Saturday, January 4, 2014

My Top 13 Picture Books of 2013

For my first post I had big plans to write something deep about what teaching means to me.  I did a lot of thinking about what I could say, but kept getting distracted by thoughts of what I would put on my top 13 books of 2013 list.  I love books!  In particular those that come with the labels children's or young adult. Ask anyone online, or off, and they will agree.  I devour them daily and my local public librarians know me by name.  I can often be heard saying "Have I got a book for you!", because the only thing better than reading a book is sharing it with someone.   Through twitter I have met many who share my love of literature including Niki Barnes (@daydreamreader), Niki Card (@nikicard), Allison Jackson (@azajacks) and many other members of the #Nerdybookclub crew.  Together we have shared favourites, discussed endings, excitedly predicted the casting for a loved book that is soon to be a movie, and even read books simultaneously, checking in every few hours to see what page the other is on.  

When I consider what I am passionate about, it really does make sense that my kick off post should be all about books.  So without further ado, I present my top 13 picture books of 2013.  It was a tough choice but here they are in no particular order:

Little Mouse's Big Book of Beasts
by Emily Gravett

I always love Emily Gravett's books because they are a little strange and always interactive.  Little Mouse's Big Book of Beasts does not disappoint.  In the spirit of Chester, Little Mouse has taken Gravett's book and made some changes of his own, to make the beasts just a little less scary.  I really enjoy the attention to detail given to the variety of media used to alter the book, down to the bits of articles that can be seen on the newspaper clippings.

The Day the Crayons Quit 
written by Drew Daywalt, illustrated by Oliver Jeffers

I have long been a fan of anything written or illustrated by Oliver Jeffers, and was delighted to be introduced to Drew Daywalt in this hilarious letter writing campaign straight from the crayon box.  This book is by far the most requested book in our classroom and has inspired student writing over the last few months. 

The Bathing Costume or The Worst Vacation of My Life
written by Charlotte Moundlic, illustrated by Olivier Tallec

This story of a boy's first vacation away from his parents brought back my own memories of going to the cabin with my grandparents.  Charlotte Moundlic has captured the experience of a summer that ends with the feeling that you're just a little more grown up and a little braver than you were when it started.  Beautifully written, this will become one of my top choices for books to read with my class both at the beginning and end of the year.

Sophie's Squash
Written by Pat Zeitlow Miller, illustrated by Anne Wilsdorf

This book makes me smile even as I think about it now.  A sweet tale of a girl and her root vegetable speaks highly of the power of imagination and the difficulty of letting go.  Part of what I love about this book is the reaction of Sophie's parents as they watch their daughter become attached to something they know can't last.

On a Beam of Light: A Story of Albert Einstein
written by Jennifer Berne, and illustrated by Vladimir Radunsky

A look at the life of Albert Einstein in a way that inspires children to revel in their own wonderings.  I found the story inspiring, in particular the way Jennifer Berne made a point of highlighting all the ways that Einstein was a little different.  There were so many ways to connect to this book that each child is left seeing a bit of themselves in Albert Einstein.

by Alvaro F. Vila

There were many amazing wordless books published this year, but Alvaro's was the first I've seen that has a non-fiction feel to it.  The story of a family who experiences the effects of a flood is very realistic.  Alvaro F. Vila is able to convey the fear of having to leave quickly, the heartbreak of losing a home and the hope of rebuilding.

written by Samantha Berger, illustrated by Dan Santat

I chose this one because we all have a little bit of Crankenstein in us.  Dan Santat manages to perfectly capture both the facial expression and body language of a Crankestein that I know personally.  Samantha Berger gives children the opportunity to see themselves in the story while showing them hope that life is not always crank inducing. 

In the Tree House
written by Andrew Larsen, illustrated by Dušan Petričić

A story of brotherly love and reconnecting.  This is the first of two of my Canadian picks for top picture books.  Andrew Larsen takes a simple event, a black out, and uses it to provide two boys with the time and space to come together again.  Dušan Petričić's clean ink drawings and reduction of colour help to put the story in focus.

The Beginner's Guide to Running Away From Home
by Jennifer Larue Huget

Between the awe inspiring art work and the relate-able "how to" feel of this book, there was no doubt it would make it onto the list.  The pictures are a mix of media and supports the stories combination of reality and imagination.  Jennifer Larue Huget takes us through the stages of running away from home, complete with snacks and packing tips.

If You Hold a Seed
by Elly MacKay

This has definitely been a year where mixed media illustrations have been highlighted and well executed.  My second Canadian choice shows this in layered drawings and varied perspectives.  Elly MacKay takes the story of a seed's life and explores it in simple text and stunning visuals that inspire.

Follow Follow: A book of Reverso Poems
written by Marilyn Singer, illustrated by Josee Masse

Marilyn Singer's brilliant Reverso poetry returns in this book.  Her reversible poetry not only makes sense forwards and backwards, but is well written.  A great way to get kids interested in poetry and to make them say "Whoa!".

Mustache Baby
written by Bridget Heos, illustrated by Joy Ang

This book brings out the desire in people of any gender, to slap on a mustache and debate whether it is a good-guy mustache or a bad-guy mustache.  Another student favourite, Bridget Heos' book had me laughing out loud in the middle of the book store, and then itching to make my own mustache.

Exclamation Mark
written by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld

 The team of Rosenthal and Lichtenheld have done it again, creating a puny and clever look at this always loved and sometimes overused punctuation.  While a great connection for students and writing, this book also holds its own simply as an entertaining read-a-loud.


  1. So happy I found you today on Twitter! ~Love your posts! I will have to look up these book selections this week in our school library. I teach 2nd graders in a suburb of Dallas, Texas. Keep up your great work! :)

    1. Thanks so much for your positive comments. Glad to hear you will be looking for them, they are all great. I taught grade 2 last year. What have you been reading to your grade 2's?

  2. There are some books I haven't seen on you list. I will have to check them out! Also, my students LOVE Exclamation Mark. It is a nominee for our state award, the Colorado Children's Book Award.

  3. I am so glad I could highlight some books you weren't aware of. What grade do you teach?

  4. Great first post! I'm excited to add some books I haven't read to my TBR. :) I love Mustache Baby and can't wait to read it when we have our Fake Mustache party in 2nd grade.

  5. Thanks for all your encouragement Niki! I would love to see pictures when you finally have your Fake Mustache party!

  6. Follow Follow and Mirror Mirror were very exciting for me since they were the first poetry books my sons ever read with pleasure. Somehow my kids are allergic to poetry, but their pattern-loving minds adored the word play of Singer's poems.

    1. I read some to my class last year and they were fascinated by how the poems worked both ways. I will be re-introducing it during our fairy tales study this year.