It's the most wonderful time of year. Nope, I'm not talking about the holidays.
The critics "best" book lists are coming out. This is the final part in our 5th annual favorite children's books of the year list.
Unlike the venerated lists put out by Kirkus, or the New York Times, ours is a humble list of our best picture books of 2015. It is long (a four part series!). It is not curated by the professional critics. However, my sons and I always enjoy putting together our own lists of what we consider our the best books of 2015. (Consider, however, that we have not read every book published this year.) So, at least you can be assured that these books are kid and mom approved.
I have so many more books that I would have liked to include on this list, but since I had to keep the list manageable, I will simply save those books for future lists. What were your favorite new books this year? have you read any of these books yet? (Note: book cover images and titles are affiliate links.)
Toys Meet Snow: Being the Wintertime Adventures of a Curious Stuffed Buffalo, a Sensitive Plush Stingray, and a Book-loving Rubber Ball. Imagine my elation in discovering an addition to the beloved Toys Go Out series by Emily Jenkins! Oh my goodness! I practically fainted. Jenkins and illustrator Paul O. Zelinsky did not disappoint with this picture book companion to their popular chapter books (which are some of our all time favorite read aloud books for young kids). Plastic, StingRay and Lumphy find themselves alone during the first snow of the season and head out for an afternoon of wondrous discovery. The distinct personalities of the three friends shine. Curious Lumphy, imaginative StingRay (who is dry clean only and must don a baggie for the occasion) and knowledgeable Plastic play in the snow until sunset. A glorious book.
You Can Do It, Bert! by Ole Könnecke made us laugh out loud with its surprising twist. I will absolutely not give it away, so don't even ask. This is a lighthearted and gently humorous tale about a bird who is about to have a first time experience. Will he go for it? How will his friends react? My son was so delighted with this story that when his dad came home, he had to read it to him, just so he could recreate the magic of the moment when the reader finds out what Bert is really up to!
Everyone Loves Bacon by Kelly DiPucchio. It's true, everyone does. But will they still love Bacon, when he becomes a big star? My son loved the anthropomorphic breakfast food in this cautionary, yet funny tale of what happens if you let fame go to your head. Although I don't always prefer digital illustrations I quite enjoyed the retro style of this book. Be sure to read it during breakfast!
Tiptoe Tapirs by Hanmin Kim. My kids always love a good porquoi tale. In this story, we learn how the leopard acquired the skill of walking silently through the jungle. When the story begins, the jungle is a very noisy place, and only the tapir knows how to tiptoe. One day a leopard pursues the tapir until a hunter appears with a very noisy gun! The tapir shows the leopard how to flee silently and avoid the hunter. We had so much fun with this book and the sounds of the animals encourage the kids to join in. I adored the illustrations.
Zen Socks. This is the latest in Jon J Muth's Zen Shorts series, and like the others, Stillwater the Panda offers important lessons to his friends about the importance of kindness and empathy towards others. Gentle humor and "ah ha" moments keep things from getting preachy and Muth's illustrations are marvelous as usual.
One Word from Sophia. Sophia's one true desire is to get a giraffe for her birthday. She prepares elaborate, individualized presentations to argue her case before each family member: a judge, businessperson, lawyer and disciplinarian (grandma!). Can she win her case, and will she find just the right word to win her case and convince the jury? This book made us smile.
Bear and Squirrel Are Friends . . . Yes, Really! by Deb Pilutti. If you are surprised to learn that a bear and a squirrel are friends, you are not alone. No one would expect such a friendship. After all, a squirrel would make a tasty midnight snack for bear. And indeed, it does seem that their friendship might not survive bear's post-hibernation appetite. My youngest son always likes books about unusual friends and this one had him giggling the whole way through. Although he may not admit it, I do believe he was a bit white-knuckled as we approached the end.
I Am Yoga by Susan Verde. Although my sons liked this book, they might not list it as their favorite, but it was certainly one of mine. Why? Because any book that can get my kids to try out a few new moves during story time is a winner in my book. (pun!) Peaceful text and illustrations make this a great book for yoga novices and experts alike.
The Most Wonderful Thing in The World by Vivian French. This is a long picture book, but it is utterly gorgeous and a lovely fairy tale. Once upon a time a king and queen set out to find a husband for their daughter. They send a letter to a wise man who says they must find a man who can show them the most wonderful thing in the world. While the rulers entertain prospective suitors, their daughter explores the city. Angela Barrett's illustrations are exquisite and there is much to look at as the suitors bring fantastic object after fantastic object to the king and queen. This is a marvelous story that will appeal to those of you who like old-fashioned tales.
Lillian's Right to Vote: A Celebration of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. I first introduced you to this book in my list of picture books to help kids learn how to fight racism. Jonah Winter and Shane W. Evans are a stellar author/illustrator team and the topic is extremely timely both as we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act and as we head into the first election season in which that Act has been compromised. The 100 year old Lillian climbs a hill to vote for the first time. As she climbs she recalls the history of her family and African-Americans in her country and all it took to get to this point. I found the book quite moving. Both my kids asked a lot of questions about the events they saw in the illustrations, which to me is the mark of a good book. A powerful story.
Mother Bruce by Ryan T. Higgins. My youngest son thought this story was hilarious. Bruce is a grumpy bear who loves eggs. It is actually the only thing he likes, and he is quite a good cook. He even prints out gourmet recipes from the internet. He does not, however, appreciate it when one day his eggs hatch. He tries to return them but mama has already flown south. The scowling Bruce has no choice but to raise them himself. Can the goslings turn his frown upside down?
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