I love to book shop all year round. In the winter holiday season, I love to insist everyone else should partake. Making a picture book list to give is one of my favourite holiday traditions. I started with 12 in 2013 and moved to 20 in 2014. Last year I bumped the list to 25 (2015). And this number seems to be the sweet spot. There are lots of books to love! It is a joy to recommend many of my favourites of the year!
Which books make the list? There are some things I think about. Is it a book that can be shared multiple times? Does it inspire creativity, thinking, inspiration? Does it make its readers think differently? Does it celebrate something important? Does it freeze time? Is it a book that brings joy? Or does it simply make you laugh?
With those questions in mind, here is my list:
Listed alphabetically by author.
Daniel Finds a Poem by Micha Archer
Simply the perfect mentor text for poetry writing. Enough said. Well, except to point out that the illustrations are especially swoon worthy.
Worm Loves Worm by J.J. Austrian and illustrated by Mike Curato
I think this picture book has shades of pure perfection within it. A spotlight on the ridiculous “must be” wedding planning that occurs when love should just prevail. And please note, this is love for love’s sake. Not love that fits in any cookie cutter mold. How I adore this book.
Where’s the Elephant? by Barroux
Beyond a search and find which it seems to be just a few pages in. Not at all. It is a statement about development encroaching on habitat. Of what this means to our world and the animals in it. Powerful. So, powerful. The perfect book to introduce environmental studies. To begin conversations. To worry about. And maybe to inspire change.
Return by Aaron Becker
The third book in a trilogy (give the entire collection!). I love each book for particular reasons. This title must be experienced so that you can see how it continues the stories started in Journey and Quest. I think this cover image is my favourite of the three.
The Airport Book by Lisa Brown
I echo what so many others say – oh, if this book had only existed when my children were small. It has so much going on! Each page is full of details and yet a very lovely story of one family unfolds throughout. Spend ages on each page.
Maybe Something Beautiful: How Art Transformed a Neighborhood by F. Isabel Campoy and Theresa Howell with illustrations by Rafael López
This is such an inspiring book based on actual events in San Diego – how a neighborhood can be changed and strengthened by art. Illustrator Rafael López is more than the illustrator here – he is the inspiration for the character of the muralist.
It Came in the Mail by Ben Clanton
This book is absolutely delightful. Since actual letters and personal mail is quite the novelty in this day and age, surprises arriving by post really are special. Maybe too much so . . .
A Hungry Lion or a dwindling assortment of animals by Lucy Ruth Cummins
This book is very funny. Very, very funny. It requires that wonderful page flipping back and forth phenomenon – “Did that really happen?” I don’t want to give anything away but will say the surprises delighted me. Can’t wait to read this to a group of children.
The Knowing Book written by Rebecca Kai Dotlich with illustrations by Matthew Cordell
When this book was first published, someone said it was my kind of book. It is most definitely my kind of book. I think it might also be your kind of book. Gently perfect.
The Night Gardener by the Fan brothers
This is just a wow title. It has so much of what I love in a picture book – some surprises, a intergenerational connection, a sense of wonder, lots of creativity . . . Divine.
Barnacle is Bored by Jonathan Fenske
This book is so well done. Talking about the story is giving away the story. So I’ll just say this: clever, really funny, perfect read aloud to inspire much conversation about how to look at life.
When Green Becomes Tomatoes Poems for All Seasons by Julie Fogliano and illustrated by Julie Morstad
This book of poetry is kind of pure perfection. Julie Morstad’s illustrations. Julie Fogliano‘s beautiful images. I can’t pick a favourite poem. But I have many a favourite line.
The Sound of Silence written by Katrina Goldsaito and illustrated by Julia Kuo
This book is just incredibly beautiful in its simplicity – the search for silence. One to share and share again. The illustrations are captivating.
Nobody Likes a Goblin by Ben Hatke
Full of all kinds of fabulous Hatke-esque characters and its star – the Goblin, is one to root for. This will be loved.
Hotel Bruce by Ryan T. Higgins
Bruce just might be my favourite grump. Lots of giggles here.
Flora and the Peacocks by Molly Idle
Oh Flora, you sure can move. And this time with not one, but two, dancing partners. Stunning all around!
We Found a Hat by Jon Klassen
Like many, I eagerly anticipated this title. Klassen is so unique. I love the subtle things here. The hints. The suggestions. The not neatly wrapped up ending. The room for readers to do some work.
Ida, Always written by Caron Levis and illustrated by Charles Santoso
This is a tender book about friendship and loss. Allows for conversations about preparing for a death and carrying on. A very special (fictional) story based on a real connection between two bears in New York’s Central Park Zoo.
Finding Wild written by Megan Wagner Lloyd and illustrated by Abigail Halpin
Where can you find wild? What is wild to you? Why do we need wild? How is wild beautiful and dangerous all at the same time. Just so full of wow.
The Listzs by Kyo Maclear and illustrated by Júlia Sardà (coming in October)
Quirky with gorgeous illustrations and prompts wonderful list making. A great book to share with children who appreciate all the lovely language in the lists. Highly recommended.
Are We There Yet? by Dan Santat
So very clever. Literal twists and turns! Quite the reading experience exploring the feeling of time’s passage on a road trip.
Twenty Yawns by Jane Smiley and illustrated by Lauren Castillo
Because picture books are especially treasured as they lull us to sleep.
The Water Princess by Susan Verde and illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds
This might be my favourite title by this author/illustrator pairing. The illustrations here are incredible.
They All Saw a Cat by Brendan Wenzel
Brilliant. So rich with possibilities to share and talk about perspective, self and the world.
Be a Friend by Salina Yoon
Well, I am absolutely smitten. This book speaks of friendship and individuality and acceptance and patience. I am kind of in love.
Happy Reading. Happy Shopping. Happy Giving.