It’s time for my one-and-only Jbrary tradition – my favourite storytime books published this year! The is the 6th year I’ve shared a round-up of the picture books published within the past 12 months that worked well for me in a storytime setting.
It’s fitting that this post will be my last before I go on a blogging hiatus for a few months to work on a project that involves writing a chapter of a book on Canadian children’s library services. Squee! Talk about deep work. I am diving in, friends. I wanted to leave this post hanging out at the top of my website because it takes a ton of work, and I’m really proud of it.
So here we go! I’d love to know what your 2019 storytime favourites are as I always end up adding to my list. Please leave a comment to share with all our readers.
Check out the lists from previous years:
- 2013 Favourite Storytime Picture Books
- 2014 Favourite Storytime Picture Books
- 2015 Favourite Storytime Picture Books
- 2016 Favourite Storytime Picture Books
- 2017 Favourite Storytime Picture Books
- 2018 Favourite Storytime Picture Books
- 2020 Favourite Storytime Picture Books
Amy Wu and the Perfect Bao by Kat Zhang; illustrated by Charlene Chua
Perfect for preschool and lower elementary-age kids, this is a funny story about food, family, and perseverance. I loved the bright, colourful illustrations and the many expressions of Amy. Kids who love bao get to see their culture represented and kids who’ve never tried it get to learn how to make it. Chua lives in Canada, earning this one the coveted maple leaf.
B is for Baby by Atinuke; illustrated by Angela Brooksbank
Possibly set in the author’s home country of Nigeria, this phonological awareness hit works great for the 0 – 5 crowd. Large, bright pages show a pair of siblings traveling to visit their Baba. Babies and toddlers will delight in the repetitive “B” sound while preschoolers will enjoy figuring out the story told in the illustrations. Great for big groups.
Bear Came Along by by Richard T. Morris; illustrated by LeUyen Pham
Lovely big pages and an adventurous outdoor tale make this one perfect for preschool groups. I like how the pages lead with the phrase “until” so that kids can try and guess what comes next. The underlying message that we’re all in it together was the icing on the cake.
Bear Needs Help by Sarah H. Brannen
A clever take on a shoe story! Short phrases punctuate Bear’s attempt to get help from other arctic animals who all flee. The large pages make it a good choice for big mixed-age groups. If a little one asks why a polar bear even needs shoes, the answer lies on the last page.
Bloom Boom by April Pulley Sayre
Master of easy nonfiction for kids, Sayre returns will a brilliant celebration of spring featuring her trademark nature photography and unique verbs. A good choice for a mixed-age group – have them say the repeating title phrase with you for added interactivity during storytime.
The Book Hog by Greg Pizzoli
If you’ve ever had a preschool class come in for a tour and visit, this is the book to read. Not only does it celebrate reading, it also shows storytime and emphasizes the role of the library in promoting a love of reading. The text is the perfect length for this age. Highly recommend all of Pizzoli books for storytime.
Brenda is a Sheep by Morag Hood
The fluorescent colours caught my attention at first, but the story had enough humour to keep me reading. It’s like taking the idiom “a sheep in wolf’s clothing” and turning it on its head. If you struggle to find books for the Grade 1 -3 crowd, then this one is for you. I think it can scale down to preschool though the size of the pages makes it better for small groups.
By the Light of the Moon by Frann Preston-Gannon
This is cumulative storytelling and rhyming done right. A little frog invites others to sing with him, a message we translate to storytime every week. I had my group practice the phrase, “in the swamp by the light of the moon” before reading so we could all say it together. Large pages allow the story to travel.
Chomp: A Shark Romp by Michael Paul
Perfect for toddlers and preschoolers, this introduction to the types of sharks features unique vocabulary and an abundance of comparisons. Vibrant colours help the illustrations work for large groups. Another stand-out storytime nonfiction title. I missed Paul’s dinosaur title last year, but I’m checking it out now!
Duck! by Meg McKinlay; illustrated by Nathaniel Eckstrom
In this Australian import the word “Duck!” appears on every other page. Point to it, spell it (hello, print awareness), say it together, enjoy the double meaning conveyed through the illustrations. It’s fun to add a duck-and-cover action with preschoolers as you read. I loved the Wizard of Oz vibes on the last page.
From 1 to 10 by Mies Van Hout
The perfect little counting book for babies and toddlers. So simple – each page is just a number and the body part it refers to. If you’ve got a mixed-age group you could have the preschoolers guess which animal will appear next – “8. Hmmm, what has 8 of something?” The best part is that the last page has 5 built-in early literacy tips around counting you can share with caregivers.
Hello, Friend! by Rebecca Cobb
Cobb is a master of books about empathy and friendship. Social emotional learning has been at the front of my mind lately and this book offers ample opportunity to talk about getting along with others and treating each other with kindness and respect. Special props for featuring a boy-girl friendship which can be a model for preschoolers.
Homes in the Wild: Where Baby Animals and Their Parents Live by Lita Judge
One of those excellent nonfiction books you can read different ways with different ages. With toddlers, read the short sentences and then label the animals. With preschoolers and above you can read the short descriptions of each animal depending on your group’s attention span. I’d follow this up with a game of Little Mouse for a home-themed storytime.
I Am a Wolf by Kelly Leigh Miller
Hands down my favourite cover of the year. The emotion expressed! The indignation! The fervor! Follow this feisty shelter dog as it searches for its “pack.” Funny, short sentences make it good for toddlers while preschoolers will get the humour. Add some interactivity by making the woof sounds as a whole group.
In My Anaana’s Amuatik by Nadia Sammurtok; illustrated by Lenny Lishchenko
Inuit writer Sammurtok introduces the reader to an amuatik – the pouch in the back of a mother’s parka used to carry a child – and the journey through the baby’s senses as it views the world from this perch. This book is perfect for small babytimes or babytimes with lots of small babies as it works best to convey the powerful message of bonding to caregivers. It encourages adults to kiss cheeks and breathe in and out and we did both as we read together.
I Love All of Me by Lorie Ann Grover; illustrated by Carolina Búzio
This large format board book is toddler storytime gold. If you have a group with the wiggles, the short sentences that encourage little ones and caregivers to label body parts will keep their attention. The diverse cast of kids and body confidence message add to the appeal.
Love Makes a Family by Sophie Beer
Okay, so this technically came out on December 24th, 2018 but I’m counting it this year. Another large board book with short sentences that’s perfect for babies and toddlers. Lots of everyday diversity, including gay moms and dads. An exploration of love that can be read year-round but will be especially useful for non-holiday specific storytimes around themes of love and giving. Beer has another that *just* came out which looks equally splendid called Kindness Makes Us Strong.
Love You Head to Toe by Ashley Barron
Barron makes the list for the second year in a row! This one’s got a great rhythm that compares babies to baby animals as they do everyday activities like eat, bathe, and sleep. Read in babytime but don’t feel pressure to finish the whole thing if you’ve got a wiggly group. You could easily read a few pages at a time or save some for next week.
May We Have Enough to Share by Richard Van Camp; photographs by members of Tea & Bannock
It’s really hard not to include anything Van Camp writes (see last year!). I loved this board book about gratitude and think it’s perfect for all ages. The photographs are from a collective of Indigenous women called Tea & Bannock and they did an amazing job featuring present day Indigenous families . I will note that there is one page that says, “pray for the healing of Mother Earth” and I choose not to read it because of the religious connotation.
My Cat Looks Like My Dad by Thao Lam
Short, crisp sentences make this a good choice for a mixed-age group as the pace keeps along while the humour will attract an older crowd. The title pretty much gives away the storyline! There is a surprise ending though which gets kids thinking about who can tell a story to begin with.
The Neighbors by Einat Tsarfati; translated by Annette Appel
This translation from Israel feels very Vancouver to me as a little girl makes her way up her apartment building and wonders who lives behind each door. Although some of the illustrations are detailed, it works beautifully as a guessing game. If you live in a city where so many of your kids live in apartments, this is an applicable and needed representation of everyday life.
One Fox: A Counting Thriller by Kate Read
Beautifully illustrated large pages make this counting book great for large groups. The mix of short counting phrases with a more sophisticated plot told through the pictures means it works well for a mixed-age group as there’s something for everyone. I loved the unique vocabulary (“famished”) and twist ending that won’t leave anyone in tears.
One Red Sock by Jennifer Sattler
Look, we’ve all been there. You go to find your favourite pair of socks only to discover one of them is missing! Perfect for toddlers, this rhyming romp about matching and getting dressed is a relevant theme for little ones. So many extension activities could be made to compliment this one.
One Shoe Two Shoes by Caryl Hart; illustrated Edward Underwood
This counting adventure gave me major Dr. Seuss vibes to start and I’m happy to report it lived up to the rep! I loved the bright, large pages which work well for large toddler or preschool groups. Kids will need some additional explanation of the illustrations to make sense of the dog and mice shenanigans.
Piranhas Don’t Eat Bananas by Aaron Blabey
This one came out in 2015 in Australia but only recently hit the North American markets. You definitely have to get your accent on to make the rhymes work, but it’s so funny kids hardly notice. A great choice for a laughter-filled preschool or school-age storytime. There are many stories about creatures who don’t want to eat what they are supposed to and this one capitalizes on the silly factor.
Plinka Plinka Shake Shake by Emma Garcia
My storytime brain could barely contain itself when it saw a new Emma Garcia book hitting the shelves this year. This one is just as good as her others. Be introduced to unique instruments like the guiro and agogo while tapping out a beat. Perfect for a music or dance program for kids ages 0 – 5.
Pokko and the Drum by Matthew Forsythe
One of my favourite picture books PERIOD this year. Is it because Pokko is a girl who is loud and a leader? Is it because of Pokko’s dad’s facial expressions? Is it because they let the wolf stay in the band even after he eats one of them? Probably. The preschool groups I read this too laughed way more than I thought they would. Like I said, Pokko’s dad. Highly recommend for preschool on up.
Red House, Tree House, Little Bitty Brown Mouse by Jane Godwin; illustrated by Blanca Gómez
The illustrations in this one can get a little detailed, so I recommend it for smaller preschool groups. I loved the rhythm of the words and the questions posed on alternating pages which lend themselves to dialogic reading. An interactive journey through the world that accurately reflects the diversity of the world.
Saturday by Oge Mora
I liked this one even better than Mora’s first book which made the list last year. Her use of repetition to frame the story is perfect. The use of deep breaths to help calm ourselves when things don’t go our way is social emotional learning gold. And the inclusion of a library storytime (even if it does get cancelled) really make this one special. A great choice for preschoolers who can start to guess what will happen as the mother-daughter duo run into obstacle after obstacle.
Seagull & Sea Dragon by Sydni Gregg
Land and sea meet in this tale of unexpected friendship and overcoming fears. Both characters ask lots of questions and display a sense of curiosity about the world that leads to an exchange of ideas. Kids will delight in pointing out their initial misconceptions. Use with any and all preschool groups.
Snakes on a Train by Kathryn Dennis
Despite the pages being on the small size for a medium to large sized storytime, the bold colours and repetition make this one a solid choice for toddlers and preschoolers. We practiced making our hissing sounds before we read to get in character. The snakes are friendly looking and unlikely to scare little ones. The gentle rhyming adds a nursery rhyme quality the whole family will enjoy.
A Stone Sat Still by Brendan Wenzel
Reminiscent of his first book that made my list in 2016, this one includes beautifully flowing language with a poignant repeated phrase. Wenzel plays with perspective again but this time focuses on something we see every day – a stone. The length and concept of the book make a good choice for older preschoolers and school-age kids.
Up, Up, Up, Down! by Kimberly Gee
Babies and toddlers, this one’s for you. This sequence of opposites tells a story as you turn each page. In babytime I had caregivers repeat after me since the phrases are short and bouncy. Bonus points for featuring a stay-at-home dad!
What Riley Wore by Elana K. Arnold; illustrated by Linda Davick
Highly recommend this one for preschool and kindergarten visits. Clothes and dress-up are a forever popular topic with this age group, and in this one you get to see Riley try on all sorts of cool outfits. Riley is given no assigned gender and the other kids in the book embrace Riley all the same. Adults will love it for its gender stereotype busting, but kids will love it because of the amazing costumes.
Whose Is It? Board Book Series by Katrine Crow
This entire series is absolutely perfect for small baby or toddler groups. In 2019, Crow came out with Coats, Wings, Horns, Ears, Tails, and Scales. Beautiful photographs fill these guessing game board books.
Who Wet My Pants? by Bob Shea; illustrated by Zachariah Ohora
It can be so hard to find good books for the older elementary crowd. I am happy to report that this will be a hit! Perfect for grades 1 – 4, this one is a hilarious tale of mistaken accusations. Some of the phrases and the humour will fly over preschoolers’ heads, but older kids will get it.
You are New by Lucy Knisley
My eyes were immediately drawn to the bold, colourful text in these pages. Grab this one for babytime, especially if you want to showcase everyday things that happen with a little one. The rhythm and rhyme are superbly done.
Here’s to another great year of storytime reads! What recently published gems would you recommend? Please feel free to leave a comment and share this post on social media. I’d greatly appreciate it!