Picture Books of 2021
By Jennifer Bergen, Program and Youth Services Manager
So many wonderful children’s picture books came out this year, some of them light-hearted, some serious, and some with amazing illustrations – all of them begging to be shared with a young person. Pre-readers depend on their grown-ups to spend time reading stories and delighting in them together, and reading aloud forms a strong bond as well. Here are some new books at the top of my list to share:
“Change Sings” by Amanda Gorman is just a beautiful book, from the colorful flowing illustrations by Loren Long to the lyrical poetry of the text. It follows one girl with a guitar who befriends a boy while they pick up trash in the neighborhood. With each page turn, more children are added. Each child is given an instrument to play along as they find ways to positively impact their environment and people around them. Gorman’s remarkable talents for composing poetry and inspiring others are both evident in this book which reminds us all that we can change our world.
“Chez Bob” by Bob Shea (we see what you did there, Bob!) will have your kids giggling from the start as a very lazy alligator named Bob plans to get his dinner without having to put in any work. How can he get delectable birdies to come to him? He decides to open a bird restaurant on his snout! This plan actually works, as birds flock to Chez Bob, “which is a real restaurant and not a trick,” Bob assures them. But, as Bob Shea says, this is “not a European picture book.” Violence is averted, and Bob is sure to steal your heart by the end.
“It Was Supposed to Be Sunny” by Samantha Cotterill is an important book to share with children about the strong emotions that come from disappointment. Part of the “Little Senses” series, Cotterill’s stories are helpful for “wonderfully sensitive kids,” including those on the autism spectrum. When Laila planned her birthday party, she had very distinct ideas about how it would go, including being outside in the sunshine and having a unicorn cake. She and her mother planned activities that suited Laila’s sensibilities, like not having balloons or a loud birthday song, and instead planning a sparkly craft and a “wish jar.” The book begins with a loud thunder boom, and Laila’s party doesn’t look like it will go right. She and her mother have to keep adjusting and finding solutions. This book is every bit as important for the parents as it is for the child to see how to work through frustrations and sadness, and find ways to still have fun!
“The Littlest Yak” by Lu Fraser and Kate Hindley is the perfect pick for the child who feels too small, too young, and too left out. Hindley’s extremely adorable-looking yaks do not make fun of little Gertie, but she feels left out just the same. “I’m a yak at the back who is stuck in her smallness, I want to grow UP and have greatness and tallness!” When an even tinier yak is stuck at the end of a narrow mountain ledge, only Gertie is small enough to climb up and save him. As Gertie’s mummy has said, bigness comes in different shapes and sizes. Being small is not so bad after all.
“It Fell from the Sky” by brothers Terry and Eric Fan will delight kids and adults with black and white detailed drawings of insects looking like they dropped out of Alice’s Wonderland. The only color is from a magical object that has dropped down from the sky for the ladybug, walking stick and grasshopper to analyze. What could this amazing, round, yellow and green object be? When the finely accessorized spider decides to take it as his own, he creates an exhibit where bugs must pay for a rare glimpse of the Wonder from the Sky. Part cautionary tale, part magical fantasy, the art and story will entice young listeners.
For more great recommendations, visit the library’s ReadMHK website (mhklibrary.org/readmhk) for book lists of new titles from 2021.