2016 Favourite Storytime Picture Books

This year I delivered over 150 storytimes. 150! I’ve actually never counted before, but this year was definitely a busy one.

Over the course of the past 11 months I’ve kept track of all the picture books published in 2016 that work well in a storytime setting. There were so many favourites this year! I swear this list gets longer with each rendition.  If you missed past round-ups, here they are:

Here are my picks for outstanding storytime books for babies, toddlers, preschoolers, and early elementary-age kids. If I missed one of your favourites, please leave a comment sharing yours!

1-big-salad1 Big Salad: A Delicious Counting Book by Juana Medina. A creative and fun counting book perfect for toddlers and preschoolers.  Not only does this book introduce food vocabulary, it’s also a great jumping off point for an art or drawing activity. Have kids count on their fingers to strengthen early numeracy skills.

abracadabra-its-springAbracadabra, It’s Spring! by Anne Sibley O’Brien; illustrated by Susan Gal. The lovely Rebecca tipped me off to this beautiful story about the changing of the seasons.  The fold-out pages work perfect for storytime as you can have kids predict how things change from winter to spring. We also had a blast saying the magical phrases together.  Great for toddlers and preschoolers. Be sure to check out the sequel called Hocus Pocus, It’s Fall!

barnacle-is-boredBarnacle is Bored by Jonathan Fenske.  Short enough text to read to toddlers (caregivers will get a laugh), but the humour in this one is aimed at preschoolers to Grade 2 kids. Give Barnacle a dramatic voice and the kids eat it up. This one reminds me a mix between I’m the Biggest Thing in the Ocean by Kevin Sherry  and I’m Bored by Michael Ian Black; illustrated by Debbie Ridpath Ohi.

blocks-irene-dicksonBlocks by Irene Dickson. A toddler storytime gem. Simple sentences tell the story of two kids learning to share.  The best thing about this book is the emotional connection many kids will have to the story.  A great chance to give an early literacy tip about social emotional learning.  The big pages and large illustrations are the cherry on top.

city-shapesCity Shapes by Diana Murray; illustrated by Bryan Collier.  I love this book so much I suggested it for a CLEL Bell Award.  Follow a young girl through her neighbourhood as she discovers shapes everywhere.  A diverse title ripe with follow-up activities. Also a great chance to tell caregivers about how shapes are the first step to learning letters.

daniel finds a poemDaniel Finds a Poem by Micha Archer. I am always looking for ways to include more poetry in storytime and this book is the perfect lead in.  Daniel discovers the poetry in the world around him.  Simple enough for toddlers and preschoolers to grasp. I followed it up by reading a poem from Neighbors: The Yard Critters Too by George Held; illustrated by Joung Un Kim.

dig-inDig In! by Cindy Jenson-Elliot; illustrated by Mary Peterson.  I also suggested this one for a CLEL Bell Award.  Perfect for spring and summer storytimes, this one encourages kids to get out and play and get a little messy. Short and sweet text makes it great for extra wriggly toddlers.

dont-splash-the-sasquatchDon’t Splash the Sasquatch! by Kent Redeker; illustrated by Bob Staake. A wacky and fun read perfect for summer storytimes. This one is great for older preschoolers. Have them join in yelling the repetitive title phrase.  I like how it encourages kids to make up their own words and have fun with language. Squizzilefied is one of my new favourite words.

dont-wake-up-the-tigerDon’t Wake Up the Tiger by Britta Teckentrup.  Another interactive win from Teckentrup! If you have a small group you can have the kids come up and pet tiger’s nose and tummy.  There’s also perfect opportunities to sing Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star and Happy Birthday.  Great for preschool outreach visits.

duck duck dinosaurmaple-leafDuck, Duck, Dinosaur by Kallie George; illustrated by Oriol Vidal. Big pages make this a good choice for larger preschool groups. There’s an underlying message that families can look like anything. Great for a dinosaur or sibling themed storytime. The author lives in Vancouver, so I love sharing this one and giving the local author a shout-out.

everyone-is-yawningEveryone is Yawning by Anita Bijsterbosch.  Perfect for babies and toddlers! A gentle bedtime book where you get to practice yawning together. The lift-the-flaps are an added bonus. Babies often mimic the facial expressions of their caregivers as they learn language (hello, mirror neurons!) and you can practice that skill by yawning along to this book.

excellent edExcellent Ed by Stacy McAnulty; illustrated by Julia Sarcone-Roach. I learned about this book from Anna’s Everyday Diversity blog.  Ed, the dog, worries that he’s not good at anything unlike the 5 kids in his family. Luckily Ed does discover his talent by the end of the book.  Recommended for preschool – Grade 2 kids. And dog lovers.

follow-meFollow Me! by Ellie Sandall. Before I read this one to my toddler group, we all practiced chanting the repeating phrase, “Follow me, follow me, follow me!” It was a great way to get caregivers involved as we read the book. I love the repetition and unique choice of animal (lemurs!). Highly recommended for the younger groups.

goodbye-summerGoodbye Summer, Hello Autumn by Kenard Pak.  Another CLEL Bell Award suggestion. When reading this one aloud I had to use different voices to model the conversation the child has with the natural world. A great way to promote the early literacy practice of talking.  Encourage caregivers to continue this story when they go outside.

goodnight-bobGoodnight Bob by Ann Hassett; illustrated by John Hassett.  Perfect for pyjama storytimes, a little boy keeps seeing pairs of eyes in the dark.  Encourage kids to guess who the eyes belong to.  Every toddler I know is obsessed with flashlights – bring one in as a special prop!

good-night-like-thisGood Night Like This by Mary Murphy. Similar to Say Hello Like This, in this book animals take turns saying goodnight to their babies. I like sharing this one at babytime. We either make animal noises together or snuggle the babies as we say good night together on each page.  I often include an early literacy tip about making reading part of your daily routine and bedtime is the perfect place to start.

grumpy pantsGrumpy Pants by Claire Messer. Another toddler storytime gem. Simple text and bold illustrations convey how penguin is able to help himself out of a bad mood. After reading this one we sing many different feeling versions of “If You’re Happy and You Know It.”  My favourite verse is “If You’re Mad and You Know It, Take a Deep Breathe.”

hand-in-handHand in Hand by Rosemary Wells. A top choice for baby and toddler storytimes. Nice big pictures are good for developing eyesight and the short rhyming text has a nice rhythm.  I always tell my families that storytime is a place to develop a loving bond with their child and this book illustrated that concept beautifully.

have-you-seen-elephantHave You Seen Elephant? by David Barrow.  Elephant claims he is very good at hide-and-seek in this delightfully funny book great for toddlers and preschoolers.  I had the kids tell me where Elephant was hiding on each page and we talked about good hiding places.  Play is one of the five early literacy practices and this book encourages it.

hooray for todayHooray for Today! by Brian Won.  The sequel to Hooray for Hat! is here and it’s just as good as the first.  It’s still got a repetitive phrase that lends itself well to group participation.  The thing I like best about it though is that it shows animals feeling tired, a feeling that can be hard for kids to notice in themselves. Definitely a feeling to point out related to social emotional learning.

hungry-birdmaple-leafHungry Bird by Jeremy Tankard. Bird is back and this time Bird is hangry! Your preschoolers who know Bird from Tankard’s other two storytime gems will love this third installment. I love talking to preschoolers about the colour choices on each page and what foods they find gross and delicious. Bonus: Tankard is a local author!

ill wait mr pandaI’ll Wait, Mr. Panda by Steve Antony. I think I like this one even better than the first. When reading with toddlers and preschoolers, we practice saying the phrase, “Wait and see” together and making the signs too. Turn-taking, patience, and self-regulation are key themes here.

im-a-hungry-dinosaurI’m a Hungry Dinosaur by Janeen Brian; illustrated by Ann James. A baking themed follow-up to I’m a Dirty Dinosaur. I sing this one to the tune of “I’m a Little Teapot” and we all do the actions like dinosaur.  I’ve tried it in babytime and toddlertime to much success. You can mention that baking with kids is a great way to practice math.

is that wiseIs That Wise, Pig? by Jan Thomas. I mean it’s another Jan Thomas title so you knew it was going to be storytime magic, right? Have families join in asking the title phrase and giggle along to Pig’s soup additions.  Perfect for any age.

king-babyKing Baby by Kate Beaton.  This is the perfect book to read at babytime.  I was ROFL the first time I read it, and I think this book does a great job setting a fun and playful tone of storytime.  If you have younger siblings who often sit-in at babytime, they will get a kick out of it too. An apt metaphor for the life changing event of having a child.

leo-can-swimLeo Can Swim by Anna McQuinn; illustrated by Ruth Hearson. Another babytime hit. Showcasing a father-son relationship, this one depicts a common childhood experience – swim lessons. Fun to share in the summer when families are more likely to head to the pool.   

listen to our worldListen to Our World by Bill Martin Jr and Michael Sampson; illustrated by Melissa Sweet. Travel around the world and hear all the different sounds animals make.  Make it participatory by having kids and caregivers make the sounds with you. Accurate habitats are depicted and back matter gives more detailed information.  Use with toddlers and preschoolers.

little-penguinsLittle Penguins by Cynthia Rylant; illustrated by Christian Robinson. Now this is what happens when two all-stars join together. A perfect winter themed read aloud for babies and toddlers. The simplicity of the language is perfectly suited for your younger groups. Would also work well for a getting dressed theme.

maggie and michael get dressedMaggie and Michael Get Dressed by Denise Fleming.  A new toddler classic. Big page spreads feature a little boy who tries to get dressed with the help of his dog. Not only are the sentences to the point, they model sentence extending: “Look, Maggie – socks. Yellow socks.” The colour words are printed in their corresponding colour to draw attention to print. A funny tale packed with early literacy goodness.

maybe something beautifulMaybe Something Beautiful: How Art Transformed a Neighborhood by F. Isabel Campoy  and Theresa Howell; illustrated by Rafael Lopez. An uplifting story about the power of art. I shared this one with a Grade 1 class and we talked about ways we could make our community better. I love that it’s based on a true story.

mixed up truckThe Mixed-Up Truck by Stephen Savage. Definitely add this to your transportation or construction themed storytimes. Follow the little cement mixer as it accidentally makes a cake! I talked about print awareness before reading this book as I pointed out the different names of the factories.  The kids loved shouting, “Presto!” with me as we read.

the-moons-almost-hereThe Moon’s Almost Here by Patricia MacLachlan; illustrated by Tomie dePaola. A gentle bedtime story with repetition and the option to add in animal sounds. If you’ve got huge groups of babies and toddlers, the big pages will help all see. Before I read this one we practiced the title phrase as it repeats on each page and offers a chance for participation.

my heart fills with happinessmaple-leafMy Heart Fills With Happiness by  Monique Gray Smith; illustrated by Julie Flett.  A beautiful board book featuring a First Nations family that encourages everyone to celebrate the simple joys in life. Highly recommended purchase especially if you buy sets of board books to read together at babytime. I also recommend Flett’s second board book this year with author Richard Van Camp called We Sang You Home.

my houseMy House by Byron Barton.  I think almost all of Barton’s books are surefire hits with toddlers. With his bright colours and simple text, Barton showcases a home in this one.  I would love if he followed it up with My Apartment which is an underrepresented dwelling in picture books.

my new mom and meMy New Mom and Me by Renata Galindo.  A sweet story of adoption that is easily accessible by preschoolers. I am always looking for diverse representations of family to read in storytime.  Even if kids haven’t been adopted themselves they can relate to the feelings of fear, nervousness, and ultimately belonging.

old-macdonaldmaple-leafOld MacDonald Had a Truck by  Steve Goetz; illustrate by Eda Kaban.  My new favourite book to sing at storytime! The littles who love things that go will delight in this take on the traditional song.  I personally enjoyed the woman’s (maybe she’s Old MacDonald!) active role in the story. I had multiple requests to take this one home after storytime.

 

sing with meSing With Me!: Action Songs Every Child Should Know by Naoko Stoop.  I pull this one out at babytime almost every week.  It’s great if you just want to practice one song. If you have a large population of newcomers or ESL families, it provides a good introduction to common Western rhymes. Stoop also provides recommended hand motions.

some petsSome Pets by Angela DiTerlizzi; illustrated by Brendan Wenzel. This one has all the right elements – repetition, unique vocabulary, adorable illustrations, and a diverse cast of kids. I read it to my mixed-aged storytime group and they all wanted to tell me about their pets afterwards.

still-a-gorillamaple-leafStill a Gorilla by Kim Norman; illustrated by Chad Geran. Repetition? Check! Humour? Check! Positive message about being yourself? Check! When reading with toddlers and preschoolers, I teach the sign for gorilla and we all beat our chests whenever we say the title phrase.

summer-nick-taught-his-cat-to-readThe Summer Nick Taught His Cats to Read by Curtis Manley; illustrated by Kate Berube. My love for this book knows no bounds! I love the characters, I love the cats, I love how it’s about following your interests, I love how it’s funny, and I especially loved reading it to a kindergarten class.  I recommend this one for older groups, K-2 especially, who are learning to read themselves.

ten hungry pigsTen Hungry Pigs by Derek Anderson. A follow-up to Ten Pigs: An Epic Bath Adventure, one of my 2015 favourites. In this absurd tale, the pigs keep piling up more and more ridiculous ingredients. So many giggles at storytime! It has a surprise ending similar to the first book.  Great for food themed storytimes.

theres-a-bear-on-my-chairThere’s a Bear on My Chair by Ross Collins.  This is rhyming text done well. A very frustrated mouse just wants Bear to get out of his chair! I read it to a Grade 1 class and we talked about why some words are printed in red. The older crowd got more of the humour in the illustrations too, but I think this one could go as young as preschool.

they-all-saw-a-catThey All Saw a Cat by Brendan Wenzel. A stand-out picture book this year, for storytime and otherwise. Great for toddlers through Grade 2, this book is all about perspective.  I love the conversations that will stem from sharing this one with a group, and the language has a beautiful flow to it. Highly recommended.

this-is-our-babyThis is Our Baby, Born Today by Varsha Bajaj; illustrated by Eliza Wheeler.  I loved reading this welcoming tale at babytime. We all say the “Born today” refrain together on each page.  As a super involved aunt, I was delighted to see them mentioned as a key part of baby’s world.  The text is lyrical and the illustrations are warm and inviting.

when spring comesWhen Spring Comes by Kevin Henkes; illustrated by Laura Dronzek. The perfect title to read when the weather starts to brighten.  The text is just right for toddlers and young preschoolers, and the bright illustrations work perfect for a read aloud. Pair with Abracadabra, It’s Spring! for a season themed storytime.

whoopsWhoops! by Suzi Moore; illustrated by Russell Ayto.  One of my favourite picture books in general for 2016! The kindergarten class I read this to absolutely loved it. There’s a cat, a dog, a mouse, an old lady, and some very funny spells. I love the repetition and getting all the kids to say “Whoops!” together.

worm loves wormWorm Loves Worm by J.J. Austrian; illustrated by Mike Curato.  Anyone can love anyone and that includes Worm and Worm.  Love wins out in this celebratory tale despite objections from other critters. Due to the length, recommended for older preschool and school-age crowds as a read aloud.

you are onemaple-leafYou Are One by Sara O’Leary; illustrated by Karen Klassen.  A year’s worth of baby milestones are featured in this diverse title. I read it at babytime and afterwards we went around and caregivers shared a baby milestone they were excited about. This is the first book in a three part series, so look for You Are Two and You Are Three coming soon.

What a great year for picture books! I’m sure I missed some superb read alouds, so please let me know your favourites in the comments.

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32 thoughts on “2016 Favourite Storytime Picture Books

  1. I AM SO EXCITED TO GET TO WORK TOMORROW AND ORDER THE ONES OF THESE THAT WE DON’T ALREADY HAVE IN OUR COLLECTION!!!!!!
    Thank you for sharing – I look forward to this list every year 🙂

  2. Thank you for this list! As I posted on Twitter, it made me add more books to my upcoming parent workshop on the Latest and Greatest books for preschoolers!

    I would humbly add Owl Sees Owl by Laura Godwin for its beautiful illustrations and use of the reverso poem, and I just love April Pulley Sayre’s Best in Snow. For Best in Snow, I’ll have the kids act out some of the motions.

    1. Ooo, I haven’t been able to get my hands on those two titles! I’ll definitely keep an eye out in the new year. Thanks so much for sharing!

  3. There’s a Bear on My Chair, Barnacle is Bored, and Grumpy Pants are by far my new very most faaaaaaaavourite storytime books of all time and I am so glad to see them on your list. My storytimers from the past two years suddenly “aged out” (kindergarten! it happens.) and I found myself with a pile of 2 and almost-3 year olds. They love these books, and the parents especially have gotten huge belly laughs from them as well, which is always welcome. Thanks for another super spiffy list, Jbrary darlings <3

  4. I confess that I have yet to read either of these in storytime, but I’m excited to try them out:
    Leave Me Alone! by Vera Brosgol (title phrase repeats and is fun to yell, funny)
    One Day in the Eucalyptus, Eucalyptus Tree, by Daniel Bernstrom (marvelous rhyming and wordplay)

  5. I’ll try not to gush (like I think I did last year at this time ; ) but this list is so wonderful! Not just the booklist, but your reasoning behind each book pick, and the handling of the books…! I have had successful storytimes, but something I’m just not good at is pointing out to our patrons what is wonderful – early literacy-wise – about the books, (I am taking notes!) 🙂
    I’ve also written this ( a quote from you in this post) on my desk calendar and am planning on using it in my storytime introductions: “Storytime is a place to develop a loving bond [with your child.]” So, so true! I always ask the grownups to participate, but that loving bond is the reason why, even more than any early literacy-enhancing factors, to get folks to participate! We can ‘grow’ our kids as smart as can be, but without love…well……
    Thank you once again for the inspiration, Lindsay. Can’t wait to dig into these books, AND understand how best to use them 🙂 Thank you also to the folks who left great comments for even more ideas!
    Happy Storytiming!

    1. Happy storytiming to you too! Thank you for your kind words and encouragement. I’m so glad the lists are useful. And I totally agree – it’s all about the love! 🙂

  6. Thank you for this list! I tell stories to a mixed-ages group and it’s sometimes challenging to find books that entertain children ages 5 – 11.

  7. I’ve liked and appreciated your site for years, but since I moved from being a children’s librarian into management, I don’t have much time for ST research, and now your lists and ideas are -super helpful- for the 2 STs I still get to present each month – thanks so much! Also, I’m participating in a materials selection webinar next week, and I’m definitely giving you folks a shout out…

    1. Thanks so much, Andy! We like shining the spotlight on others and always appreciate when it’s shine back on us 🙂

      1. You are so welcome! I know I’ve definitely gotten ideas from your blog too, so we’re even 🙂 That’s definitely what we’re here for – to help each other. I’m using Still a Gorilla today in my first ever Bilingual English-ASL Storytime – love the repetition and silliness of that one.

  8. This is so great! I get in such a routine with the books we read, it’s so great to see what new things are out there! Thank you so much!

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