This is a difficult list because, again, I find myself entrenched in the age-old debate of “best” versus “favorite”. And, yes, there is a difference and I’ll take on anyone who says different. So for my “best” list, I considered kid appeal much more than I did for my “favorites.” These are books for children, after all, and kid appeal needs to be high up the criteria list for “best.” As an example, I thought Mysterious Edge of the Heroic World by E.L. Konigsburg was one of the best of the year. But I think most people agree that it’s lacking in kid appeal. Likewise, The Short and Happy Life of Riley by Colin Thompson and Amy Lissiat is one of my absolute favorites, but it’s not really for kids either. So with that in mind, here’s my list of picture books:
Fred Stays With Me by Nancy Coffelt and Tricia Tusa
A quiet book so easily underestimated. The warm colors and simple illustrations just bring you in and comfort you like a fuzzy blanket. This book makes you feel safe; it makes you feel that, even though there is badness in the world, everything will be fine…as long as you have Fred.
At Night by Jonathan Bean
I can’t speak to Apple Pie that Papa Baked because I haven’t seen the darned book yet. But this book has all the same qualities as Fred Stays With Me. At Night is the equivalent of a cup of hot cocoa.
Let It Shine by Ashley Bryan
Let It Shine embodies qualities that the first 2 books on my list don’t: it’s bold, it’s colorful, it’s large. The spread with the outstretched hands? I’m gonna say it…yep, I’m going to use the word…here it comes….Genius.
On Meadowview Street by Henry Cole
Oh, I’ve loved Henry Cole for so long. Why Do Kittens Purr? is one of my faves. But it all really comes together in this book. It’s the ideal way to do a “message book”. Authors and illustrators, take note.
Knuffle Bunny, Too by Mo Willems
Of course. The dads looking all strung-out and tired the next morning? Hilarious. Brilliant.
Naturally, there are a ton I loved but left off the list. Here they are:
Wicked Big Toddlah by Kevin Hawkes
Old Penn Station by William Low
Every Friday by Dan Yaccarino
Henry's Freedom Box by Ellen Levine, ill by Kadir Nelson
Orange Pear Apple Bear by Emily Gravett
Cherry Time by Daniela Bunge
Dumpster Diver by Janet S. Wong, ill by David Roberts
It was a great year for picture books but I don't see one standing above and beyond the rest. Can't wait to see what the Caldecott committee makes of it all.