January 2016 Picture Book Picks (for Preschool to Grade 2)


So this is my first list of picture books and I’m so excited! There are so many awesome books out. For the past few months, I’ve been dying to catch up on my “shopping” for books (which is what I call mining through book reviews in journals and websites – used to be to buy stuff for the library I worked at, now it’s to put stuff on hold at my local library), but I’ve been so busy learning about web design (also fun, I must admit), that I haven’t been able to scour the book review magazines, which are starting to pile up in my living room. Finally, I got to dive in a few weeks ago. Woo hoo!!

I’m especially excited about Finding Winnie, which is the true story of the bear that inspired Winnie the Pooh. The illustrations are beautiful, the text gentle with subtle messages of heroism – such as a soldier paying amply for an orphaned bear. The text is a little heavy on a few pages, most noticeably at the beginning of the book, but if you plan to push past that, you’ll be rewarded with a wonderful story.

Others that really stood out were Leo: A Ghost Story and Fire Engine No. 9. I love anything ghosty and loved how Leo: A Ghost Story linked childhood imaginary friends with a ghost story. The story is about finding kindred spirits and the profound relief of finding acceptance. Fire Engine No. 9 was a huge hit with my little guy. It happens that he just got an awesome fire truck for Christmas (thank you Gramma!), which he used to act out scenes from the book. The publishers suggest that the book is meant for preschool at the earliest, but my toddler loved it. The key is probably that the story is told using sounds (like bbbringg) and through action-packed illustrations.

There’s a couple on the list that we read and were so-so about. (And please tell me if you’ve read these and were crazy in love with them… or just had a crush… or were completely indifferent… or whatever. I’d love to hear what you think.) The Wonderful Things You Will Be, I have to say, wasn’t my favorite. It’s super popular, in fact it sold out on Amazon before Christmas, and it got a couple of starred reviews, which usually means good things, but to me, it seemed sort of like it was written to sell. It seemed to take an awesome book – Oh The Places You’ll Go by Dr. Seuss (Amazon affiliate link), scale it down for a younger audience and add some sentiment. But a bunch of people really liked it, so ya know… (trailing off into silence). Also The Non-Sense Show… fa-reaked me out a little. There’s a part where a girl and a horse trade heads. I fully expected my son to take off running when we read that, but you know what? He totally loved that book. He read it over and over. And… the book got great reviews. And… who can argue with Eric Carle for garsh sakes? Okay, I might be in the minority on an aversion to head trading.

Lastly, a mild warning about the Richard Scarry book… The book’s a reprint, so it’s actually pretty old. The text on the Scarry book isn’t the kind of thing that you can just read and your kid will be absorbed in the story. We got a different Scarry book for a baby shower present and when I read it, I didn’t get it. My son kept bringing this thing to me and I’d say, “ooh, that’s a good one, daddy will read it to you.” Or something like that. And daddy loved to “read” the book with him, which mostly meant pointing to pictures and talking about what they both saw. Slowly, I started warming up to this author’s world. It’s almost like a list – our book’s about cars and trucks, so it’s pickle car, pumpkin car, stroller car, and so on. You look at the pictures and soon a sort of light goes on. The books are really imaginative, unique, and special. They seem to speak to a lot of kids.

Okay, enjoy, and be sure to let me know about your current favorite books.

 Seeing stars?  Professional book reviewers only award a star to exceptional books.  More than one star means experts from multiple organizations felt the book was outstanding. 

Finding Winnie Cover
Finding Winnie: The True Story of the World's Most Famous Bear
by Lindsay Mattick
illustrated by Sophie Blackall
published October 20, 2015
Starred Reviews:
Star Image School Library Journal Star Image Booklist Star Image Publisher's Weekly Star ImageHorn Book

Before Winnie-the-Pooh, there was a real bear named Winnie. And she was a girl!

In 1914, Harry Colebourn, a veterinarian on his way to tend horses in World War I, followed his heart and rescued a baby bear. He named her Winnie, after his hometown of Winnipeg, and he took...READ MORE

The Whisper Book Cover
The Whisper
by Pamela Zagarenski
published October 6, 2015
Starred Reviews:
Star Image School Library Journal Star Image Booklist Star Image Kirkus Reviews  

Step inside the pages of a little girl's magical book as she discovers the profound and inspiring notion that we each bring something different to the same story. Two-time Caldecott Honor artist Pamela Zagarenski debuts as an author in this tender picture book about the joy of reading.READ MORE

Leo: A Ghost Story Book Cover
Leo: A Ghost Story
by Mac Barnett
illustrated by Christian Robinson
published August 25, 2015
Starred Reviews:
Star Image School Library Journal Star Image Booklist Star Image Kirkus Reviews Star Image Publisher's Weekly  

New York Times Best Illustrated Book of 2015
You would like being friends with Leo. He likes to draw, he makes delicious snacks, and most people can't even see him. Because Leo is also a ghost. When a new family moves into his home and Leo's efforts to welcome them are...READ MORE

The Wonderful Things You Will Be Book Cover
The Wonderful Things You Will Be
by Emily Winfield Martin
published August 25, 2015
Starred Reviews:
 Star Image Kirkus Reviews Star Image Publisher's Weekly  

From Emily Winfield Martin, author/illustrator of Dream Animals, comes a new book that celebrates the dreams, acceptance, and love that parents have for their children . . . now and forever!
From brave and bold to creative and clever, the rhythmic rhyme expresses all the loving things that parents think of when...READ MORE

by Kevin Henkes
published September 1, 2015
Starred Reviews:
Star Image School Library Journal Star Image Booklist Star ImageHorn Book

What are you waiting for? An owl, a puppy, a bear, a rabbit, and a pig—all toys arranged on a child's windowsill—wait for marvelous things to happen in this irresistible picture book by the New York Times–bestselling and Caldecott Medalist Kevin Henkes.

Five friends sit happily on a windowsill, waiting for...READ MORE

Fire Engine Number 9 Book Cover
Fire Engine No. 9
by Mike Austin
published September 22, 2016
Starred Reviews:
Star Image Kirkus Reviews Star ImageHorn Book

Told almost entirely in sound words, this day-in-the-life look at firefighters and their fire truck will appeal to the youngest vehicle enthusiasts and to parents with a penchant for exuberant read-aloud sessions. With art reminiscent of Donald Crews’s transportation books, Mike Austin evokes the excitement of a 911 call as...READ MORE

Thank You and Goodnight Book Cover
Thank You and Good Night
by Patrick McDonnell
published October 6, 2015
Starred Reviews:
Star Image School Library Journal Star Image Kirkus Reviews Star Image Publisher's Weekly  

An homage to classic bedtime stories and their creators, from a Caldecott Honor recipient and bestselling artist!


Patrick McDonnell's first bedtime book captures the magic of a sleepover with friends, and reminds us to cherish life's simplest pleasures. During a fun pajama party, three animal friends dance and play,...READ MORE

The Nonsense Show Book Cover
The Nonsense Show
by Eric Carle
published October 13, 2015
Starred Reviews:
Star Image School Library Journal Star Image Booklist Star Image Kirkus Reviews Star ImageHorn Book

Ducks growing out of bananas? A mouse catching a cat? What’s wrong with this book from the creator of The Very Hungry Caterpillar?
Yes, there’s something strange, something funny and even downright preposterous on every page of this book. But it’s not a mistake – it’s nonsense! And it’s also surrealism. Nonsense lies at the heart of...READ MORE

What Do People Do All Day Book Cover
Richard Scarry's What Do People Do All Day?
by Richard Scarry
published July 14, 2015

Welcome to Richard Scarry's Busytown! Home to Huckle Cat, Lowly Worm, Goldbug, and more, precshoolers can tour the town on an adventure of discovery and see what fire fighters, construction workers, doctors, pilots, train conductors, and farmers, do all day! And now, this unabridged version of the original classic includes...READ MORE

Monkey: Not Ready for Kindergarten Book Cover
Monkey: Not Ready for Kindergarten
by Marc Brown
published June 23, 2015
Starred Reviews:
Star Image School Library Journal Star Image Publisher's Weekly  

Marc Brown, creator of the beloved Arthur books and TV show, offers a charming new character—and a fun and reassuring story about preparing for the first day of school.
Kindergarten is only a week away . . . but Monkey is NOT ready. What if he gets on the wrong...READ MORE

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Hello there!

Hi!  I'm Sarah.  I'm a former librarian and mother of two -- a teen daughter and a preschooler son.  We love to play outdoors... and read.  :)

This site is all about discovering great books to share with kids and teens. ...Read more

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