2014 Favourite Storytime Picture Books

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

baby bear 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

baby bedtimeA 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

 bear sees colorsIf you liked Wow, Said the Owl by Tim Hopgood or Baby Bear Sees Blue by Ashley Wolff, then you’ll love this one. Each page focuses on a different colour that Bear finds in nature, and kids are invited to “spy” the colour which makes a nice interactive element. I’ve used this with toddlers and it works great, though it could easily scale to preschoolers who would want to spend more time talking about the objects they see.

4. Big Bug by Henry Cole

 big bugThis concept book is a great toddler storytime choice. An image is presented on one page and then shown in relation to something else on the next page.  So something you thought was big ends up looking small. This would work well in an opposites storytime or if you want to broach the STEM topic of scale. I used with toddlers and followed it up with a round of Roly Poly.

5. The Book with No Pictures by B.J. Novak

bookEdited 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

BreatheWhen I read this book at storytime we all practiced “belly breathing” before I started to read. Then we took nice big breathes whenever it came up in the book. I had one caregiver who thanked me for sharing this book because she was looking for something to help her toddler learn how to calm himself. I also love the message in this book – be happy, breathe deeply, live in the moment. I could see it working great at a yoga storytime too.

7. Creature Features: 25 Animals Explain Why They Look The Way They Do by Steve Jenkins and Robin page

creature featuresI used this non-fiction title with a Grade 2 class and it spurred lots of discussion. The format is interesting – each page starts with “Dear (insert animal name)…” and then the animal answers the question posed. Scale it to younger audiences by not reading the whole book. One of the many Steve Jenkins books I pull out for storytime.

8. Dangerous! by Tim Warnes

DangerousMole 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

Dog vs. CatTwo 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

Flight SchoolThis 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

following papas songMs. 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

foundSalina 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

froodleA 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

hooray for hatThis 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

hug machineOne 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

hug meAnother 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

I got the rhythmA 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

if you happen to have a dinosaurA 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

It is NightThis 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

it's okay to make mistakesAnother 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

ivanI work primarily with school-age kids, so I am always on the lookout for books I can read aloud to Grade 2-3 students. This is a perfect choice as it gives the back story to Ivan, the main character in Applegate’s The One and Only Ivan. A fascinating read that has inspired kids and adults alike.

22. Little Lola by Julie Saab; illustrated by David Gothard

little lolaA 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

music is for everyoneEdited 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

My BusByron 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

NakedYou 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

ninja red riding hoodFractured 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

number one samWhat’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

oi frogA 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

the pigeon needs a bathKind 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

tea with grandpaGrandpa + 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

you are not smallIt’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!

What were your favourite books to read in storytime this year?  Let me know in the comments.

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33 thoughts on “2014 Favourite Storytime Picture Books

  1. Just wanted to let you know that B.J. Novak’s “Book with No Pictures” works great as a read aloud. I read it to kindergarten classes at some recent school visits and they cracked up! Thanks for sharing these suggestions 🙂

          1. I read it to 1st and 2nd graders and at first everyone told me not to read it since it had no pictures, they didn’t want that type of book, then afterwards they told me I was not allowed back without it next time! My 3rd grade Nephew took it to school on the first day and made his teacher read it to their entire class – then he made the principal read it to the entire school (K-5) – they all loved it!

    1. I read it to my K, 1, & 2 group and they were literally rolling around on the floor laughing! I had such a hard time keeping in “character” with the book because they were laughing so hard. It was awesome!

      1. I finally got a chance to read it and my K-1 students loved it too! They kept chanting, “Read it again! Read it again!”

  2. My preschool storytimes have really enjoyed A Pet for Fly Guy by Tedd Arnold, Ribbit! by Rodrigo Folguiera, Go! Go! Go! Stop! by Charise Mericle Harper.

  3. The Book with No Pictures by B.J. Novak is WONDERFUL!!! I read it to first graders at my library and they loved it!!! They come once a month and they were still talking about it by name and asking me to read it again the next month. You have to watch the video on YouTube of B.J. Novak reading it to an auditorium full of school age kids to really see how it should be read. I read it as closely as I could to how he did it, and the kids responded hilariously!! I highly recommend it!!!

    1. I’ll have to check out that video! That book definitely seems to be a popular pick. Wish I could have used it before the year was over.

    1. Me too! I read it on my last day before vacation and the kindergarten class started chanting, “Read it again! Read it again!” when I was done. I think I need to go back and edit this list now that I’ve tried and tested it with a group.

  4. Another thank you for the wonderful list! We take a break from regular storytime programming in January, so I’m gearing up. I know others are doing the same, because almost all of the books on your list are OUT! 🙂

    Can’t wait ’til the holds come in! Thanks again for the wonderful, professional inspiration, Lindsay.

  5. “I’m a Dirty Dinosaur” by Janeen Brian is a fun read-aloud for story time – it’s got great rhythm, so it’s really fun to chant or sing. It’s also about dinosaurs and getting dirty – two very popular subjects for audience members! 🙂

    1. Oh, how funny, I just read that book in this morning’s storytime! Worked great for my toddlers. We shaked, stomped, and slid along with the dinosaur as we read the book. Great suggestion!

  6. “Tea with Grandpa” is AWESOME! Another favorite grandparent book that was published in 2014 is “Nana in the City” – I want to be her when I “grow up”! 🙂

  7. I love your blog (and I love that it’s Canadian!) and have gotten lots of great books and rhymes from it so thank you! I checked out Hooray for Hat and I thought that it would make a great felt story like you said, so I made one! The kids in my Family Storytime (and parents and nannies) really loved it. So please keep up the great work!

    1. Hi Kathryn, thank you so much for your comment! We love connecting with our fellow Canadian library workers! Did you see our Canadian Libraries Spotlight guest post series? Would you be interested in writing a guest post about something you’ve done at your library? We’ve love to feature it! If you have any questions, please feel free to email us at jbrary@gmail.com. Here’s the link to our series: https://jbrary.com/category/professional-development/canadian-libraries-spotlight/

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