Last year, the New York Times infuriated many of us by claiming that parents were pushing their early elementary children into chapter books, causing new picture books to “languish on the shelves” and publishers to release fewer titles.
This year’s many exciting new picture books stand as proof that is not true. Below are my favorites, perfect for gift giving.
We still love chapter books; watch for my selection of the year’s best tomorrow, followed by middle grade and YA favorites.
Favorite Picture Books To Give Kids You Don’t Know Very Well
What Animals Really Like written and illustrated by Fiona Robinson, Abrams, 15.95. Ages 5+
Mr. Herbert Timberteeth, a beaver has composed a song about what he thinks animals enjoy — lions should like to prowl, wolves to howl and the pigeons to coo. His concert is disrupted when the animals insist on singing about what they really like. The cows like to dig, the warthogs like to blow big enormous bubbles and the kangaroos prefer ping-pong to hopping around. Absurdly humorous illustrations complete the package for a terrific read-aloud.
I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen, Candlewick $15.99, Ages 6 and up
Fans of Emily Gravett’s The Odd Egg and Wolves (both S&S) will welcome this deceptively simple story of a bear who has lost his pointy red hat. His very polite exchanges with the other forest animals that aren’t very helpful. The deadpan humor will tickle the most jaded funny bone while beginning readers will delight that the limited vocabulary speaks volumes.
Blackout by John Rocco, Disney/ Hyperion ages 5 an up
It is evening and the family is very busy, too busy to play a board game with a little sister. Mom is working at the computer, Dad is cooking dinner and the older sister is on the phone. The little girl is resigned to playing a video game all alone when suddenly the lights go out. Rocco’s cartoon graphic panels capture the fear and excitement of the totally dark city in the shadows of the Brooklyn Bridge.
Emma Dilemma: Big Sister Poems by Kristine O’Connell George, illustrated by Nancy Carpenter. Clarion Books
Little sisters can be embarrassing. Little sisters can be annoying. Little sisters snoop and can’t keep secrets. This collection of narrative poems describe the relationship, the ups and downs, the good and the bad between Jessica, the narrator and her little sister Emma.
Me…Jane by Patrick McDonnell, Hachette/LBYR, 15.99 Ages 6 and up
In this picture book biography we see primatologist, environmentalist Jane Goodall as a little girl with her stuffed chimpanzee named Jubilee. Together they observe the natural world – birds making their nests, spiders spinning their webs and squirrels chasing one another up and down trees. McDonnell intersperses his signature sweet cartoons with Goodall’s own original sketches and notes.
You will Be My Friend! By Peter Brown, 16.99 Little Brown ages 5+
Lucy, the bear from Children Make Terrible Pets is aggressively looking for friend. She is very excited about turning cartwheels, having picnics, climbing trees, and going swimming with each new friend. Finding a compatible playmate isn’t that easy. The frogs are too wet and small. The skunk is too smelly and Lucy is a little too big to fit in with the rabbits. Will she ever find the “just right” friend?
A Zeal of Zebras written and illustrated by Woop Studio, Chronicle, 17.99
This arty trip through the alphabet pairs collective nouns with 26 colorful prints.
Did you know that a group of pandas is called an embarrassment? Did you know that a herd of Gnus is an implausibility?
The Information about the animals is accurate and will delight wordsmiths and artists alike.
The Queen of France by Tim Wadham, illustrated by Kady MacDonald Denton, Candlewick, 16.99 ages 5+
“When Rose woke up that morning she felt royal. She opened the box of jewelry. She put on the necklaces. She put on the bracelets. She went to the make-believe basket. She put on the crown.” Rose’s mom and dad play along as she pretends to be royalty and goes about her day. The perfect read aloud for all those little girls begging for a princess book.
Betty Bunny Loves Chocolate Cake by Michael B. Kaplan illustrated by Stéphane Jorish, Dial, 16.99
Betty Bunny, the youngest of four children, tries chocolate cake for the first time. She loves it. She loves it so much that she says, “When I grow up I am going to marry chocolate cake!” When Betty discovers that she can’t have her favorite food for every meal, she turns into a “handful.” Realistic family relationships create a warm light tone as Betty learns how to manage her impulsive behavior.
The Family Storybook Treasury: Tales of Laughter, Curiosity and Fun, HMH, 18.99
This oversized compendium includes eight classic picture books like Martha Speaks by Susan Meddaugh, Nancy Shaw’s rhyming wonder Sheep in a Jeep and the rambunctious bedtime favorite Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed. The volume also includes poems by eight renowned poets including Kristine O’Connell George, Nikki Grimes and Bob Raczka.