In honor of Picture Book Month (November of every year), and because I am sure your Christmas list includes one or two wee ones, here is a list of ten of my most favorite picture books. Some are classics and some are well on their way. They all have lovely illustrations and stories that endear them to both kids and adults. There are thousands of amazing picture books in the world so narrowing down to ten is a practically impossible task. It is only made possible when I remind myself that discovering one new book you love opens the door to hundreds more. Use this list as a jumping off point. Go to your local bookstore. Read. Explore!
Amelia Bedelia by Peggy Parish with illustrations by Fritz Siebel
Generations have fallen in love with this literal-minded maid and her antics. Amelia turned 50 in 2013, and an anniversary edition, with original illustrations, was published to celebrate. You will find some tidbits on the evolution of Ameila in the back!
Hooray for Hats by Brian Won
A new picture book about being grumpy and having good friends, this book is perfect for story tellers who aren't afraid to do a few voices when reading aloud. Hat lovers young and old can unite under a new book-inspired slogan. "If you are grumpy, find some friends, put on some hats and get happy!"
Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney
It is almost impossible to select Barbara Cooney's "best" picture book. A prolific writer and illustrator, Ms. Cooney's picture books speak of a bygone age that still resonates today. Miss Rumphius is her most autobiographical picture book. With the message of making the world a more beautiful place and a less than typical female protagonist (especially for the time period), this book is undeniably lovely!
Harold and The Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson
The ultimate book of imagination, Harold is just a boy with a big purple crayon who goes on the most wonderful adventures. In this, the first of his many explorations, Harold goes for a walk with his trusty crayon, drawing himself into and out of the most lovely and kid adored situations. In the end, he just wants to find his way back home so he can draw himself in to bed and get some sleep. A sentiment that kids and adults can both relate to!
If You Want to See a Whale by Julie Fogliano with illustrations by Erin E. Stead
I do not know about you, but I have always wanted to see a whale -- a wish I believe is shared by pretty much everyone, however subconsciously. This book gives some pretty excellent suggestions for seeing one of these creatures of the deep, with amazing illustrations to boot. One of those new but already classics for me, If You Want to See a Whale has everything that makes picture books great -- wit, whimsy, a touch of humor, and compelling pictures that kids love (adults might love even more).
A Near Thing for Captain Najork by Russell Hoban with illustrations by Quentin Blake
With an outlandish adventure, tongue twisting text, and illustrations by Roald Dahl collaborator Quentin Blake, this book is all around wonderful. It has the underestimated but highly important quality of being entertaining even after many many bedtime reading sessions.
Roxaboxen by Alice McLerran with illustrations by Barbara Cooney
Celebrating the ingenuity of imagination, Roxaboxen tells the true story of a "town", built out of stones, old crates and broken glass, in the desert of Arizona. Brought to life by beautiful illustrations and simple text, the author was inspired by stories told to her by her mother, aunts and other children who grew up in Yuma in the early 1900's.
The Relatives Came by Cynthia Rylant with illustrations by Stephen Gammell
Drawing on her childhood in Appalachia, many of Cynthia Rylant's books are about the bonds of family. In this winsome tale, the relatives pile in their car once a year and drive hours for an extended visit. From the hugging to the eating to the way a house sounds different with so many extra people breathing in it at night, The Relatives Came tells a funny and loving story. The humorous details in each illustration make it a treat to read over and over!
Round Trip by Ann Jonas
When I was young this book was nothing short of magic to me. The story begins early in the morning, as a family gets in it's car for a trip to the city. But, as the title implies, this is a tale of the entire trip, including the return home. What you think is the end is not because you turn the book upside down to experience the drive home. The illustrations are ingenious! What were bushes by the sea on their way to the city are fireworks going off on the way home and so on. You really have to read it to get the full effect!
A Sick Day for Amos McGee by Phillip C. Stead with illustrations by Erin E. Stead
Winner of the 2011 Caldecott medal, this is the story of Amos McGee who works at the city zoo. He is an excellent friend to all of the animals there, and when he gets stuck at home with a cold, they prove to him what excellent friends they are in return. Who doesn't love a chess playing elephant and a shy penguin, illustrated in Erin E. Stead's signature style. It is a sweet and thoughtful story, with animals!