Discover the best children’s picture books of 2019 about topics like identity, acceptance, friendship, history, feelings, and even worms. I know you’ll love reading all the books on this list with your kids and students.
This is my longest best-of picture book list ever! Can you believe what a year it’s been in publishing? I’m particularly thrilled to see more and more diversity. Hooray for progress!
You’ll find even MORE amazing picture books on another best-of list — the 2019 Best of Nonfiction Books for Kids list — coming soon.
The Best Children’s Picture Books of 2019
Up, Up, Up, Down! by Kimberly Gee
Lyrical and repetitive, this relatable storyline captures a day in the life of a talkative toddler and a stay-at-home dad with evocative, diverse illustrations. Sure to bring a chuckle to both you and your growing reader when you read it aloud.
Daniel’s Good Day by Micha Archer
A boy walks through his neighborhood talking to neighbors about what makes a “good” day. From the neighbor painting to the nanny pushing a stroller to a gardener and even his Grandma, Daniel listens and observes…and has a good day, too. Exquisite artwork plus a beautiful message about finding joy in the little things make this a wonderful, memorable story.
Red House, Tree House, Little Bitty Brown Mouse by Jane Goodwin, illustrated by Blanca Gomez
Fall in love with the simple, lyrical story showing the colors of a little girl’s world around her illustrated with bold graphic-style pictures
See the trains sparkle in the sun and in the rain.”
Field Trip to the Moon by John Hare
A sweet story is about a young artist on a field trip who gets lost. He spends his time drawing, then meets and befriends aliens who join him in artistic expression. The illustrations are stunning.
Another by Christian Robinson
An exuberant celebration of imagination and a feast for the eyes and mind! A little girl follows her black cat into a topsy-turvy world of colorful dots and rectangles, doors, kids, and twins– a girl and her cat who look exactly like them. The white space and repetition of shapes feel playful and fresh.
Priya Dreams of Marigolds and Masala by Meenal Patel
Beautiful writing, illustrations, and storyline celebrating India’s culture as well as a close grandparent-grandchild relationship. The author/illustrator creates an irresistible sensory experience with the smells, colors, and sounds of India.
B is for Baby by Atinuke, illustrated by Angela Brooksbank
You’ll love this story about a mischievous baby, West Africa, and words that begin with the letter B. Baby stows away in the banana basket on Brother’s bike. As Brother rides, he passes a baobab, baboon, bus, and other words that start with the letter B before arriving at Baba’s. When Baba looks in the basket, out pops Baby! Gorgeous illustrations.
The Bell Rang by James E. Ransome
Vibrant illustrations plus short, poignant and repeated phrases set the tone for a bittersweet, emotional story. Every day is the same — the bell rings, then her parents and her brother Ben go to the field, and she goes to Miss Sarah Mae’s to play with the other children. “The bell rings. / Daddy gathers wood. / Mama cooks. … Mama kisses me. / Daddy touches my neck / with rough hands.” But one day, her brother runs away. Atmospheric and important.
The Piñata That the Farm Maiden Hung by Samantha R. Vamos, illustrated by Sebastia Serra
Celebrate culture and family with this cheerful bilingual cumulative story about a farmer, his family, and their animals who all help prepare everything, including the piñata for the birthday party festivities.
Where Are You From? by Yamile Saied Mendez, illustrated by Jaime Kim
Often people ask the little girl where she’s from and don’t believe the girl’s answer of “here“. Abuelo explains that she’s from brave, strong gauchos, high mountains, warm, blue oceans, dark storms, sunshine,…and “from my love, the love of all those before us…you are from all of us.” It’s a beautiful celebration of identity.
The Undefeated by Kwame Alexander, illustrated by Kadir Nelson
This moving, emotionally compelling poem celebrates the strong, unforgettable, hard-working black Americans who persevered through slavery, prejudice, war, civil rights, and who rise up, cool and unbending. The lush, realistic illustrations feel transcendent.
Sweety by Andrea Zuill
Sweety is intense and weird and different than her naked mole rat classmates who don’t really get her. But Sweety’s Aunt Ruth thinks Sweety’s differences are the best things about her. This is a luminous celebration of being completely true to yourself, even if the world doesn’t get you, because your people will eventually find you.
When Charley Met Emma by Amy Webb, illustrated by Merrilee Liddiard
When Charley sees Emma at the park in a wheelchair who looks different, he initially loudly asks, “Why does she look so weird, mommy?” which makes Emma feel sad. His mom says, “Different isn’t weird, sad, bad, or strange. Different is different. And different is OK!” Charley apologizes and then asks Emma questions. Emma helps Charley know that even though she’s a little “differenter” than he is, she’s a lot the same, too. This compassionate story shares the importance of accepting differences with kindness and openheartedness.
The Donkey Egg by Janet Stevens and Susan Stevens Crummel
Impressively educational while being funny, charming, and warmhearted! Fox tricks Bear to buy a so-called donkey egg. Bear takes good care of his egg before realizing it’s not an egg, it’s a watermelon which rolls away and breaks. But don’t worry, soon Bear’s farm will be growing a new crop! Filled with fun details about the passage of time.
I Can Only Draw Worms by Will Mabbitt
Who wouldn’t love this zany counting book in neon pink, yellow, white, and black? The narrator explains that he can only draw worm so that’s exactly what he does –draws lots of worms. Ten worms in all with super funny commentary.
More Best Children’s Picture Books of 2019
A Stone Sat Still by Brendan Wenzel
This book helps us expand our thinking beyond one possibility. As we consider this stone, we learn how looking at something from other perspectives could be a guiding metaphor for how to see the world, too –a multi-layered, multi-dimensional, and rich-with-possibilities way of seeing the world. The stone is a stone. AND it’s also a pebble (to a moose) and a hill (to a bug) and a feel (to a raccoon) and a smell (to a wolf). Mind-blowing.
The King of Kindergarten by Derrick Barnes, illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton
Don’t miss this delightful book showing a sequential day filled with the many happy possibilities at school including storytime, recess, playing with new friends, and a kind teacher. Because today you’re going to be the King of Kindergarten! Rich imagery filled with hyperbole and metaphors harmoniously complement the lush illustrations, creating a festive atmosphere filled with exuberance and bravery.
Truman by Jean Reidy, illustrated by Lucy Ruth Cummins
A tender, well-crafted story about the first day of school from a pet tortoise’s perspective… When Sarah leaves, readers get a strong sense of place and emotion as Truman worries and waits for a thousand hours until he decides to go after his Sarah. Luckily, just as he’s about to leave the apartment, Sarah arrives home. Back in his habitat, he feels proud and Sarah reads him a story about her day. Absolutely wonderful.
Goodbye, Friend! Hello, Friend! by Cori Doerrfeld
These best friends show us how to say goodbye and hello. In fact, every goodbye leads to a hello. For example, goodbye to mom at the bus stop leads to hello to a new friend at school. “Goodbye to snowman…/…is hello to puddles!” Sweet example after example captured in tender, charming illustrations reassures kids that endings can lead to wonderful new beginnings.
Bear Came Along by Richard T. Morris, illustrated by LeUyen Pham
Bear discovers that observation of small moments can turn into big adventures with friends. He isn’t aware that he’s on an adventure until he’s floating down the river on a log with Froggy on his head soon to be joined by Turtles, Beaver, and Racoons who don’t know they need to be careful until they run into Duck. With a wonderful circular ending and after a fun-filled fall of the waterfall, the friends realize they’re sharing life together…because the river came along.
We Are the Gardeners by Joanna Gains and Kids
This is a must-read book, especially when planning and planting your own garden. The story celebrates family, hard work, and persistence as well as actual gardening. Whimsical illustrations throughout perfectly complement this charming story of planting, experiencing challenges, building a fence, and harvesting.
Stormy: A Story About Finding a Forever Home by Guojing
In this beautiful wordless story, no words are needed as the illustrations fully narrate the story of a scared little dog who learns to trust the kind, sensitive woman who notices him.
Just Ask! Be Different, Be Brave, Be You by Sonia Sotomayor, illustrated by Rafael Lopez
A must-own lavishly-illustrated book that is both eye-opening and empathy-building as it increases a reader’s understanding of others; in particular, other people with physical and neurological differences. It’s set up so each two-page spread features a different kid who introduces themselves and then asks a question of the readers.
The Proudest Blue A Story of Hijab and Family by Ibtihaj Muhammad with S.K. Ali, illustrated by Hatem Aly
The Someone New by Jill Twiss, illustrated by Eg Keller
With a message of openheartedness kindness and room enough for everyone, read how Jitterbug the chipmunk likes everything to be the same and he doesn’t want anything or anyone “New”. But her friends remind her that they were New once, too — and that even though New can be scary, kindness is better.
Pigeon Math by Asia Citro, illustrated by Richard Watson
Hilarious! Addition and subtraction never felt so fun!! An increasingly exasperated narrator TRYING to tell the story about ten pigeons can’t quite do it because the birds come and go, plus there’s a cat, and well, it makes for some great silliness and inviting math opportunities. Use the pictures to help answer the math equations. Visual support, goofy humor, and plenty of kid-appeal make this a 100% must-own, must-read STEM picture book.
The Many Colors of Harpreet Singh by Supriya Kelkar, illustrated by Alea Marley
I love this relatable story about feelings, moving homes, and finding a friend. Harpreet loves colors and expresses his feelings with the colors of his patkas which are a kind of turban that he wears each day. One of the best children’s picture books of 2019 that includes some much-needed representation and includes a metaphorical way to talk about feelings.
Nya’s Long Walk A Step at a Time by Linda Sue Park, illustrated by Brian Pinkney
This important picture book highlights a very real (and solvable) plight of families around the world…In dusty south Sudan, a little girl named Nya’s little sister Akeer becomes very ill because of contaminated water. Pinkney’s illustrations with bold lines and splashes of color skillfully capture the barren desert setting where the girls and their mother live and travel to get both water and medical help.
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