THIS YEAR’S BEST PICTURE BOOKS
Making a List and Checking it Twice!
Bookseller and reviewer Hilary Taber’s Top 15 Picks
Of course this list of 15 picture books is influenced by my own personal taste, but as a bookseller of many years I hope to guide you to some of my personal favorites from the 2015 publishing year. This is by no means a comprehensive list because I have so many favorites, but these are the picture books I would really love to give as gifts. I’ve tried to arrange these in age order and hope that helps you if you plan to give books as presents to children this holiday season. Happy Reading!
Vegetables in Underwear
Written by Jared Chapman
(Abrams Appleseed; April 2015, $14.95. Ages 2-5)
What could be funnier than veggies in undies? Clever text pairs brilliantly with discussion of all different types of underwear and the text can help a child transition from diapers to underwear. Or it can just be a hysterical, giggly book about underwear. Consider Vegetables in Underwear appropriate for two-year-olds and up.
It’s Tough to Lose Your Balloon
Written and illustrated by Jarrett J. Krosoczka
(Alfred A. Knopf BYR; $17.99, Ages 3-7)
Anyone who has ever taken care of a child knows this truth. It is really hard to loose your balloon to the sky above when you let go of it! In a simple and straightforward way Krosoczka points out that many childhood hardships are tough, but there’s an upside to a lot of them. You could scrape yourself, but you also might get a glow in the dark band aide! We grown-ups tend to forget how these common childhood dramas are powerful and important to children. The strength of this book is in affirming that the adult in their lives notices these hard times. At the end of the book the author encourages children to notice that when it rains you can look for the rainbow in all kinds of situations! A great reminder to get your kiddo to be able to reframe, stay positive, and look on the bright side.
Written by Kathi Appelt
Illustrated by Rob Dunlavey
(Atheneum BYR; $17.99, Ages 4-8)
Black, white and red illustrations accompany perhaps the most perfect book about crows I’ve seen. With their red scarves on they fly to get some snacks. They snack all the way to a dozen. In the meantime a cat has been watching these crows with a possible snack in mine! Counting Crows is a charming counting book that I highly recommend!
If You’re a Robot and You Know It
By Ukelele and Drum Combo, Musical Robot
Illustrated by David A. Carter
(Scholastic; $16.99, Ages 3-5)
A new pop-up book! What fun! Carter delivers yet another wonderful book! Set to the words from the song, “If You’re Happy and You Know It” with “If you’re a robot and you know it clap your hands, jump and beep, shoot laser beams out of your eyes!” Children will delight in the familiar song set to a new theme, and the pop up elements are used to make the robot do everything that’s in the song. With the pull of a tab the robot claps it’s hands, jumps, shoots lasers out of its eyes, and more! Recommended for those children able to handle a pop-up book with care.
Written and illustrated by Elly MacKay
(Running Press Kids; $16.95, Ages 3 and up)
This book gave me the chills because it’s that beautiful. A girl moves from the country to the city, and finds that next door is a Butterfly Park. She wonders where all the butterflies have gone! Soon all her new neighbors are helping her to discover that what is needed here are flowers to attract the butterflies. The park is restored and a special fold out page reveals the Butterfly Park full of children and butterflies once more. Each page is filled with light and glowing color. A science lesson on the side provides depth, while the illustrations provoke awe and wonder. A picture book that does not disappoint!
The Moon is Going to Addy’s House
Written and illustrated by Ida Pearle
(Dial Books; $17.99, Ages 3-5)
This dreamy, magical book is a cut paper triumph. With gold swirls in the night sky on some pages, this book begins with the end of a play date. Addy begins the nighttime journey back to her own home. Addy and her sister play a game of hide and seek with the moon as they watch it seemingly disappear and then reappear on the car ride home. Under a bridge and behind a mountain the moon seems like a constant friend who follows you home. Rich colors and a masterful command of the cut paper style make this a perfect bedtime book. Is this book a possible Caldecott winner? Only time will tell!
Once Upon a Cloud
Written and illustrated by Claire Keane
(Dial Books; $17.99, Ages 3-5)
Veteran Disney animator Claire Keane, whose background includes her work on Disney’s “Tangled” and “Frozen,” brings to life Celeste’s dream journey on her
request to bring back the perfect gift for her mother. Along the way she meets the stars, moon and sun. However, the right gift for her mother just doesn’t present itself. The next morning she is inspired by all the beauty she has seen! She finds flowers that remind her of the stars in her dream and ties up the perfect gift with her own hair ribbon. A visual delight in purple and pink, Once Upon a Cloud makes a perfect gift for a thoughtful child you know who particularly delights in fantastic illustrations.
A Tower of Giraffes: Animals in Groups
Written and illustrated by Anna Wright
(Charlesbridge $17.95 Ages 3-7)
What a gorgeously illustrated book. Did you know that a group of geese is called a gaggle? Or that a group of owls is called a parliament of owls? Or that a group of peacock is called ostentation of peacocks? Each page introduces the groups by their collective names and gives a brief summary of each animal. A wonderful introduction to animals! Pen and ink drawings are combined with watercolor or fabric pieces. My favorite page is a group of sheep in sweaters made with a swatch of sweater fabric. You only have to look at each page to see how lovingly each page was created. I would be pleased to see this win the Caldecott!
The Bear Ate Your Sandwich
Written and illustrated by Julia Sarcone-Roach
(Alfred A.Knopf BYR; $16.99 Ages 3-7)
This is by far one of the best picture books this year for gift giving. A narrator who is unknown at the beginning of the book directly tells the audience about who took your sandwich. A bear wakes up one eventful day in the woods to follow a truck filled with the delicious scent of berries all the way to the big city! Many adventures ensue with the discovery of the sandwich in question. Visual clues give away the fact that our narrator is in fact a dog seen in the park on one page. He is one unreliable narrator because guess what? He ate your sandwich! Sure he saw the whole thing happen. Blame the bear! Grin worthy text pairs nicely with illustrations infused with light and the bear’s epic journey from woods to city and back again.
Lenny and Lucy
Written by Philip C. Stead and illustrated by Erin E. Stead
(Roaring Brook Press; $17.99, Ages 3-7)
Philip Stead brought us the Caldecott Award winning Sick Day for Amos McGee, and this new book is equally endearing. Peter and his dog, Harold, have just moved into a new house on the edge of a wood. Feeling that they need some backup, Peter wisely uses big pillows to create Lenny to guard the bridge that runs between their house and the woods beyond. Lenny is a wonder to behold! However, maybe Lenny is lonely out there all alone? Enter a new big, pillow friend for Lenny in the form of Lucy! The four of them become great friends and add one more to the group. Peter’s next-door neighbor is a little girl who is fond of owls. So, the woods beyond the bridge might not be so bad after all, especially with good friends by your side.
Written and illustrated by Pamela Zagarenski
(HMH Books for Young Readers; $17.99, Ages 4-7)
A girl borrows a magical book from her teacher, but when the words spill out, the little girl is disappointed. However she soon realizes that she can create her own story out of all the words that were once inside the book! A celebration of imagination married with absolutely stunning illustrations make me wonder if this might be a Caldecott winner this year.
Written by George Shannon and illustrated by Blanca Gomez
(Farrar, Straus and Giroux BYR; $17.99, Ages 4-8)
How many things can the number one be? A counting book and also an ode to all the different kinds of families out there make this multicultural picture book a must have for your family. Children will enjoy scenes they see everyday from doing laundry to going to the zoo. “One is one and everyone. One earth. One world. One family.” This strong ending helps us all to recognize how important all families are.
We Forgot Brock!
Written and illustrated by Carter Goodrich
(Simon & Schuster BYR; $17.99, Ages 4-8)
How I love this book. Phillip has an imaginary friend named Brock who is always up for adventure. Off goes Phillip’s family to the fair, along with Brock of course. Brock wants to ride the big kid rides, but Phillip and Brock get separated. When Phillip finds that his imaginary pal is missing, he goes searching for him. Luckily another little girl who has an imaginary princess friend with her at the fair sees Brock and takes him home with her. Phillip is at last reunited with Brock, and now they have two brand new friends. All imaginary friends are drawn in crayon which gives this book a special flair!
Written and illustrated by Kevin Henkes
(Greenwillow Books; $17.99, Ages 4-8)
Caldecott Award winner Kevin Henkes hits another one out of the ballpark with this sweet story of five toys who sit on a windowsill waiting for things to happen. Each toy has a special thing that they enjoy seeing. The owl waits for the moon. A pig with an umbrella waits for the rain. This tale of friendship amongst toys is a special one with soft illustrations on rich, creamy paper. The toys move to different spots on the windowsill and it’s up to the child to say if they are being moved or do they move by themselves? What a treat! This is especially good for youngsters transitioning to longer picture books. I’m calling possible Caldecott on this one! Those gorgeous, but simple illustrations are simply genius. Henkes does it again.
The Song of Delphine
Written and illustrated by Kenneth Kraegel
(Candlewick Press; $15.99, Ages 5-8)
This story of an orphan named Delphine tells the tale of the power of a kind soul and a song sung from the heart. Delphine serves the Princess Theodora where they both live on the savannah. Delphine’s life is very difficult, so she sings to lift her spirits. When Theodora’s niece, Beatrice arrives Delphine’s expectations of having a playmate her own age are dashed when Beatrice proves to be spoiled and prone to blaming Delphine for her own mistakes. Delphine’s song is heard by twelve giraffes who take her on a journey across the savannah. When they return Delphine to her home they mistakenly put her in Beatrice’s room. There Delphine finds the reason for Beatrice’s unhappiness for Beatrice’s own mother had recently passed away. Beatrice is comforted by Delphine’s song and the two go on magical adventures together. Kraegel’s The Song of Delphine, a Cinderella story with a magical twist of visiting giraffes? I’ll take it!
We hope this helps you to make your list and check it twice! Wishing you and your loved ones a happy holiday season!
– Reviewed by Hilary Taber
Good Reads With Ronna is proud to be an IndieBookstores Affiliate. Doing so provides a means for sites like ours to occasionally earn modest fees that help pay for our time, mailing expenses, giveaway costs and other blog related expenses. If you click on IndieBound and buy anything, we may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. Your purchase supports our efforts and tells us you like the service we’re providing with our reviews, and for that we sincerely thank you.
THE QUEEN’S HAT
Written and illustrated by Steve Antony
(Scholastic; $16.99, Ages 3-5)
The Queen’s Hat, is armchair travel for kids at its finest. Swish!! As the Queen sets off from Buckingham Palace (to visit a “very special” person), a gusty wind whisks the Queen’s favorite hat off her head. Followed by her beloved corgi (dressed in an argyle vest), her guard, and her tea-tray-bearing butler, the queen pursues her hat from one iconic London spot to another: Trafalgar Square, London Zoo, the London Eye, and more.
Author and illustrator Steve Antony uses the format of the picture book to great effect, creating eye popping and hilarious illustrations: the Queen’s Men squashed in like sardines on the Underground, stampeding through London Zoo accompanied by its inhabitants, and dangling from the London Eye. The spectacular two-page spread (to be held vertically) of everyone climbing to the top of Big Ben, as a precariously perched Queen stretches out for her hat, is guaranteed to elicit gasps and laughs from readers.
Finally, everyone floats down, Mary Poppins-style, umbrellas in hand, and lands at Kensington Palace. The hat gently plops down on a baby in a pram. Now can you guess who this baby might be? The Queen finishes her whirlwind outing by taking this very special baby for a sedate stroll, followed by her dog, and the butler, still trying to serve tea.
Where’s Waldo and I Spy fans will enjoy the challenge of spotting the Queen and her companions amongst the “Men,” not all of whom are so uniform: sharp-eyed children will notice subtle and humorous differences.
Antony, who has been nominated for several awards, including the CILIP Kate Greenaway Medal, effectively limits his palette of colors, making the handsome reds, blacks, and blues, stand out vividly against the white space of the pages.
Visit the author’s website to find out more about his work and his other titles. Also see his suggestions for lessons and activities. And do take a look at the video below for The Queen’s Hat, animated by children at London’s Thomas Day School.
Good Reads With Ronna is proud to be an IndieBookstores Affiliate. Doing so provides a means for sites like ours to occasionally earn modest fees that help pay for our time, mailing expenses, giveaway costs and other blog related expenses. If you click on an IndieBound link in a post and buy anything, we may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. Your purchase supports our efforts and tells us you like the service we’re providing with our reviews, and for that we sincerely thank you.
On Good Reads With Ronna Today, A Book Blast Featuring
The Grimmtastic Girls & $50 Book Blast Giveaway, Too!
Grimmtastic Girls #1: Cinderella Stays Late by Joan Holub & Suzanne Williams (Scholastic Inc., Ages 8-12), Publication Date: March 25, 2014 Pages: 192
Summary: The authors of the hit Goddess Girls series put a fun and girly twist on another super-popular theme: fairy tales!
Once upon a time, in faraway Grimmlandia…
A Grimmtastic girl named Cinderella is starting her first week at Grimm Academy on the wrong foot. Cinda’s totally evil stepsisters are out to make her life miserable. The Steps tease Cinda, give her terrible advice about life at the academy, and even make her look bad in front of her new friends, Red, Snow, and Rapunzel! But when Cinda overhears the Steps plotting a villainous deed that could ruin Prince Awesome’s ball, Cinda, her new friends, and a pair of magical glass slippers have to stop them–before the last stroke of midnight!
Grimmtastic Girls #2: Red Riding Hood Gets Lost by Joan Holub & Suzanne Williams (Scholastic Inc., Ages 8-12), Publication Date: March 25, 2014 Pages: 192
Summary: Red Riding Hood might have a terrible sense of direction, but her grimmtastic friends are always there to help!
Once upon a time, in faraway Grimmlandia…
Red Riding Hood is thrilled to try out for the school play. Acting is her dream, and she’s great at it–too bad she has stage fright! After a grimmiserable audition, Red decides to focus on helping her friends Cinda, Snow, and Rapunzel save Grimm Academy from the E.V.I.L. Society. But when Red gets lost in Neverwood forest and runs into Wolfgang, who might be part of E.V.I.L., she needs her magic basket and a grimmazingly dramatic performance to figure out what’s going on!
About the Authors: Joan Holub & Suzanne Williams
Joan Holub has authored and/or illustrated more than 130 children’s books, including Little Red Writing (illustrated by Caldecott Honoree Melissa Sweet) and Zero the Hero. She lives in NC and is online at www.joanholub.com
Suzanne Williams is the author of nearly 50 books for children, including the award-winning picture book Library Lil (illustrated by Steven Kellogg). She lives near Seattle, WA and is online at www.suzanne-williams.com
Co-authors Joan and Suzanne have written the Goddess Girls, Heroes in Training, and Grimmtastic Girls series. Though they live in different states and hardly ever get to see each other, they spend lots of time together in Grimmlandia.
DON’T MISS THIS FABULOUS $50 BOOK BLAST GIVEAWAY!
Prize: $50 Amazon Gift Card or PayPal cash (winner’s choice)
Contest ends: April 23, 11:59 pm, 2014
How to enter: Please enter using the Rafflecopter widget below.
Terms and Conditions: NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW. A winner will be randomly drawn through the Rafflecopter widget and will be contacted by email within 48 hours after the giveaway ends. The winner will then have 72 hours to respond. If the winner does not respond within 72 hours, a new draw will take place for a new winner. Odds of winning will vary depending on the number of eligible entries received. This contest is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with Facebook. This giveaway is sponsored by the authors, Joan Holub & Suzanne Williams and is hosted and managed by Renee from Mother Daughter Book Reviews. If you have any additional questions – feel free to send and email to Renee(at)MotherDaughterBookReviews(dot)com.
a Rafflecopter giveaway
Copyright © 2014 Mother Daughter Book Reviews, All rights reserved.
Coming to bookstores this October is a really terrific retelling of a most beloved fairy tale, Cinderella, this time starring none other than the perfectly plump and pleasing pachyderm known as Cinderelephant (Arthur A. Levine Books/Scholastic, $16.99, ages 4-8) written and illustrated by Emma Dodd.
Parents, it’s likely that by the time you read this to your child, he or she will have already heard this classic or watched the Disney version. That’s definitely a plus because it will allow you more time to spend pointing out all the humorous touches Dodd’s included in the colorful and cheerful illustrations. And if your youngsters are new to the tale, they’re still in for a tremendous treat.
You know the plot and to Dodd’s credit, her economy of words keeps the story fun and flowing for those of us for whom the tale is not new. Cinderelephant is bossed around by the Warty Sisters, two unattractive Wart Hogs who are “horrible, mean, and smelly,” plus they clearly lack table manners.
When an invitation to Prince Trunky’s ball arrives, young readers get their first clue as to what this Prince might look like considering the king is called King Saggy and the queen is Queen Wrinkly. Calling her “Cinder-irrelavant,” the Warty Sisters slough off Cinderelephant’s hope of also attending the ball.
I love how Dodd features a Furry Godmouse who’ll save the day and get the gigantic gray gal to the Prince’s party. She even manages those appropriately placed superlatives and the occasional big but (you’ll see what I mean) joke with both her text and artwork.
Parents and kids will be entertained by the humor, whimsical illustrations and happy ending (pun intended) because, let’s face it, we all know one pink size 20+ shoe can only belong to one palatially-sized pachyderm!
– Reviewed by Ronna Mandel
ALL ABOUT DAVID SHANNON’S BUGS IN MY HAIR!
“WARNING: The head lice in this book will make you ITCHY!”
And guess what? It’s true. BUGS IN MY HAIR! (The Blue Sky Press/Scholastic, $17.99, ages 4 and up), by local Burbank-based, award-winning author and illustrator, David Shannon, is a perfect picture book year round, but especially for back-to-school time when so many things are new. Especially head lice.
Thank you, David Shannon, for taking the “shame” and “humiliation” out of head lice. In fact, with Bugs in My Hair!, Shannon has actually succeeded in making the experience seem almost, well … fun! Okay, maybe fun is stretching it. Itchy is more accurate because simply saying lice and nits causes an instant uncomfortable, uncontrollable urge to scratch and squirm
Bugs in my Hair! gives kids who have had a case of head lice an opportunity to claim membership in the “been there, done that” club that many young readers may unwittingly join one day. I can see them shouting out their personal experiences as the school librarian reads the story to a class of second graders. “I had so many head lice my mom had to call up the Census Bureau.”
The artwork makes this book stand out among head lice stories. It’s hilarious, imaginative and genuinely complements every single line. I’m particularly partial to the page featuring BUGZILLA conquering the world. This ’50s movie style illustration is so clever and exaggerated that both kids and parents will crack up. The popcorn chomping louse lounging on the sofa with a remote in one claw, a drink in another is brilliant. On the other end of the sofa, relaxing with the latest issue of Parasite magazine, is a cigar smoking louse squishing the main character, a red-headed youth who wants nothing more than these nuisances to go bye-bye. “It was like they took over our whole life!” (more…)