Every year this is one of my favourite blog posts to write but it also one of the ones that I find the most difficult as ultimately i...

Best Picture Books 2019

Monday, December 30, 2019 BookBairn 1 Comments

Every year this is one of my favourite blog posts to write but it also one of the ones that I find the most difficult as ultimately it means I can't talk about all the books. I have to select just a few of our absolute favourites.
So just a little disclaimer:
- these are all 'new' books that our family discovered this year. They were either published this year or ones that we only read for the first time this year.
- we have read many many books from lots of great publishers so whilst many of these books have been sent by the publishers, I have chosen to include the books we love best!
- I'm all for having a balanced bookshelf with books sharing mighty girls and diverse characters and stories from around the world and we really do read a wide variety. But these are a favourites list and therefore it would be dishonest and disingenuous to share books that weren't actually the ones we read the most for the sake appearing more diverse or more feminist or more contrived in some way. (Having said that, there is a number of books here that have sustainable and environmental themes as that it something that I have spent a lot of time thinking about this year.)

We have read lots of great things this year. BookBairn has started to enjoy reading chapter books - we are currently halfway through reading Matilda which is a joy - although I haven't included any here yet as I feel like we still predominantly read picture books and enjoy them the most (maybe it's the nature of re-reading them). The Wee Page Turner has moved on from those baby and toddler board books to predominantly choosing picture books and is a firm fan of Julia Donaldson stories as well as The Tiger Who Came to Tea and his favourite reading position is stretched out at full length on his tummy. And they enjoy reading and discovering books together - side by side! You will notice here that quite a few of these book shave powerful messages beyond just a good story - and I think that's what makes these ones special. And probably why I chose them for this list.  Here are the books that we have read the most this year:

Nell and the Circus of Dreams by Nell Gifford & Briony May Smith

Sometimes you get a picture book where the words are beautiful poetry. And sometimes you get a picture book where the illustrations are exquisite artwork. But rarely do you get a picture book where both poetry and art come together to create real magic. This is the story of the little girl called Nell, who goes a-wandering one day through the fields behind her farmhouse, only to discover a circus. A story of a magical world that really draws you in. The cover artwork took my breath away. I adore Briony May Smith’s illustrations (Stardust is another favourite book of mine) and I knew straight away that Nell’s world was somewhere I wanted to visit. Each page is so stunning and the use of light and shade in the illustrations is so delicate that it feels like you are in the room. The warm shades of the lights and the whole cast of characters are so evocative of a circus it feels like you are inside the big top. And to top it all off, the story has a magical and ambiguous quality to it. Was the circus real, or did it spring from Nell’s imagination? Magical. 

Chicks Rule by Sudipta Bardham-Quallen & Renee Kurilla

Written in the most wonderful rhyme and packed full of humour and fun, l love reading this one aloud! From Maker Chick to Baker Chick to Soccer Chick and Rocker Chick, all the chicks in town are horrified by and standing up to the “No Chicks Allowed” rule! Nerdy Chick isn’t standing for this senseless rule and won’t let it stand in their way to achieving her dreams of launching a rocket into space! She turns to her fellow chicks for help. And together they lift each other and prove once and for all that chicks are truly out of this world! The illustrations aren’t the kind that I’m usually drawn to but we love the bright colours and cartoon/comic style. I am totally won over by them! Showing you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. And you shouldn’t judge a Chick by her feathers! I cannot say how much love I have for this book! 

Kindness Grows by Britta Teckentrup

This is one of the most clever and poignant and powerful picture books that I have ever encountered. Now I am already a huge fan of Britta Teckentrup’s work but I think this is her best yet. Cleverly using die-cuts that work across both pages, the left-hand side of the book tells of a growing chasm between friends who disagree, argue, say unkind words, abandon, get angry. And the right-hand page tells the story of a growing tree, flourishing through friendship, love and support. Showing the contrast between the two ways of interacting. When the children on the left-hand page look across the those on the right, they see hope and how to heal their rift. The words are poetry. And the illustrations convey the message so beautifully. In our current climate, this is a book that should be widely read and shared among children and I hope that parents, teachers and any book-givers get it into the hands of as many children as possible.

Nibbles and the Monster Hunt by Emma Yarlett

Nibbles is perhaps my all time favourite book character! I know there are so many great ones to choose from but BookBairn and Nibbles (or Dimbles as she calls him) have been best book buddies since that very first turn of the page. He’s an adorable little monster with an insatiable appetite for books. In Nibbles and the Monster Hunt, Nibbles has a human friend whose bookshelf he can ravage! Nibbles Is nibbling his way through some serious tomes of non-fiction: fact books, colour books, counting books, you name it and he’s nibbling it. Like the previous books in the series, this conceptually clever book works on so many levels that it’s great for a wide audience of readers. 

In Nibbles Numbers, little ones can count along with Nibbles as he chomps his way from one to ten! From the first page flap, to all the delightful little finger-sized cut-out holes in each page (corresponding to the number of bites Nibbles has taken), there's so much for little ones to explore. With bright and inviting colours and tactile holes to count together this is a number book that provides more than simple number teaching. The rhyme scheme makes it enjoyable to read aloud and allows little ones to predict the next number in some pages. 

I’ve written a full blog post as to why Nibbles is our favourite book character if you want to read more about him.

The Green Giant by Katie Cottle

If you are looking for a book whose illustrations will literally take your breath away, then you have to get your green fingers on a copy of The Green Giant. It is truly truly spectacular. It tells the story of a young girl, Bea, who is visiting her grandfather in the countryside, far from the big grey city that she lives in. And she finds it rather slow and boring, until she finds a new and unexpected friend in the Green Giant who is hiding away on an old greenhouse. A giant made entirely of plants! The giant opens Bea's eyes to the wonders of nature and the magic of greenery and together they set off on a mission to make the city (and the world) a greener place. This fits with everything I want to share with the bairns about being concerned about our environment but in a way that little children can understand. And the illustrations are so striking - the contrast between the grey city and the greenery is incredibly poignant. It's just beautiful. 

Clem and Crab by Fiona Lumbers

The little girl in this story - Clem - loves nothing more than a day out at the beach. She loves spending her weekends combing the beach for treasure with her big sister. On one day treasure hunting on the beach, she stumbles across Crab with his claw stuck in a plastic bag. Clem things Crab would be much happier with her in the city but everyone tells her that he belongs on the beach. After a show and tell presentation to her class, she spreads the word about cleaning up our beaches. When returning Crab to the beach the following weekend Clem finds her classmates all helping to clean up the beach and they find the perfect rock pool for Crab. The illustrations are so evocative of the seaside and the characters, particularly Clem and Crab, are just adorable. I particularly love that the opening endpapers feature a beach littered with, well… litter and the closing endpapers feature Clem and Crab gazing out on the ocean standing on a natural litter-free beach! Such a timely tale about cleaning up our beaches and and underlying message that every small action helps. In fact, I got a lump in my throat when I read Clem shout: “I made a difference… We can all make a difference!” Isn’t that just such a lovely message for children to hear and at the heart of all efforts towards sustainability we need to believe that we can make a difference.

Alba the 100 Year Old Fish by Lara Hawthorne

Another book about sustainability and human impact on the environment is this story of Alba the Hundred Year Old Fish, which will help little readers understand the effects of pollution on our oceans. Alba the fish has spent her entire life collecting precious and beautiful objects that drift down to the ocean floor every year on her birthday. But as each birthday passes, and one more item is added to the collection, Alba notices that her collection is losing it's sparkle and treasures are becoming harder and harder to find. But for her 100th birthday she spots a pearl in a strange plastic shell. And she gets trapped. Fortunately not for long as a little girl comes to her rescue. This book is packed full of so many wonderful things - a visual feast of the natural world that will make little one's appreciate the beauty and the need to protect it.
(When checking details for this post I noticed that this book is now completely sold out and will be re-released in March under the new title: 'Alba and the Ocean Clean Up'.)

Old MacDonald Had a Truck by Steve Goetz & Eda Kaban

If there are two things in a book that are guaranteed to make it a hit with The Wee Page Turner it’s animals and vehicles. So this new board book edition couldn’t be more perfect for him. Using the familiar tune Old MacDonald had a Farm and giving it a new and hilarious twist with Old MacDonald having a variety of vehicles from an excavator to a steam roller to a cement mixer all of which are being used to convert. Space on the farm for Mrs MacDonald to perform a stunt show in her Monster Truck! The illustrations in this book bring a real magic to the funny song showing all the animals on the farm working together (in hard hats and hi-vis vests of course - safety first!) getting themselves into some hilarious situations. Honestly this is a truly fun book and I know we sing this one over and over at bedtimes!

All Are Welcome by Alexandra Penfold & Suzanne Kaufman

This is certainly a book to experience as well as read. It's a celebration as much as it is a story! Following a group of children in their school and throughout their day in school, this book shows a school where diversity it's at it's heart. Everyone is welcome no matter their race, religion or background. this story shares an uplifting celebration of cultural diversity and belonging where all children are welcome in the classroom. With children wearing hijabs, patkas, baseball caps and yarmulkes playing and learning side-by-side the illustrations in the book create a world where all the children belong. With scenes of the children pointing to their family's countries of origin, and the children gathered on the floor in a circle drawing illustrations of families of all sizes and colours and a playground full of happy children having fun together this is a really welcoming book! You will want to jump into the illustrations. The accompanying poem (it's definitely more a poem than a story) lets readers know that what they see in the illustrations is reinforced by the language of the school and community: everyone is welcome, they all have a place, they all have a space, no matter what. The school also has children of a variety of abilities including a blind child who carries a whitestick and a child in a wheelchair, reinforcing the lovely message of inclusion. That, for me, sums up what I want a school, and a wider community, to be and to cherish. This book is so wonderfully executed and really lives up to it's important message!

The Tide by Clare Helen Welsh & Ashling Lindsay

Stories can be an excellent way to talk about difficult to understand things with children. And this book truly is a wonderful way to share with children the difficulties of living with dementia. It tells the story of a little girl and her Grandad on a day out at the beach. Grandad is excellent at building sandcastles and finding shells, and rock pooling. But sometimes he gets confused. And buries the sandwiches. The little girl talks about her feelings too - how sometimes she gets cross at Grandad when he does odd things. But also that she tries to remember that it must be scary to forget. And especially frightening to forget someone you love. And no matter, even though Grandad doesn’t remember things like he used to, she loves him as much as she always has, and knows that he loves her too. A deeply sensitive book with beautifully imagery of memory ebbing like the tide, this book will provide enormous comfort to children struggling to understand something as intangible as memory and memory loss. The illustrations are magical and gentle and bring to life the beauty of the small moments. A truly heartwarming and touching story.

Sofia Valdez, Future Prez by Andrea Beaty and David Roberts

The latest book in The Questioneers series continues to celebrate little heroines that children can look up to. Along with Rosie Revere, Ada Twist and Iggy Peck, new classmate Sofia Valdez is out to leave her mark by following her dreams. When Sofia's abuelo hurts his ankle at the local landfill sight on their journey to school, Sofia decides to take on 'Mount Trashmore'. She gets the idea to turn the dangerous and disgusting pile of trash into a park! She brainstorms and plans but when she goes to City Hall she finds that she is moved from office to office until she is finally told by a clerk that she can't build a park because she is just a kid! But with the help of her friends, classmates and neighbours, Sofia sets out to prove that one kid can move mountains (trash ones at least) and do something to make a difference. Written in rhyming verse, giving brilliant pacing and momentum to the story these books and with mixed media illustrations, this newest release is a delight and captures the magic of what it is like to be little and to imagine and to create. They really are perfect inspirational stories for children about pursuing their own passions.

The Bad Seed by Jory John & Pete Oswald

These are two of my ultimate favourite picture books, and fortunately BookBairn loves them too! So I get to read them over and over and they grow on me more with each reading.These two books are packed full of wit, humour and puns but also a subtle poignancy that mean show us to see another point of view. Maybe that ‘Bad Seed’ has suffered some trauma that has affected his outlook on life, his behaviour and the way he connects with others, maybe he needs a helping hand and love and support? Maybe that goodie-two-shoes ‘Good Egg’ is cracking under the pressure and needs support and rest from looking after others? The illustrations bring to life these two colourful characters and add to the wonderful storytelling and humour of the stories. They are perfect for widening little readers’ perspectives and building their empathy.

What a fantastic year of books! If you are looking for more of our very favourite repeat reads check out my Amazon shop and click on the section favourite books!

Here's to a great year of reading in 2020
Kim and the bairns x

If you are interested you can find last years list here: 2018 Favourites
And 2017 list here: Best Reads of 2017

Disclaimer: We were sent some of these books free for review purposes by the publishers. Words and opinions are my own. If you click on the title of the book or use my amazon shop link you will be sent to amazon.co.uk using an affiliate link. This means that if you choose to purchase on amazon.co.uk, I will receive a small sum (around 20-70p per book) from amazon at no extra cost to you. I understand that you may not want to use an affiliate link, but if you like reading our blog please just think of it as a small tip for a tip-off to an awesome book. And know that your support means I can buy more books! For more information check out our 'For Our Readers' section.

1 comment:

  1. What a fantastic set of books to have chosen. I am always amazed by the talent of writers and artists who can create such wonderful books that promote great moral values for kids. Talents I do not possess. On a side note, unfortunately for me, the Wee Page Turner also insists that those reading the books with him adopt the same prone position on the floor on their tummies. Getting down is difficult, getting back up nearly impossible.