This year was another outstanding one for picture books. Once again, narrowing down this list to just ten was an almost insurmountable task. I encourage you to take a trip to your local independent bookstore and spend some time paging through picture books. You won’t be disappointed. The topics covered in picture books this past year are timely, relevant, and helpful for children (young and old) as they start to grasp the complexities of this world. Picture books have become so relevant that if you are a middle or high school teacher, I challenge you to find a picture book or two that would tie into your lessons and read them to your students. You might be surprised by how much your students will enjoy listening and by the conversations and learning that will take place. Not sure how to find that perfect picture book? Go to the children’s section of your public library and talk to a librarian. They’d love to help!
Off & Away by Cale Atkinson
Jo’s dad runs a message-in-a-bottle delivery service out at sea. He makes sure bottles are delivered to the right homes and then returns to tell Jo of his adventures. Jo longs to be a brave adventurer like her dad, but her fear of what lurks below the surface of the water gets the best of her. One day Jo’s dad comes down with a “severe sea cold” and bottles begin to stack up. Jo decides that something has to be done. The bottles must be delivered, and Jo is the only one who can do it. Jo faces her fear as she sets sail. She encounters several monsters that just turn out to be figments of her imagination. Jo discovers that she can overcome her fears and that the world isn’t as scary as she thought. Cale Atkinson has created a book that helps children see that the world isn’t so scary and that they can overcome their fears.
What If . . . by Samantha Berger
What If . . . is a celebration of creativity. The little girl in the book is determined to be creative, no matter what. If her pencil disappears, she will fold up the paper. If there is no paper, she will carve and chisel the chair. What if there is no chair? Not a problem, she’ll simply peel the wallpaper. Students will pick up the pattern by asking, “What if there is no floor? What if there are no leaves? What if there is no land? What if . . . ?” The illustrations themselves are celebrations of creativity. Through the use of collage, the idea that we can use anything to be creative is clearly portrayed. This would be a great book to use with STEM projects or even to kick off a STEM week.
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Mary Jo Staal is a pre-K–5th librarian at Hudsonville Christian School in Hudsonville, Michigan