This is part 2 in my year long series to share with your our favorite new picture books of 2013. We haven't read every published book yet (but we are on our way). We are limited to what our library gets in a timely fashion and which books we read in bookstores. Make sure you read part 1 to discover more great books (trust me, you don't want to miss Brief Thief).
As I've said before, I choose books as our favorites of the year, not "the best." Sometimes our choices coincide with the critics' "best" and sometimes they do not. I've found that often the critics' don't know my kids' tastes as well as I do. Funny how that is. Nevertheless, there is often overlap.
The Story of Fish and Snail. It was no surprise that Freedman's new book is a delight. After all, Blue Chicken was one of last year's favorites. Also -- hello! -- you all know how I feel about metafiction in children's picture books (and if you don't, well, just click on that link). Fish and Snail live in a book and every day, Fish brings Snail a new story but then one day Snail wants Fish to leave the comfort of the book and experience the story for himself (it is about pirates, after all). Snail balks and so Fish leaves him in a huff. As Snail peers over the edge of his book he wonders, should he take the plunge...?
Journey. This is a truly magical book and both my 4 year old and 8 year old sons loved it. A girl uses her red crayon to draw a door leading to another world. While there she visits a castle, flies into the sky and rescues a bird, all with the help of her red crayon. She is captured by an emperor but her act of kindness towards the bird comes back to her and she finds her way home. The ending will delight you and have you quickly turning back to the first page to find the clues you missed. Becker's illustrations are marvelous and worth studying. If you balk at wordless books (as I used to), take a look at my parent tips for reading wordless books.
I Dare You Not to Yawn. Everyone knows the infectious power of a yawn. Just try not to yawn when someone mentions it! (I bet you are yawning right now!) Fortunately, the narrator has all sorts of tricks to keep from yawning, thus avoiding bedtime. This is a fun bedtime book and my 4 year old and I like to see who can hold out from yawning the longest before the book is done. So far he has won every time.
Twenty Big Trucks in the Middle of the Street. This is a truck book, so of course it was a huge hit with my 4 year old. This rhyming counting book starts out with a ice-cream truck that stalls in the middle of the street (every kid's dream). But then the different trucks start to pile up behind it, causing a rather large and entertaining traffic jam. How will the traffic be dispersed? My son kept offering various solutions to that problem during our reading. It turns out, one of the trucks provides the solution and the the ice cream truck (of course) provides the dessert.
The Dark. When I heard there was a collaboration between Lemony Snicket and Jon Klassen being released I thought, "If that book is not good, I will just give up." Fortunately it is great! Laszlo is afraid of the dark. It usually lives in the basement, although it also lurks in closets and behind the shower curtain. Every morning Laszlo says hello to the dark, hoping that the dark would stop visiting his bedroom at night. One night the dark speaks to Laszlo and leads him to the cure for his fear. Much has been said about this book and its meticulous writing, and I can not hope to compete with the prose of real critics. In the end, all that you need to know is that it's a book my 4 year old, who is afraid of the dark, requested again and again. It didn't miraculously cure him of his fears, but it's a good book, nevertheless.
The Deep Deep Puddle. This is one of those books that may not be on the experts' lists, but was a huge hit in our house. It's another counting book (my son loves counting books right now) and is set in the city where a puddle begins to grow uncontrollably, sucking more and more items into its depths. 1 dog goes in first, then 2 cats, then 3 squirrels, then... you get the idea. After 10 police officers disappear, tanker trucks and hoses (11 and 12, respectively) begin to suck up the water and the backward counting begins. I found this book to be a great deal of fun and at first I thought my son would show some anxiety at the idea of animals and people being dragged into a puddle, but the absurdity of the whole situation and the wonderful illustrations prevented that. If you get a chance, I recommend you check this one out.
How To. These favorites of the year lists usually include at least one sleeper hit. By that I mean a book that I didn't expect my kids to like even though I thought it was great. How To is that book. The text is simple. Each page is a simple how to, "how to wash your socks," "how to make a sandwich," "how to be brave," but it is the juxtaposition between the text and the illustration that makes the book special. In the previous examples we see children dancing shoeless in puddles, lying between pillows, waiting at the top of a slide. The book is a testament to the imagination of childhood. On our first reading of this book my son just listened (rare for him - he's a chatterbox during read alouds) but he immediately requested it again and then wanted to discuss each picture with me. It was a little bit amazing.
Little Owl's Orange Scarf. First of all, can I just point out that the color scheme of this book is the same as that of this blog? That alone is enough to recommend it. Kids whose parents make them wear itchy-scratchy scarves will relate to Little Owl's plight and cheer him on as he tries to lose his scarf everywhere he goes. His mom continues to foil his efforts until Little Owl is able to make a giraffe very, very happy. Mom and Owl get some new yarn that is super-soft and everyone is happy. This story is simple but engaging and I think my son liked this book so much because he could relate to Little Owl's trickster ways!
The Boy Who Loved Math: The Improbable Life of Paul Erdös. It's okay, I did not know who Paul Erdös was before I read this book, either! Now I wish I had known him! I think it must be quite difficult to write a successful and engaging picture book biography and every time I come across one that I love I am impressed. This is a perfect book for my 8 year old, who also is a boy who loves math, but even if your child doesn't feel quite the same way, they will enjoy this book. Paul Erdös was an eccentric, but very sociable mathematician who traveled the world spreading and sharing his love of numbers. Heiligman does a great job of integrating math concepts into the writing and the end notes include some historical background and mathematical explanations.
Crankee Doodle. This book is hilarious, zany, goofy and completely ridiculous. In other words, we loved it. Riffing on the classic song, grouchy Yankee and his cheery horse have an absurd conversation about macaroni and hats and who-knows-what. It all ends in the inevitable trip to town, but not as you might expect. Super silly and super fun.
Have you read any of these new books? What's your favorite new book of the year so far? Don't forget to check out part 1, for 10 additional great books!
Alex Baugh says
These look wonderful.
These are some of my favorites too. Thanks, Erica!
Amy @ Sunlit Pages says
We've only read TWO out of these ten books! Just TWO! (Although, I have to say that I've been trying desperately to get my hands on a copy of "Journey," but our library doesn't have it yet.) Must check out the rest of these pronto!
Beth Carter says
What a great list. And I'd love to humbly ask you to take a look at my upcoming picture book which will be out by October 2013. It's called SANTA'S SECRET. The publisher and I are working on the cover art now!
Thanks for your support of children's literature.
I've ordered, from the library, all the books from your list I haven't read yet! There were, of course, ones I've read and some I'd like to add to your list---well, the ones I can recall---and will list them at the end 🙂
EXCLAMATION MARK --- I found this book very simple and very clever. Definitely fun!
A LONG WAY AWAY --- This was clever, but honestly, I wasn't blown away :/
THE STORY OF FISH AND SNAIL---now THIS book I WAS blown away and even helped sell a copy when I was at Barnes. I think Deborah Freedman is amazing! (She also illustrated THE BOY WHO LOVED MATH, which you have listed.)
JOURNEY---I'm not a big fan of wordless books, but this is beautifully done! The story is enchanting and the illustrations are WONderful! There's a touch of NARNIA (stepping through the door to another world) meets HAROLD AND THE PURPLE CRAYON. Love this book!
THE DARK---I, too, am a fan of both Lemony Snicket and Jon Klassen. This book was done SO well, I was scared! I was honestly questioning if it doesn't create fear of the dark rather than squelching it! lol
CRANKEE DOODLE ---OK, this book IS hilarious! I purchased it as soon as I read it 🙂 Yep---that good---a keeper!
ONES I LOVE THAT YOU DIDN'T MENTION:
FLORA AND THE FLAMINGO by Molly Idle: Absolutely breathtaking illustrations make this, in my opinion, THE best wordless picture book EVER! And I never say that! lol I bought this as soo as I "read" it, too! 😀
THE DAY THE CRAYONS QUIT! by Drew Daywalt, illustrated by Oliver Jeffers. This book is histerically funny. While reading this, I was literally laughing out loud---yes, audibly---in the Barnes & Noble cafe. I'm broke right now, but I WILL own this book!
TEA REX also by Molly Idle: again, stunning illustrations. Talk about talent! The story is charming and the illustrations fully complement it. I WILL own this book, too! 🙂
I know there are many more, but can't think of them at the moment. Thank you, Erica, for all the books you listed I wasn't aware of yet. Can't wait 'til they arrive at my library! 😀
Natalie F says
We read fewer picture books here than before, but I am putting The Boy Who Loved Math on my wish list. So many wonderful books are written every year!
Cathy Ballou Mealey says
These are wonderful favorites! I agree with WRITERSIDEUP about Exclamation Mark! Great new book. And a real delight that I highly recommend is The Table Sets Itself by Ben Clanton which is very, very funny!
Cathy, never heard of THE TABLE SETS ITSELF. I hope my library has it 😀
Anne K. Cramer says
I love the fact that you have lists, that they're so well organized and very well describe each book! My 4 kids are all grown, so now I want to fill my young grandchildren with a love of reading!
Just yesterday, I had my 4-month old graddaughter on my lap, and when I opened the first book to read to her, her whole body expressed the excitement she obviously felt. She was moving her arms and legs, almost trembling out if her skin with the thrill! (This one is a sure bet . . .!)
I just discovered your blog today, through Pinterest, and I just started exploring your lists. May I make a recommendation to add to a future list? I would say that it would be appropriate for books about Courage/Trying new things.
It's called "The Leaf that Wouldn't Leave," by Trish Trinco, published by Tristan Publishing in 2009. The illustrations are very well done also, although I am embarrassed to say that I don't remember the illustrator's name . . . The main reason I like it, other than the theme, is that it rhymes! Since Dr. Seuess, there haven't been that many rhyming picture books. I think that tge rhyming also inspires children to start writing themselves!
Disclaimer: it was written by my sister . . . See her Facebook page, which she is constantly filling with new rhymes, and decide for yourself . (I don't usually do this kind of thing, but I really want to see authentic rhyming, with its natural inspiration, preserved . . .) 😉