2016 Picture Book Recommendations

Several students in my university courses and colleagues and friends have asked which books published in 2016 I’d recommend. Whether you’re someone building a classroom wish list, a Christmas wish list, or any other kind of list, these are some books from 2016 that I want to highlight. Enjoy!

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This is a very timely picture book about welcoming everyone with open arms. Publication couldn’t have happened at a more appropriate time. The warm story has a message that is sure to resonate with children.

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When I read this book, I wanted to give Drift the snowman a hug. Again, a subtle message about being happy when you give what you can spare to those who need it.

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A fascinating story about Ezra Jack Keats written with rich language and accompanied by extraordinary illustrations. There really is not much more to say.

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I knew very little about Ada Lovelace before I read this book. And I believe she’s a woman that everyone should know a little something about. And Fiona Robinson’s illustrations? They seal the deal.

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I am a sucker for Christmas books. I am a bigger sucker for heartwarming Christmas books. This one carries so many great messages with it, and Jerry Pinkney’s illustrations are the perfect match for this Christmas story that is sure to be passed on for years to come.

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You know how I feel about Christmas books, and this is another standout from the year. It’s all about making the best out of a sad situation.

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I first became familiar with April Pulley Sayre’s photographs in Raindrops Roll. Now she’s back, this time with a flurry of winter photos and poetic language. I want to spend the day with April taking pictures. I think I could learn a thing or two.

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Candace Fleming takes what’s known about a very unknown creature and weaves together rich and wonderful poetry, accompanied by Eric Rohmann’s oil paintings. This book made me and the readers I shared it with want to know even more about the giant squid.

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This is a title that made me say, “Why didn’t I think of that?” Genius idea executed perfectly. I hope these two continue to make books together.

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One day there was a gigantic package outside of my office. “What on earth is that?” The return address was from Candlewick… I opened it up to find this oversized treasure of a book. While the text is simple, the illustrations are what make this book stand out- along with its size.

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After reading Mother Bruce to my children’s lit class in the spring, the students wondered if there were plans to write any more Bruce books. Thankfully, the answer was yes. Ryan T. Higgins did not disappoint in the sequel, and I understand there’s even more to come.

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We need quality books that help even our youngest readers begin to develop a sense of empathy for those in our communities and around the world who don’t live like us. This is an amazing example of that kind of book.

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A big struggle for me as a teacher of the primary grades was to help students understand that there are always different ways of looking at things. As Dr. Phil would say, “No matter how flat you make a pancake, it will always have two sides.” – While this book is an exceptional title that can be used to talk about different ways animals see the world, it will also help develop a mindset that there are more than one ways of looking at something.

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From burping in church to throwing sand at people, this dragon is up to no good. A hilarious story with a warm ending that readers will lavish.

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I would use the song Five Little Ducks to teach my students the “take away one” subtraction notion. After using it for several years in the classroom, the song became stale and if I had taught another year, I would have gladly welcomed a fresher song. However, Denise Fleming has put her signature style onto this classic, and it makes it one I’d welcome back into my classroom with open arms.

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There are so many great themes and issues weaved throughout the pages of this book, but the one that stuck with me the most was that even in situations where you don’t get exactly what you want, you can still be happy. That’s a tough thing for children to understand. This book helps them with that mindset.

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Each illustration in this book is so unique and detailed that I would hang each one in my home if I had them. Evan Turk’s style won me over long ago, and this book is no exception to the high quality we’ve come to expect from him.

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Hannah Harrison knocks it out of the park once again with her expressions and a timely message for all children. You can never have enough books about forgiveness, being a friend, and standing up for what’s right.

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I read this one over and over again when I first got a copy- it highlights that very special bond between a grandparent and a grandchild, and is eloquently illustrated by Jerry Pinkney.

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It’s common to bubble up with a big dream, only to have it popped by someone who doesn’t believe in you. You know what they say, if people aren’t laughing at your dreams, you aren’t dreaming big enough. This book encourages dreaming big and reaching for the stars.

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I am not a fan of most “dark” picture books. However, this one is not too dark, and reminds us to never underestimate the power of the underdog.

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This book became an instant favorite- Gilbert Ford’s unique diorama illustrations come together to tell a fascinating story about the invention of the toy slinky. There’s a video out there that shows how Gilbert intricately worked to bring these illustrations to life.

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I enjoyed this book when I first read it. And then I heard Mo Willems read it aloud at ALA, and I became enamored with it. It’s all in the delivery- be sure to rehearse this one before you deliver it to the ears and eyes of young readers.

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I’ve said before that Stacy has a knack for writing picture book texts. She had several released this year, but this one stands out for me as a favorite. There is so much cleverness in this story, and another one with a resounding message.

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A sentimental book that reminds kids that whatever they’re feeling- it’s OK to feel- and somewhere along the line, it’s something that everyone has felt at one point or another.

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When I interviewed Ben Clanton on my blog earlier this year, I learned one thing: I am not the only one in the world who opens the mailbox each day with an eager desire to see what is possibly inside. Liam, the main character of this book, feels the same way, and learns an important lesson.

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The language in this book is so perfect. Writing such exquisite poems about something so seemingly simple is no small feat.

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This book addresses the ever important question- Ah, so you want to be king? You want to be in charge? – Desires to rule and be greedy have their consequences. This fits right up there with Where the Wild Things Are and Yertle the Turtle. 

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So many children try so hard to avoid going to bed. 10-5- or even 1 more minute of staying awake will satisfy them until the clock runs out. This is a book many children can relate to. It’s Lisa Graff’s debut in picture books, and I think it’s a format she should continue to write.

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Dads. They are often stereotyped in picture books, but this book gets to the heart of the matter and delivers a knock out text that truly captures what they are and the special relationships children have with them.

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As a person who was afraid of dogs as a child, I could relate to Hannah. But this is a book about more than being afraid of dogs- it’s a book about conquering any fear.

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I see more and more classrooms adding Makerspace places to their routines and environments. What’s even better is when they add picture books to encourage that mindset- this is a great title to set up in your makerspaces to encourage thinking outside the box (pardon the pun) and using your imagination to its full extent.

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I loved the made up language here, and the banter between two best frints. Antoinette has created a masterpiece that is guaranteed to bring a smile to the faces of readers.

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Julie Fogliano. Master wordsmith. Julie Morstad. Master illustrator.
What do you get when you combine the two?

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It’s no secret that I’m a softie. Always have been, always (probably) will be. This one had me sobbing. Not just tearing up- sobbing. Such an important message about legacy and gripping tight the memories that precious loved ones leave behind.

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In a world where continual change is almost guaranteed, we need more books like this- comforting children and reminding them to look to the constants of life for comfort. Matthew Cordell was the perfect match for this text by Rebecca Kai Dotlich.

 

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