Best of 2016: Picture Books

In Books by Matthew Winner2 Comments

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Excellence abounded in picture books this year, taking the form of piano-playing bears, Debbie-loving foxes, and the secret language of insects. Our picture book features this year included Worm Loves Worm, Swap!, Swatch: The Girl Who Loved Color, Return, and Samson in the Snow, but there were many more we loved throughout the year.

Please enjoy our list of the best picture books of 2016. And don’t forget to check out our other Best of 2016 book lists posting throughout the week.

Baby Loves Quarks!
by Ruth Spiro, illustrated by Irene Chan

What do Baby and Nature have in common? They both like to build things! Baby builds things with blocks, and Nature likes to build things with quarks. This brilliantly executed board book introduces big science to little minds with the skill of a neurosurgeon. Also check out Baby Loves Aerospace Engineering!

Be A Friend
by Salina Yoon

Though differences can be intimidating—or even scary—at first, this gentle story reveals how unexpected beauty can be found in embracing the uniqueness we see in our neighborhoods and on our playgrounds.

The Bear and the Piano
by David Litchfield

Bear has been playing piano since he was a cub, but when he’s invited into the city to share his talents outside of the forest, he worries that leaving will let down his friends.

A Bike Like Sergio’s
by Maribeth Boelts, illustrated by Noah Z. Jones

Every kid seems to have a bike but Ruben. His luck seems to change when he picks up a hundred dollar bill dropped from the purse of the woman in front of him at the grocery, but the temptation of a new bike is overpowered by fear the next day as Ruben frets he’s lost the money.

A Child of Books
by Oliver Jeffers & Sam Winston

A young girl invites a boy away to “a world of stories”, where the landscapes are formed from excerpts of classic children’s books, in this breathtaking love letter to children’s literature.

The Day I Became A Bird
by Ingrid Chabbert, illustrated by Guridi

The story of a young boy falling in love for the first time, and an exploration of what kids will do to get the attention of the ones they love.

Du Iz Tak?
by Carson Ellis

Entirely told in bug language, this book will stretch your linguistic limits and you will be utterly charmed with each decoded syllable.

A Family Is a Family Is a Family
by Sara O’Leary, illustrated by Qin Leng

When a teacher asks her students what makes their family special, the heartwarming responses from the children demonstrate that families of all kinds are made of the same thing: love.

Hannah and Sugar
by Kate Berube

A tender exploration of fear and bravery, proving that sometimes we come face to face with courage in the places we least expect to find it.

Henry and Leo
by Pamela Zagarenski

This exquisitely beautiful book reminds us to let our little ones revel in their ability to see the world through eyes touched by magic.

A Hungry Lion, or a Dwindling Assortment of Animals
by Lucy Ruth Cummins

There’s a hungry lion and a bunch of adorable animals. What do you think happens next? This unique and original story—with lively illustrations—will keep you guessing until the end!

Ideas Are All Around
by Philip C. Stead

As an author and his dog, Wednesday, walk through their neighborhood, readers watch their thoughts transform into ideas. This book beautifully encapsulates the writing process and teaches readers about how books start as ideas and come to life.

Ida, Always
by Caron Levis, illustrated by Charles Santoso

A poignant portrayal of friendship that spans time and loss, this beautiful book is based on the real-life friendship of two polar bears who captured the hearts of visitors to the Central Park Zoo.

The Journey
by Francesca Sanna

This refugee story is told through a child’s voice as he, his mother, and his sister journey from unspoken danger in their home country to a place where they can be safe. The illustrations, paired with the close voice of the narrator, bring to life an experience unfamiliar to many of our readers.

Leave Me Alone!
by Vera Brosgol

Can’t an old woman knit in peace? Not if your very big family has anything to do with it. And so the old woman leaves her overcrowded home in search of a quiet place to knit. Will she find quietude in the forest? Or the mountainside? Or even on the moon?

Little Red
by Bethan Woollvin

This witty twist on “Little Red Riding Hood” shows us a girl who’s definitely not afraid of the big, bad wolf.

by Esmé Shapiro

Ooko is a fox who has it all: a stick, a leaf and a rock. Well, almost everything . . . Ooko has never had a friend! This is a story about friendship, patience, and staying true to who you are.

by Aaron Becker

The conclusion of Becker’s Journey trilogy brings us back to that incredible world where an evil force sets out to take back control of a magical set of writing instruments. But what is written in the history of Pallonezia speaks of a destiny fulfilled by our young protagonist. What does this all mean for a young girl, her father, and a set of magic writing tools? Explore all the wonders of Return, our August 2016 feature book.

Samson in the Snow
by Philip C. Stead

Samson is a woolly mammoth. His favorite color is yellow. True happiness for Samson, it might be said, is when he is standing in his field of yellow flowers. One day a red bird visits and asks if he might take some of the flowers to a friend (whose favorite color is yellow). Samson obliges. He then falls asleep and wakes in the middle of a terrible blizzard. Worried for his new friend, he sets out to find the red bird. Explore all the wonders of Samson in the Snow, our December 2016 feature book.

by Deborah Freedman

This sweet picture book about overcoming fears tells the story of Shy, a character who lives in the gutter of the book and must learn to overcome his shyness to achieve his ultimate dream of meeting a bird in real-life.

Snappsy the Alligator (Did Not Ask To Be In This Book)
by Julie Falatko, illustrated by Tim Miller

This dapper alligator is a bit of an introvert who likes scooting and shopping and sandwich-making, but what happens when an unwanted narrator bursts onto the page? This story.

The Sound of Silence
by Katrina Goldsaito, illustrated by Julia Kuo

Here is a story that looks at the sounds between the sounds. An important practice for kids (and their grownups) navigating a loud and messy world. Exquisite in both text and art.

by Steve Light

A young peg-legged swashbuckler agrees to help a saddened sailer repair is weatherworn ship. A red button sets the swapping in motion and the ingenuity of the barter is only second to the dedication of a child willing to go the extra length to bring some joy to another’s day. Explore all the wonders of Swap!, our March 2016 feature book.

Swatch: The Girl Who Loved Color
by Julia Denos

Swatch loves colors and fancies herself a color tamer. Capturing all of the colors in their wildest, most energetic, and sometimes most reserved states is her goal, but one there is one color which cannot be tamed. Explore all the wonders of Swatch: The Girl Who Loved Color, our May 2016 feature book.

They All Saw a Cat
by Brendan Wenzel

Observe and imagine with this picture book that teaches readers about perspective and how what they see can change.

Worm Loves Worm
by J. J. Austrian, illustrated by Mike Curato

Worm loves Worm. So much so that both agree to be married. But who will be the Bride’s Bees? And who will be the Best Beetle? Who’s going to carry the rings? And who’s going to wear the dress? Explore all the wonders of Worm Loves Worm, our February 2016 feature book.


  1. I post my PB favs on Friday. We have a lot of crossovers and you have some new to me ones on here. And then I see some on your list that makes me reconsider mine, ha ha! Happy 2016!

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