Review: Small Things by Mel Tregonning

Review: Small Things by Mel Tregonning
Source: Hardcopy courtesy of Pajama Press. Thank you!
Publication: March 1, 2018 (as per publisher site; first published 2016 by Allen & Unwin)
Book Description:

A stunning graphic picture book about childhood anxiety from an extraordinarily talented illustrator. On the cusp of having everything slip from his grasp, a young boy has to find a way to rebuild his sense of self.

In this short, wordless graphic picture book, a young boy feels alone with his anxiety. He isn’t fitting in well at school. His grades are slipping. He’s even lashing out at those who love him.

Talented Australian artist Mel Tregonning created Small Things in the final year of her life. In her emotionally rich illustrations, the boy’s worries manifest as tiny beings that crowd around him constantly, overwhelming him and even gnawing away at his very self. The striking imagery is all the more powerful when, overcoming his isolation at last, the boy discovers that the tiny demons of worry surround everyone, even those who seem to have it all together.

This short but hard-hitting wordless graphic picture book gets to the heart of childhood anxiety and opens the way for dialogue about acceptance, vulnerability, and the universal experience of worry.

Small Things is one of those tremendous reads that is an experience…the same potent feelings reading and poring over the work of incredible artists/creators like Julie Morstad and Shaun Tan is what I experienced during my reading of Tregonning’s work. Mel Tregonning‘s Small Things, a wordless graphic picture book, is all at once superbly illustrated, unforgettable, extremely emotionally resonant, beautiful, heartbreaking, and hopeful all at once. Far too often I have had conversations with a parent or caregiver at the library who does not see merit in wordless books; an adult who tries to dissuade their child from reading a wordless picture book as ‘there are no words in it, why would you read it’. I find this crushing and a total disservice to the potent, consequential nature of wordless graphic books like Small Things.

In Small Things, readers follow the story of a young boy who we learn is dealing with snowballing stress and anxiety. He tries to fit in with a group at school that rejects him; he gets chosen last for teams in gym class; and his marks for exams are not at the A level we understand he wants them to be. We see anxiety building in the young boy, illustrated by otherworldly creatures (floating objects in abstract, graphic shapes and patterns) hovering around the young boy, swelling in size and numbers as his anxiety grows. As anxiety bleeds with anger and lashing out at his sister and those that are kind to him at school, cracks appear on the boy’s body…metaphorically and literally, the boy’s body is fracturing and falling apart. Tregonning does, however, allow for flashes of hope and the possibility of healing towards the end of the story as the young boy opens up to his family…the last few panels also offer an auspicious and weighty ending to the story when the boy goes to school the next day and sees that anxiety, stress and isolation is all around him, even with his compassionate friend.

Overall, I highly, highly recommend this title for readers young and old. The initial thoughts I had when I added Small Things to my must-read list (not knowing anything about the creator or her body of work) was how stunning it looked and how much it reminded me of Shaun Tan’s exceptional work. If you are interested in reading further, there is an article in The Guardian that discusses how Shaun Tan actually helped bring Small Things to completion and posthumous publication after the death of Tregonning. An exceptional, stand-out piece that opens the way for discourse on mental health, I hope Small Things is a title that gets shared, talked about and appreciated.

I received a copy of this title courtesy of Pajama Press in exchange for an honest review. All opinions and comments are my own.

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Best of 2017, Part 2: Picture Books & more!

Welcome to Part 2 of my Best of 2017 posts, which is all about picture books (including early fiction, readers and non-fiction picture books)! This reading year was picture book intensive– as you can tell from the sheer volume of awesome titles! There are so many incredible, unique, innovative and beautiful titles I had the absolute pleasure of reading and discovering this year. I have divided the list into three parts: the VIPs (i.e. titles of exceptional merit, in my opinion), other standout/best titles, and then non-fiction. If you’re interested in checking out more of my best of picks, you can take a look here at Part 1 of my Best of 2017 picks– including everything from Children’s lit, YA to Humour!

 

Picture Book & Board Book VIPs:
Town Is by the Sea by Joanne Schwartz, illus. Sydney Smith
Wolf in the Snow by Matthew Cordell
Professional Crocodile by Giovanna Zoboli illus. by Mariachiara Di Giorgio
The Little Red Cat Who Ran Away and Learned His ABC’s (the Hard Way) by Patrick McDonnell
A Day with Yayeh by Nicola I. Campbell, illus. Julie Flett
When We Were Alone by David Alexander Robertson, illus. Julie Flett
King of the Sky by Nicola Davies, illus. Laura Carlin
After the Fall by Dan Santat
Little Fox in the Forest by Stephanie Graegin
You Don’t Want a Unicorn! by Ame Dyckman, illus. Liz Climo
Jabari Jumps by Gaia Cornwall
Yak and Dove by Kyo Maclear, illus. Esme Shapiro
Samson in the Snow by Philip C. Stead
Tony by Ed Galing, illus. Erin E. Stead
When the Moon Comes by Paul Harbridge, illus. Matt James
A Greyhound, A Groundhog by Emily Jenkins, illus. Chris Appelhans
Look, Look Again by Agnese Baruzzi (board book)

 

Rest of the Best Picture Books, Board Books & Readers:
The Fog by Kyo Maclear, illus. Kenard Pak
Counting with Tiny Cat by Viviane Schwarz
Winter Dance by Marion Dane Bauer, illus. Richard Jones
La La La: A Story of Hope by Kate DiCamillo, illus. Jaime Kin
Lines by Suzy Lee
Ida, Always by Caron Levis, illus. Charles Santoso
Bob, Not Bob!: *to be read as though you have the worst cold ever by Liz Garton Scanlon, Audrey Vernick, illus. Matthew Cordell
The Chupacabra Ate the Candelabra by Marc Tyler Nobleman, illus. Ana Aranda
Not Quite Narwhal by Jessie Sima
Wild One by Jane Whittingham, illus. Noel Tauzon
His Royal Highness, King Baby: A Terrible True Story by Sally Lloyd-Jones, illus. David Roberts
This House, Once by Deborah Freedman
Boat of Dreams by Rogério Coelho
The Road Home by Katie Cotton, illus. Sarah Jacoby
Nothing Rhymes With Orange by Adam Rex
Tree: A Peek-Through Picture Book by Britta Teckentrup
That Neighbor Kid by Daniel Miyares
South by Daniel Duncan
My Awesome Summer by P. Mantis by Paul Meisel
Marigold Bakes a Cake by Mike Malbrough
Stay: A Girl, a Dog, a Bucket List by Kate Klise, illus. M. Sarah Klise
The Gold Leaf by Kirsten Hall, illus. Matthew Forsythe
Treat by Mary Sullivan
The Book of Mistakes by Corinna Luyken
The Teacher’s Pet by Anica Mrose Rissi, illus. Zachariah OHora
Wee Sister Strange by Holly Grant, illus. K.G. Campbell
Love Is by Diane Adams, illus. Claire Keane
The Wolf, the Duck, and the Mouse by Mac Barnett, Jon Klassen
The Lines on Nana’s Face by Simona Ciraolo
Gary by Leila Rudge
Rapunzel by Bethan Woollvin
Plankton is Pushy by Jonathan Fenske
Lily Wool by Paula Vásquez
123 Dream by Kim Krans
Charlotte the Scientist Is Squished by Camille Andros, illus. Brianne Farley
A Hat for Mrs. Goldman: A Story About Knitting and Love by Michelle Edwards, illus. G. Brian Karas
Shapes, Reshape!: A Minibombo Book by Silvia Borando
1 Big Salad: A Delicious Counting Book by Juana Medina
Hotel Bruce (Bruce #2) by Ryan T. Higgins
A Perfect Day by Lane Smith
The Rooster Who Would Not Be Quiet! by Carmen Agra Deedy, illus. Eugene Yelchin
Smoot: A Rebellious Shadow by Michelle Cuevas, illus. Sydney Smith
Over and Under the Pond (Over and Under) by Kate Messner, illus. Christopher Silas Neal
We Are Growing! (Elephant & Piggie Like Reading! #2) by Laurie Keller, Mo Willems (Reader)
Before & After by Jean Jullien (board book)
Flora and the Ostrich: An Opposites Book by Molly Idle (board book)
Arctic Animals by Tad Carpenter (board book)

 

Non-Fiction:
I’m Just No Good at Rhyming: And Other Nonsense for Mischievous Kids and Immature Grown-Upsby Chris Harris, illus. Lane Smith
The Tragic Tale of the Great Auk by Jan Thornhill
Whose Poop Is That? by Darrin P. Lunde illus. Kelsey Oseid
This Is How We Do It: One Day in the Lives of Seven Kids from around the World by Matt Lamothe
Harlem’s Little Blackbird: The Story of Florence Mills by Renée Watson, illus. Christian Robinson
Shark Lady: The True Story of How Eugenie Clark Became the Ocean’s Most Fearless Scientist by Jess Keating, illus. Marta Álvarez Miguéns

Note: Some titles appearing on this list may have been published in previous years; titles on this list are ones that I read in 2017. Some titles appearing on this list may also have been provided by publishers in exchange for honest reviews; this has no bearing on making this list. These are my personal selections.

Picture Book Reviews: Professional Crocodile & Lines

Two glorious wordless picture books on the review docket! But first, a slight preamble:

I think I have previously reflected that authors and illustrators perform incredible feats in carrying out wordless picture books: plotting and mapping a story, holding interest, moving from beginning, middle, climax/reveal, to end, all without words to propel and prompt. Wordless picture books can be somewhat of a misunderstood/under-read category of picture books, and when I read treasures like Professional Crocodile and Lines, it pains me to think readers might miss out on so much! In my time so far as a children’s librarian I have heard kids being discouraged from checking out wordless picture books by adults saying they’re “too easy” or “not challenging enough”– essentially, boiling down to the argument of ‘without words to test you, what’s the point?’ Well, as someone who advocates and adores the category, I would like make the case that there is indeed marvel, challenge, curiosity and joy in sharing and experiencing wordless picture books! Let’s take a closer look now at two stellar examples:

 

Professional Crocodile by Giovanna Zoboli illus. by Mariachiara Di Giorgio
Source: Hardcopy courtesy of Raincoast Books. Thank you!
Publication: August 1, 2017 by Chronicle Books
Book Description:

Mr. Crocodile loves his job. Every morning he gets up with an alarm. He brushes his teeth. He chooses the right tie to match his outfit, eats a quick slice of toast, and heads off to work on a crowded train. But what exactly is his job? The answer may surprise you! Readers will want to pore over this witty, wordless book again and again, finding new details and fresh stories with every reading.

Professional Crocodile is one of those picture books that I am delighted to have read and experienced. Prior to reading this wordless picture book, I had seen snippets of the book from other reviewers, thought the book looked gorgeous and added it my must-read. I was very fortunate to be surprised with a copy of it and can now quite confidently say that it is indeed a marvelous picture book.

We meet Mr. Crocodile as he wakes up to a new day in his dapper pajamas. As we join Mr. Crocodile and follow him about, readers see that by all accounts, he is a careful, elegant, well put together character. We see Mr. Crocodile do everything from taking a crowded train, to enjoying a whiff of food stuff so fragrant and delicious that it begs his purchase, to purchasing lovely flowers to surprise a young woman. But where exactly is Mr. Crocodile’s day taking him? We then get our answer as Mr. Crocodile surprises with a reveal of where he works and what his job is! A straightforward premise told in a supremely innovative and clever way here, Professional Crocodile is one of those reads that begs for multiple reads and studies. I have pored over this book now multiple times beginning to end and have found new facets and details each time that make Professional Crocodiles ending that much more marvelous.

Some of my personal favourites in children’s lit- Shaun Tan, Molly Idle, David Wiesner, Suzy Lee, to name but a few- are masters of the wordless book, and Giovanna Zoboli and Mariachiara Di Giorgio’s work here is on par with that excellence. Professional Crocodile is a truly exceptional, clever, out of the ordinary story and experience for readers of all ages.

 

 

Lines by Suzy Lee
Source: Hardcopy courtesy of Raincoast Books. Thank you!
Publication: September 5, 2017 by Chronicle Books
Book Description:

It starts with a line. Whether made by the tip of a pencil or the blade of a skate, the magic starts there.

And magic once again flows from the pencil and imagination of internationally acclaimed artist Suzy Lee. With the lightest of touches, this masterwork blurs the lines between real and imagined, reminding us why Lee’s books have been lauded around the world, recognized on New York Times Best Illustrated Books lists and nominated for the Hans Christian Andersen Award, the highest international honor given to children’s book creators. This seemingly simple story about a young skater on a frozen pond will charm the youngest of readers while simultaneously astounding book enthusiasts of any age.

Since first reading (and rereading) Suzy Lee’s award-winning wordless picture books Wave, Mirror, and Shadow in succession, I have been a dedicated fan of the author-illustrator’s work. Sophisticated, experimental yet approachable for all ages of reader, Lee’s work is sublime, surprising and something to behold. In her latest wordless picture book Lines, Suzy Lee starts with the glide of a pencil tip to tell a gently- quietly- ebullient and ingenious tale.

Like a story within a story, Lines has layers and dimensions that draws the reader in and plays with perceptions about a story’s narrative, artwork, interruptions in reader experience, and how artists can turn a supposed slip back into something picture-perfect. Readers fall under the spell of an ice skater, watching as their blade cuts more and more lines of various width, shape, and weight into the ice. As the skater’s moves become more complicated, we see the ice become a patchwork of busier and busier carved lines until the ice skater leaps into a jump, spins in the air and— then– the story stops, restarts, and finishes in wonderful and surprising ways. Lee plays here so well with format and dimension, testing and nudging the reader into experiencing the story as both a journey of an artist working their way through a story and a standalone wintry narrative.

Lee’s work in Lines is terrific, thoughtful and understated brilliance, and I continue to be such a fan of her work. If you haven’t yet had a chance to explore Suzy Lee’s work, I highly recommend taking a look through the artist’s entire oeuvre up to and including this latest treat.

I received copies of Professional Crocodile and Lines courtesy of Raincoast Books in exchange for honest reviews. All opinions and comments are my own.

Recently Read: Great Picture Books!

Welcome to another Recently Read round up of great- and I mean tremendous- picture books! This entry features what I would more broadly categorize as children’s lit: there are picture books for the preschool and under crowd, but there are also some slightly longer and more mature illustrated children’s titles as well. In this round up are incredibly written and illustrated titles recently nominated for 2017 Canadian literary awards: the Governal General’s Literary Award nominated When We Were Alone by David Alexander Robertson, illustrated by Julie Flett; and the Governor General’s Literary Award nominated When the Moon Comes by Paul Harbridge, illustrated by Matt James. There are also wonderful new titles by authors and illustrators including more brilliance from Kyo Maclear and Esmé Shapiro, Julie Kraulis, and much more! I hope you have the time to peruse these wide-ranging beautiful titles:

When We Were Alone by David Alexander Robertson, illus. Julie Flett
A Day with Yayeh by Nicola I. Campbell, illus. Julie Flett
When the Moon Comes by Paul Harbridge, illus. Matt James
Yak and Dove by Kyo Maclear, illus. Esmé Shapiro
A Pattern for Pepper by Julie Kraulis
Little Home Bird by Jo Empson
Boat of Dreams by Rogério Coelho
His Royal Highness, King Baby: A Terrible True Story by Sally Lloyd-Jones, illus. David Roberts

Top Ten Tuesday: Unique Books I’ve Read…

Welcome to Top Ten Tuesday! Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created by The Broke and the Bookish. I have not been doing a great job with keeping up and participating, but I have been inspired this week’s topic: the most unique books we’ve read!

With the caveat that I have probably/most likely missed a number of unique titles here, I’ve picked ten titles- mostly all children’s titles- that, to me, stand out. Are unusual. Out of the ordinary. Seriously unexpected and seriously unforgettable. Perhaps even peculiar. In no particular order, here are my picks:

 

 

Du Iz Tak? by Carson Ellis
A picture book written all in imagined bug language (yes, indeed!), with gorgeous artwork…

The Liszts by Kyo Maclear, illus. Júlia Sardà
Kyo Maclear is up there as one of my favourite wordsmiths/storytellers. The Liszts is a newer title: a story about a list-making family that is beyond one’s expectations and imaginings. Sardà’s illustrations are…extraordinary…

Lost & Found by Shaun Tan
I am rather obsessed with Tan’s work. This was one of my first introductions to his work, and I haven’t stopped reading and poring over his incredible work since…

Bera the One-Headed Troll by Eric Orchard
The combination of Orchard’s unusual and beautiful style of artwork with the darker fairy-tale feel- a stand-out graphic novel…

The Sleepwalkers by Viviane Schwarz
Ah, The Sleepwalkers! I read this graphic novel after falling in love with Schwarz’s picture books. A genuinely unusual, offbeat but lovely and hypnotic story about a team of heroes who rescue children from nightmares…

A Child of Books by Oliver Jeffers & Sam Winston
A feat in storytelling, visuals and typography, this picture books is also a love letter to the power of books and words…

Press Here by Hervé Tullet
One of the first interactive perfect-for-storytime picture books I remember reading and arguably still one of the best…I would argue this was a game-changer and paved the way for more delightful interactive picture books to follow…I can’t imagine storytime with interactive books…

Art & Max by David Wiesner
David Wiesner, as with many authors and artists on this list, is a favourite. While most anything and everything by Wiesner is breathtaking and innovative, I must confess to a particular soft spot for Art & Max: a picture book about art, art styles, and two friends who test and bend art between the pages of this book that cemented Wiesner’s place on my roster of favourites.

Shadow by Suzy Lee
One of the first wordless picture books where I had a serious ‘aha’ moment about the beauty and signficance of the genre…Also: why isn’t everyone just as bananas about her work as I am?!?

Milk Teeth by Julie Morstad
This is a small book/collection of Morstad’s artwork. Surreal, dreamy, so strange and so beautiful…As with Shaun Tan’s work, I could forever be breathing in Morstad’s exquisite work…

Bonus mentions:

Virginia Wolf by Kyo Maclear, illus. Isabelle Arsenault

They All Saw a Cat by Brendan Wenzel

What titles are on your top ten this week?

Top Ten Tuesday: Recently Added to My To-Be-Read Shelf

Welcome to Top Ten Tuesday! Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created by The Broke and the Bookish. I have not been doing a great job (at all!) keeping up and participating, but I have been inspired this week! Now, this week is actually a freebie week, so I thought I’d focus on titles recently added to my to-be-read shelf!

A blend of picture books, mystery and fiction…In no particular order, here they are:

1. Little Fox in the Forest by Stephanie Graegin– a wordless picture book that I have been reading wonderful reviews about. Graegin’s illustrative work is lovely!

2. The Book of Mistakes by Corinna Luyken– described as Zoom meets Beautiful Oops!, I’m looking forward to seeing this gorgeous-looking picture book in person.

3. I Don’t Draw, I Color! by Adam Lehrhaupt, illus. Felicita Sala– regular readers of my picture book posts might know I just adore Lehrhaupt’s work! As soon as I saw this latest one come up on Goodreads, it went right to my must-read.

4. I Hate Everyone, Except You by Clinton Kelly. Any other folks here who watched TLC’s What Not to Wear? I’ve read and really enjoyed Kelly’s previously published fashion/entertainment books (love his humour and snark). I Hate Everyone, Except You is a little bit different- this one is actually a memoir- a collection of personal essays- and it sounds fantastic.

5. Tales for the Perfect Child by Florence Parry Heide, with illustrations by Sergio Ruzzier– a new edition of Parry Heide’s classic. I feel as though I have read this, many years ago, but I just cannot recall! In any event, I’m looking forward to rediscovering (or discovering!) this book, and can’t wait to see Ruzzier’s illustrations!

The next four are titles I added to my TBR immediately after reading terrific reviews for in Publisher’s Weekly:

6. The Outrun by Amy Liptrot– a fascinatingly described non-fiction title

7. Find Me by J.S. Monroe– a right-up-my-alley kind of thriller…

8. The Girl from Rawblood by Catriona Ward– a gothic horror/mystery!

9. Say Nothing by Brad Parks– another taut thriller that sounds just like something I’d be interested in!

10. Rabbit Cake by Annie Hartnett– an unmissable cover, intriguing description and narrator? Yes, please!

What’s on your Top Ten Tuesday this week?

Picture Book Review: Wolf in the Snow by Matthew Cordell

wolfinthesnow29102937Picture Book Review: Wolf in the Snow by Matthew Cordell
Source: ARC courtesy of Raincoast Books. Thank you!
Publication: January 3, 2017 by Feiwel & Friends
Book Description:

A girl is lost in a snowstorm. A wolf cub is lost, too. How will they find their way home?

Paintings rich with feeling tell this satisfying story of friendship and trust. Here is a book set on a wintry night that will spark imaginations and warm hearts, from Matthew Cordell, author of Trouble Gum and Another Brother.

Matthew Cordell‘s work in children’s literature is, to me, a constant source of joy and discovery. He is a picture book author/illustrator whose work I love recommending to kids and adults; there’s something slightly bonkers, usually funny and always meaningful in his story and drawing style. From his work in Another Brother (a personal favourite) to illustrations in the Justin Case series to Lost. Found., his work is truly excellent and little out of the box. Now, with Wolf in the Snow, an almost wordless picture book, his work as author and illustrator truly takes on another level of sublime.

The story begins as young girl waves bye-bye to her barking dog, waves bye-bye to her classmates and proceeds to get lost in a sudden and dangerous snowstorm. Running parallel to the young girl’s story is that of a young wolf pup who gets separated from his wolf pack in the same snowstorm. As the bundled-up girl struggles, sweats and ‘huff’ ‘huff’s her way through the snow, her path converges with that of the now-whining and scared wolf pup. Without giving away the entirety of the story here, I will say that the young girl shows tremendous tenacity, care and bravery in the face of obstacles, fear and exhaustion. At the climax, an incredible moment of kindness and recognition passes between child and wolf and wolf and human family, leading to a wonderfully stirring story. In their starred review of Wolf in the Snow, Kirkus writes that Cordell is able to, successfully, ‘capture many feelings’ through the almost wordless text by virtue of his expressive illustrations, elevating the story above and beyond another picture book about kindness. I would absolutely agree with this statement: the picture book is filled with evocative illustrations by way of facial cues- of wide, or red-rimmed, or tired eyes, of wolf gazes and stares- of physical movements including collapse, bodily exhaustion, drips of sweat, cold puffs of breath and more…Cordell tells so much, so effectively and deeply with his particular and unique illustrative style.

I hope we see Wolf in the Snow talk come around during Caldecott considerations! I for one, sometimes feel as though Cordell’s work is perhaps…well, not under-read nor under-appreciated, but I feel like it might really be his time to shine even more. Overall, I absolutely LOVE, love Wolf in the Snow– within the pages of this picture book is something luminous, aching, sweet and memorable for readers (and picture book aficionados) of all ages. Gorgeous!

I received a copy of this title courtesy of Raincoast Books in exchange for an honest review. All opinions and comments are my own.

Picture Book Picks: Perfect for Summer!

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From classics to new titles, here- in no particular order- are some of my picture book picks for summer:

 

BARNACLEISBORED26892078Barnacle is Bored by Jonathan Fenske
Rules for Summer by Shaun Tan
The Watermelon Seed by Greg Pizzoli
The Whale in My Swimming Pool by Joyce Wan
Flotsam by David Wiesner
Wave by Suzy Lee
Fred and Pete at the Beach by Cynthia Nugent
Harry by the Sea by Gene Zion
Snappsy the Alligator (Did Not Ask to Be in This Book) by Julie Falatko, illus. Tim Miller
Oi Frog! by Kes Gray, illus. Jim Field
The Specific Ocean by Kyo Maclear, illus. Katty Maurey
Flora and the Flamingo by Molly Idle
POPPYPICKLE28265627Poppy Pickle by Emma Yarlett
Land Shark by Beth Ferry, illus. Beth Mantle
Out of the Blue by Alison Jay
Quackers by Liz Wong
Are We There Yet? by Dan Santat
Stella, Star of the Sea by Marie-Louise Gay
This Is Sadie by Sara O’Leary, illus. Julie Morstad
Secret Tree Fort by Brianne Farley
The Night Gardener by Terry Fan and Eric Fan
Flashlight by Lizi Boyd
Emily’s Balloon by Komako Sakai
Pool by JiHyeon Lee
BIGGESTTHINGINTHEOCEAN1096163I’m the Biggest Thing in the Ocean by Kevin Sherry
I’m the Best Artist in the Ocean by Kevin Sherry
Ideas Are All Around by Philip C. Stead
Where Are My Books? by Debbie Ridpath Ohi
Mr. Gumpy’s Outing by John C. Birmingham
The Crocodile Who Didn’t Like Water by Gemma Merino
Pig Kahuna by Jennifer Sattler
Is Everyone Ready for Fun? by Jan Thomas
Scaredy Squirrel Goes Camping by Melanie Watt
Scaredy Squirrel at the Beach by Melanie Watt
Have You Seen My Dragon? by Steve Light
If You Want to See a Whale by Julie Fogliano, illus. Erin E. Stead

You can find more of my seasonal and ‘best-of’ book lists on this page!

Best Books of 2015, Part 1: Picture Books, Children’s Fiction & Graphic Novels

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Another year of reading is inching its way to an end! All around, I would say that it has been a pretty solid year of reads: from brilliant and moving picture books, to gems in young adult, children’s and adult fiction, there have been a number of winners.

In no particular order, here are my picks for best in picture books, children’s fiction, and children’s graphic novels:

Enormous Smallness: A Story of E.E. Cummings by Matthew Burgess, illustrated by Kris Di Giacomo
Hoot Owl: Master of Disguise by Sean Taylor, illustrated by Jean Jullien
The Specific Ocean by Kyo Maclear, illustrated by Katty Maurey
Swan: The Life and Dance of Anna Pavlova by Laurel Snyder, illustrated by Julie Morstad
Whimsy’s Heavy Things by Julie Kraulis
Bunnies!!! by Kevan Atteberry
Mr. Squirrel & the Moon by Sebastian Meschenmoser
A Fine Dessert by Emily Jenkins, illustrated by Sophie Blackall
Leo: A Ghost Story by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Christian Robinson
Lenny & Lucy by Philip C. Stead, illustrated by Erin E. Stead
This Is Sadie by Sara O’Leary, illustrated by Julie Morstad
Bug in a Vacuum by Mélanie Watt
Night Animals by Gianna Marino
Emily’s Balloon by Komako Sakai
Some Things I’ve Lost by Cybele Young
The Cow Who Climbed a Tree by Gemma Merino
The Princess and the Pony by Kate Beaton
Orion and the Dark by Emma Yarlett
Hank Finds an Egg by Rebecca Dudley
Tell Me What to Dream About by Giselle Potter
Pool by JiHyeon Lee
Black Dog by Levi Pinfold
The Memory Tree by Britta Teckentrup
Boats for Papa by Jessixa Bagley

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Goodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead
Lost in the Sun by Lisa Graff
The Hired Girl by Laura Amy Schlitz
Hilo: The Boy Who Crashed to Earth (Book 1) by Judd Winick
We Are All Made of Molecules by Susin Nielsen
Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson
Little Robot by Ben Hatke
The Blackthorn Key by Kevin Sands
Something Wiki by Suzanne Sutherland
Beyond the Laughing Sky by Michelle Cuevas, pictures by Julie Morstad
The Unseen Guest (The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place #3) by Maryrose Wood
First Class Murder (Wells & Wong Mystery #3) by Robin Stevens
Unicorn on a Roll (Heavenly Nostrils #2) by Dana Simpson

 

*Some titles may not have been published in 2015; the books are titles I read over the last year. Some titles may have been gifted from publishers in exchange for honest reviews; this had no impact on placing in this list.

Recently Read: Great Picture Books

I must sound like a broken record when I do these picture book posts and say- each time- how amazing the quality of children’s lit is! From picture book biographies of the incredible E.E. Cummings and Henri Matisse, to Kate Beaton’s picture book debut, there is no end to the wonder and richness in children’s lit.

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Enormous Smallness by Matthew Burgess, illus. Kris Di Giacomo . As I noted on Goodreads, I found this picture book moving and stunning. Burgess and Di Giacomo have shared Cummings’s life with us readers, showcased his profound way with words and made it all sing in one incredible picture book.
The Princess and the Pony by Kate Beaton. Beaton, the writer/artist behind the hugely popular Hark! A Vagrant, does not disappoint with this immensely entertaining, clever picture book about a strong Princess and her roly poly tooting pony. Any mention of farting usually sets off a young storytime audience, but Beaton’s bold, bouyant illustrations and comic text are the winners here.
The Memory Tree by Britta Teckentrup. A lovely and moving picture book about the death of a beloved fox and how fond memories keep him alive in the hearts of his friends. Beautifully and softly told, with gorgeous illustrations.
Float by Daniel Miyares. Miyares’s wordless picture book is one that tells a beautiful, moving and evocative story all through expressive and dynamic illustrations. Just gorgeous. Fans of Suzy Lee, Molly Idle, Marla Frazee or David Wiesner should definitely check this one out!
The Iridescence of Birds by Patricia MacLachlan, illus. Hadley Hooper. As with Enormous Smallness, The Iridescence of Birds is a biographical picture book. MacLachlan and Hooper have brought the upbringing, inspirations and work of Matisse to life in this wonderful picture book. The artwork here, by Hooper, is amazing and pulls the slightly indefinite narrative together.

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