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The 16 Best Picture Books of Winter 2016

Books that encourage acceptance, discovery, exploration, and uniqueness always make for great storytime fare, and this selection of 16 books, highlighted in our Winter Issue, is replete with variations on all of those themes. You may even encounter some helpful monsters and capable kid heroes along the way!


Claude in the Spotlight

Book Cover
Alex T. Smith
Hardcover $12.95 (95pp)

Claude is a charming little dog in a beret and a sweater. He sets off one morning for a walk with his best friend, Sir Bobblysock, and ends up participating in a variety show with the chance to win all the cake he can eat. As performer after performer is frightened off by a ghost, only Claude recognizes that something is not quite right. Entertaining and humorous, the text is nicely balanced between repetition and complexity, allowing children to practice and expand their reading ability. The black, red, and white illustrations add whimsy and bring the story to life. Ages 4-8.

Ava the Monster Slayer

Book Cover
Lisa Maggiore
Ross Felten, illustrator
Sky Pony Press
Hardcover $16.99 (32pp)

Ava is more than a sweet little girl in glasses. When she realizes that her stuffed piggy is alone in the basement and no one can go and get him for her, she puts on her brother’s superhero cape and sets out to rescue her toy. Any child who has ever been afraid of monsters will relate to this story and the bravery Ava displays in facing her fears. Illustrations in bold colors and sketched lines beautifully capture Ava’s fear and her courage. Ages 3-6.

Evermore Dragon

Book Cover
Barbara Joosse
Randy Cecil, illustrator
Candlewick Press
Hardcover $15.99 (32pp)

When Girl gets lost in the night while playing hide and seek, Dragon frantically tries to find her. With rhythmic, lyrical text that is a joy to read out loud, the bond between these two friends is clear on every page. Illustrations in soft colors and textures match the tone of the story and offer comfort even when the characters are frightened. This is a book children will ask for again and again. Ages 3-6.

You Look Yummy!

Book Cover
Tatsuya Miyanishi
Hardcover $16.99 (40pp)

A baby Ankylosaurus, born alone in the midst of a volcano, encounters a Tyrannosaurus Rex and assumes that the giant predator is his father. In this sweet story, the two dinosaurs form a bond that illustrates the true meaning of family and teaches a very important lesson: love transcends differences. The bright, stylized illustrations that accompany the text are both poignant and powerful, supporting the story and engaging young audiences from the first page to the last. Ages 4-8.

Gerbil, Uncurled

Book Cover
Alison Hughes
Suzanne Del Rizzo, illustrator
Fitzhenry & Whiteside
Hardcover $17.95 (32pp)

Little Gerbil cannot follow one of the all-important mottos of gerbil life: no matter how hard she tries, or how much she pretends, she cannot sleep curled nose to toes. She decides that she must tell the other gerbils the truth, and by so doing, she helps everyone realize that there is room for everyone’s differences. This thoroughly enjoyable book shares an important life lesson in a gentle manner that many children will find reassuring. The illustrations are sculptural and intricate and wonderfully fun to explore. Ages 4-8.

The Kids’ Book of Simple Machines: Cool Projects & Activities That Make Science Fun!

Book Cover
Kelly Doudna
Mighty Media Kids
Softcover $14.95 (144pp)

Finding ways to pique interest, explore ideas, and create demonstrable lessons in science can be daunting for any caregiver or teacher. This book makes it easy. Full of fascinating activities and interesting facts, each section offers a fun opportunity to learn something new. The layout is clean and simple, and the images clearly illustrate the ideas being discussed. Children will dive into this book full of curiosity and emerge as budding scientists and engineers. Ages 5-10.

Hold This!

Book Cover
Carolyn Cory Scoppettone
Priscilla Aplaugh, illustrator
Islandport Press
Hardcover $17.95 (32pp)

This charming book is about a child exploring nature as she walks through the woods with her father. She is enthralled by the world around her and wants to hold on to everything she finds. Her father helps her to see that she can only really hold on to what is truly important. The watercolor illustrations depict the joy of a little girl’s treasure hunt and the woodland creatures that follow in her footsteps add humor to a very sweet story. Ages 3-7.

Ice in the Jungle

Book Cover
Ariane Hofmann-Maniyar
Child’s Play International
Hardcover $16.99 (32pp)

Moving to a new home in a new school can be one of the scariest challenges in a young child’s life. When Ice moves from the North Pole to the jungle, everything seems very different. The kindness and friendship offered by her new classmates, however, quickly shows Ice that a new life can be fun. Humorous illustrations add texture to the story, giving Ice and her new friends enjoyable depth of character. Ages 3-8.

When the Slave Esperança Garcia Wrote a Letter

Book Cover
Sonia Rosa
Luciana Justiniani Hees, illustrator
Jane Springer, translator
Groundwood Books
Hardcover $18.95 (40pp)

Esperança Garcia, a Brazilian slave, wrote a letter to the governor in 1770 complaining about her treatment and asking for help. This is her story as she might have told it, with the sorrow and desperation of a wife and mother seeking help. The bold illustrations with patterned backgrounds and strong figures reflect the time and place with great skill. An exciting book because it is well told and visually rich, and also because Esperança Garcia spoke up for herself. Though it is unknown if she ever got a response, her courage is worth reading about. Ages 7-11.

The Perfect Tree

Book Cover
Chloe Bonfield
Running Press Kids
Hardcover $16.95 (32pp)

As Jack moves through the forest looking for the perfect tree to cut down, he is helped along by woodland creatures who are very willing to share their trees with him. As he moves through the forest, Jack learns that there is beauty, even perfection, in each one. Paper cutouts combine with hand-drawn characters to create beautiful illustrations with great depth and movement. The lesson of environmental awareness is clear on every page. Ages 3-8.

Vincent Paints His House

Book Cover
Tedd Arnold
Holiday House
Hardcover $16.95 (32pp)

As Vincent ponders painting his house, the small animals that live in and around it offer their suggestions on the right color. A very simple but charming story, it offers children a chance to explore color as the illustrations include examples of four hues for each color suggestion. This is a considerably more complex rainbow than is generally offered to young children and is sure to inspire budding artists. Additionally, the final page depicts Vincent’s house beneath a very famous Starry Night sky, which offers a beautiful opportunity to introduce children to an important historical artist. Ages 3-8.

Lovely Old Lion

Book Cover
Julia Jarman
Susan Varley, illustrator
Andersen Press
Hardcover $17.99 (32pp)

Helping children understand a family member’s illness can be incredibly difficult. This simple story about a young lion trying to help his aging grandfather, who is suffering from dementia, could be very helpful in starting a conversation with a young child who is struggling to understand what is happening to his or her own loved one. Touching, sad, and, most importantly, honest, the story is accompanied by illustrations that are soft in texture and color and complement the tone of the book beautifully. Ages 4-9.


Book Cover
Wylde Scott
Wylde Press
Hardcover $16.99 (184pp)

This whimsical fantasy about the unlikely partnership between a young boy, Robert, and a young octopus, Walter, is perfect for those who are just starting to read chapter books. The plot is complex enough to hold interest but still easy to follow. There is a clear boundary between good and evil and following Robert’s journey as he navigates between the two makes the story very compelling. The black-and-white drawings are dark and atmospheric, perfectly capturing the character of a small fishing village and its inhabitants. Ages 5-10.

Sydney & Simon Go Green

Book Cover
Paul A. Reynolds
Peter H. Reynolds
Hardcover $12.95 (48pp)

After visiting an aquarium and meeting a sea turtle who had gotten sick from eating plastic, Sydney decides that she must take some action to keep trash out of the oceans. With her twin brother, Simon, she embarks on a campaign to learn more about trash and to get her community to reduce, reuse, and recycle. Simple, engaging chapters and colorful illustrations make this book a pleasure to read. The topic of environmental awareness is an important one, and the book showcases the fact that everyone can make a difference. Ages 6-9.

Papa’s Backpack

Book Cover
James Christopher Carroll
Sleeping Bear Press
Hardcover $15.99 (32pp)

The separation of a military parent from his or her children can be very painful. This simple story about a young bear wishing he could ride in his father’s backpack as he goes to war is highly relatable and beautifully represents the fear and loss felt by children of military parents. The illustrations are rich in color and texture and tell a poignant story even without the text. The book provides families with an opportunity to share their emotions and support one another through a potentially difficult time. Ages 4 and up.

Catherine Reed-Thureson

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