels lonely until he meets his new friend Joy. The plot of this book is extremely simple, but the message of friendship is beautiful, and the explanation of miming will be informative for young children. Although the artwork consists mostly of black, white, and beige, it is still eye-catching. The disproportionately large heads on the characters has the effect of making them cute and likable, especially since it makes their facial expressions easy to read. This book is short enough to be usable for a preschool storytime, but mature enough to appeal to slightly older beginning readers as well. And, of course, it would make a suitable read-aloud at home as well.