It’s that time again! This is the first list of our family’s favorite picture books of 2016. If you are new here, I normally try to have four lists of what we consider the best picture books spread throughout the year. These picture book lists are all based on what my kids and I have enjoyed the most. We don’t have any other formal criteria. They are simply books that we think will inspire you to run out to your library as fast as possible.
This list includes books in a variety of styles, from poetry to biography, from fantasy to a preschool shape book. We know you will love them all. Happy reading! (Note: covers and titles are affiliate links.)
See also: the index of all our book lists.
The Night Gardener by Terry and Eric Fan is a lovely book about how topiaries bring a community to life. It all begins one night when an unknown gardener transforms a tree into an owl. After that a new animal tree appears each morning. One night a boy discovers the night gardener, who invites him to help with the clipping. The illustrations are lovely and magical.
Spot, the Cat is a wordless book that follows the adventures of a cat who jumps out a window in pursuit of a cat. Author/illustrator Henry Cole has filled the pages with detailed black and white line drawings that are chock full of things to discover. While the cat explores the city, his owner, a boy puts “Lost Cat” signs up around, searching for his friend. All is well at the end, when the two meet for a cozy reunion.
Snappsy the Alligator (Did Not Ask to be in this Book) by Julie Falatko is a great example of how metafictional picture books encourage kids to be active reading partners. The narrator describes Snappsy’s daily business, while Snappsy objects every step of the way. My son thought the feud between narrator and character was quite hilarious and we were both amused by the revelation of the narrator’s identity. Great fun, and a good book for taking turns reading aloud. Parents can read the narrator role, kids can act out Snappy’s lines.
Echo Echo Reverso Poems about Greek Myths is Marilyn Singer’s third book of reverso poems. Reverso poems are poems which can be read backwards and forwards, with slightly different meaning. For example, one poem tells Midas’ story, but when reversed, it narrates his daughter’s experience. Of the three books, this was my son’s favorite since he is interested in the Greek myths.
Beatrix Potter and the Unfortunate Tale of a Borrowed Guinea Pig by Deborah Hopkinson. Charlotte Voake’s illustrations are the perfect match for a story about Beatrix Potter, evoking the style of the famed author, without trying to imitate it. Young Beatrix loves animals, but she doesn’t always have the best of luck when it comes to caring for them. Such is the case when she borrows her neighbor’s guinea pig and it eats a bit of paste! Lovely, charming and funny.
Mom, There’s a Bear at the Door. My seven year old adored this German import by Sabine Lipan. The text is written as a conversation between mom and son. (Perfect for tandem reading!) The mom’s text is in red, the boy’s in black. The boy tells his mom there is a bear at the door, which she obviously doesn’t believe, but she humors him, as all moms do. He describes the bear’s journey to get to the door (through a forest, on a bike, up the elevator, etc.), and of course, his liking for black forest cake.
Solving the Puzzle Under the Sea. This picture book biography tells the story of Marie Tharp, who was the first person to map the ocean floor. The narration includes a lot of interesting information kids are probably not familiar with, but is fascinating nonetheless, like how sound is used to provide data about the sea floor. Raúl Colón’s illustrations are absolutely stunning, and even if the story was bland (which it is not), I’d recommend this book just for them.
The Quickest Kid in Clarksville by Pat Zietlow Miller. My kids and I first learned about Wilma Rudoph with a picture book biography (see it on my list of women’s history books) so it was fun to read this fictional account of a girl who is inspired by Wilma’s Olympic success to become “the quickest kid.” When a new girl shows up with snazzy shoes, Alta reminds herself of all Wilma had to overcome and is inspired not to give up.
Violet and Victor Write the Most Fabulous Fairy Tale. Violet wants to tell a fantastical fairy tale, but her brother is a bit more down to earth. Violet perseveres and the collaborative story that emerges is funny and entertaining. Lovely mixed media illustrations bring the tale to life.
Apples and Robins by Lucie Félix is a terrific book for preschoolers, but even my 11 year old pronounced it “a cool book.” Die cut pages reveal the story of an apple tree. The illustrations worthy of even the most snobbish designers.
See lists from previous years!
- Favorites of 2012: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4
- Favorites of 2013: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3
- Favorite Picture Books of 2014: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3
- (Our) Best Books of 2015, Part 1; Part 2, Part 3, Part 4
- Favorite Books of 2016 Part 2
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