I might almost be caught up with the picture books this year! Without further ado, here are more 2021 picture books that I think you won’t want to miss.
Fa-la-la Llama by Joan Holub, illustrated by Allison Black
A board book for the youngest readers, this version of Deck the Halls features llamas making merry and tiptoe prancing, among other activities. fa la la la la la la la llama!
Red and Green and Blue and White by Lee Wind, illustrated by Paul O. Zelinsky
Issac’s neighborhood looks red and green for all the Christmas decorations but his house is blue and white for Hanukkah. When someone throws a rock through a window in Issac’s house, his neighbor Teresa makes an illustration of a menorah to put in her window. Then, the other neighbors also added blue and white menorahs to show their support and solidarity for their Jewish neighbors.
Hey, You’re Not Santa! by Ethan T. Berlin, illustrated by Edwardian Taylor
Santa forgets a gift and needs to go back to get it from the North Pole so he asks Cow to step in and pretend to be Santa. But the little boy is NOT fooled. He knows that Santa doesn’t eat the Christmas tree, Santa remembers his reindeer’s names, and Santa doesn’t bring his own milk. This is NOT Santa! Very funny!
Joy to the World Christmas Around the Globe by Kate DePalma, illustrated by Sophie Fatus
The rhyming text introduces readers to Christmas traditions from 13 countries including Australia, Columbia, Serbia, and Lebanon. Colorful illustrations and cool border art make the book a feast for the eyes as well and back matter gives more information about each tradition such as Simbang Gabi in the Philippines and Making Kuswar in India.
Hornswoggled! by Josh Crute, illustrated by Jenn Harney
WORDPLAY / VOCABULARY WORDS
Wordsmiths are going to love this hilarious story about a thief stealing from the forest animals! The skunk’s thinking cap is gone and replaced with pie. (They’ve been skunked!) The rooster’s speech is missing–what poppycock! All the animals have been hornswoggled! Can they find the thief? Yes! And as they search, these vocabulary words (that are explained in little note cards in the illustrations) will stick with readers because they’re embedded in a delightfully silly and memorable story!
Words to Make a Friend: A Story in Japanese and English by Donna Jo Napoli and Naoko Stoop
Two girls meet in the wintery snow. They play together, trading words in their respective languages like “Let’s play!” / “Asobou“, and build bridges of friendship building a snow Godzilla. It’s a sweet example of how friendship can cross language barriers and how much we have in common.
Amos McGee Misses the Bus by Philip C. Stead, illustrated by Erin E. Stead
FRIENDSHIP / KINDNESS
Gentle and atmospheric, our favorite zookeeper is so tired that he misses the bus to the zoo and needs a nap once he’s there. His animal friends let him sleep and do his zookeeper chores for him. Then, he wakes up and they all go to the beach. This story of friendship and kindness feels like a warm hug.
Walrus Song by Janet Lawler, illustrated by Timothy Basil Ering
Lyrical writing with descriptive active verbs, this is a beautifully written book with dramatic illustrations and minimal text about the life of a walrus underwater, above water, fighting, making sounds, and more. “Waddle. Walk. Slap! Slap! Walrus lumbers. Flippers flap.” Back matter gives more facts about the life of a walrus. For example, for “Digging, wiggling…seafloor stewing“, it says, “Like a bristled brush, a walrus’s snout sweeps along the ocean floor. Its whiskers are sense organs that feel for clams and other foods.” I LOVE this book and highly recommend it!
Bisa’s Carnaval by Joana Pastro, illustrated by Carolina Coroa
CARNIVAL / BRAZIL
Clara and her grandmother (Bisa) make costumes called fantasies for Brazil’s Carnaval parade. As Clara enjoys the sounds, smells, dancing, and experiences, she wishes Bisa could join in and she brings the parade to Bisa’s house.
One Sheep, Two Sheep by Tami Sauer, illustrated by Troy Cummings
The other silly farm animals interfere with the rooster trying to count sheep to fall asleep. Poor rooster. He’s frustrated and it’s hilarious!
Castle Gesundheit by Mark Fearing
ALLERGIES / BEST BOOKS FOR PRESCHOOLERS
Perfect for kids who love to laugh with hilarious, detailed illustrations! Fiona investigates the loud sneezy neighbor Baron who is keeping the townsfolk awake. She finds him living in his castle with a kazillion cats. (Imagine all the litter boxes!) She asks the Baron questions and determines that he’s allergic to cats. Then, she suggests a solution — trading houses. The baron moves out and Fiona and her family move in. Now everyone can sleep peacefully. Well, almost everyone…
Nibi’s Water Song by Sunshine Tenasco, illustrated by Chief Lady Bird
CLEAN WATER / INDIGENOUS LIVES
Nibi is thirsty but she doesn’t have clean water to drink! She visits a different neighborhood and asks for water. She searches for clean water to drink then advocates for cleaner water in her home community. Kids will understand thirst and feel empathy and concern when they learn about this real problem that some indigenous communities continue to face– the need for potable water.
Room for Everyone by Naaz Khan, illustrated by Mercè López
Counting, rhyming, culture, and community in a playful rhyming story with stunning illustrations, this is a fantastic book that celebrates the country and people of Zanzibar. A boy named Musa travels by bus to the beach. But even though the bus feels full to him, his Dada says there’s always room for more people. As the daldala continues the trip, more people, animals, and things climb aboard. The passengers wiggle and squish to make room for more.
Zoey Has an Allergy by Anisha Angella, illustrated by Rachel Batislaong
A little girl explains all about allergies to readers in a kid-friendly way including anaphylaxis and epinephrine. Her story is a fantastic way to share information with non-allergy kids. I really like how allergy positive the book is — she knows that she’s special and having allergies is one way she’s special.
Something Good by Marcy Campbell, illustrated by Corinna Luyken
The story shows how bad things make us feel awful and sometimes behave suspiciously or meanly but we can turn it around by making something good. The book doesn’t elaborate on what the bad thing was in the girls’ bathroom but shows that the students paint over it with new, beautiful images. This non-specificity makes the story more applicable in a broader sense and would be great for discussion. Luyken’s illustrations are so beautiful and captivating!
Aaron Slater, Illustrator by Andrea Beaty, illustrated by David Roberts
LEARNING DISABILITIES / STORYTELLING THROUGH ART
I love all the books in this series but this is my new favorite because it shows that having a learning disability doesn’t prevent you from communicating! It’s about a boy named Aaron, an artist and storyteller, who struggles with reading. When his teacher Miss Greer assigns the students to write a story, Aaron draws his story instead. He uses his artwork to help him tell his story to the class — which both the teacher and his classmates love. His art helps him find the words while he works hard to improve his reading little by little.
Forty Winks: A Bedtime Adventure by Kelly DiPucchio, illustrated by Lita Judge
This large mouse family’s bedtime routine feels familiar and sweet. They get ready with rituals of reading books, whispering prayers, tucking in tight, goofing around, and procrastinating and it’s a read-aloud delight!
May Your Life Be Deliciousa by Michael Genhart, illustrated by Loris Lora
A little girl makes tamales with her abeula step by step. Abuela is guided from her memory and for each step, she gives them a blessing. “Abuela takes the husk, the outer part of the tamale, and says, “May you always have protection and security.” Cool geometric, colorful illustrations show this close, loving family.
Can You Hear Me? by Ekaterina Trukhan
This book is a five senses riddle. The narrator gives clues to a little girl to hear, see, touch, taste, and feel. Who is talking? It never says but hopefully, children will figure out that it’s nature.
Kat Hats by Daniel Pinkwater, illustrated by Aaron Renier
In this kooky, laugh-out-loud story, the cats arrange themselves as hats on human’s heads!! (Hence, the title.) And if that isn’t exciting enough, one particular top Kat Hats cat, Thermal Herman 6-7/8ths, embarks on a journey to help his friend Thirdbeard look for his missing mom who might have brain freeze. He must face many perils and dangers as he searches but Thermal Herman isn’t a top cat for nothing. He will find her and save the day! If you like silly stories, adventure, and cats, this will be your next favorite book.
Clayton Parker Really Really Really Has to Pee by Cinco Paul, illustrated by Gladys Jose
Funny and relatable, Clayton Parker is on a school field trip to the zoo. BUT, he forgot to go to the bathroom before they left the school– and he really needs to find a restroom but the first one is closed. His bladder is about to burst as he searches everywhere for a bathroom. And, we feel his discomfort and hope he makes it in time!
Happy Cats by Catherine Amari and Anouk Han, illustrated by Emi Lenox
A playful book of opposites for cat-loving kids with wonderful illustrations…”fluffed cat / bare cat / round cat / square cat”.
Supernana by Eva Bryne
Grandma is a superhero — a perfect fighter of evil and rescuer of innocents…who is also a good bedtime storyteller! And, “Whatever the problem, Supernana knows ice cream is always a good solution!” But what will she do to stop Madam Le Flea and her Shrinkalizer. It takes all of her powers but she fights and saves the city! Hooray for Supernana.
Time for Bed, Old House by Janet Costa Bates, illustrated by AG Ford
NIGHTTIME FEARS / SLEEP OVER
So sweet! When Issac stays overnight, Grandpop shows Issac how to put the house to bed. To help with his fears, Grandpop explains what is making the noises. Understanding reassures Issac and helps him not to feel afraid. Grandpop explains the dog walking on the hardwood, the wind blowing the swings, and the house’s stretching noises. Then, Grandpop asks Issac to read the house a bedtime story reading the pictures– and then, Issac listens to the noises and goes to sleep.
Dinner on Domingos by Alexandra Katona, illustrated by Claudia Navarro
FAMILY DINNER / LATINX CULTURE
Sundays / Domingos are for a big family feast. Alejandra helps Abuela and tries to speak Spanish, wishing she could speak it better but tries her best. The day isn’t just for eating but playing with primos, dancing around the living room, and making memories.
Dumpling Day by Meera Sriram, illustrated by Ins De Antuano, recipes by Laurel P. Jackson
Ten families cook dumplings for a neighborhood potluck, each family’s dish representing a different country or culture like India, China, Japan, Mexico, and Italy. As the different dumplings are featured, you’ll get to count along from one to ten. “Shish barak comes with a tangy hint. Baba garnishes with parsley and mint. 7 dumplings before, Then we add 1 more. How many dumplings ow? 8!”
Return of the Underwear Dragon by Scott Rothman, illustrated by Pete Oswald
When Knight Cole advertises for an assistant, he realizes that the Underwear Dragon doesn’t know how to read so he decides to teach him. It doesn’t go well. Then, a smart girl named Claire helps out with her Outwit Dragon kit.
Buffalo Wild by Deidre Havrelock, illustrated by Azby Whitecalf
One night, Declan finds a way to release the buffaloes in the stars back onto the prairie where he lives…but it’s too many and they’re destructive so he asks Creator for help. Creator lets a few Buffalo stay behind and returns the rest to the sky. Playful purple and pink illustrations.
Thunder and Noise Storm by Jeffrey Ansloos and Sheeza Ansloos, illustrated by Joshua Mangeshig Pawis-Steckley
CREE / SENSORY PROCESSING
At school, it’s too noisy for Thunder, it makes him feel awful. His Mosum (grandfather) takes him for a walk and suggests that Thunder listen with wonder to the quiet of water, wind, trees, birds, and river. Thunder walks slowly, gets still, breathes, and listens with his heart. This practice helps when he returns back to school. Now he listens to his heart and ignores the other noises.
When I Wake Up by Seth Fishman, illustrated by Jessixa Bagley
A boy wakes up and imagines all the ways his day can go. He considers his choices…”I could make breakfast. Or build a city. Or take my scooter down the alley. Maybe I could even borrow Mom’s little shovel for the garden.” But it’s still early so he curls back up to sleep in his parents’ bed.
Go Show the World: A Celebration of Indigenous Heroes by Wab Kinew, illustrated by Joe Morse
This is a beautifully illustrated picture book that introduces readers to indigenous individuals who made an impact in the world like Jim Thorpe, Sue LaFlesche Picotte, and Pegahmagabox. It continues on to give readers encouragement with more stories and advice. The back pages share short biographies for each of the people listed.
Saturday at the Food Pantry by Diane O’Neill, illustrated by Brizida Magro
Molly’s a little girl with a generous and bubbly personality, even when she and her mom don’t have enough food and go to the food bank. When she’s at the food bank, she colors pictures for the people she meets there. That helps her befriend a classmate who feels embarrassed to be there. Molly reminds her new friend that everybody needs help sometimes and that we can also help others, too.
Hurry Up A Book About Slowing Down by Kate Dopriak, illustrated by Christopher Silas Neal
Like many of us, this little boy hurries everywhere he goes — until he arrives in nature with his dog and slows down to play and explore.
Golden Threads by Suzanne Del Rizzo, illustrated by Miki Sato
I love this sweet story of a little girl’s beloved plush fox who gets lost in a rainstorm. The fox is found by a person who cleans it up and gives it to another little girl in a wheelchair named Kiko. Kiko helps sew up the fox with golden thread, and after some time returns him to across the way, following the floating leaves on the water. The fox feels loved and blessed, introducing us to the idea of Wabi Sabi, the golden journey.
What Can You Do with a Rock by Pat Zietlow Miller, illustrated by Katie Kath
ROCKS / NATURE
What an inspiring book to show children the creative ways to play with rocks…You can skip them, drop them, sort them, study them, change them, and so much more. There are many things you can do with a rock. “Skip drop kerplunk.”