Choosing the best picture books of the year is one of my favorite things to do as I stare down the close of another year. It's so fun to go back through and enjoy the books all over again--even the ones I haven't stopped reading for months (those are truly the best!). Here are the Top 10 and you can see all 20 of the best picture books of 2012, in best-selling order, here.
Editors' Picks for the Best Picture Books of 20121. This is Not My Hat by Jon Klassen: Klassen's award-winning book I Want My Hat Back was a big hit in 2011 and his new one is every bit as fun. This is Not My Hat flips the story so this time it's the thief we are following--in this case a little fish who steals a bowler hat from a very large fish--as he tries to get away with it. I love this book so much because the illustrations effortlessly tell much of the story and the ending invites conversation as both fish go into the tall weeds and only the big one comes out. With his hat on. What happened to the little fish? Maybe he got eaten, maybe they had a talk and he gave it back, maybe he dropped the hat and escaped. It can be different every time, limited only by a child's (or parent's) imagination. I chatted with Klassen a few weeks ago in the Amazon offices and he drew while we talked--you'll recognize the turtle from the first book and the crab from the second. You can see the video after our #10 pick below.
2. The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore by William Joyce: Joyce has had a busy year--the animated short film version of this picture book won an Oscar (!) and he published the next 3 books in his terrific new chapter book series, The Guardians of Childhood--you may also recognize that title from the movie adaptation out now. The Fantastic Flying Books...is a picture book for book lovers, sharing an appreciation for stories, however they are told, and illustrated in wondrous detail.
3. Pete the Cat and His Four Groovy Buttons by James Dean and Eric Litwin: Pete the Cat is a new favorite around my house, and for good reason. Pete is laid back and loves to tell a story with a song. In Pete the Cat and His Four Groovy Buttons, Pete does the math (in song, of course) on how many buttons he has left after yet another one pops off until the final button goes... but it's still not the end (Pete still has a belly button!). Really fun to read aloud, and a big hit with the PreK-K set.
4. Olivia and the Fairy Princesses by Ian Falconer: This is one of my favorite Olivia books so far. In true Olivia fashion she wants to be different and this time she's eschewing the pink princess trend that all the girls (and a couple of boys) are following. Falconer's illustrations are brilliant and I particularly love how Olivia tries on princess alternatives and goes through a Martha Graham phase. Pure Olivia fun with a great message about identity and self-confidence.
5. Big Mean Mike by Michelle Knudsen and Scott Magoon: The picture book version of an often told story--a character with a hard exterior is found to be hiding a heart of gold. Mike is a tough, leather jacket wearing bulldog who keeps finding fuzzy white bunnies hiding in his big, loud, muscle car. He tries to resist their cute little bunny faces but at last he just has to give in and enjoy their company. I love the message about standing up for friends in the face of the "in" crowd and not judging people by their exterior. And there are bunnies wearing sunglasses. Need I say more?
6. Llama Llama Time to Share by Anna Dewdney: LLama Llama always hits the right notes and sharing is an ideal topic for toddlers on up who can relate to Llama's dramas. Dewdney gets the dynamics of little ones sharing--and then suddenly deciding they no longer want to--often with the result we see in the book of the very toy being fought over ending up broken in the struggle. All's well that ends well for Llama and Time to Share is worth reading over and over.
7. The Cloud Spinner by Michael Catchpool and Alison Jay: Alison Jay's illustrations have a special quality of being beautifully detailed but the feel is warm and simple--her style is easily recognizable and she's one of my favorites. Jay's images perfectly embody a soft and heartfelt environmental message that touches on greed and preservation of resources. Best of all, it's the kids in the story who see what is happening and take action. Every time I read this book I think of someone else I want to give it to.
8. The Adventures of Little Nutbrown Hare by Sam McBratney: Guess How Much I Love You is still a favorite with parents and kids so having a new Nutbrown Hare story this year is really exciting. In each of the four stories that make up Adventures...budding independence is tempered by parental support and reassurance that makes the Nutbrown Hare books relatable and timeless.
9. The Duckling Gets a Cookie!? by Mo Willems: The Pigeon is joined by an adorable little duckling who gets what he wants just by asking...politely. Duckling and Pigeon are both sides of the coin and it's easy for little ones to make the connection between using good manners and kindness rather than a temper tantrum to get what you want--whether it's a cookie or a friend.
10. I Have a Dream by Martin Luther King Jr. and Kadir Nelson: Kadir Nelson's stunning illustrations accompany the full text of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s historic "I Have a Dream" speech in a new picture book that includes an audio CD of the original speech from 1963 . King's words and Nelson's images are a powerful and breathtaking combination that has award-winner written all over it.
Amazon Talks to Jon Klassen, Author of "This is Not My Hat"