Tracey’s Favorite Picture Books of 2015

I love picture books! I loved to read them aloud when I was a primary teacher, a mother, and a daycare mom. Each year so many excellent ones are published, and it is not an easy job to winnow them down into a manageable list—a self-imposed annual task. I used to try to keep the number of favorites to 10, then to a dozen or even a baker’s dozen. Now my selection procedure goes something like this:

  1. Choose my favorite picture books.
  2. Delete half of the titles on the list, leaving me with my VERY favorite books.
  3. Stay up past midnight, trying to delete at least a third more, until it almost physically hurts to cut any more. What’s left is my ultimate favorites list.
  4. Go to bed.
  5. I’m certain that my co-workers will roll their eyes at me if my annual list is still so long, so when I get up in the morning, I slice off a few more titles before I am in control of my actions. Now my list is done—no matter how many titles are on it!

The titles below are MY very ultimate can’t-do-without favorites. Which books are yours?

Bear Ate Your Sandwich

The Bear Ate Your Sandwich by Julia Sarcone-Roach. 9780375858604. 2015. Gr. PK-2.
The narrator declares that a bear wandered from his forest home to the city, where he finds a sandwich in an unattended lunchbox. Hungry from his travels, he scarfs it down; then rambles off back to his home. The account is happy and fun, but is the narrator really reliable? This picture book is a great example of a tall tale.

Boats for Papa

Boats for Papa by Jessixa Bagley. 9781626720398. 2015. Gr PK-2.
Buckley and his mother miss his father. Every day Buckley builds a new boat, and before launching the ship on the sea, he puts a note inside (“For Papa. Love, Buckley.”). If the boat doesn’t come back, he knows his father found it. One day he finds all of his boats hidden in Mama’s desk, and that night’s love note is addressed to her. Since what happened to Buckley’s father is never specified, this sweet book about grief and acceptance can be shared with those experiencing many kinds of loss.


Dad's First DayDad’s First Day by Mike Wohnoutka. 9781619634732. 2015. Gr PK-2.
Oliver is fired up to start school, but his dad—not so much. After a summer spent doing things together, Dad is not quite ready to send Oliver off. When the big day finally arrives, Dad finds all sorts of ways to delay the inevitable, until Oliver’s teacher finally has to carry Dad and his tantrum out of the classroom. (When asked about his resemblance to the book’s dad, the author confessed that the story itself is fairly autobiographical.)


DriveDrive : A Look at Roadside Opposites by Kellen Hatanaka. 9781554987313. 2015. Gr PK-2.

Learn about opposites while following a well-packed station wagon on a road trip. A few nonstandard pairs are added to the familiar short/long, big/tall, near/far, including winding/straight and my favorite worm’s-eye view and bird’s eye view. The first page, labeled Start is not completed until the Finish on the final spread. Great digital graphics.


FloatFloat by Daniel Miyares. 9781481415248. 2015. Gr PK-2.
In this wordless book, a young boy makes a newspaper boat and, clad in slicker and boots, heads outside in the rain to sail the boat in puddles. The puddles turn into streams, and as the boat gathers speed down one of these streams, the boy chases it until it washes down a sewer grate. Is the day a total loss? Not for this creative youngster!


Full Moon at the Napping HouseThe Full Moon at the Napping House by Audrey Wood (ill. by Don Wood). 9780544308329. 2015. Gr PK-2.
I never tired of reading The Napping House—not to my boys or to my daycare kids. Now the Woods have imagined a sequel as fun as the original. While everyone was sleeping in the Napping House, now everyone is wide-awake and restless in a full-moon house. I used to “Pshaw!” the whole idea of the full moon crazies—until I became a daycare provider and had to deal with 8-12 loud and restless kids every month!


Little SnowplowThe Little Snowplow by Lora Koehler (ill. by Jake Parker). 9780763670740. 2015. Gr PK-2.
All the big trucks of the Mighty Mountain Road Crew think that, since Little Snowplow is so small, that he should stay away from the tough jobs. However, when a blizzard arrives, all of the big trucks get stuck in the snow, and it is up to Little Snowplow—a combination of Little Tug, Katy and the Big Snow, and The Little Engine That Could—to proved that bigger is not always better.


Mother BruceMother Bruce by Ryan T. Higgins. 9781484730881. 2015. Gr PK-1.
A grouchy bear, Bruce steals eggs and loves to cook them. But when he swipes four goose eggs, they hatch before he is able to cook them. He brings them back to their nest, he hides from them, and he tries to scare them away, but he finally realizes that he is stuck with them. When the geese grow and it is time for them to migrate, they refuse to go. This picture book is a fun read about resolving problems in a nontraditional family.


Nerdy BirdyNerdy Birdy by Aaron Reynolds (ill. by Matt Davies). 9781626721272. 2015. Gr K-3.
Nerdy Birdy isn’t allowed in with the cool birds, because he likes books and video games. In other words, he is a nerd. And he’s lonely until a flock of other bird nerds invites him in. But when a female vulture also wants to join the group, Nerdy Bird finds that his nerd friends are just as cliquish and uppity as the cool birds. How should he treat the new loner?


One Family


One Family by George Shannon (ill. by Blanca Gomez). 9780374300036. 2015. Gr PK-2.
Social studies combines with math in this lovely book celebrating families. Each spread showcases one family, but the number of family members increases with each spread, all the way up to an extended family of ten. “One is ten. One batch of cookies. One shelf of books. One family.”


Rodeo RedRodeo Red by Maripat Perkins (ill. by Molly Idle). 9781561458165. 2015. Gr PK-3.
Red and her (stuffed) hound dog Rusty are best pals until Sideswiping Slim showed up—and stole Rusty. How to get him back? Well, when a package arrives on the stagecoach with a birthday gift from Aunt Sal, cowboy Red comes up with an idea to get her dog back. Told in cowboy lingo, this story would make a great read-aloud—especially for kids whose younger siblings have rustled their toys.


Sidewalk FlowersSidewalk Flowers by JonArno Lawson (ill. by Sydney Smith). 9781554984312. 2015. Gr PK-2.
In this wordless book, a girl walks home from the grocery store with her father. He is preoccupied with talking on his cell phone, while his daughter, her eyes focused on the ground, checks out the colorful weeds and wildflowers growing in the sidewalk cracks. Soon laden with a bouquet of these “sidewalk flowers,” she hands out a bit of joy to people she meets. A beautiful book with a lovely message!


There's No Such Thing as LittleThere’s No Such Thing as Little by LeUyen Pham. 9780385391504. 2015. Gr PK-2.
Little things are not unimportant or insignificant, as the little boy and girl in this book find out. A candle may look little through a die-cut hole, but turn the page to find that same candle in a lighthouse keeping ships at sea safe. In each example, the word “little” is transformed to a more affirming adjective, such as “brave” and “inspiring” and “welcoming.”


WaitWait by Antoinette Portis. 9781596439214. 2015. Gr PK-K.
Parents are taught early on that “hurry” has a whole new speed when they have children. In Wait, a mother is trying to get her son to hurry so they don’t miss their bus. But—wait—there are so many sights to see! The only two words in the book are “hurry” and “wait,” so the duo’s tug-of-war unfolds in Portis’s charming artwork—until a rainbow declares the boy a winner.


Water Is WaterWater Is Water : A Book about the Water Cycle by Miranda Paul (ill. by Jason Chin). 9781596439849. 2015. Gr PK-2.
A racially diverse family explores the different forms of water as they go about their day. Beginning with a cup of water, they discover that “Water is water unless…” it is the steam above hot cocoa. From there they recognize water in many guises, including fog, rain, puddles—and follows its path through roots, into the apple tree, and finally turning into cider! A great supplement to a science unit on water.

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