This is the second in my series of book lists featuring our favorite picture books of the year. It’s difficult to narrow down what I think are the best books published this year, so I put all the onus on my kids! The only requirement for a book to make this list is for my kids to love it. It so happens that this list is filled with titles the professional critics are also calling the best children’s books of 2014, but that has not always been the case.
My intention is always to get 4 of these lists up a year. I was quite late this year, but I think I will manage to get up another list before the year is out, so at least I will get to three (fingers crossed!).
In the meantime, I hope you will also take a look at this year’s previous list, as well as leave your own favorites in the comments, below. (Note: covers and titles are affiliate links.)
When I first heard about Hug Machine I knew I had to read it. My almost 6 year old is exactly like the kid in the book, always willing and able to give a hug to anyone and anything. (My older son, on the other hand, requires that I ask permission before giving him a hug!) The book did not disappoint and my son loved it, especially when the boy in the book reveals the food that gives him the proper fuel to keep the hug machine up and running! It’s sure to bring a smile to your face.
A Perfectly Messed-Up Story is one of the funniest books I’ve read in a long time. When I opened the book to read aloud for the first time, I had no expectations and was quite unprepared for how hilarious it is. I don’t even want to tell you the premise! All I will say is that, book loving parents with messy children will completely relate. Be prepared to read it aloud with flair — leave your monotone at the door! MORE: Patrick McDonnell’s Art was on my list of picture books to inspire creativity.
Mix It Up! By now you may have heard about this sequel to the wildly popular, Press Here (which just so happens to be my number one recommendation for gift giving to kids 4 and under). Using the same interactive format as Press Here, Mix it Up! focusses on color mixing. Kids will love it and parents will love the fact that there is no “on”button. (Note: Chronicle Books provided us with a review copy.)
My youngest son is at that wonderful age in which he is really starting to “get” literary irony. That is to say, he finds it delightful when he is in on a secret that the characters in the book are oblivious to. (That’s a weird sentence, but I can’t seem to fix it.) Sam and Dave Dig a Hole is just such a book. Sam and Dave are digging for a treasure. Their hole becomes bigger and more elaborate, but they just can’t seem to find that spectacular something they are looking for. The reader, on the other hand, sees the treasure clearly. I’m a big fan of the Barnett-Klassen team, with their dead-pan humor and subtle, wry illustrations. MORE: Barnett’s book Oh No! is on my list of picture books about rowdy girls.
As Lita Judge is one of my must-read children’s author/illustrators, I was eagerly awaiting my library copy of Flight School. This book marks Judge’s third appearance on our favorites of the year series, since I included Red Hat and Red Sled in my 2013 and 2011 lists. A young penguin may not have exactly the right body for flight, but he has the “soul of an eagle.” Eager to enroll in flight school and learn what it takes to soar, he is not discouraged. Fortunately, the other birds are so taken with his determination they do what it takes to make his dreams come true. Utterly delightful.
Shh! We Have a Plan is another winner from Christ Haughton. Four friends have a plan. They sneak though the wilderness in an attempt to catch a bird. Along the way, they “shush” the littlest participant, assuring him, they “have a plan!” Each attempt, however, is thwarted (in a giggle-inducing way) and it turns out, the little guy may have the right idea, after all. Great fun, and it offers a subtle lesson in the power of cooperation and kindness.
Ninja! My kids never went through a ninja faze, as many boys do. However, every time I bring home a ninja themed picture book, they take to it, like a duck to water. Is it the sneaking around that they like? The idea of stealth, and secret strength? I don’t know, but my 5 year old sure enjoyed this book about a boy who uses his ninja skills and his big imagination to secure himself some milk and cookies.
Quest is the much anticipated sequel to Journey, and it does not disappoint. I’ve written many times about how reading wordless books is beneficial and I was delighted to see my own advice paying off when I brought this book home from the library. My 5 year old immediately took to it, explaining the story of how two friends journey to a magical world to help a king escape his captors. Author/illustrator Aaron Becker’s thrilling imaginary tale will leave your family eager for the final installment. MORE: See Journey on our list of favorite adventure books for kids.
Gaston is a bulldog in a family of poodles. He tries very hard to excel at all the poodle lessons. One day when the family is out for a stroll in the park, they meet a family of bulldogs… with a poodle. Well. The two seemingly misplaced dogs swap places. But the poodle family misses Gaston. And the bulldog family misses Antoinette. The underlying message is, of course, that families do not have to be homogeneous, and love is not dependent on outward appearances. Charming.
Hermelin the Detective Mouse is classic Mini Grey and is another great book for kids who like to “be in on the joke.” Hermelin watches a row of townhouses through a pair of mini binoculars. His skill with a typewriter allows him to write notes to the inhabitants and help them solve a series of minor mysteries. One day his note writing skills save a baby and the neighbors invite the mysterious Hermelin to a party. When they find out he is a mouse, they panic, but a friendly girl brings him back into the fold. There is so much to look at in the illustrations. Once you read this book the first time your kids will immediately want to comb back through the pages to find the clues that they missed. I love this kind of book for getting readers enthusiastic about the nuances of storytelling. MORE: Mini Grey’s books also appear on our science fiction picture book list.
Flashlight is another wordless book, much simpler in scope than Quest, but quite delightful in it’s own right. I was impressed at how much my younger son enjoyed this book. A child shines his flashlight in the dark, illuminating small creatures and natural wonders. Small page cut-outs and the focused nature (pardon the pun) of the illustrations encourage kids to take their time pouring over the pages of this book. Halfway through the book, the light is refocused (so to speak) in gently humorous twist when the animals get a hold of the flashlight. (Note: Chronicle Books provided us with a review copy.)
What books published in 2014 are your children reading?