Top 13 of 2016: Last Minute Shopping Edition

I originally intended to write a “Top Ten” list of my favorite books that I had reviewed in 2016. I started my blog in February of this year and I have read/reviewed a lot of wonderful books in that time! It’s very hard to narrow down the list, but I have come up with a “baker’s dozen” that might help you out if you’re still looking for a picture book to buy that voracious picture book reader for the holidays. They’re not all published in 2016, but most of them are at least within the past two years or so– links are to my reviews. I decided in the end not to number them because I love them all for different reasons.

So, read these when you want a book that will…

…make you look at the world through different eyes:

The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt (ill. by Oliver Jeffers)
Red: A Crayon’s Story by Michael Hall

As much as I love all the books in this post, these two hold a very special spot, and I am constantly telling people about both of them. Who would ever have thought of personifying crayons? I can’t get through “Red” without crying — it is just such a beautiful story of self-acceptance. Daywalt takes crayons in the opposite direction and blows me away with his mix of inspired illustrations and creative characterization. If you haven’t read these, you are in for a huge treat.

…surprise you and make you laugh:

Snappsy the Alligator (Did not ask to be in this book) by Julie Falatko (ill. by Tim Miller)
This Orq by David Elliott (ill. by Lori Nichols)

I adore books that play with the 4th wall and Snappsy is such creative and unpredictable fun! Orq surprises in a different way, but both authors are experts at using language to enhance their characters and make them lovable.

…renew your faith in humanity:

Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Peña (ill. by Christian Robinson)
A Boy and a Jaguar by Alan Rabinowitz (ill. by Catia Chien)
Iggy Peck, Architect by Andrea Beaty (ill. by David Roberts)

At first glance, this trio is not very related:  Last Stop on Market Street has won scads of awards for creating a heart-warming story of urban diversity, A Boy and a Jaguar is a largely true story of a stuttering boy who grows up to study and save animals, and Iggy Peck is a whimsical rhyming story about a passion for creating. However, all three authors create characters you care about and cheer for: characters you feel certain will grow up to change the world.

…take you on a quiet but inspiring adventure:

Madame Martine by Sarah S. Brannen
The Plan by Alison Paul (ill. by Barbara Lehman)

Both of these books are dear to me for different reasons– Madame Martine reminds me of my mother, with whom I have traveled around Paris several times, and The Plan reminds me of my father, a private pilot who used to take me up in his plane when I was a young girl. Both of them qualify as “quiet books” in a way because their plots aren’t earth shattering or loud, but they are both inspiring and make you want to chase your dreams.

…help you accept how awesome you really are:

Normal Norman by Tara Lazar (ill. by S. britt)
Unicorn Thinks He’s Pretty Great by Bob Shea

I adore both of these texts because they are goofy and hilarious reads kids will want to hear over and over again (and read along with), but they’re also pretty life-affirming and teach their own little mini-lessons of accepting diversity without making anything too preachy or obvious. I could completely relate to the resentful “goat” in Shea’s book, and I wanted to give Norman a big hug.

…show you how good rhyme can enhance a read-aloud:

Even Superheroes have Bad Days by Shelly Becker
Dear Dragon by Josh Funk (ill. by Rodolfo Montalvo)

Frequent readers know I am also a poet and I love writing in rhyme (whether sonnets or picture book manuscripts). So, I have huge respect for those who do it well. These two texts are very different in style (Dragon is told in rhyming letters while Superheroes is for a slightly younger set and a little more “sing-song”) but both are endearing and great read alouds. I also have to give an honorable mention to Funk’s debut picture book, Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast, which came out in Sept. 2015 before I started my blog so I haven’t reviewed it here and thus can’t include it.  My boys love that book and I can highly recommend it– Josh is such a fun writer (and a great guy, too!)

So there you have them– my 2016 book recommendations. Are you giving picture books this holiday season? If so what? I’d love to know!

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