Announcing this year’s winners for the Bookstagang Best of 2021 picturebooks! Over 50 publishers of picturebooks have participated in this year’s event and we are excited to present to you with our final judged list!
This year’s graphics were designed by Jenna of @kidlitbrain
Best Read Aloud
The Best Read Aloud Category is for books that that pull you along and delight little readers, whether it’s your own children while tucking them into bed, or an entire class at story time. These picturebooks are all stories with an engaging pace, that get kids emotionally invested and will be asked for again and again.
What Happened to You?
Author: James Catchpole Illustrator: Karen George Publisher: Faber
The number one highest scored book of the year, is a groundbreaking and inviting picturebook that deals with disability, respect and, friendship.
Joe is a boy with one leg.
This book is about him begrudgingly enduring an endless barrage of intrusive and othering questions that he faces every time he goes out to play. Something disabled children are unreasonably forced to endure as part of their daily lives.
And, this book is funny.
This book is a vignette of children in their natural element; their thoughts and their imaginations.
This book is about budding friendships.
But most of all it is about Joe, how he feels, what he thinks, and what he wishes for himself.
It is a story for other children with disabilities to see, they are not alone in this.
It is a story that encourages non disabled children to understand why asking “What Happened to You?” Isn’t appropriate to ask and because maybe, the disabled person in question been asked ten times already today.
Gitty And Kvetch
Author: Caroline Pritchard Illustrator: Ariel Landy Publisher: Simon Kids
“Gitty and Kvetch” are a fairly odd couple, Gitty is all sunshine the eternal optimist and Kvetch her cantankerous bird is full of rain clouds and complaints. But when Gitty’s mood is dampened, Kvetch only cares about one thing, making his best friend feel better.
An adorable story about friendship, weather, and a smattering of Yiddish.
For anyone who grew up with older Jewish relatives, this one sounds like home.
Mr. Watson’s Chickens
Author: Jarrett Dapier Illustrator: Andrea Tsurumi Publisher: Chronicle
Can you ever have too many chickens?
The answer, spoiler alert, is yes. You can. It’s inconvenient.
“Mr. Watson’s Chickens” reminds me of 101 Dalmations, except with no villain…and chickens, oh and the pet owners happen to be a gay couple.
It’s a delightful book and the art style is really intriguing. A bright clean palette and minimal texture lays the stage for an explosion of contour line drawings that really play with movement, and organic shapes. How much personality can one put into the shape of a chicken’s wing? Well, Tsurumi has tested those boundaries and the final effect is quirky and full of feeling.
Everybody in the Red Brick Building
Author: Anne Wynter Illustrator: Oge Mora Publisher: Harper Collins
“A chain reaction of noises wakes up several children (and a cat) living in an apartment building. But it’s late in the night, so despite the disturbances, one by one, the building’s inhabitants return to their beds—this time with a new set of sounds to lull them to sleep.”-Harper Collins
Sloth & Squrriel In A Pickle
Author: Cathy Ballou-Mealey Illustrator: Kelly Collier Publisher: Kids Can Press
Sloth and Squirrel are a fairly odd couple who adore each other and want nothing more than to save up money for a brand new bicycle. They get themselves jobs at a pickle packing plant and things go awry, quickly and slowly! However will they get that bicycle? A hilarious read aloud your kids are sure to enjoy!
Author: Lucky Diaz Illustrator: Micah Player Publisher: Harper Collins
“A vibrant picture book celebrating the strength of community and the tastes of summer from Latin Grammy-winning musician Lucky Diaz and celebrated artist Micah Player.”- Harper Collins
Author/Illustrator: Bethan Stevens Publisher: Quarto
We could not possibly love “The Grumpy Fairies” by @bethan_stevens more. An absolutely adorable story about wee little toddler like fairies that moan and groan and refuse to do anything useful. Until, a Goblin appears with an appetite for grumpy fairies.
I love this, did I say that already?
First of all fairies? Check.
Second, relatable cute story? Check. Charming woodsy aesthetic? Check. Gold foil? Check.
There’s that famous quote by Beverly Cleary “if you don’t see the book you want to read on the shelf write it.” Well y’all @quartokids just saved us some time because this one is it.
Mi Casa Is My Home
Author: Laurenne Sala Illustrator: Zara Gonzalez Hoang Publisher: Candlewick Press
“Bienvenidos to Lucía’s home. Lucía lives in her casa with her big, loud, beautiful familia, and she’s going to show you around! “-Penguin Random House
Phoebe Dupree Is Coming to Tea!
Author: Linda Ashman Illustrator: Alea Marley Publisher: Candlewick Press
A girl named Abby plans the perfect tea party in honour of her friend Phoebe, she worries that if everything isn’t just right, Phoebe may not want to visit again! After things go awry she realizes perfection really isn’t what’s most important for having a great time with friends.
This book is delight, fun memorable rhymes, relatable, charming illustrations. This is an absolute must have from this season, it will definitely be going on my personal shortlist for books I buy for birthdays.
Isabel and Her Colores Go to School
Author: Alexandra Alessandri Illustrator: Courtney Dawson Publisher: Sleeping Bear
“English, with its blustery blues and whites, just feels wrong to Isabel. She prefers the warm oranges and pinks of Spanish. As she prepares for class at a new school, she knows she’s going to have to learn–and she would rather not! Her first day is uncomfortable, until she discovers there’s more than one way to communicate with friends. This is a universal story about feeling new and making new friends.“-Sleeping Bear Press
Best Board Books
Board books are wonderful for babies, toddlers, and early readers. the best board books of the year are all tested for sturdiness of quality-a good board book has to be able to withstand enthusiastic little hands. These winners all have something special happening, whether it’s inclusivity, artistic genius, or delightful interactive elements. The wonderful thing about board books they can play with the boundaries of toy and book, of passive reader and active engagement.
Where is Everyone?
Author/Illustrator: Tom Schamp Publisher: Prestel
Tom Schamp is a wild and unpredictable genius whose work depicts a world full of mystery, connection and surprise. In this completely unique lift the flap board book, he plays with the shapes of every day household objects and turns their sillouettes into surprise creatures. An absolutely charming book, that will make readers of every age smile with surprise.
Where do you Poo?
Author/illustrator: Agnese Baruzzi Publisher:Astra/Minedition
Your kids will laugh out loud with this pull the tab poop book. Each animal in this book has a little rhyme and then, a little poop. It is filled with light humour that really gets what kids want! Fun for toddlers, preschoolers, and school age children alike!
What’s For Breakfast?
Author/Illustrator: Stephani Stillwell Publisher: Little Bee
“WHAT’S FOR BREAKFAST?” by @stephstilwell #gifted from @littlebeebooks is one of the most adorable board books we’ve seen this year!
Who doesn’t love breakfast food, dad jokes and lift the flaps? The illustrations are bright and inviting and the opportunities to interact through flaps, and slides are clever and hilarious!
Young Gifted And Black Board Book
Author/Illustrator: Andrea Pippins Publisher: Quarto”
“Introduce your baby to Black excellence with this lyrical board-book edition of Young, Gifted and Black. Includes a mirror at the back so young dreamers can see themselves next to their heroes.” -Quarto Knows
Fire Truck Tales
Publisher: Cottage Door Press
This little set really pushes the boundaries between book and toy with a cardboard firetruck that actually rolls across the floor! A wonderful way to provide opportunities for little ones to engage with sturdy books during play!
- “Rolling wheels on the fire truck slipcase make this a two-in-one library and toy fire truck for your toddler
- 3 shaped sturdy board books perfectly sized for little hands and fingers to turn the pages and read along
- Connect story time and playtime for a tactile learning experience
- Includes three stories: Welcome to the Fire Station, To the Rescue!, and When I Grow Up” -Cottage Door Press
Dog’s First Baby
Author/illustrator: Natalie Nelson Quirk
“Welcoming a new baby to the family isn’t always easy. When his humans bring home someone new, Dog is determined to sniff out the truth. Is this arrival another dog, or something else? As Dog investigates, he might just find a new friend in this loud, silly creature.” -Quirk
Bedtime, Not Playtime!
Author: Lawrence Schimel Illustrator: Elina Braslina Publisher: Orca
A sweet bedtime routine that children can relate to, with incidental inclusion of LGBTQIA+ family! The perfect addition to a child’s inclusive board book collection!
Go Go Apple: My First Recycling Book
Author: Claire Philip Illustrator: Steven Wood Publisher: Sunbird
“What happens to an apple after you’ve munched it? Find out in this amazing recycling journey. Interactive fun for young eco-heroes!“- SunBird
My Heart Beats
Author/artist: Rina Singh Publisher: Orca
“No matter what language we speak, no matter where we live in the world, our hearts beat with the same rhythm. We may hear and say the sounds differently—doki doki in Japanese, tu tump tu tump in Italian, dugeun dugeun in Korean, dhak dhak in Urdu, boum boum in French and thump thump in English—but when our hearts beat, all the sounds mean the same thing: you are alive and you are loved.” -Orca
Author: Mona Damluji Illustrator: Innosanto Nagara Publisher: Triangle Square
“In Together, social justice kids book pioneer Innosanto Nagara teams up with poet and activist Mona Damluji for a stunningly tender and pitch-perfect visual feast that juxtaposes individual action with the power of people acting together.” -Triangle Square
Future Classics are heartfelt stories that focus on relationships of family love, friendship and, affirmation of the self. They are the perfect books to give on big occasions with a little inscription of love from the giver to be kept for years to come.
When Lola Visits
Author: Michelle Sterling Illsutrator: Aaron Asis Publisher: Harper Collins
Summer is full of magic, a magic that is full of memories tied to the vivid flavours and smells and experiences that could never exist outside of the bounds of the most wonderful season.
“When Lola Visits” by Michelle Sterling @averyandaugustine and Aaron Asis @aaronasis is a celebration of that. It somehow manages to be so totally specific to this author’s personal experience within Filipino-American culture and at the same time evoke something universal encouraging readers to consider what summer means to them. It is a wonderful reading experience that weaves together a peek into another family’s life while also encouraging reflection of one’s own memories.
Mii maanda ezhi-gkendmaanh / This Is How I Know
Author: Brittany Luby Illustrator: Joshua Mangeshig Pawis-Steckley Publisher: Groundwood Books
A dual language Anishinaabemowin and English story about how a child and their grandmother experience and observe the changing of the seasons.
This lyrical story is a celebration of memories, the gift of Knowledge Keepers, and of the timeless nature of family and the land. Author and illustrator Brittany Luby and Joshua Mangeshig Pawis-Steckley have drawn on their memories for this beautiful story.
Eyes that Kiss in the Corners
Author: Joanna Ho Illustrator: Dung Ho Publisher: Harper
“A young Asian girl notices that her eyes look different from her peers’. They have big, round eyes and long lashes. She realizes that her eyes are like her mother’s, her grandmother’s, and her little sister’s. They have eyes that kiss in the corners and glow like warm tea, crinkle into crescent moons, and are filled with stories of the past and hope for the future.” -Harper Collins
Ten Beautiful Things
Author: Molly Beth Griffin Illustrator: Maribel Lechuga Publisher: Charlesbridge
Have you ever found yourself in in midst of grieving something and been rudely interrupted by the beauty in the world?
Lily is being forced, by circumstances unknown, to move cross country to live with her Gran. As they make the journey, her grandmother begins counting beautiful things, not pretty-beautiful. Despite her best efforts, Lily can’t help but be comforted that somehow, everything will be alright again eventually.
A beautiful book in both illustration and thought, and a compelling story.
Magic Like That
Author: Samara Cole Doyon Illustrator: Geneva Bowers Publisher: Lee & Low
“Natural hair is magical, but magic isn’t easy. As a young Black girl patiently waits for her mother to finish her newest hairstyle, she wonders what stunning, majestic, awe-inspiring form her hair will take next!” -Lee & Low
I’ll Build You a Bookcase / Te Haré Tu Propio Librero
Author: Jean Ciborowski Fahey Illustrator: Simone Shin Publisher: Lee & Low
“Told in simple, sweet rhyme in English and Spanish, I’ll Build You a Bookcase celebrates the joy of reading and discovering new stories. Early literacy specialist Jean Ciborowski Fahey has crafted a story that celebrates literacy and inspires parents and caregivers to read to their child every day.” – Lee & Low
48 Grasshopper Estates
Author: Sara de Waal Illustrator: Erika Medina Publisher: Annick Press
One of the most enjoyable things for me as a parent is to watch River invent things. She’ll find a piece of recycling or a new craft supply, and ping! Lightbulb goes on in her head. Then she can’t rest until she’s made it a reality. “48 Grassshopper Eestates” is about two kids with the same inventive impulse, who eventually find eachother and become friends.
The story is set in a charming apartment complex where everyone is friends and, a little girl named Sicily spends her days constructing friends out of odds and ends to give away to her neighbours.
River loved this book, she poured over the illustrations of the crafts admiring the ingenuity and wondering how she could apply it to her own work.
A wonderful book for little makers and creators.
TIME FOR BED, OLD HOUSE
Author: Janet Costa Bates Illustrator: AG Ford Publisher: Candlewick Press
“At Isaac’s first sleepover, he gets to help Grandpop with a very special routine—putting the house to bed—in a story that’s just right for children visiting a new place, or for adopting a new ritual at home.” -Penguin Random House
“Time For Bed, Old House” is timeless, comforting and, relatable to every child.
Author/Illustrator: Harry Woodgate Publisher: Little Bee
“Gramps and Grandad were adventurers. They would surf, climb mountains, and tour the country in their amazing camper. Gramps just made everything extra special. But after Gramps died, granddad hasn’t felt like traveling anymore. So, their amazing granddaughter comes up with a clever plan to fix up the old camper and get Grandad excited to explore again.” -Little Bee Books
The Spectacular Suit
Author: Kat Patrick Illustrator: Hayley Wells Publisher: Scribble Kids
A fun and endearing tale, that smashes down gender expectations at every opportunity and is deeply affirming for readers.
“It’s almost Frankie’s birthday and everything is ready — except for something to wear. All of her party dresses feel wrong. Her family tries to help, but it’s no good.” -Scribble Kids
The Best Illustration winners are sure to impress even the most discerning illustration connoisseur. These picturebooks are masterpieces of storytelling through the arts. They push boundaries, they experiment with mediums and style. Each book on this list exudes unique personality, and would not be out of place on an art gallery wall.
My City Speaks
Author: Darren Lebeuf Illustrator: Ashley Barron Publisher: Kids Can Press
“A young girl, who is visually impaired, finds much to celebrate as she explores the city she loves. A young girl and her father spend a day in the city, her city, traveling to the places they go together: the playground, the community garden, the market, an outdoor concert. As they do, the girl describes what she senses in delightfully precise, poetic detail….The story and illustrations were reviewed by a blind sensitivity reader.” – Kids Can Press
Jaguars and Butterflies
Author: Catherine Russler Illustrator: Ely Ely Publisher: Boligrafo Books
“Jaguars and Butterflies” is an artistic masterpiece, a celebration of Mexican women and beauty but also of Mexican art and tradition.
Mexican artist Ely Ely incorporates traditional elements of Mexican design, organic and geometric patterns playing together, an emphasis on bold colours and florals, flowing composition and interprets it with her own modern palette and streamlined flair. It is a feast for the eyes and a beautiful testament to a rich artistic tradition that constantlly evolves and also endlessly endures.
The story itself is one that explores the beauty, strength and the poetry of Mexican girls. This was a passion project for author Catherine Russler, who embarked on this journey to celebrate her own daughters’ heritage. Catherine is an American who has lived in Mexico for the past decade, with her family.
The level of care taken throughout the process of this book is what I call gold standard, and was probably only possible because this is a self-published work. Catherine went through the process of hiring a D&I consultant to ensure her work was respectful and accurate, something that is often skipped in traditional publishing.
Latine representation in Children’s books is shockingly low, only 5% of picture books include Latine characters. It also, in my own collection seems to be heavily skewed towards non-fiction and Biographies which is just not the same as a story. I really hope we see a change in that and I urge everyone to order a copy of this book, and add it to their own collection.
This book is a beauty, available in Spanish and in English.
I Am The Subway
Author/Illustrator: Kim Hyo-eun Publisher: Scribble Kids
“Accompanied by the constant, rumbling ba-dum ba-dum of its passage through the city, the subway has stories to tell. Between sunrise and sunset, it welcomes and farewells people, and holds them—along with their joys, hopes, fears, and memories—in its embrace. Originally published in Korean and brought to English-speaking audiences with the help of renowned translator Deborah Smith (The Vegetarian), I Am the Subway vividly reflects the shared humanity that can be found in crowded metropolitan cities.” -Scribble Kids
Over the Shop
Author: JonArno Lawson Illustrator: Qin Leng Publisher: Candlewick Press
Reminiscent of scenes from a Studio Ghibli film that delight in celebrating the every day tasks. This slice of life is a beauty that will have you wanting more.
“A lonely little girl and her grandparent need to fill the run-down apartment in their building. But taking over the quarters above their store will mean major renovations for the new occupants, and none of the potential renters can envision the possibilities of the space—until one special couple shows up. With their ingenuity, the little girl’s big heart, and heaps of hard work, the desperate fixer-upper begins to change in lovely and surprising ways. ” -Candlewick
Dream Street Tricia
Author: Elam Walker Illustrator: Ekua Holmes Publisher: Random House
An unusual style that works perfectly for this book about the coming together of different generations, and people. Vibrant, Colourful, Unique.
“Welcome to Dream Street–the best street in the world! On Dream Street, love between generations rules, everyone is special, and the warmth of the neighborhood shines. “-Random House
Have You Ever Seen a Flower?
Author/Illustrator: Shawn Harris Publisher: Chronicle
Illustrator Shawn Harris explores the possibilities of colour and blending in this riot of a bouquet. The unusual emphasis on texture and the reveal of the artist’s hand is inspiring for young artists, and the palette is completely unique and totally eye catching!
“Have You Ever Seen a Flower? is an enchanting picture book exploring the relationship between childhood and nature. In this simple yet profound story, one child experiences a flower with all five senses—from its color to its fragrance to the entire universe it evokes—revealing how a single flower can expand one’s perspective in incredible ways.” -Chronicle
The Midnight Fair
Author:Gideon Sterer Illustrator: Mariachiara Di Giorgio Publisher: Candlewick
The paintings here manage to be completely still and quiet while simultaneously rollicking with life. The play of chiaroscuro, and deep jewel tones, evokes such a heady dreamlike mood you’ll fall asleep ready to visit this carnival yourself.
“As darkness falls on the fairgrounds, the animals venture out of the woods for one magical, memorable night! An exhilarating wordless picture book.“-Penguin Random House
Author/Illustrator: Yuyi Morales Publisher: Holiday House
“Bright Star” by @yuyimorales is just the most perfect new book for welcoming a baby into the world or, a child to a new home.
A loving voice affirms for the reading child that they are important, they are loved, and though they may face uncertainty and obstacles they do so with all the love of their family urging them onwards.
The art is stunning, a mixed media piece involving paintings, sketching, hand–embroidered lettering, digital elements. The result is a visual quilt that weaves together textures and elements into a unified masterpiece.
I strongly recommend this beautiful book take up a space on your go to baby gift list.
A Spanish language edition, Lucero, is also available.
A Picnic in the Sun Bertie and Friends hit the road
Author: Christiane Duchesne & Jérôme Minière Illustrations: Marianne Ferrer Marianne Ferrer Singers: Clerel and Geneviève Toupin Narration: Mischa Cheeseman Publisher: Secret Mountain
This musical journey is full of whimsy and kindness, a beautiful experience for a child, and a break for the adult’s read aloud voice! Wonderful.
“Bertie and his buddies never ever got bored with each other… except for the time when it rained for four straight weeks! That’s when they decided to repair an old boat and head for dryer lands, a sunny place atop the Blue Mountain….
In addition to the illustrated story, this picture book is accompanied by recordings of the narrated story and 18 songs.” -Secret Mountain
We All Play / kimêtawânaw
Author/Illustrator: Julie Flett Publisher: Greystone Kids
Best History Books
Untold stories is the focus for our Best History Books category. The Bookstagang looks for biographies, and historical picturebooks that shed a light on the lives of marginalized peoples.
The ABC’s Of Black History
Author: Rio Cortez Illustrator: Lauren Semmer Publisher: Workman
“Letter by letter, The ABCs of Black History celebrates a story that spans continents and centuries, triumph and heartbreak, creativity and joy….In addition to rhyming text, the book includes back matter with information on the events, places, and people mentioned in the poem, from Mae Jemison to W. E. B. Du Bois, Fannie Lou Hamer to Sam Cooke, and the Little Rock Nine to DJ Kool Herc.” -Workman
We Are Still Here!: Native American Truths Everyone Should Know
Author: Traci Sorell Illustrator: Frane Lessac Publisher: Charlesbridge
“Too often, Native American history is treated as a finished chapter instead of an ongoing story. This companion book to the award-winning We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga offers readers everything they never learned in school about Native American people’s past, present, and future.“- Charlesbridge
Two Grooms On A Cake
Author: Rob Sanders Illustrator: Robbie Cathro Publisher: Little Bee
“Long before marriage equality was the law of the land, two grooms stood on a wedding cake with their feet firmly planted in fluffy white frosting. That cake belonged to Jack Baker and Michael McConnell, who were wed on September 3, 1971, becoming the first same-sex couple in America to be legally married. Their struggle to obtain a marriage license in Minnesota and their subsequent appeals to the Minnesota Supreme Court and the Supreme Court of the United States is an under-told story of LGBT history. This beautiful book celebrates the love story of two pioneers of marriage equality for all through the baking of their wedding cake!” – Little Bee Books
Shaped By Her Hands Potter Maria Martinez
Author: Anna Harber Freeman Illustrator: Barbara Gonzalez Aphelandra Publisher: Albert Whitman
“The most renowned Native American Indian potter of her time, Maria Povika Martinez learned pottery as a child under the guiding hands of her ko-ōo, her aunt. She grew up to discover a new firing technique that turned her pots black and shiny, and made them—and Maria—famous. This inspiring story of family and creativity illuminates how Maria’s belief in sharing her love of clay brought success and joy from her New Mexico Pueblo to people all across the country.” -Albert Whitman
Without Separation: Prejudice, Segration, and the Case of Roberto Alvarez
Author: Larry Dane Brimner Illustrator: Maya Gonzalez Publisher: Calkins Creek/Astra
“This important yet little-known civil rights story focuses on Roberto Alvarez, a student whose 1931 court battle against racism and school segregation in Lemon Grove, California, is considered the first time an immigrant community used the courts to successfully fight injustice. A must-read for young activists, or for anyone interested in standing up for what’s right.” -Calkins Creak/ Astra
Sakamoto’s Swim Club
Author: Julie Abery Illustrator: Chris Sasaki Publisher: Kids Can Press
“The inspirational and little-known story of a dedicated teacher who coached Hawaiian swimmers all the way to the Olympics, beautifully told in simple rhyme.” -Kids Can Press
Tu Youyou’s Discovery: Finding a Cure for Malaria
Author: Songju Ma Daemicke Illustrator: Lin Publisher: Albert Whitman
“Tu Youyou had been interested in science and medicine since she was a child, so when malaria started infecting people all over the world in 1969, she went to work finding a treatment. Trained as a medical researcher in college and healed by traditional medicine techniques when she was young, Tu Youyou started experimenting with natural Chinese remedies. The treatment she discovered through years of research and experimentation is still used all over the world today.” -Albert Whitman
Send A Girl
Author: Jessica M. Rinker Illustrator: Meg Hunt Publisher: Bloomsbury
“Brenda Berkman took the FDNY to court. In 1982, they …made a fair test, and Brenda and 40 other women passed. She then founded the United Women Firefighters, an organization that helps train and prepare women to be firefighters. Brenda went on to serve in the FDNY for 25 years, reaching the positions of Lieutenant and Captain, and was a first responder during the attacks on the Twin Towers on 9/11. Send a Girl! is Brenda Berkman’s inspiring story.” -Bloomsbury
The Leaf Detective: How Margaret Lowman Uncovered Secrets in the Rainforest
Author: Heather Lang Illustrator: Jana Christy Publisher: Calkins Creek/Astra
“Meg [Lowman] set out to climb up and investigate the rain forest tree canopies — and to be the first scientist to do so. But she encountered challenge after challenge. Male teachers would not let her into their classrooms, the high canopy was difficult to get to, and worst of all, people were logging and clearing the forests. Meg never gave up or gave in….”Meg Lowman or ‘Canopy Meg’ is a true hero, a courageous explorer, who made amazing discoveries high in the forest canopy.” —Jane Goodall, PhD, DBE, Founder of the Jane Goodall Institute and Pioneer of Peace
Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls: 100 Real-Life Tales of Black Girl Magic
Author: Lilly Workneh & Multiple Publisher: Rebel Girls
“Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls: 100 Real-Life Tales of Black Girl Magic acknowledges, applauds, and amplifies the incredible stories of 100 inspiring Black women and girls from the past and present; and celebrates Black Girl Magic around the world.”-Rebel Girls
Most Innovative Non-Fic
There is so much wonderfully useful non-fiction that comes out every year. The winners of this category however must be doing something unusual and unique!
The Weather Pop-Up Book
Author/Illustrator: Maike Biederstaedt Publisher: Prestel
Maike Biederstaedt has created a three dimensional, sculptural masterpieces, that tucks itself into a book. It puts one in mind of a Star Wars futuristic holograph the way that the pictures spring forward and can be viewed and appreciated from every angle. This book is a masterpiece.
Author: Barbara Sandri/Francesco Giubbilini Illustrator: Camilla Pintonato Publisher: PA Press
Never before have I featured a book which has taken me on such a personal and profound journey. “Chickenology: The Ultimate Encyclopedia”
You think I’m joking? I am in fact not. This book had me ready to start a chicken farm in my wee little suburban back yard. I was ready. River and I were designing coops and looking up by-laws (which were unclear at best, no livestock, but not specifically chickens.)
In the end it was this book that had me deciding against chickens this year. There was a pretty off putting page on chicken parasites. But maybe next year, maybe next year. I’ll still have this book, and this book has just about anything I’ll ever need to know about chickens. In fact if it’s not in this book, I refuse to hear it.
by Barbara Sandri and Francesco Giubbilini.
This review copy was kindly sent after I did quite a lot of begging from @papress
Beetles For Breakfast
Author: Madeleine Finlay Illustrator: Jisu Choi Publisher: Flying Eye Books
“We all know the effects that climate change is having on our planet – but what about the strange, and creative ways that scientists are working to find practical and imaginative answers to these big problems?“-Flying Eye Books
Something we talk about a lot, on the Picture Bookstagang Podcast, is tone. More specifically how does a book make a small reader feel, ESPECIALLY when it’s regarding subjects that can be potentially alarming, in this case-climate change.
Don’t get me wrong environmental disaster is bloody alarming, but how is it any way helpful to foist panic and guilt onto a six year old? That’s our guilt to bear.
So when we are choosing a book to discuss the environment we are looking for action oriented books. Rather than “the world is burning and we are all done for”-which is something we often see and is arguably not helpful.
We love books that encourage children to be active in taking on a role as stewards for our world, and to think outside the box in ways they have the power to do more! This book, “BEETLES FOR BREAKFAST” by Madeleine Finlay and @jisuchoi.poly manages to get this perfectly.
First, we gotta say, like everything by @flyingeyebooks it is an artistic masterpiece, and the physical quality is meant to last. But the contents of this book are a wonderland of ingenious ideas, hundreds of ways people have come up with to improve our world, from building homes underground, to building migration roads for frogs, to using organic waste in new and unusual ways! It’s a celebration of green innovation and invites children to dream outside the box in the service of their future.
The World’s Most Pointless Animals
Author/Illustrator: Philip Bunting Publisher: Happy Yak/ Quarto
Bunting’s sense of humour wins readers’ hearts with this silly, and yet fact packed exploration of ridiculous creatures.
“Did you know sloths can’t fart, and only poop once a week? Or that parrotfish eat coral? Why?! Capuchin monkeys habitually pee on their own hands! Gross. Did you know that jellyfish have no heart, brain, bones, and should not be eaten with custard? Or that giraffes only sleep for half an hour each night (that’s how long it takes them to get their head down). Oh, and groundhogs make for terrible meteorologists.” -Philip Bunting
Let’s Go For A Walk!
Author: Ranger Hamza Illustrator: Kate Kronrief Publisher: Ivy Kids/ Quarto
“Let’s Go For a Walk” with Ranger Hamza illustrated by @kate.kronreif is absolutely charming.
This book is what I think of as narrative non-fiction, a mix of story and in this case I SPY rhyme with facts about the world around us.
The incidental disability representation is also excellent! Ranger Hamza is accompanied through the book by three children, one child with a cochlear implant, one with a prosthetic leg, and one with glasses. It is never discussed, the story is just about observing the outdoor world. Normalizing disability in every day stories is so essential for children to have mirrors to see themselves in and also window to see others.
This one is perfect to tuck in the car or bag and bring out on trips to the park or beach!
Over and Under the Canyon
Author: Kate Messner Illustrator: Christopher Silas Neal Publisher: Chronicle
What makes every book in this series so innovative is the balance of narrative with non-fiction but ALSO the minutae rendered in illustration. Chronicle employs scientific consultants with each of these books to check over the illustrations and ensure theyr’e not only beautiful and stylized but also accurate. These books are a treasure!
“Over and Under the Canyon takes young readers on a thrilling tour of a desert canyon ecosystem….Discover the wonders concealed in the curves of the canyon, the magic of a desert wildflower bloom, and all the unexpected creatures that bring the desert to life.” -Chronicle
My Book Of Butterflies
Author/Illustrator: Geraldo Valério Publisher: Groundwood Books
“Geraldo Valério grew up in Brazil, watching white butterflies visit the vegetable patch behind his house. As he got older, he learned more about these unique and beautiful insects, which can be found on every continent except Antarctica…Includes an introduction, world map, fully illustrated spreads showing a butterfly’s life cycle and body parts, as well as a glossary, index and suggestions for further reading.” -Groundwood Books
I love love love butterflies. I think they’re just the most magical little flutterbugs and this has got to be my favourite book about butterflies yet.
The reason I am so taken with it is because my interest in butterflies is aesthetic first and foremost! This gigantic book is a detailed and enlarged look at different species of butterflies and it is perfect for budding artists!
This book includes facts about each species as well but for me it’s the artistic and mathematical learning potential that’s so alluring.
Each double page spread is a magnificent study in realism but also abstraction, geometry, symmetry, balance. The colour combinations are inspired.
It’s a book that can be a jumping off point for so many different lessons, discussions, projects. I just love it.
Curious Creatures Glowing In The Dark
Author: Zoë Armstrong Illustrator: Anja Sušanj Publisher: Flying Eye Books
“Did you know that under the sea, deep in the forest, and out in the desert there are creatures that make light all by themselves? The Earth is full of curious creatures that really do glow in the dark…“- Flying Eye Books
Author: Sean Taylor & Alex Morss Illustrator: Cinyee Chiu Publisher: Quarto
“Co-authors Sean Taylor (picture book author) and Alex Morss (ecologist, journalist, and educator) offer an inviting introduction to the science behind spring. The yard is bright, birds are singing, the bees are buzzing and there are tadpoles in the pond! What is all the commotion about?“- Quarto Knows
This story is what I would call a “Narrative Non-fiction” It pulls the reader through a story, of two sisters and their father exploring their garden coming alive (and let me say this garden is #gardengoals.) Within that narrative frame we have the non-fiction piece, the facts about plants and animals and the environment. There’s also a lovely piece at the end on actions we can take to improve our environment.
I am a big fan of Narrative Non-Fiction because personally I find dry facts hard to swallow. Having this human connection, the emotional element of children discovering, of them having a good time together, it is something I personally find much more relatable.
What can you do with a rock?
Author: Pat Zietlow Miller Illustrator: Katie Kath Publisher: Sourcebooks
“Rocks are simple, but the things you can do with them are endless. Rocks can build, sparkle, and tell a story. They can be memories. They can even be a little bit magic. This ode to curiosity and creative play from New York Times bestselling author Pat Zietlow Miller and acclaimed illustrator Katie Kath is bound to inspire.” -Sourcebooks
Best Food Books
There’s something very special about food in picturebooks that inspires the imagination to fire up all of the senses. The best food picturebooks are ones that have you ready to tuck into the meal yourself.
The Whole World Inside Nan’s Soup
Author: Hunter Liguore Illustrator: Vikki Zhang Publisher: Yeehoo Press
The illustrations in this one are an explosion of cottage life delights! The details sumptuous, the palette gentle. It will have you craving a nice bowl of warm soup. An absolute gem.
“A rumination on our ability to recognize our interconnectedness with all people, that in order to eat a single meal, it takes the whole world to make it.“-Yeehoo Press
Author: Priti Birla Maheshwari Illustrator: Ashley Barron Publisher: Owl Kids
As with the very best foodie books “Chaiwala!” plays with evoking every sense, from smell, to taste, to sight, and pulling at the strings’ of a reader’s sense of wonder and in some cases, nostalgia.
“When their train makes a 10-minute stop at the station in Jaipur, a young girl and her mother hurry to get in line for a cup of chai. While the girl waits for her mug of milky spiced tea, readers are treated to the sights, sounds, and smells of the Chaiwala’s cart.” -Owl Kids
Halal Hot Dogs
Author: Susannah Aziz Illustrator: Parwinder Singh Publisher: Little Bee
A laugh out loud funny, and relatable tale, of a boy that just wants his halal hot dog.
“Every Friday after Jummah prayer at the masjid, Musa’s family has a special Jummah treat….Finally, it’s Musa’s turn to pick, and he picks his favorite-halal hot dogs! But actually getting to eat this deliciousness turns into a journey riddled with obstacles. Will he ever get his favorite tasty treat?” -Little Bee
Tastes of the Lunar New Year
Author: Cheryl Yau Chepusova Illustrator: Mori Chiang Publisher: Little Picnic Press
“Introducing 12 unique dishes celebrating Lunar New Year around the world. Tastes of Lunar New Year is inclusive of regional customs from China, Singapore, Malaysia, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Vietnam, and Korea. This book is suited for readers ages 3-6 and is also available in a bilingual English and Traditional Chinese edition (with audio.)” -Little Picnic Press
This is the gold standard of indie work. It is immaculately printed and bound, with a beautiful gold foil. The art is flawless, adorable, stylish, unique. It is also an #ownvoices work that celebrates culture and, language.
It is a wonderful celebration of the Lunar New Year that is inclusive of the many different people who celebrate it, and how they celebrate it.
You can only buy copies of this book on their website, it is not available on Amazon.
Kids Can Bake
Author: Laura Patton Illustrator: Esther Coombs Publisher: Button Books
Esther Coombs has done it again, producing a practical, and easy to follow book of recipes for children and amateur bakers like myself that is also completely stunning. The illustration style is clean and practical while still being utterly gorgeous and you’ll wish you had prints of these to hang in your kitchen!
“Show your child how much fun cookery can be by teaching them how to bake. In this colourful book, beautifully illustrated step-by-step recipes show children how to bake delicious cakes, biscuits, pies, puddings and tarts….Full of sweet and savoury ideas for everything from brownies to baguettes, including breakfasts, snacks, main meals and desserts, there’s plenty to keep young bakers busy in the kitchen.” -GMC Button Books
Author: Sarah Thomas Illustrator: Jo Kosmides Edwards Publisher: Random House
“Tomorrow is Kalamata’s first day at a new school, and she’s nervous! What if the kids aren’t friendly? Or worse, what if they don’t like alligators!? If only Kalamata and Al Dente could go to back to the Indian spice market they visited this summer, then maybe she’d remember how to feel brave when new experiences seem scary. Luckily for Kalamata, all the magic required for her journey is right in her own kitchen! As Kalamata and her alligator friend, Al Dente, transport themselves to a magical land filled with tasty ingredients, she realizes being brave is exciting! And most importantly, she learns that when we’re nervous about trying new things, food can comfort us and remind us to stay curious, courageous, and compassionate.” -Random House
A Pizza with Everything On It
Author: Kyle Scheele Illustrator: Andy J. Pizza Publisher: Chronicle
“It’s a tale as old as time: a kid wants to make a pizza with his dad, but not just any pizza . . . he wants a pizza with everything on it. That’s right, everything. But as the toppings pile on, this father-son duo accidentally create a pizza so delicious, so extravagant, so over-the-top, that it destroys the universe—and the cosmos go as dark as burnt crust. Will anyone enjoy pizza ever again? At turns heartwarming, hilarious, and completely out of this world, Kyle Scheele and Andy J. Pizza deliver a riotous adventure that will melt readers minds and hearts and leave them calling for a second helping.” -Chronicle
Author: Meera Sriram Illustrator: Inés de Antuñano Publisher: Barefoot Books
“Savor a rhyming celebration of one of the world’s most universal foods! Readers follow ten diverse families as they cook dumplings inside their homes in preparation for a neighborhood potluck. Dumplings are added to plates one by one, encouraging children to count with each new addition. Authentic recipes for all the dumplings and a map showing their regions of origin are included in the endnotes.” – Barefoot Books
Amara’s Farm (Where in the Garden #1)
Author: JaNay Brown-Wood Illustrator: Samara Hardy Publisher: Peachtree
“A young girl searches for pumpkins on her farm in this joyful celebration of cool-weather fruits and vegetables, from the new Where in the Garden? series.“- Peachtree
Come, Read with Me
Author: Margariet Ruurs Illustrator: Christine Wei Publisher: Orca
“Join two young children as they begin an adventure through a world of books in this story-within-a-bedtime-story.” -Orca
This may seem like an odd choice for a foodie book, but as you enter this beautiful dream like world you’ll enjoy giant donuts, candy houses, and inviting picnics!
Explaining big concepts to little people can be daunting, and books are the perfect place to open those discussions whether it’s in the classroom or at home. From big feelings, to big thoughts, to issues like racism, and global warming, this year’s conversation starters get kids thinking and talking.
Hear My Voice / Escucha Mi Voz
Author: Warren Binford Illustrator: Various Publisher: Workman
“Hear My Voice/Escucha Mi Voz: The Testimonies of Children Detained at the Southern Border of the United States” Testimonies of child victims collected by children’s rights scholar Warren Binford. Illustrations were done by a team of contributing Latinx artists. For @project_amplify a charity that raises money to protect these children who are in migration.
This book will absolutely break your heart. It will shake how you think about living in North America. It will shock you.
I read it with River and she insisted this was something that must have happened a long long time ago, and I had to explain no, this is happening now. Even though it shouldn’t be.
The adultification, criminalization, dehumanization and abuse of Latinx children who arrive in the US is happening every day. This book seeks to share their story and experiences and implore those who are safe and warm and happy living in a North America where this seems impossible, to use their own voices to make it a thing of the past.
Please consider purchasing this book.
Saturday At The Food Pantry
Author: Diane O’Neill Illustrator: Brizida Magro Publisher: Albert Whitman
“Molly and her mom don’t always have enough food, so one Saturday they visit their local food pantry. Molly’s happy to get food to eat until she sees her classmate Caitlin, who’s embarrassed to be at the food pantry. Can Molly help Caitlin realize that everyone needs help sometimes?” -Albert Whitman
When We Say Black Lives Matter
Author/Illustrator: Maxine Beneba Clarke Publisher: Candlewick
This book is absolutely stunningly gorgeous, I have never before seen such power conveyed through chalk.
“In this joyful exploration of the Black Lives Matter motto, a loving narrator relays to a young Black child the strength and resonance behind the words. In family life, through school and beyond, the refrains echo and gain in power, among vignettes of protests and scenes of ancestors creating music on djembe drums.” -Candlewick
The Bare Naked Book
Author: Kathy Stinson Illustrator: Melissa Cho Publisher: Annick Press
“The Bare Naked Book” is a fantastic updated version of the 1986 book by Kathy Stinson with fresh new illustrations by Melissa Cho!
This new version was created to reflect the realities that we understand better today surrounding gender identity and a wonderful portrait of how completely diverse human bodies are.
This book is a wonderful place to start a variety of discussions about our bodies, and the bodies of others.
Skin colour, size, hair, disability, this book features normalizes and celebrates every body.
This book is essential for every child.
Don’t Hug Doug
Author: Carrie Finison Illustrator: Daniel Wiseman Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers
“Doug doesn’t like hugs. He thinks hugs are too squeezy, too squashy, too squooshy, too smooshy….Yup, some people love hugs; other people don’t. So how can you tell if someone likes hugs or not? There’s only one way to find out: Ask! Because everybody gets to decide for themselves whether they want a hug or not.” -Penguin Random House
When I See Red
Author/illustrator: Britta Teckentrup Publisher: Prestel
A gorgeous and timely meditation on anger, in a world where people cultured female are often discouraged from embracing it.
“Teckentrup’s impactful, boldly colored paintings skillfully evoke the way intense anger can take us on an emotional journey, one that can be both exhausting and affirming. This beautiful tribute to one girl’s experience of anger offers readers the opportunity to make sense of, and talk about their own feelings of rage in a time when that kind of understanding is more important than ever.” -Prestel
Zonia’s Rain Forest
Author/Illustrator: Juana Martinez Neal Publisher: Candlewick Press
Zonia’s home is
“Zonia’s Rain Forest” by Juana Martinez-Neal is about one little girl’s day exploring her home, the Amazon Rainforest. Full of childlike wonder and imagination, Zonia is fearless until she discovers a part of her home has been damaged by deforestation and promises to act to fight it.
I often find books with an environmental core to be too heavy for actual children to enjoy, but this one was not. It is a delightful book, about a girl who lives surrounded by love and beauty, with a message about the power that every child can choose to wield.
The art is stunning and there’s a lovely video available from the publisher about how Martinez-Neal traveled to the Amazon to research this story. The paper used for these paintings was made by women from communities in the Amazon that are being depicted here.
I also enjoyed that it includes a scene of casual breastfeeding. You don’t see that very often in picture books!
The Proudest Color
Author: Sheila Modir, PhD + Jeff Kashou LMFT Illustrator: Monica Mikai Publisher:Familius
“Zahra sees the world in vivid color. When she’s happy, she feels a razzle-dazzle pink in her hands. When she’s sad, she feels a deep blue behind her eyes. But she isn’t quite sure how to feel about the color of her skin. Kids at school tell her she is different, but her mother tells her to be proud! From a diverse team and based on extensive research, The Proudest Color is a timely, sensitive introduction to race, racism, and racial pride.” Familius
Hold That Thought!
Author: Bree Galbraith Illustrator: Lynn Scurfield Publisher: Owl Kids
“In the middle of the night, Finn wakes up with something buzzing around in their head. It isn’t heavy like a worry, it doesn’t swirl like fear, and it isn’t shaped like a question. It’s something more exciting—an idea!
Grounded in childhood curiosity and helmed by a gentle, inquiring main character, this story about the power of ideas fosters creativity, perseverance, inclusion, and a collaborative spirit.”-Owl Kids
Many Shapes of Clay: A Story of Healing
Author/Illustrator: Kenesha Sneed Publisher: Prestel
A quiet study of life and loss, and healing together.
“In this modern-day fable about grief, diversity, and family connections, a young girl discovers the joys–and pain–of the creative process.” -Prestel