2023 PICTURE BOOKS.. .end of the year titles

A list of picture books, some of which, I predict will to be future award winners. Hope so. 


ALONE: The Journey of Three Young Refugees by Paul Tom; illus. Melanie Baillairge; Arielle Aaronson (translator) (Non-Fiction)

Each year more than 400 minors arrive alone in Canada eeking refugee status. This documentary-style graphic novel is based on a true story of young asylum seekers who arrived in Canada without their parents. The storyies of 13 year old Afshin from Tehran Iran, 13 year old Alian from Bujumbura, Burundi and 16 year old Patricia from Kampala, Uganda are testimonies of sacrifice, hardships, obstacles and courage.  The book is divided into 5 chapters, each featuring the journey of the three adolescents. (Chapter 1: ‘Leaving Everything Behind’; Chapter 2 ‘Saying Goodbye’; Chapter 3: ‘It Isn’t Over Yet; Chapter 4; ‘Mama, Where Are You?’: Chapter 5: ‘Hope for Tomorrow’. The artwork presented in limited palette of black, burgandy, green and beige is somewhat stylized, somewhat sketch-like and sometimes poetic well-serving the mood of these biographies.

NOTE: The French version of this book (SEULS) is the recipient of the $50 000 TD Prix De Literature Jeunesse Canadienne. ALone is a fully illusgtrated adaptation of the critically acclaimed documentary Seuls, inspired by the true stories of 3 refugees (directed by Paul Tom).

“I am relieved to write these words. I feel that here, I have room to breathe. I feel protected. I feel free and safe. It was the right decision to come here.

To come home.”

(Patricia, page 135)


ARY’S TREES by Deborah Kerbel; illus Sophia Choi

The future of our world depends on trees. Ary enjoys the tree-covered paradise of her new home. When the island is under threat, Ari and her friends try and safe the trees before it’s too late. A special – important – story about environmental preservation and taking action.

“I’m sorry.” Ary whispered to the fallen palm at her feet. “I’m trying to  help.”

BIG by Vashti Harrison

A splendid splendid book about body-image and self-love. A young black girl grows up hearing the words “Don’t you think you’re too big for that!” and though the words sung make her feel small and judged.. In her heart, she ‘was just a girl. And she was good.” Vashti’s spare text pack an emotional punch and he illustrations present strong character poses that often fill the pages (literally).  This is a picture book treasure that needs to be shared. (recommended title for New York Times best picture books of the year). Big is sure to get Caldecott recognition. Crossing fingers. 


GRANDPA’S STARS by Carolyn Huizinga Mills; illus. Samantah Lucy Haslam

A young child pays a visit to Grandpa who shows grandchild the wonders of the night sky and the shapes the stars make in the glittering night. When grandpa gets sick, the stars bring imagination, memory and comfort.

“Pinpricks of light glitter overhead, as if someone has sprinkled by ceiling with magic. It is a masterpiece. We stand in my room and stare at the stars. Grandpa’s stars.”


THE LIGHT IN THE FOREST by Holly Carr (2020)

Thia is a staggering picture book creation with simple text introducing animals of the forest. (The deer is watching; The hare is leaping;). Cleverly each of the verbs is featured in varied large fonts, drawing attention to the  full page close up images of the animals of the forest (presented in monochromatic grey tones). The refrain, “I am not afraid.’ But wait… what is that?  that appears on alternate pages, not only encourage prediction, but provide comfort as readers contemplate lush colourful illustrations depicting the peaceful family. lives of the raven, the wolf, the deer, the hare the owl, the fox, the bear.  This is a read book to be read aloud more than once. The syntactic pattern and limited text invites successful  independent reading. This is a book that finds comfort and solace in the light in the forest. It is a careful reminder to children who may be afraid of something, that they are not alone.  Bonus: A full-age spread concludes the book that features over 25 animals indigenous to North America. This book is wonderful picture book. 


WHAT YOU NEED TO BE WARM by Neil Gaiman; 13 illustrators (a poem of welcome)

In a time when there are so many citizens who seek shelter and warmth during the coldest seasons, this poem by Neil Gaiman, presented as a picture book, illustrated by 13 artists,  answers the question, “What do you need to be warm?’. This moving poem is based on a film Goodwill Ambassador for UNHCR ( The United Nations Refugee Agency) Goodwill Ambassador made about refugees and displaced persons seeking safety and shelter. The poet gathers images and memories that signify warmth and inspire thought about about those who have lost their homes, and even lost thier their countries and are hopeful about finding the warmth of family and friends and safety. Black and white and orange are the only colours used throughout.  This poem was inspired by tens of thousands of people on Social Media, each shring a specific memory of being warm. Renowned author, Neil Gaiman, along with varied artists, has created a stellar literature artifact. This is a warm,omforting poem about hope and kindness that must  be shared with young people. . 

“A baked potato of a winter’s night to wrap your hands around/ or burn your mouth. A blanket kntted b your mother’s cunning fingers. Or your grandmother’s. 



A series of vignettes about what it truly means to swim – even though the mysterious ways of the water bring caution to  a diverse cast of young people fearful about learning to swim.  This is a mighty tribute to the joys and surprises of water. The glorious lively paintings, presented from different ‘above and below’ swim off the pages. When You Can Swim is the 2023 winner of the Boston-Globe Horn Picture Book Award as well as the Governor General’s literacy award for young people’s literature (illustrated books).  A stunning picture book creation drawn from Jack Wong’s early life experiences. Stellar!

When you can swim

you’ll conquer any fear

of tannin-soaked lakes

pitch-dark from tree bark

like oversteeped tea. 



Angie has moved Canada with her family and alhough the young girl has learned lots at school, a lot of things are harder for Dad in the new country. Angie is often required to translate between English and Cantonese for her Dad. When her father gets a job as a janitor, Angie  makes  English signs which her father needs to post. This inspires her to start her own business: “Hey, I bet thre are plenty of other people wno need things written in English for thenm. Like signs for their store.” I  tell Dad. “I could start a business.” A wonderful  story about, communication, community and fitting in. 




When a young boy witnesses a quivering bird in the hands of a bully, he is determined to rescue the orphan sparrow and lead it back to health. He trades all his treasures  (a magnet, marbles, a spinning top and a beloved American baseball) for the bird, whom he names Kozo, The Little Boy. This story is drawn from the personal life of the author’s experiences growing up in Japan remembering the best friend he made in his childhood. An exquisite memoir sure to ignite a strong emotional response – and that’s a good thing. (recommended title for New York Times best picture books of the year). I recently enjoyed reading this special book to both a primary class and a junior class. When I finished one eight year old put up his hand and said “I will remember this book for the rest of my whole life.” A great testimony for a great book. 




This title was mentioned in an earlier  posting of new 2023 picture books. I am eager to give another  shout out to this picture book which has now been released by Pajama Press. I recently attended a classy launch of Sylvie’s book and had a close-up look at the spectacular art work. The book was recognized in the Sunday New York Times (December 3, 2003) as a great holiday gift (“the 26 letters of the alphabet are a launching pad for elaborate flights of fancy.”) The Imaginary Alphabet is a great gift of picture book creations. It is indeed a GREAT GIFT to offer readers young and old.  As I outlined in my previous posting… “This is a WOW! of a book!”

 I love alphabet books. I love books that celebrate words. I love books with illustrations that enrich curiosity, wonder and imagination. This book is a triple crown winner for me.  On one side of the page we see an alphabet letter adorned with visual images (‘C’  features cactus, ‘L’ features lemons) and each letter is accompanied with playful alliterative sentences. On the right-hand page, Daigneault ‘illustrates’ the whimsical sentence in addition to a number of pictures that start with the same letter as the one featured in the large illustrations.  At the conclusion of this book there is a list of about 300 words that have been ‘hidden’ throughout. 26 letters. 26 whimsical alliterative descriptions to accompany the letters. 300 words and one glorious trip to an art gallery with Sylvia Daigneault’s exquisite, fantastical illustrations. This is a WOW! of a book

G = Grumpy Gorillas Guarding the Garden Gate. Can you spot the gargoyles, gerbils, giraffe, gravel ground and gold hidden in the picture?




The Sunday New York Times (November 12, 2023) presented a list of the 10 winners of the New York Time/ New York Public Library Bet Illustrated Children’s Books. Judges made selections from nearly 800 titles received by authors and illustrators around the world. The winners are:


As Night Falls: Creatures that Go Wild After Dark by Donna Jo Napli; illus. Felicita Sala

At The Drop of a Cat by Elise Fontenaille; illus Violete Lopizp; illus. Jeska Verstegen

Bear is Never Alone by Marc Veerkam

Before Now by Daniel Salmieri

Bunny & Tree by Balint Zsako

How to Write a Poem by Kwame Alexander and Deanne Nikaido; illus Melissa Sweet

Mary’s Idea by Chris Raschka

Rock, Rosetta, Rock! Roll, Rosetta, Roll!: Presenting Sister Rosetta Tharpe, the Godmother of Rock and Roll by Tonya Bolden; illus R. Gregory Christie

We Are Starlings: Inside the Mesmerizing Magic of Murmuration by Robert Furrow and Donna Jo Napoli; illus. Marc Martin

The Young Teacher and the Great Serpent by Irene Vasco; illus. Juan Palomino


>>>>>>>> <<<<<<<<<

Oops!  I think the committee overlooked some WOW illustrated picture books (Larry’s choices)


An American Story by Kwame Alexander; illus. Dare Coulter

Big by Vashti Harrison

The Imaginary Alphabet by Sylive Daigneault

Kozo the Sparrow by Allen Say

Mina by Matthew Forsythe

There Was a Party for Langston: King of Letters by Jason Reynolds; illus. Jerome Pumphrey & Jarrett Pumphrey

A Walk in the Woods by Nikki Grimes; illus. Jerry Pinkney; Brian Pinkney

When You Can Swim by Jack Wong