What do I love in a picture book? Snarky humor and surprise twists. Gorgeous art. Heart warming messages. The same things everyone loves, I suspect.
2009 In Our Mothers' House by Patricia Pollaco
In the mere decade since this was published, the idea of a children's book featuring two moms has become less surprising, though I'm sure there are those who would still challenge it. I didn't use to like Pollaco's art, but I've always loved her story-telling, and long exposure to her style of illustrations accompanying her wonderful stories has won me over. All of her works celebrate the transformative power of love.
2010 Chalk by Bill Thompson
Chris Van Allsburg was THE illustrator of the 80s and 90s. Thompson's style reminds me of his in that it is both realistic and playful, magical and recognizable. I loved reading this story about chalk drawings come to life with my kids when they were younger.
2011 Betty Bunny Loves Chocolate Cake by Michael B. Kaplan
This one just makes me laugh. Especially brother Bill. And when her mom tells Betty she loves her and Betty replies, "Mom--I love chocolate cake!"
2012 This Is Not My Hat by Jon Klassen
This little fish is so damn smug about his stolen hat that the ending (less surprising to those who've already read I Want My Hat Back) is quite satisfying. And the combination of the first two books means the third book, We Found a Hat, has that much greater of an impact. Really, you should read all three back to back.
2013 This Is The Rope by Jacqueline Woodson
Nope, I can't do it. This is a good book. Each Kindness is a great book. So we're going to go with two winners from 2012 and skip 2013.
Each Kindness walks a fine line between the "everybody learns to be nicer" message you'd get in your basic picture book about the topic and "what goes around comes around" of classic books about bullying such as Blubber and The One Hundred Dresses. Chloe learns a lesson, but she learns it too late. The hope comes from the way you can feel the impact that lesson will have on her entire life going forward. I've yet to read it to a middle school class that wasn't stunned to silence by it.
2014 Elephant and Piggie: My New Friend is So Fun! by Mo Willems
There are many, many excellent Elephant and Piggie books. This one dives a bit into deeper water than usual, as Gerald develops feelings of jealousy around Piggie making a new friend. The absolute best way to read all of these books is with a new reader taking one part and you taking the other.
2015 This is Sadie by Sara O'Leary
I have been trying to track this book down ever since I read it in a library a few summers ago. It is perfect. Illustrations are gorgeous, and Sadie is a delight. Imaginative, empathetic, creative, and fully involved in life. She's a role model for us all.
2016 Du Iz Tak? by Carson Ellis
This is one of the most unexpected books I've ever read. Several bugs and insects star, and naturally they don't speak English. But by careful attention to visual clues, the reader can translate the entire book, word by word (because at least the language used follows all rules of English grammar and syntax!).
2017 Press Here by Hervé Tullet
Translated from the French, this picture book is, like my 2016 choice, wildly inventive. The reader is coaxed to interact with the book physically, and with each press, twist, and nudge, the colors on the page seem to respond, moving, mixing, and multiplying. Another one that is truly best read with a kid in your lap to share the wonder.
2018 Dreamers by Yuyi Morales
This is an immigration story, and a mother's love story, and a celebration of books and libraries. It's artistic and liberating and personal. Read it.