2017 Favourite Storytime Picture Books

Hello, 2018! I am delighted that my first post of the year is one that I look forward to writing for many months. I’ve been keeping track of all the great picture books that work well in a storytime setting published in 2017.  I try these books out with groups of different sizes and different ages.  I give them my children’s librarian stamp of storytime approval! Before I jump into the books, visit these posts for even more storytime goodness:

I’m sure there are storytime stand-outs from 2017 that I missed, so please leave a comment with your picks! Without further ado…

5 little ducks5 Little Ducks by Denise Fleming
This one snuck in at the tail end of 2016 so I’m including it here since I just got to test it out.  This is a slight twist on the classic nursery rhyme with days of the week included and a Papa Duck who does the caretaking.  Nice big pages make it a good choice for big groups. Add this one to your singable books list.

babies can sleep anywhereBabies Can Sleep Anywhere by Lisa Wheeler; illustrated by Carolina Buzio
Perfect for babytime or pyjama storytime. Discover how different animals sleep, including the often weird positions babies find themselves in. The language is gentle and soothing but the illustrations will bring a smile to your storytime attendees.

Baby Goes to Market by Atinuke; illustrated by Angela Brooksbank
Set in a Nigerian marketplace, follow baby and his mama as they shop for food. This book can work in a babytime, just don’t feel pressure to read every single word. I think it works best with a mixed-age group.  The older kids can count along with you and the younger kids will be drawn to the baby protagonist. Bright, bold illustrations translate well for large groups.

chugga chugga choo chooChugga Chugga Choo Choo by Emma Garcia
I was SO EXCITED when I found out Garcia has a new picture book out.  Continuing with her transportation theme, this one features a train that visits different locations.  Different birds catch a ride as the train rolls along and it’s fun to count them as you turn the pages. Good for toddlers and preschoolers.  Another hit from this storytime heavyweight author.

everybunny danceEverybunny Dance! by Ellie Sandall
Sandall made my list last year too and is officially a storytime author to watch! This one is pure joy. You can have kids dance and sing along with you as you read or hold a dance party afterwards.  It’s got a sweet message about inclusion and friendship to boot. Worked best with toddlers for me, but you could definitely use for the entire 0 – 5 crowd. What’s even better? There’s a sequel coming out in 2018 called Everbunny Counts!

Firefighter Duckies! by Frank W. Dormer
Perfect for toddlers and preschoolers, this is a funny storytime choice. I loved the repetition of sentences – They are brave. They are strong. – and the ultimate message about being kind too. The duckies help in all sorts of silly situations that are infused with good vocabulary. The nice big pages make this a stand-out choice!

found dogsFound Dogs by Erica Sirotich
My friend Shannon brought my attention to this gem. Count up to ten and then back down again as rescue pups get adopted. A child in a wheelchair adds much needed representation in picture books.  A great choice for toddlers and preschoolers – have them count along on their fingers as you read.

full of fallFull of Fall by April Pulley Sayre
The photograph queen returns with this leaf-tastic look at fall. Short, poetic sentences bring unique language to life.  You can also just describe the pictures with the kids and talk about what they see outside. It’s a perfect lead-in to a leaf craft project or a group walk around the neighbourhood. Pairs well with Sayre’s other seasonal books, Raindrops Roll and Best in Snow.

A Good Day for Hat by T. Nat Fuller; illustrated by Rob Hodgson
If you read one book to toddlers in storytime this year, make it this one! The repetition is built for their budding language skills. A bear finds the perfect hat to wear in every situation that appears. This one is begging to be made into a felt story.

Grandma’s Tiny House by JaNay Brown-Wood; illustrated by Priscilla Burris
Want a book about community, counting, and problem solving all rolled into one adorable package? I got you. I loved this family story and the fact that it counts up to 15 – rare for a picture book! Works best with small groups of toddlers or preschoolers.

hat on hat offmaple-leafHat On, Hat Off by Theo Heras; illustrated by Renné Beniot
The subject matter – getting dressed – is very toddler appropriate, and caregivers will empathize with the putting on and taking off aspect of dressing a child. The text is told in sentence fragments with an alternating “hat on”/”hat off” mantra.  Try bringing a hat with you to storytime and taking it on and off while you read to give the toddlers a clear understanding of what’s happening on the page.

hooray for birdsHooray for Birds! by Lucy Cousins
If you love Hooray for Fish! then you must try this one too. Cousins is back with her large pages and brightly illustrated animals – this time with a focus on our featured friends. Have kids make the bird sounds with you or act out the bird actions. Both toddlers and preschoolers will enjoy.  I also love this book because you can skip a few pages if your crowd is restless and they’ll never know!

I am a Baby by Kathryn Madeline Allen; photographed by Rebecca Gizicki
Published in November 2016 but I’m still counting it. A new babytime gem, folks! The photographs are clear and depict a beautiful collection of diverse babies.  I love the simple sentences and repetitive sentence structure. It is baby focused featuring common things in a baby’s life such as a crib, bib, diapers, clothes, family members, and toys.

i am a unicornI am a Unicorn! by Michaela Schuett
Playing dress-up? Check. Fart jokes? Check. Annoyed friend who eventually comes around? Check. Recommended for preschool up to Grade 2. This is a silly, magical story about a frog… err I mean Unicorn who believes in themself.  You’ll get lots of giggles, I promise.

I am dreamingmaple-leafI am Dreaming of…Animals of the Native Northwest by Melaney Gleeson-Lyall
This board book features illustrations from 10 Northwest Coast Indigenous artists. Gleeson-Lyall lives in Vancouver is a Coast Salish, Musqueam writer and I love to promote a local author.  Each animal is given an action that kids can easily mimic. Because the book is small it works best with small groups of babies and toddlers. A stunning delivery.

I Got a New Friend by Karl Newson Edwards
Short, simple sentences depict a young girl and her new puppy as they get to know each other and care for each other. I recommend this one for toddler or preschool storytime – it’s a quick read but will garner lots of discussion about pets.  Some funny moments are sprinkled throughout the book.  Can’t beat those adorable illustrations.

Jabari Jumps by Gaia Cornwall
Nice big pages that were built for storytime. This one went over well with preschoolers but I think you could use up to grade 2. I told them my story about grabbing onto my swim teacher’s leg before she lowered me off the diving board while I screamed at the top of my lungs.  A great jumping off point for discussing emotions, especially how we overcome our fears. Use in the summer months for extra ummph.

legend of rock paper scissorsThe Legend of Rock Paper Scissors by Drew Daywalt; illustrated by Adam Rex
You know when you have that Grade 4 class coming to visit and you can’t think of anything to read them that will have them ROFL. Look no further! This book fits a needed niche of funny, attention-grabbing picture books you can use for school-age storytimes. I found the older the better – they’ll get more of the humour.

Life on Mars by Jon Agee
A total hit with the preschool crowd. First we sang Zoom, Zoom, Zoom then we read this book about an astronaut determined to find life on Mars. It’s one of those books where the audience knows the secret that the character doesn’t which the kids find hilarious.  Perfect amount of text per page for a storytime.

Mama, Look! by Patricia J. Murphy; illustrated by David Diaz
Toddler storytime, I am calling your name! This book was pretty much built on how toddlers acquire language. It’s got the repetitive phrase (which you can change to any person! Even a child’s name!), the labeling of objects, and the big beautiful illustrations.  I’ll be using this one for years to come.

Noisy Night by Mac Barnett; illustrated by Brian Biggs
Is there a more Vancouver book? So many people here live in apartments and high rises. As you move up the floors, kids get a chance to guess who is making all that noise.  It is required of you to sing The Elevator Song as soon as you finish this one.

Now by Antoinette Portis
The concept of this book is simple and beautiful. Follow a little girl as she points out all her current favourite things. The language has a nice rhythm and the amount of text works for as young as 1-year-olds. The cover captivated me. A gentler read that is perfect for the end of storytime.

Peek-a-Boo Zoo! by Jane Cabrera
I’m always hesitant about books about zoos, but this one doesn’t feature the zoo at all until the last page and even then not heavily. Use with babies and toddlers – it’s short, sweet, and interactive. It’s got good repetition and you can talk about the importance of play with caregivers after reading it. Cabrera’s a storytime staple.

plant the tiny seedPlant the Tiny Seed by Christie Matheson
The interactive book trend continues and I’m not complaining. Kids love to tap, clap, and wave while you read and watch the flowers bloom. This is a secretly STEM book too – it’s all about a plant’s life cycle. Even with big groups where it’s too hard to have every child touch the page, you can still do some of the actions as a large group.  Grab all of Matheson’s books for your storytime shelves.
Spunky Little MonkeySpunky Little Monkey by Bill Martin Jr. and Michael Sampson; illustrated by Brian Won
Perfect for toddlers and preschoolers, this is an active one.  Have kids do all the actions with you – clap, stomp, shake, cheer.  I had one preschool class stand while we read the book to make it extra fun. Follow up with Let’s Get the Rhythm.  An all-star team created this one and it shows.

Stack the Cats by Susie Ghahremani
A good choice for toddlers or preschoolers, this book features adorable cats and math all in one. I am dying to make a felt story version of this one – someone beat me to it, please! Take your time when reading it to practice counting and basic addition. Works best with smaller groups due to the size of the pages.

Thank You Bees by Toni Yuly
Perfect for babies and toddlers, this book expresses thanks to things in our natural world such as bees, clouds, the sun, and sheep. On every other page you get to utter a simple thank you to those things. Simplicity at its best and perfect for building mindfulness into storytime.

The Three Billy Goats Gruff by Jerry Pinkney

I bought this one for my 4-year-old nephew and we had to read it multiple times and then tell it orally over and over again. Pinkney brings his award-winning illustrations to the classic tale. Highly recommended for preschool – grade 2 storytimes. Getting the kids to act out the trip trapping will help hold their attention. I like using the one story, may ways method and retelling it with a felt story the next week.

Truck, Truck, Goose! by Tammi Sauer; illustrated by Zoe Waring
A funny tale of friendship and working together. This one works best with preschoolers – point out the words as you read to incorporate some print awareness. Since a lot of the story is told through the illustrations, take your time as you read and ask questions like, “where is goose going?” or “what happened to the truck?” If you have a small enough group it’s fun to play the classic game when you’re done reading.

maple-leafUp!: How Families Around the World Carry Their Little Ones by Susan Hughes; illustrated by Ashley Barron
A good one for babytime, especially if you have a smaller crowd as the book itself is on the smaller side. The phrase “upsy daisy” is on every page and you can have caregivers lift babies as you read. I loved how it showed people outside of the parents (aunties and uncles, yay!) who care for children.  A truly diverse look at something every baby experiences.
We are the Dinosaurs by Laurie Berkner; illustrated by Ben Clanton
I have been excited about this book since I found out it was being published. I love Berkner’s songs for storytime and this is one of her top tracks put into picture book form. If you know the song, you can sing the book. The side conversations the dinosaurs have can be skipped if you have a restless group or hammed up if you’ve got preschoolers. Lovely bright, big pages are an added bonus.
We Love You, Rosie! by Cynthia Rylant; illustrated by Linda Davick
I love Davick’s Say Hello for storytime and am happy to see her partner up with Rylant for this storytime gem. Explore opposites with the help of an adorable pup. The repetitive phrases and bright, bold illustrations make it an A+ choice for toddler storytimes.
maple-leafWet by Carey Sookocheff
There are so many moments in this book that kids will relate to. The length makes it good for toddlers, but preschoolers will have the most fun talking about the situations as you read. Explores the concept of being wet – the good and the bad. The last page features  wet kisses from a dog and cat which sealed the deal for me.
Where is Bear? by Jonathan Bentley
Nice big pages make this an excellent choice for large storytime groups. A little boy searches for his bear while the audience sees glimpses of the furry animal on each spread. A surprise ending adds a nice twist. The amount of text makes it passable for toddler storytime, but preschoolers will have the most fun pointing out the bear one each page.
Whose Poop is That? by Darrin Lunde, illustrated by Kelsey Oseid
I really need to do a better job at incorporating non-fiction into storytime. This one was a total hit with preschoolers, not surprisingly. Not only do they get to guess about poop they also get to learn about different animals. Don’t worry about reading every single fact if the group is squirmy. Caregivers can check out the book and spend hours on the details. Poop books never stop being popular.
maple-leafWild One by Jane Whittingham; illustrated by Noel Tuazon
So fun fact – Jane and I are children’s librarians in the same library system! Jane wrote the perfect storytime book with this metaphorical journey through a child’s day. A little girl’s actions are compared to different animals and you could totally act them out while you read. The short text makes it a great choice for toddler storytime or a restless group of preschoolers. Bonus: I can tell families about the local connection!
maple-leafYou Hold Me Up by Monique Gray Smith; illustrated by Danielle Daniel
I’d read this one for any age but it’s got just the right amount of text for babytime and toddler storytime. This book is needed in the world and can help foster discussions around supporting each other and fostering empathy. Smith and Daniel are Indigenous women who have brought us the perfect storytime book that portrays First Nations people in the present day.  After reading you can ask kids how we can hold each other up.

36 thoughts on “2017 Favourite Storytime Picture Books

  1. What a fantastic list, and how lovely to be included with such inspiring company!

    Found Dogs is one of my personal favourites – I’m such a softie for a good animal adoption story, and seeing all those adorable dogs finding their forever homes, it just warms my heart! <3

    1. Congratulations, Jane, on your first picture book and for creating a storytime gem! 🙂

  2. This is incredible. Thank you. I can’t wait to read and share all of these.

    1. I hope Blake and Makena enjoy the stories 🙂

  3. Two that I really liked:

    Blobfish Throws a Party by Miranda Paul – a fun, funny take on the game of Telephone that would be a great choice for a pre-school/school age storytime

    The Book of Mistakes by Corinna Luyken – Throughout this charming book, an intricate picture takes shape as the illustrator grapples with mistakes – the underlying message that mistakes are opportunities if you look at them in the right way. The art is probably far too intricate to use in a storytime setting, but it’s worth knowing about, possibly even as a bibliotherapy resource (my 6 year old daughter loves art and struggles with perfectionism, and she really got the message of the book).

    1. Thanks so much, Chris! I haven’t heard of Blobfish Throws a Party. My library doesn’t even own it. Going to order it today! And I also happen to parent a 6-year-old who loves art and struggles with making mistakes so I’m DEFINITELY checking out The Book of Mistakes.

  4. Thanks for sharing these! Can’t wait to add to my story time resources! I loved Goodbye Summer, Hello Autumn AND Goodbye Autumn, Hello Winter by Kenard Pak (I did them both in their respective months). I bought them for my own personal collection too. The illustrations are so full of the excitement of the changing seasons and if you look closely the little girl and boy give a little something to the townspeople as they pass them. Also, Life by Cynthia Rylant is just a beautiful story from an animal’s perspective about living in this world, and this one and the two mentioned before have so many interesting pictures that help draw the attention of the kids as you’re reading. I always like to ask questions (and build prior knowledge) about what they see in the illustrations, “Look for the deer, what is it doing?” “Do you see anything else special in the picture?” “Have you seen _____ before?”
    I also want to do On a Magical Do-Nothing Day by Alemagna in 2018, the little girl’s jacket color just pops with the illustrations and I love the story about using your imagination!
    Have a happy New Year!

    1. I included Pak’s book on the list last year and really love the conversational aspect of it. I missed Life and On a Magical Do-Nothing Day so I’ll be sure to check them out. Thanks so much!

  5. Thank you so much for this list! Tomorrow’s Baby & Toddler Story Times is now completely planned using four of these books we own but I hadn’t seen yet, and several others we don’t already own will be added to my orders shortly.

    1. And boy, I sure could have fixed the errors before I posted! Oopsie!

      1. oh I didn’t even notice, haha! So glad you like the list and are using it already. Makes my little heart happy 🙂

        1. I am a huge fan of excellent lists. Yours is one of them.

          1. Follow up, this morning I used Babies Can Sleep Anywhere, Everybunny Dance, Hat On Hat Off, and Mama, LOOK! at my combined baby/toddler story time with 65 participants (about 1/2 babies or toddlers, half moms/dads/grandmas/grandpas). All books were very well received, and all were immediately checked out following the story time. Thanks again for helping all of us find and try wonderful new titles!

          2. Oh wow, that is the best news ever! Thank you so much!

  6. I am a huge fan of Spunky Little Monkey! I liked it so much, I memorized it and we use the words and actions in storytime frequently. Thanks for the great list.

    1. Oh that’s awesome! That one would probably make it into my Top 10 🙂

  7. We have a few in common, but I will definitely be looking at some of the others on your list when I plan this week’s storytime! A couple I would add that are personal favorites because they appeal to my sense of humor are “A Creepy Pair of Underwear” by Aaron Reynolds & Peter Brown, and “Cookiesaurus Rex” by Amy Fellner Dominy, Nate Evans, & AG Ford. I’ve used them both successfully in preschool storytime, though they would be even better for ages 5-8.

    1. I’ve never heard of Cookiesaurus Rex and will definitely give it a go. Thanks so much for sharing!

  8. I finally had a chance to go through this list and look for ones I wanted to try out, and I am very frustrated at how many of them my library system doesn’t have. I REALLY wanted to take a look at “I Am A Unicorn”, too . 🙁

  9. I stumbled on your list from last year when I was looking for some new titles to read to my children. We have combed through your past lists and checked out and read many of the books recommended (at least the ones that were available at our library )! I’ve been looking forward to seeing your list this year and can’t wait to get started reading through some of these new titles! Thanks for these great lists!

    1. Oh, that’s so wonderful to hear! So glad my recommendations help librarians and parents alike 🙂

  10. So this month on the Bookmobile we are doing Fairy Tales. Can you recommend some good Fairy Tales song. Thank you.

    1. The only one that immediately jumps to mind is The Grand Old Duke of York and that’s kind of a stretch. Check out Miss Meg’s Fairy Tale Storytime outline for more ideas. She even includes a great list of other blog posts at the end for even more ideas: http://missmegsstorytime.com/fairy-tale-storytime/

  11. I loved, ” A Good day for a Hat” so much that I made a felt story for it. The toddlers had such a good time putting Mr. Browns hats on! Thank you for all you lists!

    1. That’s awesome, Amanda! Would you be interested in writing a guest post featuring your felt story version? We could make it part of the Flannel Friday round-up. Email me at jbrary@gmail.com if you’re interested 🙂

  12. I always love your lists and I’m not sure why I waited until the end of January to look this year! Maybe because I had some special storytimes to put together for an Africa and Diaspora Fest and Multicultural Children’s Book Day and got busy early this year….not to mention the snow days….:)

    I also share some of the books on your list, but I’m going out now to look up some of the others, and have asked the librarians to order a few that we don’t have. Thank you!

    And thanks for the comments everybody! Especially the ones that share how you used the book and how it went during storytime!

    P.S. I, too, share a burning desire to create a felt board for Stack the Cats!!

  13. Thank you so much for this list (and everything that you provide for children’s librarians and storytime providers!). I’d love to sing “Everybunny Dance!” if possible. Do you have a tune that you use? Every time I try to come up with one, I start singing “Everybody Dance Now” or “Cha Cha Slide”! Thanks in advance!

    1. LOL I actually say the title the tune of the “Everybody Dance Now” in my head every single time I see the cover. When I read the book I make up a little rhythm chant that I say the words to. It’s not really a song I guess, but we do sing the page that has all the song sounds (i.e. fa la la). Sorry I don’t have a tune! Thanks so much for your lovely comment 🙂

      1. Haha! You’re welcome, Lindsey. I’ll try my best to come up with a rhythm that works for me!

    1. Thanks so much for sharing your website, Kim! I am always on the lookout for new places to find picture books. I’ll definitely add you to my feed 🙂

  14. Does anyone have any ideas/strategies or magic that you could share in keeping parents engaged during storytime. I run a very busy multicultural playgroup (0-5yrs) and it’s hard work getting parents to listen and join their children. Any words of wisdom would be welcomed.
    Thanks Catherine

    1. No magic here, just some different strategies to try out. With a busy group spanning a big age group you’ve got your work cut out for you. One thing I do every storytime is have a welcome message that states very clearly the expectations of caregivers being involved in storytime. This includes things like, “Please sing along with me and help your child focus when we read the book. The more involved you are in storytime, the more your child will learn and have fun.” At other times during the storytime I will directly address the caregivers and ask them to sing or help me out. If you’ve got a few caregivers who are very chatty and ignore you during storytime it might be worth having one-on-one conversations with them before or after storytime letting them know that their talking is distracting for you and the kids. I try to communicate that in the friendliest way possible! For more ideas check out the section “Managing Storytime Caregivers” on Storytime Underground: http://storytimeunderground.org/resources-2/ask-a-storytime-ninja-archives/index.html

  15. Great advice Thankyou x I’ll check out the managing carers link!
    I’ve only just come across your site and I love it!
    Thankyou for sharing , you have a new follower from Sydney x
    New Year new energy
    Cheers Catherine

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