Favorite Children’s Books of 2013 (Part 3)

It’s that time of year, when all the “best books of the year” lists come out. Well, I certainly don’t want to be left out of the party! During the course of the year, I read all the new children’s picture books I can get my hands on. I publish several “best of” (actually they are “favorites”, because I take a bit of issue with the term “best.” (I’m a hypocrite and use it sometimes, though!)

11 best picture books of 2013 for children. Click for entire list. Which ones have you read?

If you think a book is missing from this list, check our previous lists of favorites of 2013! Part 1 and Part 2 are waiting for your perusal.

Unlike professional critics, publishers don’t send me all their books to review and I also can’t include books I haven’t had a chance to read, no matter how awesome the critics say they are, so there are a few out there I think would have made the list, but I haven’t had a chance to track them down. I am not a blogger who creates book lists based on what I think you want to buy, I create lists based on what I’ve read — how else will I know to recommend it?

Don’t forget, if you are looking for books on a particular topic, or are curious about the other 40-odd book lists I made this year, you can always refer to the index page which catalogs all of my book lists. {Note: All these books are tried and tested by my 2 kids. Covers and titles are affiliate links.)

Favorite Picture Books of 2013 (part 3!):

City Cat. I rather embarrassed myself at a recent book fair when I confessed to Lauren Castillo that I “stalk” her. What I meant was that I eagerly await each of her new books and follow her blog. This is Castillo’s second collaboration with author Kate Banks.  City Cat wakes up one morning and without missing a beat heads out on an adventure that takes her to several major European cities. My transportation-obsessed kids loved pointing out the different ways City Cat travelled, from buses to gondolas to trains. There is lots to explore in each spread as kids can hunt for the different flags, famous landmarks and the young family with whom she is traveling.  My map loving 8 year old liked the map of City Cat’s journey through Europe as well as the end notes about each location visited.  Also available as an ebook.

Herman and Rosie. I first learned of this book on My Little Bookcase last year and was devastated that a book set in NYC would be published first in Australia! I didn’t want to wait, but boy was the wait worth it. What a splendid book! Herman and Rosie are two musicians, but they are lonely, just waiting to meet someone they can call a friend. There is a lot of delectable detail in the book, both in the descriptions of the characters, and also in the drawings. It’s truly a love story – of the city, of music, of life. Don’t miss it. Also available as an ebook.

Mr. Tiger Goes Wild. We are big Peter Brown fans. Flight of the Dodo still makes my kids giggle, even after years of reading and The Curious Garden is one of my top picture books. (Admittedly I have a lot of “top” picture books.) In this one, a civilized tiger feels oppressed by all the rules he had to follow. He slowly sheds his clothes and returns to the jungle where he “finds himself.” What I love about the book (besides its quirky humor) is that in the end the tiger (and the other animals) finds a happy medium, where rules and his unique free spirit can co-exist. There is always lots of giggling when we read this one, especially when the tiger “gets naked!” Peter Brown has a clever activity kit to go with the book at his website. Free printables include a tiger mask, matching game and (my favorite) stick puppets and background scenery so kids can act out their own “into and out of the wild” stories!  There’s even a bonus holiday kit. Also available as an ebook.

Locomotive. I knew this book would be on the list from the moment I heard about it! Using a 1869 transcontinental journey as the narrative framework, Floca includes every detail about steam trains a railroad crazy kid could possibly want. There is a lot of text here, but Floca’s judicious use of onomatopoetic text and train sounds kept my almost 5 year old as equally enthralled as my 8 year old was by the outpouring of facts. This was the book I chose to purchase for New Kid’s Hanukkah gift this year.  Also available as an ebook.

How to Hide a Lion. This is such a darling story. When a lion wanders into town and is chased off by the inhabitants, only a little girl recognizes his true kindness and works to keep him safe. It’s not easy to hide a lion, though, especially when he enjoys jumping on the bed! This book is big with gentleness as well as some laughter as Iris tries to find a good spot to hide her new friend. The townspeople eventually see the lion for the tender soul that he is when he save the town from a burglary. There’s a lot to be found studying the illustrations, which remind me of vintage books from an earlier time.

What Makes a Baby. This is the surprise choice. I had heard lots of great things about this book but was still skeptical that it would be a book my kids would truly enjoy. Perhaps it was the timing of their curiosity that made them keep coming back to reading this book, but more likely it was the way it spoke to them in ways they could understand — but not in a dumbed down way — about how families of all kinds are built and cherished. Also available as an ebook.

Unicorn Thinks He’s Pretty Great. When we checked this book out of the library for the first time, the boys could not make it home without stopping on the sidewalk to read it. My older son actually read it out loud to his brother, a rare occurrence! Goat used to think he was pretty special until that Unicorn moved into town with his sparkly, magic horn and ability to make it rain cupcakes! Goat, however, has something Unicorn does not: the ability to make milk! Together they make a great team. Ridiculous and hilarious. Also available as an ebook.

Tea Party Rules. Don’t worry, this is not a political treatise! It’s true, even little boys can like books about tea parties. Cub happens upon a little girl’s tea party, and boy do those cookies smell good! But —  arg! —  there are so many rules to follow! After some finagling and lots of laughter, the rules change and the two become friends. Also available as an ebook.

Warning: Do Not Open This Book! Long time followers of my book lists (Yay! Thanks for sticking around.) know that I am a huge fan of metafiction (yup, there’s a book list for that). I am happy to report that my predilection for playful narrative structure has rubbed off on my kids. This book is in chaos! The monkey are on the loose! Don’t worry! The banana trap will save the day. Yup, the banana trap.  Curious, aren’t you? Also available as an ebook.

The Nowhere Box. Here’s a book that struck a chord with my sons who are forever complaining about being pestered by each other. George has two very annoying younger brothers, the “Eversiblings.” So what does he do? He enlists the help of a cardboard box to transport him to Nowhere, a place where his brothers cannot find him. Let me tell you, I recognized every detail, every facial expression as being completely identical to ones I’ve witnessed in my own home with the boys!

Hello, My Name Is Ruby. I can usually count on books with a strong friendship theme being a bit hit with my younger son and my older son (who, yes, at the age of 8 still loves picture books) always enjoys a book about birds. Ruby wants to make some friends, so she sets out to introduce herself to every new bird she meets. Fans of Leo Lionni’s Swimmy will recognize an homage to that collage artist and everyone will smile when Ruby finds a group of birds just like her. 

Is you favorite new book on this list? Is it on one of our previous lists? What was your favorite new picture book of 2013?

Picture books of 2013, part 1
Picture books of 2013, part 2

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  1. Yay! I’m so glad to hear that you loved Herman and Rosie. It does feel like you’ve had to wait a long time for it. ;)

  2. I love Herman and Rosie! Still waiting for City Cat at the NYPL. I’ll have to check out some of the others.

    • Erica MomandKiddo says:

      City Cat came out just a week or so ago. I bought it from Lauren Castillo at the Brooklyn Museum Children’s Book fair and she told me it had only come out 2 days earlier. So it was just sort of a fluke that I was able to read it in time for this list.

  3. teachingyoungchildren says:

    Ooh, great list. We only read one out of these books (Unicorn). City Cat looks wonderful. By the way, your comment box is a little flaky and doesn’t always load…

    • Erica MomandKiddo says:

      I’ve noticed that too, but I don’t really know what to do about it! I notice it happens more on mobile than on desktop.

  4. I love 6 out of the 11 you picked, Erica (won’t name which), hadn’t heard of 4 and don’t agree with 1. It’s been a fun year for picture books!!! :D

  5. What a great list. We’ll definitely be checking out Locomotive and many others are your list. Pinned!

  6. Love your list! I loved City Cat, Mr. Tiger Goes Wild! and Hello, My Name is Ruby. I need to read the rest of the books!

  7. thank you for an awesome list of books that my kids and I are sure to enjoy.

  8. Thanks so much! Lots of new ones here that I hadn’t come across already! I follow a bunch of book-list-making sites and blogs, but by this time of the year I usually find that most of the suggestions are things we’ve already read. So nice to find new ideas!

    • Erica MomandKiddo says:

      Thanks! I try really hard to make sure my lists have books that people won’t see everywhere, and the “best of” lists do tend to recommend the same group of titles.

  9. My kids all love UNICORN THINKS HE’S PRETTY GREAT! Such a fun read!

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