My Favorite Picture Books of 2016

My Favorite Picture Books of 2016

I thought I wouldn’t be able to pick all of my favorite picture books from 2016, and then I realized that I do not need to. I can write this post as a way to pay homage to the picture books that started conversations, that taught us to think, to question. That made us laugh out loud, that made us cry. This post is therefore not the best picture books of the year necessarily, they are the ones I loved. The ones I remember as I sit at home fighting off the flu. I can guarantee you that when my head clears and I am back in our classroom, I will add more to the list because inevitably some will get left off. While most of these were published in 2016, some were not, some were simply discovered by me finally. Also, to save my own sanity at the length of the post, I will only write one sentence about each book. I encourage you to read them, to buy them, to praise them, to read them in your classroom and to advocate for the use of picture books with all ages.

So in no particular order, which books am I so grateful to have discovered in 2016?

Be A Friend by Salina Yoon

Friendship. Loneliness. Beautiful.

A Piece of Home written by Jeri Watts and illustrated by Hyewon Yum

Fitting in. Feeling lost. Appreciate differences.

To the Stars! The First American Woman to Walk in Space by Carmella Van Vleet and Dr. Kathy Sullivan, illustrated by Nicole Wong.

Inspiration. Wonder. Empowerment.

Jazz Day: The Making of a Famous Photograph by Roxanne Orgill and illustrated by Francis Vallejo

In-depth. Eye-opening. Mesmerizing.

Ida, Always by Caron Lewis and Charles Santoso.

Tears. Death. Beauty.

The Night Gardener by the Fan Brothers

Magical. Hopeful. Enchanting.

The Heart and the Bottle by Oliver Jeffers

Deep. Thoughtful. Love.

The Wildest Race Ever: The Story of the 1904 Olympic Marathon by Megan McCarthy

Unbelievable. True. Informational.

The Quickest Kid in Clarksville written by Pat Zietlow Miller illustrated by Frank Morrison

Dreams. Perseverance. Equality.

Solving the Puzzle Under the Sea by Robert Burleigh and illustrated by Raul Colon

How did I not know about this before?

Snappsy the Alligator (Did Not Ask to Be In This Book) written by Julie Falatko and illustrated by Tim Miller

Funny. Creative. Inventive.

Dance! Dance! Underpants! by Bob Shea

Laugh out loud funny. Must be acted out.

Also an Octopus by Maggie Tokuda-Hall and illustrated by Benji Davis

Story craft. Inventive. Funny.

How This Book Was Made written by Mac Barnett and illustrated by Adam Rex

Story craft. Collaboration. Hi jinx.

I Am A Story by Dan Yaccarino

Thought provoking. Imaginative.

This Is My Book! by Mark Pett (and no one else)

Creative. Funny. Writer’s craft.

Don’t Call Me Grandma written by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson and illustrated by Elizabeth Zunon

Fierce. Unapologetic. Thought provoking.

Jack’s Worry from Sam Zuppardi.

Discussion starter. Community builder.

Hello, My Name is Octicorn created by Kevin Diller and Justin Love

Celebrating differences.

Ideas Are All Around by Philip C. Stead.

Creativity boosting. Writing process. Storytelling.

Baa Baa Smart Sheep by Mark and Rowan Sommerset

Funny. Naughty. Great read aloud.

School’s First Day of School written by Adam Rex and illustrated by Christian Robinson

Meant to be read aloud. Mentor text.

Let Me Finish written by Minh Le and illustrated by Isabel Roxas.

Makes me want to read more.

Return by Aaron Becker

Inventive. Masterful conclusion. Dreamers.

Explorers of the Wild by Cale Atkinson.

Bridging differences. Adventure. Appreciation.

Dear Dragon by Josh Funk and illustrated by Rodolfo Montalvo.

Finding commonality. Social justice. Funny.

Surf’s Up illustrated by Daniel Miyares

Just let me read.

Pink is for Blobfish written by Jess Keating and illustrated by David Degrand.

Another book, please?! Knowledgable. Crowd favorite.

They All Saw a Cat by Brendan Wenzel
Inventive. Perspective. Thought-provoking.
Worm Loves Worm written by J.J. Austrian and illustrated by Mike Curato
Love is love is love is love is love.

My Friend Maggie by Hannah E. Harrison.

Friendship. Perspective. Loyalty.

Penguin Problems by Jory John and Lane Smith

Gratitude. Fitting in. Perspective.

Big Bob, Little Bob by James Howe and Laura Ellen Anderson

Finding common ground. Social justice.

Samson in the Snow by Phillip C. Stead

Heart-attacher. Caring for others.

Shy by Deborah Freedman

Gorgeous. Empowering. Tender.

The Uncorker of Ocean Bottles by Michelle Cuevas and Erin E. Stead

Humanity. Loneliness. Connections.

The Bear and the Piano by David Lichtfield

Chasing dreams. Loneliness. Finding home.


Across the Alley by Richard Michelson and E.B. Lewis

Finding commonalities. Seeing good. Social justice.

Daniel Finds A Poem by Micha Archer.
Poetry comes alive.


Maybe Something Beautiful written by F. Isabell Campoy and Theresa Howeel and illustrated by Rafael Lopez

Inspiring. Dreamy. Do something.


Gilbert Ford’s The Marvelous Thing That Came From a Spring

Informational. Inventive. Inspiring.


I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsberg Makes Her Mark written by Debbie Levy and illustrated by Elizabeth Baddeley

Power. Empowering. Speak up.

Ferocious Fluffity written by Erica S. Perl and illustrated by Henry Cole

Surprising. Hilarious. Sequel, please.

The Not So Quiet Library by Zachariah Ohora

Monsters in the library. Imagination. Read another time, please.

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

Read it again. Surprise. Shock.

The Darkest Dark by Chris Hadfield and illustrated by the Fan Brothers.
Mesmerizing. Awe inspiring. Adventurous.
Before Morning By Joyce Sidman and illustrated by Beth Krommes.
Just one single promise, please.
A Poem for Peter by Andrea Davis Pinkney and illustrated by Lou Fancher and Steve Johnson.
You can feel the love with every word. Social justice.

Tiny Creatures: The World of Microbes by Nicola Davies (Author), Emily Sutton (Illustrator)

What a way to spark curiosity in kids.

Seven and a Half Tons of Steel by Janet Nolan (Author), Thomas Gonzalez (Illustrator)
How something was salvaged from the horror of 9/11 and made into something powerful.

What a Beautiful Morning by Arthur Levine (Author), Katie Kath (Author)

How do we cope with the changing minds of our grandparents?

Sleep Tight Farm: A Farm Prepares for Winter by Eugenie Doyle (Author), Becca Stadtlander (Illustrator)

How does a farm get ready for winter?

Brick by Brick by Charles R., Jr. Smith (Author), Floyd Cooper (Illustrator)

How was the White House really built?

Maybe Something Beautiful: How Art Transformed a Neighborhood by F. Isabel Campoy (Author), Theresa Howell (Author), Rafael L’opez (Illustrator)

What can happen when we see opportunity rather than ugliness?

Freedom Over Me: Eleven Slaves, Their Lives and Dreams Brought to Life by Ashley Bryan

Who could the people be behind the slavery sale receipt?

Marvelous Cornelius: Hurricane Katrina and the Spirit of New Orleans

How one person can embody the spirit of a whole city.

Are You an Echo?: The Lost Poetry of Misuzu Kaneko

Stunning biography of this female Japanese poet.

Ada Lovelace, Poet of Science: The First Computer Programmer

An empowering biography of a female genius.

Whoosh!: Lonnie Johnson’s Super-Soaking Stream of Inventions

Ada’s Violin: The Story of the Recycled Orchestra of Paraguay

Rising above one’s circumstances. Inspirational. True.

A Rocky Start

How do you find your path when the world seems against you?

Lailah’s Lunchbox: A Ramadan Story

Radiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat

Aresting visuals. Heartbreak and creativity.

Somos como las nubes / We Are Like the Clouds

May we never forget our own humanity when helping refugees.

Pug Man’s 3 Wishes

Grumpy old pug. Laugh out loud funny.

Stepping Stones: A Refugee Family’s Journey (Arabic and English Edition) by Margriet Ruurs (Author), Falah Raheem (Translator), Nizar Badr (Artist)

No words for the beauty of this book, both visually and its message.

The Journey

When I Was Eight

How do you stay true to your identity when others dismiss it?

Stella Brings the Family

Bird by Zetta Elliott (Author), Shadra Strickland (Illustrator)


Giant Squid by Candace Fleming (Author), Eric Rohmann (Illustrator)

Who knew learning about octopus could be so beautiful?
I know I left some off because I am writing this from home. However, this is a start, this is a way to say thank you to all of the books and those who create them that made this year even better.


  1. Jeremiah Henderson
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