Tracey’s Favorite 2016 Picture Books

Every year is the same: I gush about how many excellent picture books were published during the year and complain how difficult it is to choose my favorite ten or twelve or baker’s dozen. (This year my total is 16.) Part of my problem is that there are many reasons why a picture book could be my favorite—the words (or lack of), the art, the subject matter, the way a lesson is taught, how much fun it would be to read aloud.

And my favorites aren’t always ones I think will win the big medals.

For various reasons, the titles below are my can’t-do-without picture book favorites. Which books are yours?

before-morning  family-is-a-family-is-a-family  journey  max-speed

Before Morning by Joyce Sidman (ill. by Beth Krommes). 9780547979175. 2016. Gr. PK-2.
When it starts to snow, a child wishes for a blizzard so big that that everything shuts down. Her mother is an airline pilot, and the child just wants her to stay home.

A Family Is a Family Is a Family by Sara O’Leary (ill. by Qin Leng). 9781554987948. 2016. Gr PK-2.
When her teacher asks the class to share what makes their families special, one girl worries she might not be able to explain her family because it is so different. But as she listens to her classmates describe the differences in their own families, she realizes that her foster family isn’t so strange after all, and the only thing that matters is that they love one another.

The Journey by Francesca Sanna. 9781909263994. 2016. Gr PK-2.
This story, which shows the heartaches and fears of a refugee family who must leave their home because of war, is an excellent way to explain today’s refugee crisis.

Max Speed by Stephen Shaskan. 9781481445900. 2016. Gr PK-1.
Max loves his race-car bed. As soon as he’s done cleaning his room, he’s off on (imaginative) adventures, jumping over rivers of lava and waters teeming with sharks and evading insurmountable obstacles. All little boys with a healthy imagination and a passion for cars and speed will love this book.

nanobots  nobody-likes-a-goblin  penguin-problems  1-samson

NanoBots by Chris Gall. 9780316375528. 2016. Gr PK-2.
A young inventor accidentally creates a group of tiny robots—Nanobots—that come in handy when a big robot goes haywire at a creators’ convention. Thought the Nanobots team up to repair the big robot, no one can see them so their efforts go unrewarded. Includes an author’s note on the science and uses of nano-robotics.

Nobody Likes a Goblin by Ben Hatke. 9781626720817. 2016. Gr PK-3.
Every day Goblin and his friend Skeleton play with treasure in his underground home, until one day a bunch of marauding “heroes” break in and steal all the treasure—including Skeleton. Goblin sets off to find his friend, but can he get past all the humans and elves and everyone else who doesn’t like goblins? I loved this wonderful, funny fantasy in which the “heroes” aren’t necessarily the good guys.

Penguin Problems by Jory John & Lane Smith. 9780375974656. 2016. Gr PK-2
What is a penguin’s life really like? It’s not all fun and games—or fish and swimming. Life down in Antarctica is COLD and DANGEROUS. Readers will have to decide if life is just a lot of work and responsibility no matter where you are, or if you’ll just find grouches all over the world.

Samson in the Snow by Philip C. Stead. 9781626721821. 2016. Gr PK-3.
Woolly mammoth Samson helps a little bird find some yellow flowers for her friend who is sad and likes yellow). He wakes from a nap to find that the sunny day has turned snowy, and, worrying that the bird might have trouble in this weather, searches for her—and finds more than one friend.

Spare Dog Parts  swap  they-all-saw-a-cat  this-is-not-a-cat

Spare Dog Parts by Alison Hughes (ill. by Ashley Spires). 9781459807044. 2016. Gr K-2.
A little girl loves her dog, though she was made with “leftover parts” and put together like “a big dog puzzle.” A stubby, tubby body perfect for cuddling, four unmatched legs, a tail with plenty of wag left in it, and the “biggest dog heart that ever beat” are some of the spare parts that made her perfect dog.

Swap! by Steve Light. 9780763679903. 2016. Gr PK-2.
A small boy decides to help a woebegone captain whose boat is no longer seaworthy. He trades a Beginning with a button from the captain’s uniform for two teacups, and then swaps them for three ropes, and then…  Light’s story can be enjoyed as a counting book, or used to explain how bartering works, or just for enjoyment. Even preschoolers will enjoy chiming in with “Swap!” as each trade is made.

They All Saw a Cat by Brendan Wenzel. 9781452150130. 2016. Gr PK-1.
As a cat walks through the world, we see that not everyone perceives the cat in the same way. And what other creatures see is not just what the cat is made of—whiskers, four legs, a twitching tail—but their prior relationships with the cat, the differences in their size, the history of the two species. A fascinating look at perspective, this book can be used in art classes and as a prelude to a discussion of diversity.

This Is Not a Cat! by David LaRochelle (ill. by Mike Wohnoutka). 9781454915744. 2016. Gr PK-2.
At mouse school, students are learning how to identify their number-one danger: a cat. And when something scary sneaks into the classroom, the students and teacher run from the fierce cat–if that’s what it really is. There’s lots of fun and more than one surprise in this very easy reader, which contains only the five words of the title, so even preschoolers should be able to read it on their own.

typewriter  uncorker-of-ocean-bottles  whale  Wonderfall

The Typewriter by Bill Thomson. 9781477849750. 2016. Gr PK-2.
When three children find an old typewriter, they discover the power of their own imaginations by typing words with it and letting those words come alive in their minds.

The Uncorker of Ocean Bottles by Michelle Cuevas (ill. by Erin E. Stead). 9780803738683. 2016. Gr PK-3.
The job of the Uncorker of Ocean Bottles is pretty straightforward:  open every bottle found at sea and deliver the messages inside. However, it is a lonely task, and sometimes he wishes a message would be for him. Then one day he discovers a bottle with a message addressed to no one. As he tries to find out who it might be for, he ends up finding what he has always wanted in this beautiful book about responsibility, sharing, and friendship.

The Whale by Vita Murrow & Ethan Murrow. 9780763679651. 2016. Gr K-3.
For 50 years, the seaside community has pondered the existence of the “Giant Spotted Whale,” and now newspaper has issued a challenge: Is the whale a hoax? Two children decided to find out in this wordless book, and the beautiful pencil illustrations take the reader on a wild romp at sea.

Wonderfall by Michael Hall. 9780062382986. 2016. Gr PK-2.
Follow a single tree through the changing of the seasons from fall to winter, as people, animals, and vehicles pass in front of the tree, celebrating holidays, playing in the leaves, and building nests. I enjoyed the blended descriptive titles of the poems:  Beautifall (leaves turning color), Wistfall (geese flying south), and Frightfall (Halloween)—and even Eventfall (a homecoming parade)!

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