Pulling together this year’s list of the 60 best picture books was both torment and delight. Delight, because what could be better than sitting around looking at picture books? Torment, because I love way more than just 60. A picture book can be a sublime aesthetic experience, transporting children geographically, temporally, and emotionally in just a few page turns.
Atinuke and Laura Tobia take readers to “Amazing Africa,” where there’s Double Trouble for Anna Hibiscus when the ebullient biracial girl gets twins baby brothers. Matt de la Peña and Christian Robinson invite readers to join a little black boy and his nana on a bus ride through a vibrant urban neighborhood to the Last Stop on Market Street. Muon Van and April Chu give children an intimate glimpse of rural Vietnamese life In a Village by the Sea. And Isabel Minhós Martins and Bernardo P. Carvalho mesmerize readers young and old in a whirlwind tour of The World in a Second.
Lesa Cline-Ransome and G. Brian Karas toggle readers back and forth in time to learn about Whale Trails, Before and Now. Meghan McCarthy takes them to late-19th-century Maine, where Chester Greenwood did not invent Earmuffs for Everyone! Vaunda Micheaux Nelson and R. Gregory Christie usher them into a remarkable mid-20th-century Harlem bookstore where they, too, might catch The Book Itch. And Neil Christopher and Germaine Arnaktauyok take readers to the Arctic Way Back Then, when giant polar bears roamed the land and igluit could fly.
JonArno Lawson and Sydney Smith show readers the happiness found in small things: a little girl’s Sidewalk Flowers. Margarita Engle and Rafael López allow readers to share in the courage of a young Chinese-Cuban Drum Dream Girl. And Tomie dePaola helps all readers learn how to Look and Be Grateful. And this is just 11; there’s a whole nother 49 to be grateful for as well.
Vicky Smith is the children’s & teen editor.