Here is the final installment of my "favorite books" list for the past year: picture books.
Unfortunately, I'm sure I missed a number of good picture books this year, because I am out of the building most of the time now doing outreach, so I often don't get a chance to look through the new books as they come in. There are also probably some I saw, but didn't get a chance to use in storytime, so forgot about. So if you know of some great ones I missed, please leave me a comment!
Again, most of these came out in late 2016 or 2017, but there are a couple that I only discovered this year that are a little older. Most of these make good storytime books for either preschool or K-2nd grade, with one exception.
Creepy Pair of Underwear! by Aaron Reynolds and Peter Brown (2017) is definitely my favorite picture book of the year. While mentioning underwear in storytime always guarantees laughs and snickers, the humor in this book is actually very clever, and the illustrations do a fantastic job of conveying a really spooky mood.
My daughter had a similar experience with a glow-in-the-dark T-shirt freaking her out in the middle of the night, so I especially appreciated this story. I bought a copy that was already signed by Peter Brown, and I'm hoping to get Aaron Reynolds to sign it at a conference in the spring.
Cookiesaurus Rex by Amy Fellner Dominy, Nate Evans, and AG Ford (2017) is a very, very close second favorite. Again, very clever humor that was not as predictable as kids' books often are, and I literally laughed out loud as I read it the first time.
The dinosaur cookie is being very bossy and demanding about how he thinks he should be decorated, and the baker decides to teach him a lesson. The artwork is very impressive and is the perfect combination of realism and cartooning, and I love the before and after pictures of the kitchen in the endpapers. So cute and clever!
The Legend of Rock Paper Scissors by Drew Daywalt (of The Day the Crayons Quit fame) and Adam Rex (2017) is obviously based on the childhood game for deciding who gets their way, and shows Rock, Paper, and Scissors battling it out. The illustrations are fabulous, and the text truly conveys the mood; you can just hear it said in the style of a WWE announcer.
My favorite line is where one of them (I think it was Rock) tells Apricot he looks like a fuzzy butt 😂. I have not had a chance to use this in storytime as I only do preschool storytime, and this would be better for school-aged kids who know what "Rock-Paper-Scissors" is and can get the humor.
Read the Book, Lemmings! by Amy Dyckman and Zachariah OHora (2017) is another book that made me laugh, and I'm a fan of OHora's work. First Mate Foxy (of the S.S. Cliff) is is reading a book about lemmings, which says they don't actually jump off cliffs. But, every time he says the word "jump" his three lemming deck hands do just that! After having to repeatedly rescue them, he tells them to "Read the book!".
This is a purely silly, fun book, but would be great to pair with a non-fiction book to talk more about lemmings, an animal most kids probably aren't familiar with, and also an opportunity to talk about thinking before you do something. I haven't used it in storytime yet, but I'm hoping to soon.
Hooray for Birds! by Lucy Cousins (2017) is a GREAT book for preschool storytime! First of all, this illustration style with brightly colored, simple pictures with heavy black outlines is perfect for this age. But, not only does the book show several different kinds of birds, it is very interactive and gives the kids a chance to imitate their sounds and movements.
They get to say "cock-a-doodle-doo", flap their wings, stand on one leg, waddle, and more. This is a must-have for a bird-themed storytime, and great for a movement program as well.
Chicken Story Time by Sandy Asher and Mark Fearing (2016) is a great storytime book! I'm always on the lookout for books that help promote the library and reading that I can use in my outreach storytimes, and this is perfect! A very fun read.
A chicken joins storytime one day, then brings more chickens the next week, and even more friends the following week, which causes storytime to be in chaos. What's a harried librarian to do? The kids love discussing whether they would like to have chickens join our storytime (about 50-50), and whether they think their teachers would like chickens to join their class (a definite "No").
I have Jbrary to thank for bringing Still A Gorilla by Kim Norman and Chad Geran (2016) to my attention. Willy the Gorilla wants to be something else, and tries to become other animals by attempting to look and act like them, but he is "Still a gorilla!"
This book is simple enough for 2-3 year olds, but still funny and interactive enough for the 4-5 year olds. The kids can join Willy in trying to imitate other animals, and delight in telling him he is "Still a gorilla!" They really find Willy's attempts to be other animals quite hilarious.
The Not So Quiet Library by Zacharah OHora (2016) is another book that promotes reading and going to the library that works well in storytime. Oskar and Theodore go to the library every Saturday with their father. But this time, a many-headed monster invades the library, and is eating all the books! Can they convince the monster that books are for reading, not eating?
I like how this book shows going to the library as a regular family activity, and it has just the right amount of humor and drama to keep the kids very engaged. I love seeing how horrified they are at the mistreatment of the books by the monster. This was the favorite book from my library-themed storytime.
If You're A Robot and You Know It by David A. Carter (2015) is a fun pop-up book based on "If You're Happy and You Know It" that is very interactive as it is meant to be sung and acted out. It will have you stomping feet, clapping hands, shooting laser beams out of your eyes, among others.
The kids absolutely loved this book in storytime, and wanted to do it 2 or 3 times. David A. Carter also did one with animals doing the original song called If You're Happy and You Know It much earlier that the kids also really like, if you can find a copy still in good shape.
I was thrilled to discover Circle, Square, Moose by Kelly Bingham and Paul Zelinsky (2014) earlier this year, because it is so hard to find books that cover basic concepts that really have a story and are engaging for the kids, and this was just the addition I needed to my shapes unit.
This starts out as a simple, straightforward book about shapes, showing everyday objects to illustrate various shapes, until Moose decides to insert himself into the story, and hijinks and chaos ensue. The kids find this very funny and really enjoy it. This was preceded by an alphabet book called Z is for Moose.
So I actually first discovered Count the Monkeys by Mac Barnett and Kevin Cornell (2014) last year, but I'm including it because I love it so much, and it is still one of my absolute favorite books to do in storytime because the kids have so much fun with it.
The first page explains we are going to count the monkeys, so be ready as soon as we turn the page....but then, we find a cobra has scared all the monkeys away! Each page has more unexpected characters, and by the end we realize we never did get to count any monkeys, how sad. But wait, some observant child is sure to spot the monkeys on the endpapers as you close the book! It is very interactive as there is not only counting involved, but each spread prompts some type of action, including voting on whether the plural of "mongoose" is "mongooses" or "mongeese". So much silly fun!
This last one is the exception, in that it is not really a book I would use for storytime, though I could see it used with school-aged kids. A Poem for Peter by Angela Davis Pinkney (2016) is a tribute to Ezra Jack Keats and his book A Snowy Day, and tells the story of Keats' life and how the character of Peter and A Snowy Day came to be in a beautiful, lyrical free verse. The illustrations are taken from Keats' original artwork.
I'm really not a poetry person, but I loved this book so much and found it to be so beautiful I ordered my own personal copy immediately after finishing it, and the page with Peter holding hands with Keats actually made me tear up a little. If you are a fan of Keats' work, particularly A Snowy Day, this is a must-read! 💗
Please let me know about all the great picture books (especially storytime books) I missed this year in the comments!
And in case you missed them in the hustle and bustle of the holidays, I also put together lists of my favorite books for middle-grade through teen (plus a couple of adult) from the past year:
- My Favorite Reads in 2017, Part 2: Middle Grade and Tweens
- My Favorite Reads in 2017, Part 1: Teen and Adult