2018 Favourite Storytime Picture Books

Happy New Year everyone! I’m kicking off 2019 with a Jbrary tradition. I keep track of the picture books published each year that work well in a storytime setting.  And I swear the list gets bigger every year despite feeling like I haven’t had a chance to review all the books out there. In fact, I may end up adding to this list as I get my hands on late 2018 titles. Did I miss any of your favourites? Let me know in the comments! And don’t miss my lists from previous years:

Without further ado, here are my favourite storytime books published in 2018 presented in alphabetical order.

Are You Scared, Darth Vader? by Adam Rex
A funny and engaging school-age readaloud, great for up to Grade 4. Because book is a conversation you either have to be good at making distinct voices or get a kid to read one of the parts. Lots of spooky characters make it a great choice for Halloween time.

Baby’s Firsts by Nancy Raines Day; illustrated by Michael Emberley
A year in the life of a baby perfectly summarized with short phrases and a diverse array of families. Definitely add this to your babytime line up! I especially appreciate the inclusion of breastfeeding and male caregivers.

Balance the Birds by Susie Ghahremani
Ghahremani is back with another math-tastic book for toddlers and preschoolers (her first one made my list last year!). This one focuses on weight and balance. Highly recommended for STEAM storytimes. And it’s begging to be made into a felt story!

Bark Park! by Trudy Krisher; illustrated by Brooke Boynton-Hughes
This is rhyming done well. Short, simple sentences mixed with some repetition make this dog lover’s book perfect for toddlers and preschoolers. I had the kids bark along with me and we talked about the differences and similarities between the dogs. The the illustrations are detailed at times for a large storytime group, but the size of the pages helps them translate.

The Bear in My Bed by Joyce Wan
Wan made my list three years ago with the first book in this series featuring a whale. This time a little boy discovers a bear in his bedroom and they go through a series of hilarious steps to get ready for bed. Seriously, the pictures will have your preschoolers ROFL. Short, crisp sentences and big pages make it a great choice for toddlers as well. Grab for your next bedtime storytime.

Beware the Monster by Michaël Escoffier; illustrated by Amandine Piu 
Silly and fun, I’ve been taking this one on all my preschool outreach visits. As the monster’s appetites grows I ask the kids to figure out what he’s eaten on each page. A friendly burp ending takes away any scare element. Kindies will get the humour even more.

Bigger! Bigger! by Leslie Patricelli
Patricelli is on my Toddler Storytime Authors to Know list and this one is a great example of why. She writes about things toddlers do – play with blocks – using toddler friendly language that builds and is repeated. I especially love that it’s a little girl who’s doing the building.

A Big Mooncake for Little Star by Grace Lin
I’ve been reading this one to all my school-age storytimes. Even though it is calmer in tone than most books on this list, the illustrations are gorgeous and the origin story of the phases of the moon is captivating. And I’m always on the lookout for picture books with Asian families due to my city’s demographics. Hopefully Lin writes more!

Bowwow Powwow by Brenda J. Child; translation by Gordon Jourdain; illustrations by Jonathan Thunder
I discovered this book in my library’s new Indigenous collection for children. Due to the length, I’ve only read it to school-age groups but you could swing it with an engaged group of preschoolers too. The story follows Windy Girl as she attends a Powwow and then dreams of her own dog-filled Powwwow inspired by her uncle’s stories. Debbie Reese summarizes it’s strengths perfectly: “It is tribally specific, and it is set in the present day, and it beautifully captures Ojibwe people.” Told in both English and Ojibwe.

Crunch, the Shy Dinosaur by Cirocco Dunlap; illustrated by Greg Pizzoli
An interactive hit with preschoolers. Help coax shy Crunch out from the bushes by learning about personal space, voice level, and singing a classic song. One of the kids I read this to thought Crunch was a worm at first which only endeared the book to me more.

Dig, Dump, Roll by Sally Sutton; illustrated by Brian Lovelock
A New Zealand import, Sutton has done it again with a construction themed storytime gem. This one is a guessing game infused with the most wonderful made-up sounds. The big colourful pages are icing on the cake. This one will be much demanded after storytime by your toddlers and preschoolers.

Dot, Stripe, Squiggle by Sarah Tuttle; illustrated by Miriam Nerlove 
Sometimes you have to get creative with your babytime picks. This board book stood out to me because it was a little larger than most and it had to do with patterns. Before I read this one I had caregivers practice making each pattern on their baby’s stomach or back or hand. Then as we read we said the words together and did the motion. It was a great chance to show caregivers how to interact with their babies as they read.

Everybunny Count! by Ellie Sandall
This is Sandall’s third year on my list so it’s safe to say she’s a storytime star. In this sequel to Everbunny Dance!, the focus is on play and friendship. With toddlers and preschoolers we pause on each page to count with the bunnies. Cute and interactive!

Every Color Soup by Jorey Hurley
Toddler storytime gold, right here folks. Bright pictures with few words fill this recipe book. Spend time naming colours and counting the ingredients. Sneak in an early literacy tip about all the opportunities to do math while cooking with your little one.

Go Fish! by Tammi Sauer; illustrated by Zoe Waring
Sauer and Waring made my list last year too and their Goose and friends are back for a fishy tale. When I read this with a mixed group of toddlers and preschoolers we pretended to throw our cast out as I read. We imagined if we caught anything and compared it to the characters in the book. There’s sparse text which leaves time to talk with your storytimers as you read. Underlying it all is a subtle message about pollution which you can choose to point out or not.

A Good Day for Ducks by Jane Whittingham; illustrated by Noel Tuazon
My colleague and fellow children’s librarian Jane is back with another storytime hit. Made for the Pacific Northwest crowd, this one features a fun-filled rainy day. The simple plot makes it great for wiggly toddlers and the rhythmic text keeps the story chugging along. Keep this one on hand all throughout the fall and winter!

Goodnight, Mr. Panda by Steve Antony
Panda is back and better than ever. Perfect for pajama storytimes, Mr. Panda reminds all his friends of the things they need to do before going to sleep. Practice your voices before reading this one aloud to distinguish between animals. Great for toddlers though preschoolers will get more of the humour.

Grumpy Monkey by Suzanne Lang; illustrated by Max Lang
I sent this book in with my niece for her teacher to read aloud to their Grade 2 class. Sometimes you just feel grumpy and that’s okay! A great jumping off point for discussions around feelings and social emotional learning. Plus, that monkey is pretty darn cute despite being in a bad mood.

Hello Hello by Brendan Wenzel
Another animal-filled stunner from Wenzel. The short poetry-like text can be read through quickly for wiggly toddlers, or you can spend time finding the traits each animal set has in common with preschoolers and school-age kids. Wenzel provides a perfect jumping off point for further discussions about wildlife and conservation.

If I Had a Horse by Gianna Marino
In this beautifully illustrated imaginative work, a young girl hypothesizes about having a horse. The short, crisp sentences make it perfect for toddlers though preschoolers will engage more with questions about their own imagination. A perfect book for encouraging the early literacy practice of play.

It’s a Little Baby by Julia Donaldson; illustrated by Rebecca Cobb
If you’ve got a small babytime group, definitely grab this interactive board book. It comes with a tune that you can sing while you read and flaps you can lift. I had a couple parents ask for it at the end of storytime which is always a sign of success.

I’ve Got Eyes: Exceptional Eyes of the Animal World by Julie Murphy; illustrated by Hannah Tolson
A non-fiction title that centers on the specific characteristic of animals eyes. The illustrations are bright and bold and the information is presented clearly. Each spread features an animal and how their eyes help them survive and thrive. Perfect for grades K – 2, but preschoolers will also enjoy learning about this body part. You can stop at any page too if they get restless.

Kat Writes a Song by Greg Foley
This book first caught my attention when I saw it on the 2018 CLEL Bell Awards shortlists. It absolutely highlights the early literacy practice of singing and exemplifies the power of song to brighten the mood. Use it with preschoolers and encourage them to make up their own songs to make themselves and others feel happy.

Kiss by Kiss / Ocêtôwina: A Counting Book for Families by Richard Van Camp; illustrated by Mary Cardinal Collins
This bilingual (English/Plains Cree) board book is one of my favourites of the year. As you read it with babies and toddlers you can encourage caregivers to either kiss along with the caregivers in the photographs or help their little ones count. I’m always looking for books that promote bonding and secure relationships between infants and caregivers and this one is perfect.

Lovely Beasts: The Surprising Truth by Kate Gardner; illustrated by Heidi Smith
Another stellar non-fiction title perfect for preschool and up. Gardner demystifies animals who get a bad rap and provides interesting facts about their life in the wild. With younger kids there is no need to read all of the text, while older kids will enjoy hearing about the intricate details. Like many information books you can stop at any point and either read the next week, the next day, the next hour.

Mad, Mad Bear! by Kimberly Gee
Toddler tantrums explained in toddler friendly words and images. Bear gets upset about having to leave the park, take off his shoes, and leave his favourite stick outside. I like how it unapologetically shows anger, but tempers it with a calm down strategy too. Short, simple sentences make it extra toddler friendly. Add it to all social emotional learning booklists.

Monster Boogie by Laurie Berkner; illustrated by Ben Clanton
Based on Berkner’s popular song, this book is a filled with dancing fun. I read it to a preschool group and a mom came in a few days later saying her son loved it and wanted to read it again. I had the kids stand up as I read/sang the book and we all danced together. Have I mentioned I get paid to do this?

Pet This Book by Jessica Young; illustrated by Daniel Wideman
Kids get to pretend to be veterinarians in this interactive animal care taking title. Pet the cat, wash the dog, feed the lizard, and more. Perfect for a pet-themed storytime with preschoolers. Don’t miss this duos other 2018 title, Play This Book, for a music filled adventure.

Shake the Tree by Chiara Vignocchi, Paolo Chiarinotti, and Silvia Borando 
One of my top ten this year! Firstly, you get to turn the book sideways which is a great conversation starter with kids about how picture books are art. Then you get to go on a silly adventure where animals try to eat each other to much chagrin. Funny and clever. It’s been an absolute hit with every group I’ve read it to.

Sleepy Bird by Jeremy Tankard 
Bird is back with sass! I love reading any of the books in this series to visiting preschools and school-age groups. They get the humour and love to hear that Tankard is a local Vancouver author. I feel like exhausted caregivers will especially relate to this one as Bird insists he is not ready for bed yet.

Splish, Splash, Ducky! by Lucy Cousins
Also a Toddler Storytime Author to Know, Cousins delivers a delightful baby and toddler storytime book this year. You can quack along on every page as you follow Ducky in the rain. Bright and colourful pages grab the reader’s attention and the rhythm of the text keeps it.

Stick by Irene Dickson
Dickson made my list two years ago with her awesome book Blocks, and this year she is back with more toddler goodness. Her books are what I call “Storytime Size” – perfect for big groups! Short, simple sentences punctuate this story of a boy and his stick. If you’re brave, pass out some rhythm sticks and have kids mimic the actions of the boy in the book. Like her previous title, this one ends with a new friend.

Stumpkin by Lucy Ruth Cummins
The perfect little title to read around Halloween. All Stumpkin wants is to become a Jack-o-Lantern like the other pumpkins on his stand. Works great for preschoolers and up who will relate to feelings of being left out, wanting to fit in, and being proud of who you are.

Thread of Love by Kabir Sehgal & Surishtha Sehgal; illustrated by Zara Gonzalez Hoang
Written by a mother/son duo, this book highlights the Hindu festival called Raksha Bandhan which celebrates brotherly and sisterly love. You can sing it to the tune of Frère Jacques which adds to the storytime appeal. Pictures are bright and big – great for a large group!

We Don’t Eat Our Classmates by Ryan T. Higgins
Man, Higgins really knows his preschool humour. I love his Mother Bruce series too. In this one we follow Penelope Rex as she enters school and learns what she can and can’t eat. I read it to a preschool and kindergarten class and they all thought it was hilarious. I recommend it to all teachers at the beginning of the school year too!

Who Eats Orange? by Dianne White; illustrated by Robin Page
Another stand-out non fiction title this year. Learn about colours by exploring which animals eat that coloured food. I love the inclusion of rarer animals such as the quetzal, marmot, and waxwing as it adds a vocabulary boost. You could read to toddlers and focus solely on the colours or labeling of animals, but it really shines with older kids who will be interested to learn more about each creature.

Why the Face? by Jean Jullien
This larger board book comes from someone I’m starting to think of one of the most innovative board book designers out there. This one focuses on feelings and acts as a guessing game for babies and toddlers. The fold-out pages make for a hilarious read that even preschoolers will enjoy. Definitely one to snag to engage your audience and have fun with reading.

That’s it, folks! Did I miss one of your favourites published in 2018? Please leave me a comment so I can check them out!

19 thoughts on “2018 Favourite Storytime Picture Books

  1. I fell in love with “Can I Be Your Dog” by Troy Cummings, as well as “Fox and the Bike Ride” by Corey Tabor recently.

    1. Both of those weren’t on my radar at all – thanks!

  2. I am obsessed with “What If…”, by Samantha Berger. It encourages lots of early literacy practices, like writing, singing, and storytelling. Kids love pointing out the unicorn and the protagonists purple hair. Truly beautiful work!

    1. Such a beautiful book, yes! The pages are bright and a good size and there’s the perfect amount of text. I read it to a group of preschoolers and it was a little over their heads. Or maybe it just didn’t have enough action for that particular group? I’m glad it’s been well received with your kiddos – I should give it another try!

  3. I loved Pretty Kitty by Karen Beaumont. Perfect amount of cats and kooky humour 😉

    1. Oh wow, my library doesn’t even have that book in the system! Thanks for the heads up 🙂

  4. Thanks for pointing me to some things in my collection I had yet to discover!
    My personal LOL favorite this year has been Llamaphones, by Janik Coat. It’s a board book, but I really wish it was a paper picture book because it belongs in all primary grade classrooms as a fun way to keep those homophones straight.
    I haven’t used it in a storytime yet because I feel like the humor of it will actually be over their heads, but maybe my preschoolers will get it.

    1. I loved Llamaphones! I brought it home and read it with my niece who is in Grade 2 and we both laughed the whole time. I agree about the format though – it’s weird to read a board book to school-age kids even though they are the ones who will get the humour the most.

  5. Honored to see PET THIS BOOK in such wonderful company! Thanks so much for including it. I can’t wait to read some others I haven’t read yet. Also — although I live in the US — I’m Canadian, too!

    1. My bad! I’ve added a maple leaf next to your name now 🙂 It can be hard to track down that information. Thanks for writing such a perfect storytime book!

    1. It’s the best, right? I always tell the families that they can meet the author of this book too by visiting a nearby location 🙂

  6. It was a wonderful year in kidlit, wasn’t it? I’ve read most of these too and they’ve all been big hits in storytime!

    Here’s some more of our storytime favorites from 2018: Bear’s Scare by Jacob Grant; Roar: A Dinosaur Tour by Michael Paul; Stegothesuarus by Bridget Heos; The Greedy Goat by Petr Horacek; We Love Dinosaurs by Lucy Volpin; Huff & Puff by Claudia Rueda, Honk! Splat! Vroom! by Barry Gott; and How Do You Take a Bath? by Kate McMullan.

    It was a good year for dinosaur books.

    1. It totally was! I am so excited to read your 10-part series. I’m working on a “Nonfiction Storytime Booklist” post and your first part has given me lots of ideas. Excited to see all your other picks!

  7. Idea:

    I also love the book “Shake that Tree”! I incorporate egg shakers into this story. Everyone gets an egg shaker and shakes it to the left or right when I shake the tree. Then before putting the egg shakers away, we’ll do egg shaker songs! Always fun! -Ger Moua, Hennepin County Library

    1. What a great way to incorporate shakers! Thanks so much for sharing.

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