Friday, November 4, 2011

Picture Books of 2011

It's Picture Book Month! Did you know? If not, you can read all about it. I don't write about picture books often on this blog, but they are very much a part of my everyday life. In celebration of Picture Book Month, I bring you my favorites of the year. Yesterday the NY Times revealed its 2011 Best Illustrated Children's Books. This post is unrelated to the NY Times list. This post has been scheduled for today for weeks. Great minds think alike and all that. My list is very different from the NY Times one. I don't know what criteria they used. My criteria: I had fun reading/looking at the book and, most importantly, my test subjects approved.
My Test Subjects (ages 7 and 3):

Apple Pie ABC by Alison Murray
Alphabet books are a dime a dozen. This one stands far and above the rest in my opinion. There are words and phrases for every letter, as one expects in an alphabet book. A for apple pie, B for bake it, C for cool it, D for dish it out, and on. All of it is held together by one narrative thread, a hungry little dog that desperately wants that pie and will go to any length to get it. The illustrations are crisp, clean and basic giving the book a very classic feel. This is an excellent choice for an alphabet book because it is one that can grow with a child. (Even the seven year old enjoyed it.)

Blackout by John Rocco
It's a busy night in the city and all one little boy wants to do is play a board game. But sister is on the phone, Mom is on the computer, and Dad is cooking dinner. Everyone is too busy so the little boy settles for playing a video game. But then...The Lights Went Out. All of Them. (The page spread that shows this is brilliant.) The family, together now, goes to the roof and then to the street, where neighbors are gathering and enjoying the night, the starts, and each other. The illustrations in the book are gorgeous and Rocco's use of light and shadow amazing. Both my kids love this book. The little one flips through it looking at the pictures again and again. I shared this book with my K-2 Literature class and they all really enjoyed it as well. As for me, this is my top favorite of the year.

Follow Me by Tricia Tusa
A girl and a swing, the perfect combination. I could spend hours on a swing when I was a child and Bit is the same way. Tricia Tusa captured perfectly the feeling of flying through the air while going all the places only your imagination can take you. Add to that the colorful and vibrant pictures, and you have a beautiful book that is going to make you want to locate the nearest swing set so you can experience it for yourself.

I Broke My Trunk and Should I Share My Ice Cream? by Mo Willems
Yes, I know these are easy readers, but they are also picture books. We are big fans of Elephant and Piggie around here so we were suitably excited when three new ones were released this year. We like these two the best. I Broke My Trunk has Gerald telling Piggie the story of how his trunk was broken. The suspense builds, and just when you think you know exactly how Gerald broke his trunk, the unexpected happens. In Should I Share My Ice Cream? Gerald has an ice cream cone and a big decision to make: to share or not to share? Bit is way past the easy reader phase but she still loves these books. She reads them to her brother with quite a bit of dramatic gusto, much to his delight. The books are great read alouds for preschoolers as they can find a kindred spirit in Piggie.

Pocketful of Posies: A Treasury of Nursery Rhymes by Salley Mavor
When I was creating this list I decided to cover books published from October 2010 through September 2011. This book was released September 27, 2010 but I love it so much that I decided that was close enough. Nursery Rhymes are becoming a thing of the past. Many kids nowadays just don't know them like they used to. Reason enough to own a copy of this book. What makes it so incredibly special are the illustrations. If you are unfamiliar with Salley Mavor's illustrations visit her website. She sews and embroiders them all and I'm not at all exaggerating when I say this book is a work of art. Actually it is a collection of several works of art. Each illustration is handcrafted in minute detail. This book was the 2011 Boston Globe-Horn Book Award winner in the Picture Book Category.

Press Here by Herve Tullet
This is an interactive picture book. When you hear that you might think that means it is touch and feel, makes noise, or is maybe even scratch and sniff. You might think something on the page moves. Nope. To all of that. This book is illustration after illustration of primary colored dots on a white (and couple of times black) background. I was skeptical when I first picked it up from the library. Then I read it to my son and watched the magic happen. It didn't matter to him that the dots weren't actually moving and there were no bangs or whistles. He loves counting the dots, tipping the book, "blowing" the dots, shaking the dots up, and clapping to make them "grow". It was the most amazing thing and testament to how kids don't need fancy packages, they can make anything happen with their imagination and a simple concept.

Where's Walrus by Stephen Savage
This is a wordless picture book, not a usual favorite around here. However, Stephen Savage's book is just delightful and deserves to be an exception. Walrus is bored with life in the zoo and decides to do something about it. Escape and go on the run. Through retro style illustrations Savage shows all the unique disguises Walrus employs while trying to evade the zoo keeper in hot pursuit.

Hmmmm....I didn't realize until I typed this all out, but every one of my favorites this year was illustrated by the author. Something to ponder.

These books were taken from a greater list I made of books I've enjoyed reading in the past year. I made the list because I often start to receive emails from friends and family around this time of year asking for new book recommendations. I compiled a master list this year to make things easier. It is here if you are interested in seeing it in its entirety.


  1. Cutest test subject's ever! But what is up with the look on C's face? haha I know why you like "Follow Me" so much. :-)

  2. Just wanted to say that your kids are cute! :P

  3. April, he was in the process of doing his scrunch up smile that he does for all pictures now.

    Thanks Chachic!