2020 Favourite Storytime Picture Books

First and foremost, thank you for all the heartwarming comments left on my last post. I definitely shed a few tears reading and responding to your kind words! I think we have a whole community of ambassadors of love and joy.

While I needed to take the fall away from the blog, I just couldn’t let the year slip by without continuing my favourite Jbrary tradition – it’s the 8th year running! I guess it’s my way of sending hope that we will one day return to a world where a toddler pulls off the felt story pieces, a baby learns to clap while singing the hello song, a kid cries when she doesn’t get her favourite colour scarf, a preschooler tells you a story about his new puppy, a grown-up has a full length phone conversations the second you open the book, and a family finds a safe, warm place where they can love their little one. I’ll take it all.

My caveat to this year’s list is that unlike previous years I haven’t personally demoed them all on live audiences because *waves hands at general state of the world*. I have read them all though and am using my knowledge of what makes a good storytime book. I’ve added notes on picks I think would translate to a virtual environment too.

As always, I do hope you leave a comment with your favourites; I am sure to have missed some gems. If you’re new to the blog, don’t miss my lists from years past:

Without further ado, here are my favourite storytime books published in 2020 listed in alphabetical order by title.

Animals Brag About Their Bottoms by Maki Saito; translated by Brian Bergstrom
Do butts every go out of style in storytime? Doubtful! Japanese author Saito encourages readers to compare and contrast the behinds of the animal kingdom. I appreciate the underlying body positivity message. Preschoolers to early elementary aged kids are the ideal audience.

A Bear is a Bear (except when he’s not) by Karl Newsom; illustrated by Anuska Allepuz
Originally published in 2018, this title just came to North American markets. A cumulative tale of mistaken identity that’s perfect for preschoolers. I love the repetitive phrases for a read aloud and kids will get a kick out of Bear’s forgetfulness.

Beehive by Jorey Hurley
Hurley’s nearly wordless books are such a great tool for encouraging kids to participate in storytelling. This life-of-a-bee story works great for multi-age groups because you can spend as much or as little time on each page as you want. Bright illustrations make it a good choice for virtual storytime as long as you’re ready to supply the words or encourage kids to tell it to grown-ups on the other end of the screen.

The Button Book by Sally Nicholls, illustrated by Bethan Woollvin
Super fun and interactive! Not the first “button” book to make one of my lists, but kids will delight in the sense of control they get going through the coloured options not once, but twice. Works for a virtual storytime though the interactivity is lessened to a degree. Recommended for preschoolers and mixed age groups.

Catch that Chicken! by Atinuke; illustrated by Angela Brooksbank
Atinuke made the list last year and returns with another story set in Nigeria. A young girl learns a valuable lesson from her Nana while maintaining her self-esteem and pride. Recommended for preschool – grade 3. Definitely take this one with you on school visits, in-person or virtual.

Dinosaurs Roar by Steve Jenkins
The king of non-fiction returns with a lift-the-flap book filled with dinosaur facts. The interactive nature and simple sentences make it great for toddlers, while preschoolers up to early elementary will love hearing the added informational tidbits. Don’t miss the companion book, Sea Creatures Swim; both are worthy additions to storytime. In-person and virtual winner.

Don’t Worry, Little Crab by Chris Haughton
Definitely add this one to any social emotional learning booklists you’ve got. I loved this story of overcoming fear and taking guided risks. It’s one of those books I think kids will just *get*. Perfect for preschool to early elementary. A new favourite picture book overall.

Do Sharks Bark? by Salina Yoon
If you’ve read any of the other books in Yoon’s lift-the-flap animal sound series then you’ll know what to expect in this one. Great for babies and toddlers. Have the whole group practice making the sounds of whales, hippos, crabs, polar bears, and more. A brightly illustrated choice that works in-person or online.

Ducks! by Deborah Underwood; illustrated by T.L. McBeth
This is a guessing game and family reunification story all in one. Practice making the voice inflection when you ask the repeated question and shouting the answer, “No ducks!” Great for toddlers all the way up to kindergarten.

Find Fergus By Mike Boldt
A super fun title for toddlers and preschoolers. Help Fergus the bear improve his hide-and-seek skills. A great discussion starter for noticing differences and similarities. Families will want to take this one home to continue exploring the hidden objects à la Waldo.

Five Fuzzy Chicks by Diana Murray; illustrated by Sydney Hanson
A wonderful refresh to your farm and animal themed storytimes. The rhymes are good, the animal sounds support phonological awareness, and the counting down from five is a great early math literacy activity. Nice big pages for toddlers and preschoolers.

Foodie Faces by Bill and Claire Wurtzel
Anyone else remember the book How Are You Peeling? Well this one is similar except way more creative and fun in my opinion. A great choice for building emotional vocabulary, and kids will delight in seeing how food is transformed. Excellent choice for mixed-age groups, in-person or virtual.

Glad, Glad Bear! By Kimberly Gee
I think Gee officially made herself a staple of storytime. She debuted on my list last year, and this one is just as good. I love seeing a male character who loves to dance and wear tutus. Despite the title a whole range of emotions are explored in the story. Top pick for toddlers and preschoolers in any setting.

Go, Grandpa, Go! by Lynne Plourde; illustrated by Sophie Beer
This chunky board book is full of colour and fun. Like the companion Go, Grandma, Go! it features a diverse range of families and a repetitive title phrase the whole audience can chant together. Love this one for babies and toddlers. In a similar style is Beer’s Kindness Makes us Strong which came out at the tale end of 2019 and works just as well in storytime.

Goodnight Veggies by Diana Murray; illustrated by Zachariah OHora
A sweet bedtime story that is ripe (see what I did there?) with vegetable and fruit vocabulary. I love that it gives kids a glance into a hidden underground world. The rhyming is done well and the unspeaking worm character wraps it in a nice narrative. That’s two spots for Murray on this year’s list!

The Haircut by Theo Heras, illustrated by Renné Benoit

Heras does a fantastic job telling a story from a child’s perspective. The sparse text and board book format make this a great choice for babytime and toddler time. Benoit keeps the illustrations uncluttered so the focus can be on the emotional journey of the child as they anticipate their first haircut.

Hat Tricks by Satoshi Kitamura
Toddler storytime gold! Use a repetitive magic phrase to guess what is hiding in the hat over and over again. I love how the animals got bigger each time which you can use to hone your guessing skills. This one would work great in virtual storytime too.

The Hips on the Drag Queen Go Swish, Swish, Swish by Lil Miss Hot Mess; illustrated by Olga de Dios
Brought to you by the creators of Drag Queen Story Hour, this singable book is great for dancing and grooving. Lots of the actions can be done as a whole crowd. Illustrations are bold and colourful. I recommend for all ages. One word: fierce.

I Got the School Spirit by Connie Schofield-Morrison; illustrated by Frank Morrison
The metaphorical examination of what school spirit means is a great follow-up the this duo’s 2014 hit. Preschoolers and early elementary-age kids will notice the second story about school jitters in the drawing. A great choice for back-to-school storytimes.

I Love My Fangs! by Kelly Leigh Miller

I love Miller’s illustrations. They are lovely and bold and fill nice big storytime size pages. With the perfect amount of text she tells the story of a vampire with an identity crisis when it loses a tooth. A perfect blend of fantasy and every day kid experiences. Recommended for toddlers, preschoolers, and kindergartners in any setting.

Kitty’s Cuddles by Jane Cabrera
Cabrera is on my toddler storytime authors to know list and for good reason. This one is a perfect example – bright illustrations, repetitive sentence structure, built-in interaction between caregiver and child. If you’ve got a wriggly group you can skip right to the last page at any point and it works just as well. For a virtual storytime encourage kiddos to grab a stuffie and snuggle along as you read.

Let’s Dance by David Bowie; illustrated by Hannah Marks
This book stays faithful to Bowie’s lyrics and works best when you can be up and moving while reading. Perfect for family dance parties (when we get to have those again!). The text is repeated twice so you could easily stop halfway through if need be. I love the depictions of dancing by people of all abilities.

Let’s Dance! by Valerie Bolling; illustrated by Maine Diaz
Another dancing title but this one has sparse text and features dances from around the world. This one works better in a virtual environment as you can encourage kids to mimic the moves in their own home. Back matter gives information about each dance and is useful to read before storytime so you can give some context. Great for the entire 0 – 5 crowd.

Let’s Play Monsters! by Lucy Cousins
A book that embodies the early literacy practice of play. The rhyming is spot on and perfect for chanting. Cousins excels at toddler storytime choices and little ones will love anticipating what each monster will look like. Another one that truly knows what it’s like to see the world through a child’s eyes.

Making Tracks series by Abi Hall
Four new board books in this series came out in 2020: City, Desert, Mountain, and Jungle. These are babytime and toddlertime top picks. Discover who created the tracks in different settings using lift-the-flaps. I think these would translate wonderfully to a virtual storytime too.

My Hair is Beautiful by Shauntay Grant
Grant is a Canadian poet who brings us this large board book celebrating natural hair. There’s been many books about this topic the last few years, but this one is perfect for storytime. The adjectives are animated and fun and the pictures are filled with joy. Use in-person or virtually.

One of These is Not Like the Others by Barney Saltzberg
I love the simplicity and humour of this gem. Kids will delight in figuring out which of the four options “doesn’t fit.” The repetitive and short text means it translates well to young groups, but older preschoolers will really enjoy the concept. Make sure to incorporate lots of wait time as little ones figure it out on their own. Recommend for online or in-person.

A Perfect Day by Sarah S. Brannen
You’ll need to practice doing two distinct voices to make this one really work, but it’s well worth it. Follow an optimistic seagull and grouchy crab as they look at the world differently. I read it as a story of overcoming perfectionism, but kids will likely find the crab hilarious. Works best for preschool and up.

A Polar Bear in the Snow by Mac Barnett; illustrated by Shawn Harris
Stunning illustrations and an expert use of white space fill this story about a bear’s journey across the arctic. Simple sentences make it a great choice for toddlers or a mixed-age group. I’d love to see what kids wonder: where is it going? what will it find? I’d be curious to see if the white space translates to a virtual environment.

Raven Squawk, Orca Squeak by Robert Budd; illustrated by Roy Henry Vickers
This duo is back with another high contrast board book filled with sounds from the Pacific Northwest. Although the book is small in size, the sharp colours translate well even to medium sized groups. Virtual storytime would work even better. I recommend all of their books to highlight Indigenous art and stories.

Rot, the Bravest in the World! by Ben Clanton
I have a soft spot for Rot because my niece was OBSESSED with the first book. This follow-up does not disappoint – take it on all your school visits! Great for grades K – 3, this longer title is all about believing in yourself (with lots of fun wordplay thrown in).

Smashy Town by Andrea Zimmerman and David Clemesha; illustrated by Dan Yaccarino
Being as Trashy Town is IMHO a great storytime book I was happy to find this sequel just as good. Mr. Gilly returns in a demolition derby. Construction fans will beg to take this one home. I liked all the different sounds and use of repetition to make the book come alive. Perfect for preschool.

Snail Crossing by Corey R. Tabor
Oh man this was one of my favourite picture books of 2020 in general. The storyline about perseverance and friendship were right up my alley, and I think it works well with kids all the way up to grade 3. I laughed, I cried, I just plain loved it.

Snakes on the Job by Kathyrn Dennis
A follow-up to the 2019 title, this one is more about construction than snakes in case you’ve got a case of ophidiophobia. Perfect for toddlers and preschoolers who will enjoy making the repetitive “hisshh” sound as you read it aloud. And it looks like Snakes are going to space next year.

This Little Pup by Laura J. Bryant
Go on a farm adventure as you follow a dog chasing a bright blue ball. In addition to counting you can also make all the animal sounds. The bright pictures make it a good choice for virtual storytime. Try tracing your finger along the black dotted line signifying the bounces. A great choice for kids 5 and under.

Two Dogs on a Trike by Gabi Snyder; illustrated by Robin Rosenthal
This works as a nice counting book for toddlers or a more sophisticated story about inclusion and noticing others for older kids. I’m still not sure if I think the cat was lonely or an evil mastermind. Short simple sentences keep the pace jaunty and the illustrations are filled with humour. A top choice for in-person or virtual.

We are Water Protectors by Carole Lindstrom; illustrated by Michaela Goade
A wonderful school-age read aloud, this gem comes from Indigenous creators and focuses on the role they have to play in keeping the earth’s natural resources safe. The illustrations are stunning, and the text is sophisticated and beautiful. An inspiring choice for the whole community.

What’s Up, Maloo? by Geneviève Godbout
A great choice to support social emotional learning. The focus is on listening and noticing how others are feeling, a key part of empathy. And sometimes it’ s hard to know what’s wrong! A good choice for mixed-age groups or a standalone preschool class.

Wheels by Sally Sutton
Another sound-filled storytime gem from Sutton. In this rhyming guessing game about vehicles, kids are prompted to “shout what’s coming” on each page. I’m curious if North American kids know what a “rubbish truck” is, but what a great conversation starter. Your toddlers and preschoolers will be begging to check this one out. Recommended for virtual programs, especially small groups who can unmute and make guesses out loud.

When We Are Kind by Monique Gray Smith, illustrated by Nicole Neidhardt
Smith keeps writing storytime winners. A top choice for babies and toddlers, this  book highlights how to be kind to others, ourselves, and the earth. Present day Indigenous families are featured in the illustrations. Recommended for virtual storytimes.

You Are Awesome! by Susann Hoffmann
Bright, bold pictures? Check. Short, simple, affirmative text? Check. Diverse cast of kids? Check. A total storytime winner, especially for your littlest library patrons. After reading each page I would switch the phrase around and encourage kids to say, “I am [fill in adjective]!” Translates well to virtual storytimes.

I hope this list equips you with some fresh choices to take to storytimes no matter how or when they happen in the future. Which books published in 2020 did you love reading at storytime this year? What books worked especially great in a virtual storytime? Please share your favourites in the comments!

46 thoughts on “2020 Favourite Storytime Picture Books

    1. Thanks, Danielle! I haven’t read either of those and will check them out. Looks like more and more celebrities are getting into the picture book game.

  1. I happened to check your blog today for the first time in a while since there haven’t been many posts and was overjoyed to find this!

    1. Ah yes, I took the fall off from blogging, but happy to sneak in one last before the end of the year. What a lucky coincidence 🙂

  2. Hi from Spain!!! I’m an English teacher and a mother of three, and you can’t imaginé how useful your videos are for my job at school and for my kids at home, THANK YOU!!! The problem is money, because I want allí the books in the lists, ahah. Your blog is the BEST to find books in English , I hace many from the other lists. Tales care,
    Soraya

    1. Hola, Soraya! I am so glad our videos have helped both at home and at school. And I totally agree – I have to budget myself on books because otherwise my home would be overflowing. One of the good things about working at a library is free access 🙂 Wishing you all the best!

  3. Hi Lindsey! I teach English at different daycares in Berlin, Germany and often go to your Jbrary Site for clapping songs, games, themes etc. Thank you so much for the list of books. You’ve been a great help!!
    Have a Merry Christmas!!
    Chrissy Steuer

    1. Hi Chrissy, I love hearing from people who use Jbrary around the world! Germany is definitely on my list of places to visit as soon as travel is allowed again. Most people think I’m German because of my last name (it’s actually Danish). Thank you so much for your lovely comment and have a wonderful Christmas too!

  4. You always find books that I’ve never seen! And somehow I completely forgot The Button Book was published this year (2020 feels so long!). I just used I Love Me by Laronda Gardner Middlemiss during virtual storytime this morning, and it is officially one of my storytime favorites! Very much inspired by your awesome work, I made my own lengthy list of 2020 Storytime Favorites here: https://bookcartqueens.com/2020/11/28/2020-favorite-storytime-books. I have such a hard time choosing favorite books! Thanks for all you do!

    1. How the heck did I miss your list???!! It’s so cool to read someone else’s choices and see what I missed too. I will definitely check out I Love Me. Thanks so much for being a top rate blogger and consistently sharing new ideas for youth services.

  5. Thanks so much for this list. I am still working part-time from home due to my health compromises and need to find new and different books that are “publisher friendly”. I read online and need publishers that give permission on fb and YouTube and not in closed setting. Thank you and I love all of your videos !!

    1. Definitely a challenge these days! I am working at home too, and it can be hard not having the books right at your fingertips like I’m used to. Thank you for your kind words and I’m wishing you all the best, Bonnie!

  6. Thanks for this Lindsey! As a library assistant who is responsible for all the programming at my library, I’ve enjoyed your awesome resources for years. You and Dana (who I had the pleasure of working with for a while in Miramichi, NB…Hi Dana!) have made it so much easier to do my job over the years and I appreciate all the time and effort you both have put in to the upkeep of your blog and YouTube channel. Keep up the good work!

    1. Thanks so much, Sonia! Your kind words really mean a lot to me. I know Dana has fond memories of the Miramichi, and I’m going to tell her to come check out the comments section for a surprise 🙂

  7. Adding another country to your list of thank yous — we are in a little library outside of Paris and are loving this list. Such a good way keep current with what’s being published in English. Going to see how many of these have been translated already .

    Thank you for all this work! Happy New Year! Bonnes Fêtes!

    1. Ah how wonderful! We get quite a few French books in Canada and though I can’t read French I try to keep an eye on the award lists. Have a wonderful new year as well!

  8. Thank you for this fantastic list! A bright spot in my week. It has been harder to track new books this year since my library has been closed since March. This helps tremendously and I’m so excited to read some of these new books at virtual story time! Have a wonderful 2021.

    1. Thank you, Ren! I would love to know which books work the best for virtual storytimes. One benefit of so many people doing virtual storytimes is that I’ve been able to “read” a lot of books I couldn’t get my physical hands on. I hope you have a wonderful 2021 as well!

  9. Thank-you for this wonderful collection! I always appreciate your creativity and collaborative efforts–especially now when online story times are all we can offer presently.
    Happy New Year!
    -Margaret

    1. Happy New Year, Margaret! Thank you for your kind words. I can’t wait until we can do in-person programs again. Hopefully by the end of the year *fingers crossed*

  10. I am a pediatric occupational therapist with the New York City Department of Efucation. I cannot thank you enough for your songs and finger plays, which have been an invaluable resource for me in planning remote therapy sessions during these challenging times. I am able to brighten my students’ days and help them feel successful by using your models.
    THANK YOU!!

    1. Hi Katherine, it is so amazing to hear from people in different professions who use our video resources. It makes me feel warm and fuzzy knowing we’ve had even the smallest help in brightening your students’ days. Thank you so much for sharing and for your kind words – we wish you all the best! Give the little ones a special hello from Jbrary 🙂

  11. January break is almost over – it’s time for inspiration! Jbrary is, of course, where I turn first! Of all your book picks, Don’t Worry, Little Crab by Chris Haughton is the one I was the most happy to be reminded of. Who knew such animated expression could be put into such abstract art? And the story is so touching! Bravo Chris Haughton, and thank you Lindsey, for your wonderful yearly storytime fave lists!

  12. I am so glad you kept up this tradition! I look forward to this list every year. As for my favorites, I am SO GLAD that the Lenny books by Ken Wilson-Max started coming back in print! This series is one of my favorites for toddler storytime – I love the everyday diversity. I’m also loving the Animal Sounds board book by Christopher Silas Neal – I think the high contrast and fun noises will make it a big hit during virtual storytime next week!

    Jessica

    1. Oh yes, I love Lenny, especially the one where he goes to babytime 🙂 Good to know they are back in print. I missed that board book by Neal, but it sounds perfect for virtual storytime. My colleagues have been delighted to find how well board books work in virtual storytime as we rarely used them in our large group in-person storytimes. Thanks so much for adding your favourites. I always learn about new books and new ways of presenting storytime from your blog.

      1. I am also loving getting to read smaller board books in virtual storytime! I don’t usually pay too much attention to board books (because like you said, large storytime groups) and I feel like I’m finding a whole new world. 🙂 And thanks for your kind words about my blog, Lindsey!

        P.S. Read Find Fergus this week in Hide & Seek virtual storytime and it was a HUGE hit – the hold list went way up afterwards! I pointed out the list in the end pages with all the extra things kids could find in the book if they checked it out. Love how this book goes great with a lit tip about visual discrimination (so important to telling similar letters apart and recognizing spaces between words) and like you said, vocabulary around same and different. Thank you so much for putting this book on my radar!

    1. Thank you, Nicki! I was afraid people missed the list when I shared it back in December. Glad to see it’s still reaching my people 🙂

  13. Thank you for this wonderful list and for all of the other amazing resources you have put together to share with all of us!

  14. Thank you for this wonderful list! As a virtual toddler and preschool teacher, this list has been my saving grace! I’ve gotten half the books on this list and it has been a big hit during my virtual class! Keep up the good work!

    1. That’s so great to hear, Annie! Hopefully we can see those kiddos in person before the end of the year.

  15. Thanks so much, I always love going through your lists and finding new books to use in my storytimes. Today I came your your blog specifically looking for inspiration for outdoor storytimes this fall while we are still encouraging physical distancing. This summer I used “Giant Pop-up Shapes” and gave the kids each a small stack of paper shapes to sort through as I read the clues for “what shape am I hinting at.” Then the kids found the shape that was their guess and held it high when I revealed the page that showed the correct shape. My group in the park is 75-125-ish, so I can’t count on them being able to see the pictures in a book. Do you have any suggestions of other books that may work well in an outdoor storytime?

    1. Jill, that is the most brilliant idea I’ve heard in a long time! I love how you found a way for everyone to participate in such a big group. I haven’t done any outdoor storytimes myself so I’m afraid I can’t make recommendations based on personal experience. My guess is that books that encourage movement would work well such as From Head to Toe by Eric Carle, Jump by Scott Fischer, Everbunny Dance by Ellie Sandall, I Got the Rhyth, Dancing Feet by Lindsay Craig, and Is Everyone Ready for Fun? by Jan Thomas. I’d also look for singable books like I’m a Dirty Dinosaur, We are the Dinosaurs, or If You’re Happy and You Know It (I like Cabrera’s version). I’ve got more on this Pinterest board:https://www.pinterest.ca/jbrary/singable-books-for-storytime/

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