I have to say picking my 10 favourite picturebooks this year has been almost impossible, I have another fifty or so bubbling under. So i just closed my eyes and saw which ones kept coming back to me. Now thinking about how to use all these in school next year. They would all be fantastic in primary classrooms. Maybe somebody would like to help me plan what to do with them?
The Visitor by Antje Dam
“Elise was frightened–of spiders, people, even trees. So she never went out, night or day.
One day a strange thing flies in through the window and lands at her feet. And then there comes a knock at the door. Elise has a visitor who will change everything.
The Visitor is a story about friendship and shyness that plays out in a mini theatre, as a child unwittingly brings light and color–literally–into a lonely person’s life.”
The visitor is a wonderfully simple picturebook focussing on the joy children bring into our lives. (this is a bit of a theme of my choices this year, it maybe because some seem to be intent on painting children as being naughty all the time) The use of colour brings a joy to the tale. It has been a book I ‘ve found myself returning too often and everytime I’ve left with a huge smile and a cosy warm glow. A magical book with a big heart.
The Dam by David Almond and Levi Pinfold
‘When a great dam was built by the Kielder Water in Northumberland, the valley below slowly filled with water. But just before this, when the villagers had been moved out, two musicians went back to the abandoned valley. They tore down the boards over the houses, stepped inside and started to play – for this would be the last time that music would be heard in this place. In this astonishing picture book that combines themes of loss, hope and music David Almond pays homage to all musicians, showing the ancient and unstoppable power of creativity’
Whilst Almonds narrative drives the story it is Pinfold’s extraordinary illustration which take this book to another place. Sweeping majestic landscapes full of music and soul allow the reader to get carried away to another place. Together they have created a little piece of magic.
Cicada by Shaun Tan
‘Cicada work in tall building.
Data entry clerk. Seventeen year.
No sick day. No mistake.
Tok Tok Tok!
Cicada works in an office, dutifully working day after day for unappreciative bosses and being bullied by his co-workers. But one day, something truly extraordinary happens . . .
A story for anyone who has ever felt unappreciated, overlooked or overworked but dreams of magic, from Australia’s most acclaimed picture book creator. This is Shaun Tan’s first author-illustrator book in five years, and his most important and moving fable since The Arrival.’
This is not a book for small children the depressing picture of day-to-day work life drudgery, the bullying (potentially racist), the grey monochrome palette. This is not an easy book, it is however a book that has left me thinking more than any other this year. Tan combines his evocative artwork with a poignant but clever little tale that may well make the reader look a little differently at the humble cicada. The tale does have a decidedly wonderful twist…seventeen years indeed.
Dreamers by Yuyi Morales
‘In 1994, Yuyi Morales left her home in Xalapa, Mexico and came to the US with her infant son. She left behind nearly everything she owned, but she didn’t come empty-handed.
She brought her strength, her work, her passion, her hopes and dreams…and her stories. Caldecott Honor artist and five-time Pura Belpré winner Yuyi Morales’s gorgeous new picture book Dreamers is about making a home in a new place. Yuyi and her son Kelly’s passage was not easy, and Yuyi spoke no English whatsoever at the time. But together, they found an unexpected, unbelievable place: the public library. There, book by book, they untangled the language of this strange new land, and learned to make their home within it.
Dreamers is a celebration of what migrantes bring with them when they leave their homes. It’s a story about family. And it’s a story to remind us that we are all dreamers, bringing our own gifts wherever we roam. Beautiful and powerful at any time but given particular urgency as the status of our own Dreamers becomes uncertain, this is a story that is both topical and timeless.’
Stunning, warm-hearted, strong and beautiful. This book is the antidote to the current political discourse on immigration. It is both true and honest and should be in every school in my opinion. A brave wide-eyed dream of a book full of hope and love. Just what the doctor ordered.
A House That Once Was by Julie Fogliano and Lane Smith
‘Deep in the woods
is a house
just a house
that once was
but now isn’t
Two children come across an abandoned house deep in the woods and imagine who could have lived there. A House That Once Was is a beautifully illustrated exploration of time, imagination and the nature of home that is sure to provoke discussion. Lane’s artwork is a riot of colour and rich texture that perfectly matches the poetic text written by the New York Times-bestselling author, Julie Fogliano. This evocative, rhyming story is perfect for reading out loud.’
We all know this house, we’ve all walked past this house and wondered, wondered about the stories and memories that it holds. The book find wonder in decay and the passing of time, it creates quiet poetic atmosphere all of its own. This is a book about home and what the word home really means. Smith’s artwork gives us joys to find every time we explore the book. Just a sublime moment of quiet.
Drawn Together by Minh Le and Dan Santat
‘When a young boy visits his grandfather, their lack of a common language leads to confusion, frustration, and silence. But as they sit down to draw together, something magical happens-with a shared love of art and storytelling, the two form a bond that goes beyond words.
With spare, direct text by Minh Lê and luminous illustrations by Caldecott Medalist Dan Santat, this stirring picturebook about reaching across barriers will be cherished for years to come’
With very few words, this children’s book shows us the power of unspoken language. . The years faded between the grandfather and his grandson as they sketched and united on paper. What starts with dread slowly becomes joys as the generation gap is crossed and Grandfather and grandson cross both the age barrier and the language barrier to celebrate being with each other. (2nd book about really how brilliant and life-affirming children can be)
Mary Who Wrote Frankenstein by Linda Bailey and Julia Sarda
‘How does a story begin? Sometimes it begins with a dream, and a dreamer. Mary is one such dreamer, a little girl who learns to read by tracing the letters on the tombstone of her famous feminist mother, Mary Wollstonecraft, and whose only escape from her strict father and overbearing stepmother is through the stories she reads and imagines. Unhappy at home, she seeks independence, and at the age of sixteen runs away with poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, another dreamer. Two years later, they travel to Switzerland where they meet a famous poet, Lord Byron. On a stormy summer evening, with five young people gathered around a fire, Byron suggests a contest to see who can create the best ghost story. Mary has a waking dream about a monster come to life. A year and a half later, Mary Shelley’s terrifying tale, Frankenstein: or, the Modern Prometheus, is published — a novel that goes on to become the most enduring monster story ever and one of the most popular legends of all time.
A riveting and atmospheric picture book about the young woman who wrote one of the greatest horror novels ever written and one of the first works of science fiction, Mary Who Wrote Frankenstein is an exploration of the process of artistic inspiration that will galvanize readers and writers of all ages.’
The book handles Mary Shelley’s difficult life perfectly. Julia Sarda’s illustrations are absolutely perfect for the story, the atmospheric art with its muted colours and foreboding skies captures the mood perfectly. A great picturebook biography.
The Last Wolf by Mini Grey
‘Once upon a time, Little Red set off into the woods to catch a wolf . . .
But the woods aren’t all they seem – and are there even any wolves left? Mini Grey re-imagines the classic Little Red Riding Hood fable in an entirely new way. Can Little Red help her new friends in need and recover the wild days of the past?
This is a powerful, moving and funny picture book which will have children and adults revisiting its exquisite pages time and time again, and discussing the important message it holds.’
A modern parable about caring for our green spaces and making sure that we don’t lose them. This twist on Little Red Riding Hood which has a lot to say about the loss of all things wild. Great for starting a discussion about the wild and about how we can ensure its there for future generations. That its done with huge warmth and humour in testament to Mini Grey’s wonderful writing. Fantastic book.
Florette by Anna Walker
‘When Mae’s family moves to a new home, she wishes she could bring her garden with her. She’ll miss the apple trees, the daffodils, and chasing butterflies in the wavy grass. But there’s no room for a garden in the city. Or is there? Mae’s story, gorgeously illustrated in watercolor, is a celebration of friendship, resilience in the face of change, and the magic of the natural world.’
A beautiful, gentle story about how with a a bit of persistence we can create the world we want to live. Mae is a delightful character and the illustration bring the wonder of nature to life. Florette is an absolute delight.
Bonus book…Similar theme and equally as good…
Secret Sky Garden by Linda Sarah and Fiona Lumbers
When I Was A Child by Andy Stanton and David Litchfield
‘There is magic in everything.
The world is a spinning star,
No matter how old you are.‘
A joyous celebration of childhood and how children can bring joy and life to our world. (told you there was a theme). Playful words and sublime illustration make a memorable picturebook. Went down a storm in assembly too.
Stone for Sascha by Aaron Becker
‘A beautiful wordless epic from the Caldecott Honor-winning creator of Journey, Quest and Return.
This year’s summer holiday will be very different for a young girl and her family without Sascha, the beloved family dog, along for the ride. But a walk along the beach to gather cool, polished stones becomes a brilliant turning point in the girl’s grief. There, at the edge of a vast ocean beneath an infinite sky, she uncovers, alongside the reader, a profound and joyous truth…
In his first picture book since his bestselling Journey trilogy, Aaron Becker achieves a tremendous feat, connecting the personal loss of one child to a cycle spanning millennia – and delivering a stunningly layered tale that demands to be pored over again and again’
An epic in every sense of the word. A very personal story of loss becomes a journey through time and history. A magnificent achievement. This is your history curriculum right here.
Bonus Book…Late entry… The Rough Patch by Brian Lies
‘A breathtakingly beautiful and luminescent book about loss and grief, love and hope, and the healing power of friendship and nature, from New York Times–bestselling picture book creator Brian Lies.
Readers of Cynthia Rylant’s classic Dog Heaven, the Fan Brothers’ The Night Gardener, and anyone experiencing loss will be swept up by this poignant story.
Evan and his dog do everything together, from eating ice cream to caring for their award-winning garden, which grows big and beautiful. One day the unthinkable happens: Evan’s dog dies. Heartbroken, Evan destroys the garden and everything in it. The ground becomes overgrown with prickles and thorns, and Evan embraces the chaos.
But beauty grows in the darkest of places, and when a twisting vine turns into an immense pumpkin, Evan is drawn out of his misery and back to the county fair, where friendships—old and new—await.’
Not many books make me cry, this one had me weeping buckets. This explores the emotions we feel when we lose something we love and it does it in a brave honest way. A beautiful book.
*Text in italics is taken from book descriptions in Goodreads