Picking my favorite gifting picture books is hard! After all, there are so many incredible ones to choose from. These are for any adult or child that needs a great read. Some are silly. Some are serious. All can be used in the classroom if you are a teacher like me who is obsessed with using picture books with your students. They are all gorgeous and will make your reading life better, guaranteed.
A sweet story about the power of an imaginary friend and how having someone no one else can see can become a problem. I love the book We Forgot Brock by Carter Goodrich because of the friendship it portrays.
Phillip and Brock are best friends. Everyone can see Phillip, but only Phillip can see Brock.
A night at the Big Fair is all fun and games until Phillip gets sleepy, heads home, and forgets Brock!
Brock misses Phillip. And Phillip misses Brock. Will they reunite? With the help of another pair of pals, they just might. Because even imaginary friends get lost sometimes. Finding them is part of the adventure.
How can your imagination save the most boring story? I love the message of Battle Bunny written by Jon Sciezka and Mac Barnett, illustrated by Matthew Myers. This book is guaranteed to make people smile.
When Alex gets a silly, sappy picture book called Birthday Bunny, he picks up a pencil and turns it into something he’d like to read: Battle Bunny. An adorable rabbit’s journey through the forest becomes a secret mission to unleash an evil plan–a plan that only Alex can stop. Featuring layered, original artwork, this dynamic picture book celebrates kids as storytellers.
I have been a loud fan of Bob Shea’s for a long time. After all, he is the genius that wrote Unicorn Thinks He’s Pretty Great so I had to get Ballet Cat The Totally Secret Secret. It is laugh out loud funny. And the best part is that I can completely relate to the story and so can most people.
Ballet Cat and Sparkles the Pony are trying to decide what to play today. Nothing that Sparkles suggests–making crafts, playing checkers, and selling lemonade–goes well with the leaping, spinning, and twirling that Ballet Cat likes to do. When Sparkles’s leaps, spins, and twirls seem halfhearted, Ballet Cat asks him what’s wrong. Sparkles doesn’t want to say. He has a secret that Ballet Cat won’t want to hear. What Sparkles doesn’t know is that Ballet Cat has a secret of her own, a totally secret secret. Once their secrets are shared, will their friendship end, or be stronger than ever?
Wild About Us by Karen Beaumont is a beautiful book in many ways. The illustrations done by Janet Stevens pop off the page and catch your eye, but the message of the book is what really got me. We all have things that we can pick apart, but what we do with those things is what matters.
Warty Warthog may have warts and tusks, but he likes himself that way! Join him as he celebrates all of his animal friends and the attributes that make each one unique. Whether it’s Crocodile’s toothy grin or Kangaroo’s huge feet or Leopard’s spottiness, each animal is different. Wouldn’t it be dull if all the animals at the zoo—and all the people in the world—looked alike? A joyful picture-book celebration of everything that makes us individuals!
It is a celebration in my life whenever the talented Ame Dyckman comes out with a new picture book and Wolfie the Bunny was definitely a cause for celebration. This book about assumptions and what they can lead to has not only made my students laugh out loud, but more importantly, has led us to question our own assumptions about others.
The Bunny family has adopted a wolf son, and daughter Dot is the only one who realizes Wolfie can–and might–eat them all up! Dot tries to get through to her parents, but they are too smitten to listen. A new brother takes getting used to, and when (in a twist of fate) it’s Wolfie who’s threatened, can Dot save the day?
Orion and the Dark by Emma Yarlett is stunning. The story about a boy who is afraid of the dark is sure to elicit conversations about our fears and what we can do to conquer them. This is a book my students keep reaching for in the classroom and that I have used with my own children as they tell me they are afraid of the dark.
Orion is scared of a lot of things, but most of all he’s scared of the dark. So one night the Dark decides to take Orion on an adventure. Emma Yarlett’s second picture book combines her incredible storytelling and artwork with die-cut pages that bring the Dark to life.
The beautiful story of Last Stop On Market Street by Matt De La Pena is one meant to spur conversation about our lives, our assumptions, and how we view the world. But the illustrations? They tell an even richer story, one that I cannot wait to discuss with my students and my own kids, many of whom have never ridden a bus or even been in an urban neighborhood.
Every Sunday after church, CJ and his grandma ride the bus across town. But today, CJ wonders why they don’t own a car like his friend Colby. Why doesn’t he have an iPod like the boys on the bus? How come they always have to get off in the dirty part of town? Each question is met with an encouraging answer from grandma, who helps him see the beauty—and fun—in their routine and the world around them.
The North Star by Peter H. Reynolds is one of my favorite picture books ever written. This is the final book I read to my students every year as I hope it inspires them to take a risk and find their own path in life.
It is often said that life is a journey, and it’s true. But sometimes it’s hard to know which path to follow when signs point in so many directions. In this beautifully illustrated book, Peter H. Reynolds once again encourages readers to observe, to wonder, and to consider diverging from the well-worn path — to pursue their dreams. Originally published more than ten years ago, THE NORTH STAR has had a profound effect on its many readers. This edition, featuring all new art, celebrates the book’s own voyage connecting people around the world. It has inspired classroom activities, a musical, and countless thoughtful journeys.
I love Billy’s Booger – A Memoir by William Joyce for many reasons; the narrative is great, it is great as a teaching book on story arc, and it has boogers in the title, which is sure to hook many readers.
A young lad who would rather draw than do math, spell, or gargle finds the perfect outlet for his always-on imagination in this manifesto to creative joie de vivre, featuring a book within a book, from the brilliant minds that brought you The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore.
Billy loves to draw. He draws on books and on his homework and even on his math tests—he might not get the answer right, but doesn’t it look swell sitting in a boat at sea? His teacher doesn’t think so, and neither does the principal. But the librarian has an idea that just might help Billy better direct his illustrative energies: a book-making contest!
Billy gets right to work, reading everything he can about meteors, mythology, space travel, and…mucus? Yep, his book is going to be about the world’s smartest booger, who stays tucked away until needed—say, to solve multiplication problems, or answer questions from the President. Billy’s sure his story is a winner. But being a winner doesn’t mean you always win.
Boats for Papa is a picture book by Jessixa Bagley that I immediately fell in love with. The story does not tell us where papa is, nor why the mother does what she does, and yet every child (or adult) that reads it seems to come up with their own story. An inspired story that leaves us thinking.
Buckley and his Mama live in a cozy cabin by the ocean. He loves to carve boats out of the driftwood he finds on the beach nearby.
short boats and
each one more beautiful than the last, and sends them out to sea. If they don’t come back, he knows they’ve found their way to his papa, whom he misses very much.
This amusing story of what really happened to a sandwich creates pretty funny conversations with kids. The Bear Ate Your Sandwich by Julia Sarcone-Beach is one that makes me giggle every time I read it aloud and then leads to heated discussions of what exactly did happen to that sandwich?
By now I think you know what happened to your sandwich.
But you may not know how it happened.
So let me tell you.
It all started with the bear . . .
So begins Julia Sarcone-Roach’s delicious tale of a bear, lost in the city, who happens upon an unattended sandwich in the park. The bear’s journey from forest to city and back home again is full of happy accidents, funny encounters, and sensory delights. The story is so engrossing, it’s not until the very end that we begin to suspect this is a TALL tale.
Finding Winnie by Lindsay Mattick and illustrated by Sophie Blackall made me cry, which even surprised me. I grew up aware of Winnie the Pooh but not immersed in the world as many others, and the tale of the inspiration behind the stories really struck a chord with me, as I suspect it will for many others.
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 the bear to war.
Harry Colebourn’s real-life great-granddaughter tells the true story of a remarkable friendship and an even more remarkable journey–from the fields of Canada to a convoy across the ocean to an army base in England…
And finally to the London Zoo, where Winnie made another new friend: a real boy named Christopher Robin.
Another book that is great for deeper level conversations as students try to decide why that skunk keeps following the main character. My own kids were mesmerized by the story, which says a lot considering they are hardly ever sit still. I have many of Mac Barnett’s and Patrick McDonnell’s book and love having The Skunk as well.
When a skunk first appears in the tuxedoed man’s doorway, it’s a strange but possibly harmless occurrence. But then the man finds the skunk following him, and the unlikely pair embark on an increasingly frantic chase through the city, from the streets to the opera house to the fairground. What does the skunk want? It’s not clear―but soon the man has bought a new house in a new neighborhood to escape the little creature’s attention, only to find himself missing something. . .
Shhh! We Have a Plan by Chris Haughton has been read in my house countless times, preferably repeatedly. Every time my kids laugh out loud and then tell me what is going to happen. The funny thing is the same thing happened in my classroom.
Four friends creep through the woods, and what do they spot? An exquisite bird high in a tree! “Hello birdie,” waves one. “Shh! We have a plan,” hush the others. They stealthily make their advance, nets in the air. Ready one, ready two, ready three, and go! But as one comically foiled plan follows another, it soon becomes clear that their quiet, observant companion, hand outstretched, has a far better idea.
Just seeing the image of the cover of I’m Trying to Love Spiders by Bethany Barton makes me laugh. This incredible non-fiction picture book that doesn’t scream non-fiction (not that there is anything wrong with non-fiction) is the perfect gift for the person who hates spiders.
The Official Spider Test.
What do you do when you see a spider?
a. Lay on a BIG spidey smoocheroo.
b. Smile, but back away slowly.
c. Grab the closest object, wind up, and let it fly.
d. Run away screaming.
If you chose b, c, or d, then this book is for you! (If you chose a, you might be crazy.)
For all you history lovers Tricky Vic – the Man Who Sold the Eiffel Tower by Greg Pizzoli is a masterpiece. A page-turning read that makes you shake your head in wonder. This is a picture book for all ages.
In the early 1900s, Robert Miller, a.k.a. “Count Victor Lustig,” moved to Paris hoping to be an artist. A con artist, that is. He used his ingenious scams on unsuspecting marks all over the world, from the Czech Republic, to Atlantic ocean liners, and across America. Tricky Vic pulled off his most daring con in 1925, when he managed to “sell” the Eiffel Tower to one of the city’s most successful scrap metal dealers! Six weeks later, he tried to sell the Eiffel Tower all over again. Vic was never caught. For that particular scam, anyway. . . .
I Yam A Donkey by the incredible CeCe Bell. Why this book? Because it is laugh out loud funny while teaching grammar. My 23 month old picks this book up every day asking us to read about the donkey.
Even frustrated grammarians will giggle at the who’s-on-first routine that begins with a donkey’s excited announcement, “I yam a donkey!” Unfortunately the donkey’s audience happens to be a yam, and one who is particular about sloppy pronunciation and poor grammar. An escalating series of misunderstandings leaves the yam furious and the clueless donkey bewildered by the yam’s growing (and amusing) frustration. The yam finally gets his point across, but regrettably, he’s made the situation a little bit too clear . . . and the story ends with a dark and outrageously funny twist.
Ben Clanton’s Something Extraordinary is just that – extraordinary. Once again a simple story unfolds leading us to rich conversations about imagination and how it can color our world.
Amazing things are happening all around you. You just need to know where to look—and this whimsical picture book is the perfect place to start.
Have you ever wished for something extraordinary? Like the ability to fly? Or to breathe underwater? What if you could talk to animals?
It’s fun to wish for amazing things. But take a look around, and you just might find that the most “ordinary” things…can be extraordinary.
Waiting by Kevin Henkes is a quiet masterpiece that kids of all ages can realte to. What I loved the most were the different reactions my children had to the book and how they kept reaching for it over and over.
Five friends sit happily on a windowsill, waiting for something amazing to happen. The owl is waiting for the moon. The pig is waiting for the rain. The bear is waiting for the wind. The puppy is waiting for the snow. And the rabbit is just looking out the window because he likes to wait! What will happen? Will patience win in the end? Or someday will the friends stop waiting and do something unexpected?
The incredible story of the first enslaved poet, George Moses Horton, unfolds in this picture book by Don Tate. Illustrating a piece of history I had never encountered Poet: The Remarkable Story of George Moses Horton is a must add for anyone that loves poetry.
In the nineteenth century, North Carolina slave George Moses Horton taught himself to read and earned money to purchase his time though not his freedom. Horton became the first African American to be published in the South, protesting slavery in the form of verse.
The Only Child by Guojing is a wordless picture book that will leave you speechless. Beautiful. Mesmerizing and one that you want to read multiple times.
A little girl—lost and alone—follows a mysterious stag deep into the woods, and, like Alice down the rabbit hole, she finds herself in a strange and wondrous world. But… home and family are very far away. How will she get back there?
If you have not discovered the brilliance of the Crayons series then this is a great way to start. The Day the Crayons Came Home by Drew Daywalt and illustrated by Oliver Jeffers is great for home and the classroom, with its beautiful illustrations and laugh out loud crayon stories, this will surely be read many times.
I’m not sure what it is about this kid Duncan, but his crayons sure are a colorful bunch of characters! Having soothed the hurt feelings of one group who threatened to quit, Duncan now faces a whole new group of crayons asking to be rescued. From Maroon Crayon, who was lost beneath the sofa cushions and then broken in two after Dad sat on him; to poor Turquoise, whose head is now stuck to one of Duncan’s stinky socks after they both ended up in the dryer together; to Pea Green, who knows darn well that no kid likes peas and who ran away—each and every crayon has a woeful tale to tell and a plea to be brought home to the crayon box.
To the Sea by Cale Atkinson is a beautiful tale of a young boy who feels lonely. When he meets a lost whale his life changes. Simple, deep, and powerful.
Sometimes Tim feels invisible at school—until one day, when Tim meets Sam. But Sam isn’t just any new friend: he’s a blue whale, and he can’t find his way home!
Returning Sam to the sea is hard work, but Tim is determined to help. After all, it’s not every day you meet a new friend!
Awake Beautiful Child by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and illustrated by Gracia Lam should be a mandatory baby gift. As the mother of 4 myself, this left me thinking just how lucky I am.
New York Times best-selling picture-book author Amy Krouse Rosenthal teams with award-winning artist Gracia Lam to tell the sweet, simple story of a young child’s typical day—from morning to bedtime. Like the title, each scene is described in three-word “ABC” phrases, such as “All Begins Cheerily” and “Always Be Curious.” Secret “ABC” scenes hidden throughout the artwork—as a secondary “seek and find” game of sorts—encourage multiple readings and reward close-looking.
So which books did I miss? Which picture books will you be giving to the picture book lovers in your life?
Don’t miss the post on which YA books to give this year as well.