Sure wish I had a classroom of kids to share some of these fine picture books with. Most are 2020 titles and I’m placing bets that at least one of these will win picture book awards. Each book is like a great walk through an art gallery. Three titles get shout outs from Dr. Larry.
IF YOU CAME TO EARTH by Sophie Blackall
How might you explain the wonders of the world to someone from another planet? What might you tell them about cities,town villages; the homes we live in; our families; our friends; weather, emotions, occupations, school, celebrations, oceans, rivers, seas…
“The book is a call for us to take care of both Earth and each other.” (jacket blurb)
The opening statements from this picture book can inspire writers at all grade levels.
DEAR VISITOR FROM OUTER SPACE,
IF YOU CAME TO EARTH, HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW.
ALL BECAUSE YOU MATTER by Tami Charles; illus. Bryan Collier
Hope and affirmation of black identity presented in lyrical verses and acoompanied by vivid paintings by masterful artist Bryan Collier.
On the night you were born, /stars sprayed across the sky, /each one full of
and all the moments in your life that would matter…
YOUR PLACE IN THE UNIVERSE by Jason Chin
A beautiful specimen of a nonfiction picture book that has readers wondering and learning about the immensity of the universe. This book is filled with scientific facts and fascination with scale. (‘e.g., Scientists believe there are trillions of comets beyond the Kuiper Best. The farthest of these could be 100,000 times farther from the Sun than the Earth is’. / ‘The Edge of Space is around 62 miles (100 kilometers) above sea level’.Any reader intrigued with Space – and with big numbers – will be intrigued by the abundance of information that appears throughout (including an informative appendix). Note: Metric numbers are provided throughout.
HUNDRED: What You Learn In a Lifetime by Helke Faller; illus. Valerio Vidali (2017)
This book (not necessarily a book for children), examines life from age 0 to 100. Each of the 100 items makes a philosophical (8: ‘You get braver with every step.’) or asks a philosophical question (45: ‘Do you like yourself the way you are?’). There are many universal truths in Faller’s survey of a long life. And whether we’ve experienced the life events celebrated, adult readers can reflect and consider the big question ; “What have you learned from life?” The draw for me was the art by Valerio Vidali who illustrated the new English publication of Gianni Rodari’s Telephone Tales. I’d sure love to write a book that Vidali could illustrated.
B ON YOUR THUMB by Colette Hiller and Tor Freeman
This is a collection of 60 poems to boost reading and spelling. Each rhyme teaches a particular lesson by tackling tricky spellings. Essential letter sounds or letter combinations are indicated with the use of Upper Case and/or colour font. The authors `ell us that there are ditties (good choice of word) for young children learning to master letter sounds and as well as poems that are examples of spelling patterns or tricky spellings.
A Very Short Lesson
Here’s the lesson for today:
A + Y = ay.
That is all I have to say.
Lessons over. Go away.
RAVEN, RABBIT, DEER by Sue Farrell Holler; illus. Jennifer Faria
A gentle and cozy book about a young boy’s outing with his grandfather along a snowy forest trail. The boy enjoys teaching his grandfather about the joys of playing in the snow and the grandfather enjoys pointing out the tracks of animals that they encounter along the way, naming raven, rabbit and deer in both English and Ojibwemowin. A warm intergenerational story on chilly winter’s venture from Canadian author Sue Farrell Holler.
I PROMISE by LeBron James
Inspired by the NBA chanpion’s I PROMISE School in Akron Ohio, readers are encouraged to think about how success starts with the and that they need to “promise’ to reach their full potential. “I promise to work hard and do what’s right, to be a leader in this game of life.” NOTE: Each page features a group of young children enjoying their time at school. On the final spread, nine children climb and play all around the words I PROMISE. Only one of these children appears to be Caucasian. We’ve come a long way in the world of picture books. Just sayin’.
WHAT WE’LL BUILD: Plans For Our Together Future by Oliver Jeffers
Jeffers seldom disappoints. This is a tribute to a father and daughter, spending special time together to build a home of safety, warmth and love. Told in simple couplet rhymes (often assonant rhymes) (i.e., ‘I’ll build your future and you’ll build mine/We’ll build a watch to keep our time.’). A book filled with optimism and love and wonderful wonderful art (of course!)
THE MUSEUM OF ME by Emma Lewis (2016)
A visit (and a celebration) to all kinds of museums and the different exhibits we can experience. I was hoping the book would be more like visual images of the ‘me museum’ (like: My Map Book). It’s not until we arrive at the last page that we have images that represent the girl’s life.
WHEN THE WORLD WENT QUIET by Tia Martina; illus Kelly Ulrich
When the Global Pandemic hit, people were stuck inside and the world went quiet. This book, told in rhyme, describes how animals returned to more free existence throughout the world. The book helps us ” to focus on the preservation of wilderness and the protection of wildlife”. (‘Giant elephants wandered slowly foraging for tasty treats/ Where they were joined by the spotted civet on India’s empty streets.’ )
YOU MATTER by Christian Robinson
Christian Robinson won the Caldecott Honor and Newbery Medal awards both for Last Stop on Market Street written by Matt de la Pena. This book is told in simple text and vivid illustrations to help students know that they matterr… whether they swim with the tide, or not; If they fall down and have to start over again; if they feel lost and alone; old or young’ big or small; first or last.
OUTSIDE IN by Deborah Underwood; illus. Cindy Derby
Pondering: When Deborah Underwood wrote the draft of this picture book, did she know that in 2020, much of the world would be ‘stuck inside’. In simple, lyrical text, the author pays worship to the beautiful sights sounds and smells of things outside our windows (e,g., Outside sings to us with chirps/ and rustles/ and taps-taps on the roof). The mighty watercolour images, sometimes expressionistic, by artist Cindy Derby support and strengthen Underwood’s words. This is one of the best picture books of the year – and for the year.
THE WANDERER by Peter Van Den Ende
This is a WOW! picture book artifact. The artist spent several years to create the black and white spreads for this wordless picture book. The real and surreal images of ocean life and beyond are astonishing. Readers who choose to gaze slowly at the illustration on each page will wonder, ‘How did he do that?’ The story: A small paper boat is set out to sea and quietly and bravely carries on despite monumental encounters with extraordinary creatures of land, sea and air, gigantic ships, and heavenly skies. The interpretation of the narrative and symbols is left totally up to the reader. Picture book artist Shaun Tan declares this book to be “wonderfully strange and strangely wonderful.” Awesome indeed!