As the holidays and winter break approaches, you may be asking yourself what “new” books can I buy for my son or daughter or pick up at my local library? Winter break is a great time to equip children with reading materials that maintain their current skill level and keep them happily entertained. I have enjoyed researching and reading a variety of current picture books. I would like to highlight 16 picture books, appropriate for all ages and published in 2016. It was difficult to narrow the selection to 16, but all are highly recommended. Some are award winners. Hopefully, these selections will make your shopping/book hunt easier.
16 Books from 2016
1. Immigration: This is Me! A Story of Who We Are and Where We Came From by Jamie Lee Curtis and Laura Cornell National Best Selling Team
If you were told that you were leaving tomorrow to live in another country and could only bring a small suitcase, what would you bring with you? What items make you unique/special? What items tell your story to others? This book serves as a great discussion starter with children about where they came from and what makes them unique/special.
2. Building Community/Intergenerational Relationships: Last Stop on Market Street by Matt De La Peña Caldecott Honor Book, John Newbury Medal, Coretta Scott King Award
A grandmother and her grandson take a bus ride across town to Market Street. The grandson asks several questions throughout the trip that the grandmother responds with an answer that makes the boy think about his surroundings in a whole new way. The grandmother saw beauty around her where others including her grandson least expected it.
3. Where will your imagination take you? A Child of Books by Oliver Jeffers
A wonderful book for exploring the impact of quality literature on the imagination. The storyline is brief but powerful as it follows a well read child and her friend on an imaginative adventure throughout the world of stories. The words and titles from forty children’s classics and lullabies create the themed story landscapes that the “child of books” and her friend explore. Repeated readings lend themselves to new discoveries (and further reading of the “classics”). Exploring the words and titles of the “text-scapes” is time well spent.
4. Caldecott Award Winning Non-Fiction: Finding Winnie: The Story of the World’s Most Famous Bear by Lindsay Mattick
Capturing the attention of Winnie-the-Pooh fans, is the true story of the bear that inspired Winnie-the-Pooh. Written by the great-granddaughter of Harry Colebourn. This story is about a military veterinarian from Winnipeg hired to care for the soldier’s horses. He purchased a bear cub while traveling with the army and named him Winnipeg (after his hometown). Winnie was an asset to the military. But when it came time for battle, Harry was concerned for Winnie’s safety. He brought her to the London Zoo. While there, a boy named Christopher Robin Milne visited Winnie and named his bear just that. It was Chris’ father that wrote about his son’s adventures with his stuffed animal Winnie-the-Pooh. The book is written in form of a of a story with information embedded in it. Photographs of Harry and “the real” Winnie are added to the end of the book to capture all the major events.
5. Inspirational for young girls/Science: Ada Twist, Scientist by New York Times Best Selling Author, Andrea Beaty
From a young age, Ada Twist is an observer. She is intelligent and inquisitive about discovering the world around her. Ada is constantly asking questions which lead her to conduct research and experiment. Her parents encourage her to pursue her passions and “figure things out.”
6. Literacy is mightier than the sword (the power of books): The Story Book Knight: Even Dragons Love a Good Story by Helen Docherty & Thomas Docherty
Leo, a small, gentle knight, loved to read. His parents felt that although there was “nothing wrong with reading, he couldn’t do just that!” They wanted him to fight and tame a dragon. So Leo, dressed in armor and “armed” with books, set out to find the dragon. He encountered “fearsome creatures” along the way. Luckily, he had read about them and used his knowledge, books, and read alouds to win them over. When faced with the “enormous” dragon, Leo persuaded him to clean up a village for a chance to listen to a story about dragons. Leo empowered all the creatures in the land. In the end, they all became readers.
7. For the child who wants to make a difference in the world: The Water Princess based on supermodel Georgia Badiel’s childhood by Susan Verde
A young, African princess named Gie, Gie dreams of bringing clean drinking water to her village. Every morning Gie and her mother wake up early and travel miles on foot to collect water for her family. They must stand in line to fill their pots with the “dusty-earth-colored” water from the waterhole. They carry the water upon their heads and return home by early evening. The water is boiled and used for cooking, washing and bathing. Gie, Gie wonders “why the water is so far away” and so dirty. Her mother encourages her to “dream” and make a difference “someday.” Having access to clean drinking water is a problem around the world. This book sheds light on this crisis. Photographs show how Georgie made a difference in one African village as an adult.
8. How artists can make a difference in the community: The Night Gardener by Terry and Eric Fan
William, a young orphan, discovers new, beautiful topiaries in his neighborhood each morning. The beauty of each topiary attracts more and more neighbors. On a mission to find the artist and creator, William sneaks out at night to follow the night gardener. He teaches William his craft and allows him to help create a park full of topiaries overnight. The next morning, the gardener leaves a pair of shears for William to carry on his legacy. The illustrations are beautiful. This book reminds me of Extra Yarn by Mac Barnett.
9. Non-Fiction: A scientist determined to explore uncharted waters: Solving the Puzzle Under the Sea: Marie Tharp Maps the Ocean Floor by Robert Burleigh
Marie Tharp, the daughter of a map maker, traveled throughout her childhood/young adult life. Her father’s work took him from state to state creating soil maps for farmers. She, like her father loved maps and later map making. In college, her teacher said that although half the earth’s surface was covered in water, scientists knew very little about the bottom of the ocean. She graduated college as a scientist she was determined to map out the seafloor. Despite the challenges that she faced in the 1940’s as a woman scientist, she used soundings to map the depths of the Atlantic Ocean. Her map showed the continental drift on the seafloor of the mid-Atlantic.
10. Spoiler Alert: Let Me Finish! by Minh Lê
A young boy finds a quiet spot to read a new book when he is interrupted by animals who spoil the ending for him. Animals spoil the ending for each new book that he begins. He is angered and implores them to “just let him finish!” I’ll let you “finish this book” without spoiling the ending.
11. Recognizing shapes in our environment: City Shapes by Diana Murray
Are you observant? Can you spot circles, squares, rectangles, ovals, triangles and stars in the city? The child in this story sees shapes all around her.
12. A Non-Fiction Marvel: The Secret Subway by Shana Corey
This is a story of New York City’s first subway. In the late 1800’s, Alfred Ely Beach created a secret underground subway with a fan-powered train. Could it solve the problem of over crowded New York City streets? The project took fifty-eight days to complete. He encountered several obstacles along the way. Passengers enjoy traveling on this “ride” but it had no destination. Although Alfred planned to expand the tunnel, his plan was put to an abrupt stop. All was shut down until the early 1900’s when others discovered it.
13. A story of one artist’s determination to pursue his passion despite being bullied: The Artist and Me by Shane Peacock
Realistic Fiction, told from the point-of-view of a young boy who confessed to bullying artist Vincent van Gogh (along with all the townsfolk). The story is set in the french countryside. Vincent, a poor man, looked and painted differently. Vincent continued to paint despite what children and adults said and did to him. The young boy followed Vincent around laughing and taunting him while simultaneously sneaking views of his paintings. The boy didn’t want to admit it but realized the paintings, although different were beautiful.
14. Look at the positive when problem solving: What Do You Do With A Problem? by Kobi Yamada
When faced with a problem, avoiding it can make the problem bigger. The boy in this story decides to confront his problem. Looking at it more closely, he realizes that a problem is an opportunity to learn, grow, and discover things about ourselves. What will you do with your problem?
15. Creativity and Perseverance: The Most Magnificent Thing by award winning author, Ashley Spires
A young girl has a “magnificent” idea in her mind about something she would like to create. She thinks building it will be easy. She becomes frustrated when her creation does not look or work like it does in her mind’s eye (even after several attempts). The angry inventor quits. Her dog/assistant encourages her to look at it again in a new light. She has an idea…
16. Loneliness, Happiness, and Friendship: The Uncorker of Ocean Bottles by Michelle Cuevas.
This book reminds me of Somebody Loves You, Mr. Hatch by Eileen Spinelli. A lonely man, who lived on the coast, would watch the sea each day for glass bottles containing letters to wash up to shore. His job was to read the letter inside and find its rightful owner. He secretly wished that one of the letters would be addressed to him. One day he receives a message without a recipient’s name. In an attempt to find who it is addressed to, he finds what he has been seeking all along… friendship.
-Jennifer Lipoma (Grade 3, Title I)
Other great books published this year (I’ve read most of them):