Somehow it’s already mid-December, the time of year when I start thinking about the upcoming Caldecott Award announcement. Every year, in January, I like to do Mock Caldecott storytimes, where I share several picture books and ask the kids to guess which one they think will win. Here’s my list of favorite picture books published in 2015. I’m basing it mostly on the reactions I’ve gotten from reading these aloud, either at storytimes, or with my 6 year-old daughter.
I Don’t Want to Be a Frog by Dev Petty; illustrated by Mike Boldt
When a young frog complains that he’d like to be some other animal, because frogs are too slimy, and wet, and eat too many bugs, an older frog tries to counter all of his arguments. The young frog isn’t convinced though, until a wolf tells him that he likes to eat every other animal, except slimy, wet, bug-eating frogs. My daughter asked for this book several times, and it got laughs from both kids and parents at storytime.
Stick and Stone by Beth Ferry; illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld
A stick and a stone are both lonely, until they meet and become friends. When Pinecone picks on Stone, Stick sticks up for him because “that’s just what sticks do.” And when Stick gets stuck in a puddle, Stone rescues him. This book reminds me of Kathryn Otoshi’s One, although it is a much simpler, lighter story that nicely summarizes what it means to be a good friend. I haven’t shared this one at storytime yet, but my daughter loved it.
How to Share with a Bear by Eric Pinder; illustrated by Stephanie Graegin
A boy builds a cozy fort out of blankets, only to find it constantly being taken over by a small bear. He tries everything he can think of to lure the bear away from the fort– blueberries, honey, and a sink full of water and toys– and finally gets the fort to himself. But then the bear is revealed to be his tearful little brother in a bear suit, and the boy rebuilds the fort so they can share. A super sweet sibling story that was a hit at storytime.
Little Tree by Loren Long
A little tree is afraid to let go of his leaves, even as all the trees around him shed theirs and grow new ones. Over time, he is overshadowed by all of trees around him, until he can no longer see the sky, and is finally convinced to let go and grow. I haven’t read this one at storytime yet, but when I brought home a stack of picture books to read to my daughter, she said it was her favorite. It would work well for a theme about the seasons, but on a deeper level it’s a wonderful story about the pains of growing up.
The Princess and the Pony by Kate Beaton
Princess Pinecone wants a big, strong, fast, warrior horse befitting a warrior princess. Instead she gets a small, chubby, gassy pony. But her disappointing pony ends up turning the battle around in a surprising way. This one was a big hit both with my daughter, and with the kids at storytime.
Interstellar Cinderella by Deborah Underwood; illustrated by Meg Hunt
Although there are lots of picture book variations on the Cinderella story, this one stands out because of its plucky, mechanically-inclined heroine. In this story, Cinderella not only has to devise her own transportation to get to the Royal Space Parade, she also rescues the Prince when his ship breaks down. I love the ending, where Cinderella declines to marry the Prince, and instead becomes his chief mechanic. My daughter and I had fun reading this one together.
The New Small Person by Lauren Child
Elmore Green enjoys being an only child, and having his own room, where no one ever moves his things or eats his favorite jelly beans. But then a new small person arrives, and Elmore worries that people seem to like him more than they do Elmore. Plus the new small person moves his things, cries during his favorite television shows, and even licks his jelly beans. But over time, Elmore learns that younger brothers can be fun, helpful, and even comforting. My boss read this one at a storytime recently, and it was met with lots of laughs and “Aww’s.”
Wolfie the Bunny by Ame Dyckman; illustrated by Zachariah OHora
One of my daughter’s favorite books of the year, this one’s about a family of bunnies who adopt an abandoned wolf pup. Although her parents think that Wolfie is absolutely wonderful, little Dot is convinced he is going to eat them all up, until one day she and Wolfie have a run in with a hungry bear, and have to save each other. Funny and adorable.
Red: A Crayon’s Story by Michael Hall
Red has a big problem. Even though his label clearly says he is a red crayon, he only seems to be able to color things blue. Everyone says he just needs to try harder, until one day a new friend asks him to color a blue ocean, and he finally discovers what he is meant to be. This is wonderful allegory for anyone who’s ever felt forced to try and be something they’re not, but beyond that, my daughter was so taken with the story that she went on to write her own versions with different colors of crayons.
Finding Winnie: The True Story of the World’s Most Famous Bear by Lindsay Mattick; illustrated by Sophie Blackall
Before there was Winnie the Pooh, there was a man named Harry Colebourn, a veterinarian who bought a bear cub from a hunter at a train station in Canada. He took the cub along with him to England, and named her Winnie, after his hometown of Winnipeg. Winnie became the mascot of his military unit, but when Harry learned that he would have to go to France to help on the front lines, he brought her to the London Zoo, where she became a favorite among the visitors, especially a small boy named Christopher Robin. When I was reading this book with my daughter, at first I found it jarring that it begins with a mother telling the story to her son. But in end, the son is revealed to be the great-great-great-grandson of Harry Colebourn, and the woman telling the story is his great-great-granddaughter, the author of the book. A lovely story, both for animal lovers and fans of Winnie the Pooh. Funnily enough, there’s another new picture book out about this same story called Winnie: The True Story of the Bear Who Inspired Winnie-the-Pooh by Sally M. Walker, illustrated by Jonathan D. Voss. I enjoyed that one too–it has a lot more details about the antics of the bear, and the illustrations are darling– but it didn’t give me the chills the way Finding Winnie did on discovering the connections between the book’s subject and its author. I’m looking forward to sharing this book with the second graders I read to in the New Year.
What are your favorite picture books of the year?