Top 10 Picture Book Picks for 2013
by Drew Daywalt and Oliver Jeffers
Humour, letters and the goodness of rainbows! One day Duncan discovers that his crayons have quit and have left in their place a stack of letters voicing their respective protests: red is sick of the overtime, having to work through the holidays colouring Santa Claus and Valentine hearts; beige hates having everyone think he is boring (“when was the last time you saw a kid excited about coloring wheat?”); grey is exhausted from overuse, with Duncan’s affinity for elephants, hippos and whales, each of them so big; white is barely there; orange and yellow are in a feud about the colour of the sun.And so it goes, letter by letter, colour by colour, until Duncan devises a clever way to bring peace to his crayon box.
by Marie Louise Gay
Stella is back with her first new story in years, and in this one Stella is lost in a book. Or rather, she is lost in many books, reading through one after another as she and her little brother Sam take part in all the usual rambling adventures we’ve come to expect of the pair. Stella’s books work to augment their fun, providing instructions, additional info, and rollicking good tales. Gay shows that books and reading are a most extraordinary ordinary part of life.
by Bob Graham
This is a book about a single moment, the moment in which a baby takes his first steps, just as his big sister is adding the finishing touches to her drawing of a duck. And in this single moment the world stands still as miracles happen, lives are lived, the clock ticking over.
Graham telescopes out from one room in a house to show the wonders of that moment in other rooms, in other yards, houses, across the neighbourhood, across the whole city. As ever, Graham wonderfully portrays family and community in an urban setting, shining a gorgeous light on its roughest edges.
by Per-Henrik Gurth
The definitive Toronto ABC is Allan Moak’s and so I had this feeling that there might not room for two, but I was surprised to delight in this one. And how could I not, the Toronto I know and love in sweet specificity. Kensington Market is named here, P is for picnic at Trinity Bellwoods Park, and the Toronto Island that author and illustrator Gurth chooses to highlight is the often overlooked Ward’s Island, with its beach, peacefulness and sweet lack of commerce.
by Andrew Larsen
I love Andrew Larsen’s books for their subtext. In the Tree House is about family, dreams and longing. About the childhood yearning for a place of one’s own, and the complicated dynamic that exists (and is ever shifting) between siblings. And finally, the story loosely based on the big blackout of 2003, and is an excellent ode to city lights, which are sometimes just as magic as the stars are.
by Julie Morstad
The premise is unbelievably clever, but How To‘s genius lies in its simplicity.
I love the substance behind its charm as well, that the text is posing and the illustrations are answering such fundamental questions. “How to be happy” is the book’s final statement, accompanied by a two-page spread of children dancing, moving and being together. It’s a lesson as perfect as it is profound.
by Barbara Reid
This is going to be my go-to book for new babies from now on. Barbara Reid’s beautiful plasticine illustrations accompany rhyming text that welcomes a brand new baby into a family. And it’s not just Mom and Dad welcoming the baby but also grandparents, big brothers and sisters, a whole community of friends. “Welcome Baby welcome, all the new world is new. And all the world is waiting to be introduced to you!”
by Lemony Snicket and Jon Klassen
This should be a scary book, but it isn’t. A huge reason why not is Klassen’s illustrations, in which little Laszlo shines his flashlight through the darkness and remains firmly in control of his story with courage that never falters. I love the message of this: that being scared and being brave are feelings that can go hand-in-hand. And finally, because Snicket’s story shows darkness to be a benevolent force, necessary for light to exist. Plus, the book’s design is stunning.
Never Let You Go
by Patricia Storms
Patricia is my friend, but that’s only part of the reason I ordered 10 copies of this book the day it was released and am basically giving one to every kid I know this year. This is the story of a parent’s (totally uncreepy) unconditional love. This Mommy or Daddy Penguin is never going to let the baby go… except, well, let’s not be ridiculous about the whole thing. Baby Penguin will be let go to go to the bathroom, of course (and she actually mentions bathroom=hilarity). And Baby Penguin will be let go for lunch, to play, to chase the stars (and here there is a gorgeous spread of Aurora Australis). But other that that, of course, “I will never let you go,” says Big Penguin, portraying the elasticity and infinitude of great parental love.
That Is Not A Good Idea
by Mo Willems
Like Jeffers and Klassen, Mo Willems is one of the usual suspects, but there’s a reason for this: he’s so so good.
I particularly love his latest, which takes on the style of an old-fashioned movie. Players include a goose, her babies, and a hungry fox, and the ending is definitely not what reader’s expects, the book therefore begging to be read a second time. And then this time, kids will know the refrains, calling them out along with the reader. This book is a lesson in how to get readers engaged, and it’s short, so you’ll not mind reading it over and over.