It’s that time of the year again….when all the “Best Of…” lists come out! Last year I started what I think will become an end-of-the-year tradition on Jbrary. I wrote about my favourite storytime books published in 2013. This year I’m back with my favourites from 2014. I’m always looking for new books to share at storytime, so I hope this list gives you some options for freshening up your storytime collection. Some of these may have come out in 2013 in the States, but it was 2014 before we got them here in Canada.
Without further ado! Presented in alphabetical order:
1. Baby Bear by Kadir Nelson
In this soulful book, Baby Bear searches for his way home with the help of his animal friends, and ultimately, his own heart. The illustrations are gorgeous and captivating. Because of the more serious tone of this book and the length, I think it makes a great preschool storytime or pyjama storytime choice. I love recommending it to caregivers as a bedtime readaloud.
2. Baby Bedtime by Mem Fox; illustrated by Emma Quay
A super sweet book perfect for babytime or toddler storytime! Each page uses the sentence starter, “I could…” so there’s a built in early literacy tip about repetition right there. For babytime, have caregivers point to the body parts mentioned or mimic the actions in the book. There’s also a lovely page on singing the same songs that their mother sang to them – a great reminder to caregivers that their home culture is valued and important. Another great choice for a pyjama storytime.
3. Bear Sees Colors by Karma Wilson; illustrated by Jane Chapman
4. Big Bug by Henry Cole
5. The Book with No Pictures by B.J. Novak
Edited to Add: When I first wrote this post it was before I tried this book with any storytimers. But my copy finally came in the day before I went on holiday and I read it to groups of K, 1, and 2 students. I have my doubts about children’s books written by celebrities, and the kids told me they didn’t even want to read it when I read the title. But they laughed the whole way through and the kindergarteners started to chant, “Read it again! Read it again!” when I was done. I mean, I should have known for a book with the phrase Boo Boo Butt in it.
6. Breathe by Scott Magoon
7. Creature Features: 25 Animals Explain Why They Look The Way They Do by Steve Jenkins and Robin page
8. Dangerous! by Tim Warnes
Mole loves to label things, but what does he call the Lumpy Bumpy Thing he discovers? This book works great for school-age kids as they cue in to the adjectives Mole assigns the alligator. All of the descriptive language could lead to an excellent post-storytime activity.
9. Dog vs. Cat by Chris Gall
Two pets; one room. Author Chris Gall brings back the age old rivalry between these two pets in this funny book. My 3-year-old niece cracked up at the mention of poop, and I think other preschoolers will enjoy this one though I’ve used it with Kindergarten and Grade 1 classes.
10. Flight School by Lita Judge
This one gets the cutest cover award. I’m a sucker for penguin picture books. I like the positive messages about determination, perseverance, and accepting help from friends. The kindergarten class I read it to kept giggling at Penguin’s attempts to be an eagle. Could work for preschoolers with a bit of extra explanation from the librarian.
11. Following Papa’s Song by Gianna Marino
Ms. Marino has done it again – She’s given us a beautifully written and illustrated parent-child story that brings me to tears. Perfect for a toddler or preschool storytime, this book emphasizes the importance of family and traditions. The colours in this book amaze and the story is heartwarming.
12. Found by Salina Yoon
Salina Yoon is one of my favourite children’s book authors because every story she writes is so darn sweet. In Found, she addresses a topic many preschoolers are familiar with – passing on toys. After Dana and I read this one with my 3-year-old niece Sophie, she told me, “When I grow out of my pyjamas I’m going to pass them on to a smaller kid.” They listen!
13. Froodle by Antoinette Portis
A book filled with giggle worthy rhymes and an underlying message of non-conformity – I’ll take it! Little Brown Bird plays with sounds and language in this delightful book that kids love to hear read aloud. I think it would work best for preschool – Grade 2 kids. There’s a spattering of puns to keep the adults interested too.
14. Hooray for Hat! by Brian Won
This one’s gotten a lot of buzz already this year, so I’ll add to it by saying how much I appreciate books that model the concept of kindness, empathy, and sharing. Also, I think this one could be translated into a puppet or felt story.
15. Hug Machine by Scott Campbell
One of my top picks this year! I read this to a kindergarten class and they absolutely loved it. They thought it was funny and sweet, and a little boy took it home with him that day. I love seeing books that portray boys as affectionate and emotional. I’d also use it with preschoolers and it goes great with a peace or friendship theme.
16. Hug Me by Simona Ciraolo
Another book about hugging! I had a parent request for more social/emotional books and this one fit the bill. Felipe is a young cactus yearning for a hug from his “prickly” family. Pair with Hug Machine and you’re halfway there to a hug themed storytime.
17. I Got the Rhythm by Connie Shofield-Morrison; illustrated by Frank Morrison
A young girl walks through her diverse neighbourhood and experiences music with all five sense. You could totally read this at babytime and have parents point to body parts and tap out rhythms on babies’ backs or bellies. Also works great for toddlers because the text is short and sweet. I read it at the beginning of one of my family dance parties and it was a hit.
18. If You Happen to Have a Dinosaur by Linda Bailey; illustrated by Colin Jack
A funny read aloud from a Canadian author. The first half of the book presents examples of what dinosaurs are good for (can opener, snow plow, umbrella, etc.), while the second half stresses their downside. The pages are huge with bright illustrations making it a good choice for a large group. It is a bit long though, so I’ve only used it with K-2 kids.
19. It is Night by Phyllis Rowand; illustrated by Laura Dronzek
This is a reprint of a classic bedtime story illustrated by artist Laura Dronzek. It has an interactive element as kids can guess where each animal sleeps before turning the page. I’m planning on using it in an upcoming PJ storytime for kids ages 0-8. The illustrations are nice and bright, and I like how it weaves in factual information about animals.
20. It’s Okay to Make Mistakes by Todd Parr
Another hit from Todd Parr. When I read this in toddler storytime, the kids were immediately hooked by the cover illustration – in fact we spent a few minutes talking about it before we even read the book. I like it because it features scenes from a child’s life – spilt milk, colouring – and one little girl came up to me after storytime and told me, “Yesterday I spilled my milk but it’s okay because I just cleaned it up.” Parr’s books are great for any age.
21. Ivan: The Remarkable True Story of the Shopping Mall Gorilla by Katherine Applegate; illustrated by G. Brian Karas
22. Little Lola by Julie Saab; illustrated by David Gothard
A perfect choice for preschool storytime, this book features a curious little cat who wants to go to school. She experiences lots of school-like activities – including storytime! – and even bounces back after her pet rat causes havoc at show-and-tell. With short sentences, it is a quick read but ultimately a timely topic for those about to head to school.
23. Music is for Everyone by Jill Barber; art by Sydney Smith
Edited to Add: I didn’t get my hand on this one before the year was over because Jill came to my library and did a singalong event, and her book was all checked out. Jill Barber is an award-winning Canadian singer-songwriter, and her book takes kids on a musical genre journey. The text is lyrical, the pictures feature a multicultural cast of kids, and I love the universal message. Pair with I’ve Got the Rhythm for a music-themed storytime, or be sure to include this one at your next library dance party. Great for a toddler or preschool storytime.
24. My Bus by Byron Barton
Byron Barton publishes a new book and toddlers around the world rejoice! In this transportation themed book, a bus driver picks up animals and delivers them to their destinations. I like that it includes some basic counting and math. A great introduction to the author if caregivers haven’t discovered him already.
25. Naked by Michael Ian Black; illustrated by Debbie Ridpath Ohi
You should probably have a good feel for your group’s vibe before reading this one at storytime, but I think it’s perfectly fine! I bought a copy for my toddler nephew and it became his favourite book in less than 24 hours. Like I’m Bored, it is a hilarious tale that caregivers will appreciate and kids will relate to. I’d recommend it for toddlers and preschoolers.
26. Ninja Red Riding Hood by Corey Rosen Schwartz; illustrated by Dan Santat
Fractured fairy tale? Check. Rhyming verses? Check. Surprise ending? Check. I loved Schwartz’s Three Ninja Pigs, so I’m not surprised this one is a hit too. I’ve read it to K-2 students and it keeps them captivated the whole time. I love the ending – the wolf takes up yoga!
27. Number One Sam by Greg Pizzoli
What’s better than winning? Helping a friend in need. A sweet message is embedded in this race car heavy book from the creator of The Watermelon Seed. There are some cute details in the illustrations that kids will pick up on subsequent reads. A great choice for kids ages 3-7.
28. Oi Frog! by Kes Gray and Jim Field
A super fun rhyming book! Cat insists that frogs sit on logs and then goes on to name other increasingly absurd animal-seat pairs (think lions on irons and parrots on carrots). The illustrations are humorous and the K/1 classes I’ve read this too love looking at them again post-storytime. I could easily see creating an extension activity where kids have to make up their own silly rhymes.
29. The Pigeon Needs a Bath! by Mo Willems
Kind of a shoe in, right? I just love how versatile Mo Willems’ books are. I can use them with any age and they work. I could especially relate to this one as my niece went through a “hating to take baths” stage when she was one, and I wish I’d had this book to read to her. Pigeon is a familiar face to many kids now, so they are pretty excited when you bust this one out.
30. Tea with Grandpa by Barney Saltzberg
Grandpa + grandchild books seem like a rare beast to me, so I was super happy to see this adorable book. With short sentences, it makes a great toddler storytime pick. The ending is a bit of a surprise – the tea party is happening via a computer. But I think that made me like it even better! I Skype with my nephews in California all the time and it’s good to see authors reflecting ways technology can support long distance relationships.
31. You Are (Not) Small by Anna Kang; illustrated by Christopher Weyant
It’s all about perspective in this clever picture book. Simple text and large illustrations make it a good book for storytime. It’s short enough for toddlers, but I think preschoolers and school-age kids will get the most out of it. It shows an escalating argument that comes to a amicable end. I like that it challenges kids to think from a different viewpoint.
Honourable Mentions: These books have been on my “To Read” list all year, but alas, my library hasn’t gotten them in yet. I can’t say for sure how they’d work in storytime – but maybe you can!
- Chengdu Could Not, Would Not, Fall Asleep by Barney Saltzberg
- Leo Loves Baby Time by Anna McQuinn
- My Teacher is a Monster! by Peter Brown
- Pardon Me! by Daniel Miyares
What were your favourite books to read in storytime this year? Let me know in the comments.