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Best Picture Books of 2016

Each year, I do the difficult work of selecting the very best picture books. These books are outstanding in both prose and illustrations.

Without further ado, here are my top picks for the best picture books published in 2016.

A Bike Like SergiosA Bike Like Sergio's

written by Maribeth Boelts; illustrated by Noah Z. Jones

Ruben, the oldest child of four kids, wants a bike like his friend Sergio's. One day, a woman at the grocery store drops a hundred dollar bill and Sergio finds it. Young readers will feel their hearts pound as they struggle alongside Ruben to decide what to do. This is a truly compelling story that will spark conversations about poverty, honesty, and doing the right thing.

Marta Big & SmallMarta Big & Small

written by Jen Arena; illustrated by Angela Dominguez

This exemplary bilingual book tells what Marta is, using adjectives in both English and Spanish. For example, she is loud (ruidosa) like a lion (el leon) and clever (ingeniosa) like a snake (la serpiente). Short and sweet text introduces basic vocabulary in a fun and non-overwhelming way.

My First Book of the FarmMy First Book of the Farm and My First Book of Opposites

written and illustrated by Alain Gree

Why did these simple board books make my list? The charming illustrations, of course! The vintage appeal of the colorful, old-fashioned, and endearing pictures cannot be understated. Parents will love flipping through these sturdy books with their toddlers. Perfect gift pick for baby's 1st birthday! Side note: Alain Gree has written and illustrated over 300 books!

My Friend MaggieMy Friend Maggie

written and illustrated by Hannah E. Harrison

A beaver and an elephant are the main characters in this picture book...but young readers will relate to the key message about what it means to be a true friend. Sweet and endearing without being overly moralistic. Understated to allow plenty of room for discussion. This would be an ideal pick for a preschool/kindergarten read-aloud at a bookstore, library, or school.

My Name is James Madison HemingsMy Name Is James Madison Hemings

written by Jonah Winter; illustrated by Terry Widener

There are a multitude of books celebrating the brilliant accomplishments of Thomas Jefferson. This one offers a new perspective - from the voice of his enslaved son. Although fictional, it provides an important snapshot into the complicated + ironic life of author of the Declaration of Independence.

Sleep Tight FarmSleep Tight Farm

written by Eugenie Doyle; illustrated by Becca Stadtlander

This delightful picture book follows a young family as they prepare for winter on a farm. A bearded father, brunette mother, and two children (one boy, one girl) do a variety of tasks to protect plants + animals from the cold weather ahead - chopping wood, covering berry plants, pruning bushes, building windbreakers for beehives, and repairing chicken coops. What makes this book stand out is the gorgeous illustrations, reminiscent of Barbara Cooney. In fact, the book reminds me very much of The Ox-Cart Man. I look forward to seeing more work by the talented and up-and-coming Becca Stadtlander.

Some WriterSome Writer: The Story of E.B. White

written and illustrated by Melissa Sweet

Melissa Sweet has pulled together a splendid (and dare I say radiant?) biography of E.B. ("Andy") White that will appeal to both children and adults. Though not strictly a picture book, it is too lovely not to mention here. This title will be well-loved by writers, poets, and anyone who knows the importance of "choosing exactly the right word."

Step Right Up Doc and Jim KeyStep Right Up

written by Donna Janell Bowman; illustrated by Daniel Minter

Based on a true story from the 1800's, this picture book follows the life of William "Doc" Key - a medic, surgeon, and self-taught veterinarian. Doc believed in kindness toward men and animals. With gentleness and patience, he taught his horse - Beautiful Jim Key - to recognize letters, spell words, and respond to the English language. A remarkable story that is sure to inspire and enchant young animal lovers.

The Mermaid’s Purse PolaccoThe Mermaid's Purse

written and illustrated by Patricia Polacco

Another excellent autobiographical story from prolific author Patricia Polacco. This one follows the life of Patricia's grandmother Stella, a woman who loved books. Because of her ever-growing collection, Stella's father builds her a home library and dubs it "The Mermaid's Purse." An engaging story about the treasure of books.

Things To Do Elaine MagliaroThings to Do

written by Elaine Magliaro; illustrated by catina Chien

Turn the pages off this enchanting poetry collection to discover what to do if you are an acorn, an orb spider, a cricket, and more. Marvelous play on words. A smart way to introduce young readers to strong verbs, quality adjectives, and the concept of "show versus tell." Accompanied by fanciful watercolor illustrations.

Women Who Launched the Computer AgeWomen Who Launched the Computer Age

written by Laurie Calkhoven; illustrated by Alyssa Petersen

In this Ready-to-Read (level 3) non-fiction book, the reader is introduced to the very first computer (ENIAC)...and the women who helped design it during WWII. A fascinating history about female mathematicians and their little-known role in history.


Which 2016 picture books would you add to this list? Did I miss any of your favorites?