Best Picture Books of 2019

Another by Christian Robinson

Another by Christian Robinson

Cleverly designed, this wordless picture book is a joy to experience.

Bear Came Along by Richard T. Morris

Bear Came Along by Richard T. Morris, illustrated by LeUyen Pham

A wild ride of a book that is really all about shared fun and community.

the bell rang by james e. ransome

The Bell Rang by James E. Ransome

A harrowing look at slavery and freedom, this picture book reveals the truth of our American history.

Between Us and Abuela by Mitali Perkins

Between Us and Abuela: A Family Story from the Border by Mitali Perkins, illustrated by Sara Palacios

A strong and purposeful look at walls, immigration and family.

Birdsong by Julie Flett

Birdsong by Julie Flett 

The entire book has a gorgeous quiet to it that allows space for creativity to thrive.

The Book in the Book in the Book by Julien Baer

The Book in the Book in the Book by Julien Baer, illustrated by Simon Bailly   

The art and book design here are fantastic. The nested books even feel right inside the larger images that form a frame around them.

Camp Tiger by Susan Choi

Camp Tiger by Susan Choi, illustrated by John Rocco 

I am trying not to simply gush in superlatives about this book.

Fry Bread by Kevin Noble Maillard

Fry Bread: A Native American Family Story by Kevin Noble Maillard, illustrated by Juana Martinez-Neal

This picture book is about far more than a delicious family treat. Maillard looks at its connection to our nation’s history, the damage caused by the European invasion, and what fry bread means today.
   

Inside Outside by Anne-Margot Ramstein

Inside Outside by Anne-Margot Ramstein and Matthias Aregui

So gorgeously designed, the modern illustrations in this book have a harmonious feel to them as readers progress through boats caught in storms, ocean life, and even pounding hearts.

Just in Case You Want to Fly by Julie Fogliano

Just in Case You Want to Fly by Julie Fogliano, illustrated by Christian Robinson

This book is exhilarating and filled with dreams of journeys large and small.

Llama Destroys the World by Jonathan Stutzman

Llama Destroys the World by Jonathan Stutzman, illustrated by Heather Fox

Funny, scientific and zany, this picture book is so much fun.

Lubna and Pebble by Wendy Meddour

Lubna and Pebble by Wendy Meddour, illustrated by Daniel Egneus

Showing a more universal experience of refugees fleeing a war-torn country, the book really allows readers to deeply feel the loneliness and fright of a young child caught in this situation.

A Map into the World by Kao Kalia Yang

A Map into the World by Kao Kalia Yang, illustrated by Seo Kim

There is a beautiful delicacy to this entire book from the fine-lined illustrations to the skillful balancing of seasons changing, new babies and someone passing.

My Papi Has a Motorcycle by Isabel Quintero

My Papi Has a Motorcycle by Isabel Quintero, illustrated by Zeke Pena

A summer treat of a book, this one is worth the ride.

Pokko and the Drum by Matthew Forsythe

Pokko and the Drum by Matthew Forsythe

Unique and lovely, this is one to beat the drum for!

The Proudest Blue by Ibtihaj Muhammad

The Proudest Blue by Ibtihaj Muhammad with S. K. Ali, illustrated by Hatem Aly

Laced with quotes and insights from their mother, the book offers wells of strength, confidence and self-esteem to the girls that they carry with them.

River by Elisha Cooper

River by Elisha Cooper

There is something so invigorating and inspiring about this glimpse of someone making a journey of a lifetime.

Saturday by Oge Mora

Saturday by Oge Mora

Another winner from a gifted artist and storyteller.

Small in the City by Sydney Smith

Small in the City by Sydney Smith

A stellar picture book that reveals the heart of the city and the heart of a child.

A Stone Sat Still by Brendan Wenzel

A Stone Sat Still by Brendan Wenzel

This is a book willing to be slow and thoughtful. It takes its own time and asks the reader or listener to do the same. It is grounded in the most wonderful of ways.

Stormy by Guojing

Stormy by Guojing

A great wordless picture book about building trust and finding a home.

Sulwe by Lupita Nyong’o

Sulwe by Lupita Nyong’o, illustrated by Vashti Harrison

Dramatic and important, this picture book deals directly in self-esteem and racism.

Vamos Let's Go to the Market by Raul the Third

¡Vamos! Let’s Go to the Market by Raul the Third

A top pick for this year, every library should have this rich and vibrant book.

The Wall in the Middle of the Book by Jon Agee

The Wall in the Middle of the Book by Jon Agee

I love that this book can be read on two levels. There is the simple story of a wall in a book and then there is the political climate about walls right now in America. Agee shows that making the opposite side dangerous and “othering” them is unsafe for everyone.

When Aidan Became a Brother by Kyle Lukoff

When Aidan Became a Brother by Kyle Lukoff, illustrated by Kaylani Juanita

As the parent of a transgender person, this is exactly the sort of picture book our families need and other families must read.

Review: The Oldest Student: How Mary Walker Learned to Read by Rita Lorraine Hubbard

The Oldest Student by Rita Lorraine Hubbard

The Oldest Student: How Mary Walker Learned to Read by Rita Lorraine Hubbard, illustrated by Oge Mora (9781524768287)

Born a slave in the mid-1800’s, Mary was not allowed to learn to read. Even when emancipation came, she was unable to learn to read because she and all of her time was used in making very little money. When a group of evangelists gave her a Bible, she promised herself that one day she would be able to read it. All three of her sons’ births were recorded in that Bible by other people who could read and write. Mary could only leave her mark by the words. After a lifetime of hard work, Mary became too old to sharecrop any longer and took on other jobs like cleaning and babysitting. At well past ninety years old, Mary’s sons read to her but they each passed away, her oldest son dying at age ninety-four. Mary lived on and learned of reading classes taught in her building. She spent the next year learning to read, and finally could read at age 116. She was awarded the title of the nation’s oldest student by the US Department of Education and went on to receive many gifts, some from Presidents of the United States. 

Hubbard cleverly fills in the details of Mary Walker’s early life since very little is known about it. It is a fact that she had her Bible for over 100 years before she could actually read it. It is also a fact that she learned to read that quickly. Chattanooga, Tennessee gave her the key to the city twice in the 1960’s and has a historical marker in her name. Her life stands for the ability to learn at any age, the resilience of surviving slavery, and the power of the written word to bring opportunity into your life. Beautifully, the book doesn’t need to lecture on any of those values, Mary’s life simply speaks on its own.

Mora’s art is done in mixed media of acrylic paint, marker, pencil, paper and book clippings. She uses a heavily textured and painted background in some images that sweeps the sky across the pages. In others, patterns and words fill the space offering glimpses of her future long before she could actually read.

This picture book based on a true story is inspiring. Appropriate for ages 5-7.

Reviewed from copy provided by Schwartz & Wade.