Making a picture book list to give is becoming one of my favourite holiday traditions. I started with 12 in 2013 and moved to 20 in 2014. This year 25 made the list. Why not? There are a lot of books to love!
Of course, I have not read every book out there. But I believe in picture books for every reason and so, I have read a lot! A lot, a lot. Some have stood out. Some I must insist upon. Going picture book shopping? Here is my list of 25 titles that I think are absolutely worth owning and therefore, worth gifting. Fantastic titles in both fiction and nonfiction. My criteria? 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? Laughing, I always think, is very underrated.
With those questions in mind, here is my list:
Listed alphabetically by author.
Out of the Woods: A True Story of an Unforgettable Event by Rebecca Bond
I was smitten just with the end pages. Based on a true story, this title goes back to Ontario forests of 1914. It is a memory, a story. And what a story. How incredible to think about this experience where a fire caused humans and animals to connect in an incredibly quiet, necessary way. The illustrations here are stunning.
Something Extraordinary by Ben Clanton
This book. It speaks to wild wishes, big possibility and the amazing of the simple and natural. Love, love, love.
Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Peña and illustrated by Christian Robinson
A wise nana. A regular bus ride. The importance of neighbourhood and noticing.
Wolfie the Bunnie written by Ame Dyckman and illustrated by Zachariah Ohora
Charming, humorous and sweet This book has much to offer. Sibling dynamics. The brilliance of children. Humour, giggles, and wows.
Drum Dream Girl: How One Girl’s Courage Changed Music written by Margarita Engle and illustrated by Rafael López
Gorgeous. Inspiring. Saturated colours and beautiful art. The true story of one girl’s dream to drum.
Elwood Bigfoot: Wanted: Birdie Friends by Jill Esbaum and illustrated by Nate Wragg
One sweet book. About the quest to belong and have friends. Some serious perseverance here.
The Bear Report by Thyra Heder
I don’t even have words. A must own. Really, truly beautiful. This title makes me cry and sigh and sit in absolute awe. I refuse to even write about the plot. Just trust me and go buy this book.
The Little Gardener by Emily Hughes
It’s lush and moody and at the same time sweet and hopeful. I had all kinds of wishes. I wanted to shrink down and wander about this little garden. I wanted the book to be quilted so I could gift it as a “stuffie” type treasure to little ones to snuggle with. I wanted each image, framed, to hang on my wall. This is a book to love.
Wild Ideas: Let Nature Inspire Your Thinking written by Elin Kelsey and illustrated by Soyeon Kim
This book is magical. The text suggests all kinds of connections between ours and the animal world. Talk about perseverance, creativity and inspiration. Or, just get lost in the illustrations.
Marilyn’s Monster written by Michelle Knudsen and illustrated by Matt Phelan
What do you do when everyone gets a monster and yours never arrives? Marilyn grows impatient with the endless waiting. So she ventures out to make her own difference.
Bright Sky Starry City written by Uma Krishnaswami and illustrated by Aimée Sicuro
A beautiful story of father and daughter, of a curious girl wondering about space and astronomy, of a glorious sky full of stars and constellations.
Sidewalk Flowers by JonArno Lawson and Sydney Smith
Wordless perfection. I love everything about this book. How it is about little things, being in the moment, noticing, kindness . . .
Pool by JiHyeon Lee
Gorgeous. Wordless. Two children dive deep and meet under a bunch of swimmers and floaters in a busy pool. What do they find there? A fantastical world. The colours, the negative space, the whimsy.
Night Animals by Gianna Marino
This book is absolutely adorable. The perfect book for reading aloud at a story time for younger listeners. The perfect bedtime book to remind all soon to be sleepers that they are brave.
Toad Weather written by Sandra Markle and illustrated by Thomas Gonzalez
Rich messages beyond a fascinating story. I love that it reminds us to notice and experience the natural world no matter what the weather, no matter what our mood.
Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt written by Kate Messner and illustrated by Christopher Silas Neal
For inspiring gardeners. For nature explorers. Spans generations and seasons.
The Tea Party in the Woods by Akiko Miyakoshi
This is a wonderful title. Such creative twists on Little Red Riding Hood – crafted into quite a different tale. Mysterious. Unusual. Magical. The perfect read aloud for a cozy winter’s day.
Float by Daniel Miyares
Children approach rain in the best of ways. All in. Rubber boots, puddle jumping, sailing of boats! And after the rain, there is sunshine and new possibilities. Wordless and wonderful.
My Pen by Christopher Myers
I always say there is power in the pencil (or pen, or marker, etc) – this book celebrates the creativity on the page. But on the page is so much more. I want to share it with each group of children I teach for forever . . .
This is Sadie written by Sara O’Leary and illustrated by Julie Morstad
Sadie is enchanting. She embraces life – both the real and the imagined parts with gusto. Creative, inspired, endearing. Her story is a delight to read aloud. Morstad’s images are “ooh” and “ahh” and “wow” inducing. The combination is pure read aloud perfection.
Water is Water: A Book About the Water Cycle written by Miranda Paul and illustrated by Jason Chin
Lyrical and lovely. And illustrations to knock you over. Takes you through the seasons, the water cycle, childhood experiences. A must own.
Swan: The Life and Dance of Anna Pavlova written by Laurel Snyder and illustrated by Julie Morstad
Beautiful. Special. And inspirational. For little dancers to be. For those with big hearts who know what it is to share.
Lenny and Lucy written by Philip C. Stead and illustrated by Erin E. Stead
Moody. Lonely. Emotional. Sweet. Lovely. A favourite in my room. Children responded to this gentle story of needing to feel secure.
Sonya’s Chickens by Phoebe Wahl
Try and get past the cover with the greens, the lush, the rich and deep. Sigh. A story about nature, responsibility and hope.
The Whisper by Pamela Zagarenski
I am not sure I have words for just how breathtaking I find this title. It is a book lover’s dream. Seriously. Stop dead illustrations. Of course, I had to own this one. And ahem, you should too . . .
Happy Reading. Happy Shopping. Happy Giving.