Category Archives: PICTURE BOOKS +
I’ve been keeping an eye out for very recent picture books I think would make great gifts this year for those who are able to give this winter holiday season. These will simultaneously soothe and affirm and lift the spirits of anyone who reads them.
Please find below 16 picture books for gifting and lifting spirits!
I Am: Affirmations For Resilience by Bela Barbosa and Edel Rodriguez (2020), a bold, hopeful, beaming “tool kit for children” that teaches mindfulness, emotional regulation, resilience, and positive self-worth.
Rain Before Rainbows by Smriti Halls and David Litchfield (2020) is a gorgeous, hopeful poem: “Dark days may shake us and worries creep in, with dragons to duel and battles to win…But…there are footsteps to follow and words that are wise. There’s a map that will guide us when troubles arise.”
All Because You Matter, written by Tami Charles, illustrated by Bryan Collier (2020) is a stunning ode to a child. A Black child. A reminder that they ARE matter, the stuff of the universe. That THEY matter. They matter. “They say that matter is all the things that make up the universe: energy, stars, space…If that’s the case, then you, dear child, matter.”
Layla’s Happiness written by Mariahadessa Ekere Tallie, illustrated by Ashleigh Corrin Webb (2019) IS happiness, pure joy. Layla’s depiction of all the things she loves is lyrical, inventive, surprising, spunky, and sweet.
Every Child a Song by Nicola Davies and Marc Martin (2020) explores the metaphor of how each child is a unique song, each deserving of nourishment, belonging, and celebration. It was created for the 30th anniversary of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, a list of 54 things every child in the world is entitled to.
Sugar in Milk by Thrity Umrigar, illustrated by Khoa Le (2020) is a call to be the welcoming, inviting country we should be. It’s a story within a story, one modern-day, one a Persian legend, told with absolutely stunning artwork.
I Am Every Good Thing by Derrick Barnes and Gordon C. James (2020) is created by a dream team and is a manifesto that celebrates Black boys. It wraps its arms around them with buoying, bouncing, beautiful language and vibrant pantings, affirming their preciousness and possibility and pride.
I Will Dance written by Nancy Bo Flood, illustrated by Julianna Swaney (2020) celebrates wishes and wishes coming true. A wheelchair user makes a wish to dance with other dancers on her birthday “between, around, while the other dancers glide past me, tumble over me, until we are all mixed together, one beautiful laughing heap.” And her wish comes true when she joins a dance troupe for EVERYONE.
We Are Water Protectors written by Carole Lindstrom, illustrated by Michaela Goade (2020) is a gorgeous, vital picture book that draws on Native history and culture, ancient and recent, to show how tribal nations are standing up to protect water and the earth. “We stand with our songs and our drums. We are still here. We are stewards of the Earth. Our spirits have not been broken. We are water protectors.”
Neighbors by Kasya Denisevich (2020) is, at its heart, about how imagination leads to empathy when a girl who’s just moved to a new apartment imagines her neighbors and wonders at the ways in which we’re all connected.
You Matter by Christian Robinson (2020) is a super inventive book that tells the reader they are—everyone is—precious: young, old, first, last, stuff too small to see.
Black is a Rainbow Color written by Angela Joy, illustrated by Ekua Holmes (2020) sings the song of the color black and where it’s found in nature and then goes on to sing the song of Black history and people, Black artists, Black culture. “Black is a color. Black is a culture…Black is a rainbow, too.” I featured this book in a post on Ekua Holmes’s picture book life right here.
Our Favorite Day of the Year written by A.E. Ali, illustrated by Rahele Jomepour Bell (2020) is warm, connective, and charming as it honors the beautiful quilt of traditions celebrated by children in one classroom.
Every Color of the Light: A Book About the Sky written by Hiroshi Osada, illustrated by Ryōji Arai (2020) is a poem and series of paintings about a rainstorm, simple yet sophisticated and one of the most soothing bedtime books ever.
The Ninth Night of Hanukkah by Erica S. Perl, illustrated by Shahar Kober (2020) is a sweet story about two resourceful siblings who’ve just moved and can’t find their Hanukkah box to celebrate! But their lovely neighbors supply substitutions for everything they need and even though they’re not exactly what they were looking for, eventually it feels just like Hanukkah, with new friends in the building to boot!
Intersection Allies by Chelsea Johnson, LaToya Council, and Carolyn Choi, illustrations by Ashley Seil Smith, forward by Kimberlé Crenshaw (2019) is a joyful call for inclusion, joining together, making rom for all.
And for those who are able to give gifts this winter season, I hope we’ll all think of indies first to show support for the work they always do and to help with the challenges they face now. Here are some of my favorite independent bookstores in LA and elsewhere (of course there are more and likely a wonderful one near you!).
A few booksellers from these faves have even stopped by This Picture Book Life to share picture book gems they recommend over the years! See those posts here:
Bunnie from Brave and Kind
Jen from Vroman’s
Sallly from The Curious Reader
Hannah from Avid Bookshop
These four non-fiction picture books, all published this year, showcase incredible people in history—and some young people today—who raised their voices to create change.
Shirley Chisholm is a Verb! written by Veronica Chambers, illustrated by Rachelle Baker (2020).
This picture book is a tribute to Shirley Chisholm and her verbs, her doing, her work and guts and courage. And the way she raised her voice as part of that. In Barbados, “…her teachers taught Shirley how to SPEAK up, and they helped her understand the power of words.” In Brooklyn, she became a teacher herself.
She helped people. Stood up for people. She was part of organizing Head Start. She ran for State Assembly and won. She ran for Congress and won. In 1968, she was the first Black woman elected to Congress!
She took action upon action. She spoke up and then spoke up again. She ran for President! In doing so, Chisholm inspired so many people and paved the way for so many others.
Rachelle Baker’s bold artwork in this biography portrays the spirit of the time as well as Chisholm’s dynamism.
Collection copyright © 2020 by Lindsay H. Metcalf, Keila V. Dawson, and Jeanette Bradley. Illustrations copyright © 2020 by Jeanette Bradley. Used with permission by Charlesbridge Publishing, Inc. All work used by permission of the individual authors, who control all rights. All poems copyright © 2020 by the individual authors. “Water Protector” © Joseph Bruchac.
No Voice Too Small: Fourteen Young Americans Making History edited by Lindsay H. Metcalf, Keila V. Dawson, and Jeanette Bradley, illustrated by Jeanette Bradley (2020).
This picture book is a treasure of inspiration, of poems and illustrations by kidlit creators, each featuring a young person creating change.
Some of these kids may be familiar to you, some of them may not, but every spread showcases one kid, their brief bio, a call to action, and a poem in their honor by acclaimed writers like Hena Khan, Traci Sorell, Carole Boston Weatherford, Andrea J. Loney, and Nikki Grimes.
A variety of amazing young people for readers to admire and take a cue from, 14 different journeys and issues of activism that matter to them, that matter to us all.
The Power of her Pen: The Story of Groundbreaking Journalist Ethel L. Payne by Lesa Cline-Ransom and John Parra (2020).
This picture book captures the life of writer, fighter, and question-asker Ethel L. Payne who grew up in Chicago and “always had an ear for stories.”
Payne also had a lot of courage and persistence—when her school newspaper wouldn’t let a Black student write for it, when she worked toward social change in her neighborhood, when she set her sights on traveling the world as a journalist.
All that courage and persistence landed Payne in the press room of the White House asking important questions as “First Lady of the Black Press.” She documented history—and she was part of it—pushing for civil rights, for answers, and for change.
This non-fiction account is complemented by John Parra’s unmistakable illustrations full of color, texture, and symbols.
Lift as You Climb: The Story of Ella Baker by Patricia Hruby Powell and R. Gregory Christie (2020).
This picture book profiles Ella Baker, who took it to heart when her mother told her: “Lift as you climb.”
As a child, Ella Baker looked after neighbor kids and worked on the farm where her grandparents had been enslaved. She worked hard in school at her studies and as a waitress to pay for those studies. She moved to New York City where she worked hard for the NAACP, for the rights of Black Americans.
She worked for voting rights, always listening to people, always lifting her voice for justice, and always lifting as she climbed.
R. Gregory Christie’s art is extraordinary in this book, as always: technicolor backgrounds, captivating compositions, and portraits that pop off the page.
Thanks to Penguin Young Readers and Charlesbridge, I’m giving away two picture books—if you’re a a teacher or librarian, enter below to win a copy of SHIRLEY CHISHOLM IS A VERB and NO VOICE TOO SMALL below! (US only.)
It’s been seven years of This Picture Book Life! A blog anniversary around here always means one thing: a picture book giveaway. I hope the winner will be able to read these with young people in their life whether students or children and also, potentially, pass a few along to someone else to share them around.
One winner will receive seven picture books + two for the older set. Titles and entry form below! (N. America only.)
You Matter by Christian Robinson (2020), a super inventive book that tells the reader they are everyone are precious: young, old, first, last, stuff too small to see. (I featured this title in this post on picture books for now.) Big thanks to Simon & Schuster for a copy of this picture book!
Freedom, We Sing by Amyra Leon and Molly Mendoza (2020), a gorgeous, meaningful poem exploring how we all dream of and deserve to breathe free in a conversation between a parent and child. Big thanks to Flying Eye Books for a copy of this picture book!
Our Favorite Day of the Year written by A.E. Ali, illustrated by Rahele Jomepour Bell (2020) honors the beautiful quilt of traditions celebrated by children in one classroom. Big thanks to Salaam Reads for a copy of this picture book!
Don’t Worry Little Crab by Chris Haughton (2020) shows us how Little Crab (and little readers) has the capacity to be braver and stronger than they might think. (Find a crab and coloring page craft from Mayel Creates in this blog post.) Big thanks to Candlewick for a copy of this picture book!
The Old Truck by Jarrett Pumphrey and Jerome Pumphrey (2020), a gentle book, full of love, about a girl with dreams and determination illustrated with timeless, textured stamps. (Find a stamp craft to go with The Old Truck in this post!)
Like the Moon Loves the Sky by Hena Khan, illustrated by Saffa Khan (2020) is a series of loving hopes for a child as they grow, inspired by the Quran. (I featured this title in this blog post on picture books for comfort.) Big thanks to Chronicle for a copy of this picture book!
Love Your Body by Jessica Sanders, illustrated by Carol Rossetti (2019) is a wonderfully affirming book about embracing and appreciating your body, and honoring others’ too. Big thanks to Quarto Kids for a copy of this picture book!
Say Her Name by Zetta Elliott, illustrated by Loveis Wise (2020) is a compilation of 49 powerful poems and vivid illustrations that empower and speak to Black women and girls while honoring the ones who have been killed by racist police violence and lifting up the activists fighting that violence.
I’ve got another roundup for you! Last time, it was 15 picture books for comfort. This time, it’s new and forthcoming picture books for the singular, uncertain time that is now.
New picture books I recommend for now come in two categories: picture books that nourish readers and picture books that focus on nature, both things we need.
You Matter by Christian Robinson (out June 2, 2020).
This picture book! It’s a new forever favorite. Super inventive in storytelling, scope, and style, You Matter says exactly that: you matter. Old, young, first, last, stuff too small to see.
Why now? All kids need to know they matter in the middle of big, scary stuff.
Why do We Cry? by Fran Pintadera and Ana Sender (2020).
An exploration of the many reasons we cry with acceptance and understanding of them all.
Why now? All the feelings and ups and downs.
I Am Brown by Ashok Banker, illustrated by Sandhya Prabhat (2020).
A celebration of brown-skinned kids—the wide scope of their play and food and languages and aspirations and pastimes and possibilities. This picture book brims with vibrance and joy.
Why now? We always need to celebrate kids, their experiences, their moments, their futures, and to show kids themselves in books.
The Ocean Calls by Tina Cho, illustrated by Jess X. Snow (out August 2020).
This gorgeous book centers Haenyeo or women divers in South Korea who can hold their breath for up to two minutes, a tradition that goes back hundreds of years. The purple and orange sunset illustrations are breathtaking and the experience of Dayeon going diving with her grandmother captures the fear and relatable false starts of trying anything new.
Why now? Kids and all of us are facing new things, diving new depths.
Taking Time by Jo Loring-Fisher (2020).
An invitation to take time to notice the moments and beauty all around us featuring children from all over the world.
Why now? Now is a time to remember awareness and stillness and small connections.
Outside In by Deborah Underwood, illustrated by Cindy Derby (2020).
Another gorgeous picture book that invites the outside in, that shows us how it’s always with us, whose brush strokes and speckles capture its wonder, light, and magic.
Why now? We are more attuned to the outside as we spend time inside and alone—this book reminds that outside is always with us.
A New Green Day by Antoinette Portis (2020).
A guessing game of natural elements—original and playful like all of Portis’s work!
Why now? Playfulness and nature are bright spots in the gloom.
Hike by Pete Oswald (2020).
A day spent hiking, a son and a father who is a supportive, nurturing companion and safety net. Mostly wordless, refreshing, buoying, sweet.
Why now? Hikes with family are a-okay right now, they are healing, they are one way we can connect and grow.
The Big Bang Book by Asa Stahl, illustrated by Carly Allen-Fletcher (2020).
This picture book explores the big bang by an astrophysics student—what we know, what we don’t know, and the possibility of what we might know someday—with epic illustrations of how our galaxy and planet came to be.
Why now? Absorbing the massiveness of the universe might help with taking the long view of time and circumstance.
I’ve been thinking about creating this post since the spread of coronavirus and the changes it’s brought to our lives. By chance, many of the titles in a recent stack of books I received for review from publishers spoke specifically, I thought, to this theme of comfort in one way or another.
You’ll find here some brand new books and some forthcoming as well as a few from recent years—and one classic that rings true for me in any difficult season (and always).
My intent is that some of these titles bring comfort to kids (and to you). If you’re someone who is hunkering down right now, thank you for taking compassionate action for the greater good by keeping physical distance from others as an act of care. If your job outside your home is vital and necessitates being out, thank you for providing community services that we all rely on with the work you do.
Each of these books speaks to and offers comfort in one way or another, some in seriousness and sincerity and some through a rest from seriousness in favor of silliness.
Wishing you soothing, strength, health, hope, and picture books.
When the Storm Comes written by Linda Ashman, illustrated by Taeeun Yoo (2020).
This one outlines what we do and what animals do when a storm comes—and readers can apply this to any kind of storm. We prepare, we hunker down, and then, when the storm passes, we go outside, we survey, we repair, we help those who need help. “What do you do when the storm has passed—when the sun comes out and it’s calm at last?”
A Stone Sat Still by Brendan Wenzel (2019).
This is about a stone that sits still and what that stone is to other animals in different lights or seasons or from different perspectives. It speaks to me of permanence and transience, of being of use to others, of being present to what is—now. “A stone sat still with the water, grass, and dirt and it was as it was where it was in the world.”
Like the Moon Loves the Sky by Hena Khan, illustrated by Saffa Khan (2020).
A beautiful picture book that contains a series of wishes for a child as they grow that are deep and kind and full of love, with artwork that warms every page with washes of moon-hues and sky-hues: oranges, golds, blues. From the author: “Every line, or wish, in the book is inspired by the Quran, the Muslim holy book, which offers guidelines on how to live a thoughtful and grounded life filled with fairness, charity, justice, and most of all, love.”
We’ve Got the Whole World in Our Hands by Rafael López (2018).
You’ll know the tune of this one! It’s been transformed slightly to be more about our roles in the world and captures the joy and connection and small moments we have with one another. These magical spreads will truly buoy your heart with hope!
Bedtime for Sweet Creatures, words by Nikki Grimes, pictures by Elizabeth Zunon (2020).
Sweet indeed! A clever mother enlists the help of imaginary animals to coax her child to sleep as the child embodies each one with playful abandon. Rich, patterned, collage illustrations; lyrical language; and a wonderful bedtime routine.
Lilah Tov Good Night by Ben Gundersheimer (Mister G) and Noar Lee Naggan (2020).
“Lilah Tov” is a Hebrew lullaby and this family embarking on a journey—one that has echoes of those taken by refugees—repeats those words to all the bits of nature and the world they pass on their way to toward a new home.
A Last Goodbye by Elin Kelsey, artwork by Soyeon Kim (2020).
Now I need to warn you that this one is about death, and it’s quite frank. It details the way animals say goodbye when one of them dies. The way animals grieve. And it tells us something about what we do when one of us dies. The way we grieve. It is beautiful. It is deep. It is real. And it is full of the comfort of being loved and then sent off with love before returning to the earth in a connected way when the time comes.
Over the Moon by James Proimos, illustrated by Zoey Abbott (2020).
A girl is adopted by wolves, raised by wolves, and then finds her own kind, but still returns to her ever-present and sometimes hilarious wolf-parents. It’s the embodiment of safety found when safety’s needed. A strange, beautiful, and funny fable with the most charming, spirited pastel illustrations.
Hat Tricks by Satoshi Kitamura (2020).
A rabbit is the magician with the hat in this one, and animal, magical surprises ensue!
I Can Be Anything by Shinsuke Yoshitake (2020).
This book is hilarious! It captures a creative kid and an exasperated parent during a guessing game of “What am I?” that is inventive and funny and relatable and kind of never-ending in the best way. Let the guessing begin!
You Hold Me Up by Monique Gray Smith and Danielle Daniel (2017).
This book embodies kindness, joy, and respect for others with engaging, tender, pink-cheeked illustrations. It came out of the author’s desire for “healing and Reconciliation” in response to the history of oppression of Indigenous people, particularly in regards to Residential Schools in Canada.
I Am Loved, poems by Nikki Giovanni, illustrated by Ashley Bryan (2018).
A collection of poems that exude love for oneself and for others.
‘Ohana Means Family by Ilima Loomis, illustrated by Kenard Pak (2020).
A stunning book that follows the journey of poi being made, from farming to family and community coming together for a lū’au. An uplifting ode to kale or taro and to its centrality in Hawaiian culture and life.
Kaia and the Bees by Maribeth Boelts, illustrated by Angela Dominguez (2020).
A book about beekeeping, bees, bravery, and the sweet-honey-reward of overcoming a fear.
The Red Tree by Shaun Tan (2003).
This is in all honesty my favorite picture book ever and has been since I first discovered it. A picture book that explores what it’s like when the world seems upside-down, when you feel lost and disoriented and down. A book that, even in the middle of all that, still contains vivid hope.
I featured Shaun Tan’s Picture Book Life a few years ago if you want to check that out.