The picture book section of our library is like a candy store for me. Boy Detective is now eight years old, but he still enjoys good picture books, so there’s nothing to stop me from collecting armfuls of them. Then I bring you the best here on the blog! All my children’s book recommendations are here, or check out my children’s books Pinterest board.
And here in this post, the most recent additions to our “must read” list. Get out that library card, plan a trip to the bookstore, or whatever you need to do – don’t miss these picture books!
(New to my blog? My book posts all use affiliate links, but check your local library too!)
Ace Dragon Ltd. by Russell Hoban and Quentin Blake.
Of course John found a dragon living under a manhole cover. Where else would you find one? And for their first meeting? A rendezvous at the Dragonham East station of the Underground. The dragon wore Wellingtons. John had a sword. And so it began. Totally eccentric and very pleasant.
More like this: children’s books about dragons.
Bird by Beatriz Martin Vidal.
This is one of the most beautiful, strangest, most intriguing children’s books I’ve ever read. It begins with a bird flying through a dark sky, while a young person in white is getting ready… for what exactly? Nothing about the narrative is handed to you, but you’re pulled along as the bird makes progress and the young person is clearly waiting for something. I don’t know whether to classify this as fantasy or science fiction. Or maybe it’s unclassifiable.
The back cover says “Let Your Imagination Fly.” If engaging the imagination was Vidal’s goal, she’s succeeded. The art is delicate, sophisticated, and clearly done with great care. (Some of it is watercolor, and some colored pencil, I think?) Absolutely worth reading with a child, or on your own.
More like this: children’sbooks about magic, for the dreamy and fantastical!
The Boy Who Cried Bigfoot by Scott Magoon.
An unseen narrator introduces us to Ben, a “tenacious little fellow” who is entirely unsuccessful in convincing his town that he’s seen Bigfoot. Which of course he hasn’t. (That might be the problem.) His efforts leave him alone at the edge of the woods as the sun’s going down… with a new admirer. Magoon has reinvented the classic warning against lying in a totally satisfying way. The narrator’s amused voice is just perfect. I also loved watching the changes in coloring of the woodland scene as they day got later and later. Very pretty.
The Fun Book of Scary Stuff by Emily Jenkins, with pictures by Hyewon Yum.
A child make a list of the things that scare him, at his father’s behest. Dad probably didn’t predict that he’d discuss the list extensively with his two dogs, one of whom has PLENTY of commentary on what’s suitable to be scared of. The result is so funny! Great as a read about fears, also great as a read about talking canines.
Monster Trouble! by Lane Fredrickson, with illustrations by Michael Robertson.
I was so excited to see a monster book whose protagonist was someone other than a white kid, and I really wanted it to be good. Lucky me, it’s so much fun! Winifred Schnitzel is a smart, brave, resourceful young girl who wouldn’t mind the monster infestation in her room if they would just let her GET SOME SLEEP. After all, nodding off in your ballet class (or into your breakfast) is not great. But when research and trap construction fail, Winifred must find another strategy for chasing away the sleep-depriving creatures. And she does, with an ending that will amuse kids to no end. Fredrickson makes this rhyming text work perfectly, and Robertson is equally adept at drawing little girls and monsters. Win!
Peanut Butter and Brains: A Zombie Culinary Tale by Joe McGee with pictures by Charles Santoso
If you’re turned off by zombie gore, this is the zombie book for you. The undead in Quirkville have a few scrapes, and their skin’s a little grey (or blue), but they’re pretty tidy. One of them even wears a beret. However they do still have that pesky brain-eating behavior, so Quirkville residents stay well out of their way. (Santoso’s zombies are so cute, I’m surprised there isn’t an order form in the back for zombie dolls. They could probably just take my money.)
Reginald’s a little different. He prefers peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. But since zombies don’t have money (only pockets full of bugs), he’s forced into a life of crime. Little Abigail Zink, the smartest girl in town, shouldn’t have dropped her lunch bag. Or is this an opportunity to help integrate the zombies into Quirkville’s law-abiding community?
More like these: spooky and monster books.
The Daring Prince Dashing by Marilou T. Reeder, illustrated by Karl West.
The daring Prince Dashing has more enthusiasm than sense, which often alarms his parents. And the rest of the kingdom. I’m honestly not sure how he’s survived long enough to host a palace ice cream social, but the book would have been rather short if he’d been eaten by a crocodile while bathing. So he does host the social, and an interesting girl shows up! She eats her ice cream sundae on a tightrope and plays piano with her toes while doing a handstand. She’d be a great friend, but when she leaves at bedtime, the Prince still doesn’t know who she is!
His quest to locate this adventurous pal will be even more dangerous than his usual exploits. If that’s possible. Reeder obviously had so much fun reinventing Cinderella, and came up with something delightful. West’s cartoon style matches well, and I particularly enjoyed the reactions of the King, Queen, and everyone else to the Prince’s antics. Well done!
More like this: fun children’s picture books.
Job Wanted by Teresa Bateman and illustrated by Chris Sheban.
This poor dog! All he wants is a new job, pulling his weight on a farm. But this farmer doesn’t think he needs a dog. Luckily, the dog has clearly read some solid job search advice and he’s ready to demonstrate exactly what he can contribute to the organization. The colors are sweet and soft, and it’s pleasant to read out loud. Not a rollicking book, but a quiet friendly one.
(Side note, though: in children’s books, why is “the farmer” always a man, and sometimes he’s married to “the farmer’s wife?” I’m pretty sure women on farms also do their share of farming… Just wondering!)
More like this: children’s books about dogs.
Space Dog by Mini Grey
Mini Grey is one of our favorite kids’ authors and artists, and she nails it with this very British scifi picture book. The style is vintage radio drama, the protagonists are cute animals, and the message is inter-species harmony. What more could you need? Once you’ve read the story, double back and look closely at the newspaper backgrounds in the introduction to our characters – and don’t miss the end papers, of course. If you haven’t read her other books Toys in Space and the Traction Man series, you should read them as well!
Pigaroons by Arthur Geisert
I have never read a children’s book like this. Pigaroons tells the story of a theft. A clan of pigs descended from Spanish pirates (?!) steal a block of ice so their rivals, the River Patroller pigs, can’t win the annual ice sculpting competition. It sounds like a ridiculous comedy, but instead it’s this quiet tale of honest intelligent payback in a small town where the most advanced technology is apparently this steampunk-y dirigible? It’s like an alternate history period piece from some very cold part of rural Canada or the U.S. Midwest, where pigs became sentient, walk upright, and use tools. Reading about Geisert gave me context for where this intriguing book came from. Really, check this out if you have a chance.
More like this: children’s science fiction books.
What the Dinosaurs Did Last Night: A Very Messy Adventure by Refe and Susan Tuma.
My hat is off to Refe and Susan Tuma. They created the worldwide phenomenon Dinovember, where kids wake up to find their toy dinosaurs came to life overnight and got up to all kinds of antics. Then the Tumas produced this gorgeous, hilarious book of photographs depicting dinos caught in the act. Speaking directly to the reader, they tell a captivating story of how things can go when your dinosaurs come to life, and what those sneaky dinos might be up to next. Tons of visual detail here, and such creative poses for the toys! Everyone here thought this was hilarious. And I was glad not to clean up any of the scenes in the book.
More like these: children’s books about dinosaurs.
Samurai Santa: A Very Ninja Christmas by Rubin Pingk
Poor little Yukio! Christmas Eve has perfect snow for a snowball fight, but none of the other ninjas want to join him. They don’t want to end up with coal in their stockings, so they’re being extra good. (Perhaps it’s because I grew up in central Texas that I don’t understand why snowball fights are naughty. Do they always get out of hand?)
In any event, Yukio is ticked off, so he decides to run Santa out of the village for spoiling his fun. He acts as though Santa’s an intruder and sics all the ninja kids on him. What a shock when Santa turns out to be a samurai… with an army of snowmen! An epic battle ensues, Yukio comes to realize his anger-fueled decision wasn’t the greatest, but Santa sets everything right.
This book is full of funny little details, like the snowman whose carrot nose goes all the way through his head, sticking out the back like a hat (with leaves for decoration). After the epic battle, one of the ninjas is carried home on a stretcher because she or he is immobilized in a giant snowball. I really enjoyed how Pingk doesn’t just rely on “hey, look, ninjas” but instead created a complete, interesting story.
The bitty ninjas are cute, too.
Beautiful Warrior: The Legend of the Nun’s Kung Fu by Emily Arnold McCully
Young Mingyi is being pressured into marriage by the bandit Soong Ling. He’s a real jerk, but the fate of Mingyi’s family’s business is at stake. She wants a way out, so she turns to Wu Mei, a local nun who’s known as the “beautiful warrior” for her martial arts skills. Postpone the marriage a year, says Wu Mei, and tell the bandit you’ll marry him then if he can beat you in kung fu. Mingyi does, and thus begins a year of her life that will change her destiny.
McCully did a lot of research for this book, which is only right given she was working outside her culture and the book takes place in the 17th century. She thanks several experts in her Acknowledgements section, and includes an author’s note at the end giving the story historical context. Martial arts buffs will know Wing Chun; that’s the name Mingyi would eventually take. (If she was real rather than just a figure of legend, which she may have been.)
I’ve enjoyed McCully’s artwork since I read Mirette on the High Wire. In this book, her paintings have so much movement, and her landscapes in particular are gorgeous. Mingyi’s initial impetuousness and Wu Mei’s serenity as a nun both clearly show in their expressions and body language. I was so glad to find a historical, female-centric martial arts book to complement some of the more modern, funny martial arts books we’ve also enjoyed.
More like this: children’s books about ninjas and samurai.
Hiawatha and the Peacemaker by Robbie Robertson with illustrations by David Shannon
Robbie Robertson is of Mohawk and Cayuga descent. In this book, he shares a story he heard growing up. It’s based on true historical figures, and it’s about how the oldest known participatory democracy on Earth was formed. It’s also about personal healing after tragedy and turning away from violence.
The writing works so well because Robertson focuses in on his two title characters, and most deeply on Hiawatha, a man struggling with pain and grief due to the murder of his family. He agrees to travel with the Peacemaker and help him share a vision of peace even though he doesn’t believe it yet himself. His emotional journey during the book is profoundly real. It takes him over half the book to even remember the joy of his lost family, instead of being consumed by anger.
Despite these big themes, it’s totally appropriate for elementary school aged children. They may not get the full depth of emotion here that adults will, but the message of peace and forgiveness will come though clearly. It’s also absolutely gorgeous. David Shannon absolutely wins here. So many of the pages could be paintings hanging in an art museum.
(If you’re familiar with Longfellow’s poem about Hiawatha, don’t get confused. Longfellow got the name of his character totally wrong, as well as many other details.)
And that’s the list of books for kids we’ve been loving lately! If you have any suggestions, please leave them in the comments – and thanks for sharing this post on social media or with friends, so more people can find these great books!