It was a GOOD year for picture books. So I'm going to whiz through this general rec list quickly, with very short descriptions, so this post isn't any more insanely long that it's going to be. I've also added in one that I keep talking about, and still no one seems to know it. I'm also assuming that by now you have heard of I WANT MY HAT BACK by Jon Klassen; if not, you want to look for that, too. (I am firmly Team Bear.)
And a reminder: the links go to my local indie, Left Bank Books; any affiliate $$ I earn will be turned around into buying books for the St. Louis Public Schools.
1. KING HUGO'S HUGE EGO by my not remotely secret imaginary illustrator boyfriend, Chris Van Dusen: Hopefully you have been listening to me talk about Chris Van Dusen for years now, so you already have If I Built A Car and The Circus Ship and Down to the Sea With Mr. Magee and A Camping Spree With Mr. Magee and Learning to Ski With Mr. Magee and all the Mercy Watson books. Perfect! It's time for Hugo. King Hugo has a huge ego, and cannot stop himself from saying unbelievably egotistical things to everyone he meets. However, he ticks off the wrong subject--a local witch--and soon he finds his head literally growing bigger with every conceited word he utters. Will he stop himself in time?
2. CHICKEN BIG by Keith Graves: I love daft animals in picture books, and CHICKEN BIG features some incredibly daft chickens. This is a twist on Chicken Little, but much awesomer, and the littlest chicken in particular is a hoot.
3. PRESS HERE by Herve Tullet: One of the most brilliant participatory picture books of all time. You begin by having your child press the yellow dot on the page, and with each subsequent turn, amazing things happen. You can start this one with your little picture book fans, but even older ones will get a kick out of it.
4. ARE YOU A HORSE? by Andy Rash--this is the one no one seems to know, and I don't know why. Roy's friends give him a saddle for his birthday, and it's marked "1. Find a horse. 2. Enjoy the ride." Roy embarks on a journey to discover what a horse is, to hilarious effect. I handsold this like mad. I still giggle during this book.
5. THE BOY WHO CRIED NINJA by Alex Latimer: "Once there was a boy named Tim who no one believed. When his mom asked him what happened to the last slice of cake, he told her the truth. "It was a ninja," cried Tim. Of course Tim's parents don't believe him--but what happens when Tim proves them wrong? So. Awesome. Was definitely my handsell of the early fall.
6. E-MERGENCY by Tom Lichtenheld and Ezra Fields-Meyer: When E slips down the stairs and ends up in the hospital, the other letters are forced to find a substitute for her - the letter O. Can you imagine if a car went BOOP BOOP? LOVE. Sort of like an Ella Minnow Pea for picture book fans.
7. I NEED MY MONSTER by Amanda Noll; art by Howard McWilliam: Ethan's under-the-bed monster Gabe goes fishing, so Ethan's forced to interview substitute monsters so he can fall asleep. This one turns the monsters-under-the-bed-being-scary myth on its head, and it becomes instead a hilarious exploration of why one monster after another just isn't what Ethan needs. Thankfully Gabe comes back at the end (the fish were too scared of him) in time to send Ethan off to sleep in an ominous pool of drool.
8. YOU WILL BE MY FRIEND! by Peter Brown: You WILL love this book! In this companion to last year's awesome CHILDREN MAKE TERRIBLE PETS, our heroine, Lucille Beatrice Bear, goes off into the forest to force people to be her--er, make a new friend. She just isn't very good at it. Fortunately, just in time, she gets some excellent help.
9. TOM'S TWEET by Jill Esbaum; art by Dan Santat: Hungry Tom spies a tiny bird, flapping and struggling, just ripe for the eating. However, every time he tries to eat the tweet, he ends up helping it instead. This one just came out in November and hasn't seemed to "hit" yet, so you can get in on the ground floor! I don't like cats at all (and I usually don't like cat books, either) and I LOVE THIS BOOK.
10. STUCK by Oliver Jeffers: Floyd's kite gets stuck in a tree, so he throws his shoe up to try to knock it loose. Now his shoe's stuck. He'll have to throw something else. Where will it end? This one builds ridiculously bigger and bigger and kids will have so much fun trying to guess what Floyd will throw up there next.
11. THE SNIFFLES FOR BEAR by Bonny Becker; art by Kady MacDonald Denton: Hopefully you already know Bear and Mouse from A VISITOR FOR BEAR and A BEDTIME FOR BEAR and the reader A BIRTHDAY FOR BEAR. I think this one's just as delightful as the others, as we see Bear being a very sulky unhappy patient as Mouse tries to nurse him through a cold with his usual unflappable cheerfulness. (The best part is when Bear starts going over his will.)
12. THE MAN IN THE MOON by William Joyce: This is the picture book you can give anyone - child; artist; steampunk fan (they'll totally dig the art) - the audience for this one is huge, and this book is going to be around for a long, long time. It tells the story of MiM, the Man in the Moon, and his friend Nightlight, who help to protect the children of the world from Pitch, the King of Nightmares. Together with several other childhood legends MiM becomes one of the Guardians of Childhood. It is impossible to explain to you how much I love this book. In fact, when the St. Louis Post-Dispatch asked me to pick my five favorite children's books of the year, this was the picture book I chose.