As I am approaching the two year mark of my deliberate journey into writing books for kids, I delight in the “difficult task” of reading picture book upon picture book as mentor texts in order to stay abreast of the market. Ha! I have always loved to read, and now I have an excuse to grab my youngest, snuggle into the sofa, and read aloud. Bliss.
Below is the beginnings of a sketch of the diverse, intricate, gorgeous world of the modern picture book. Any one of these will transport you and your child to a relatable world full of color and characters that s/he might have never otherwise met.
Ten Beautiful Things Written by Molly Beth Griffin, Illustrated by Maribel Lechuga, Candlewick
When Lily must leave her home to live with her grandmother in the middle of nowhere, her heart feels just as empty as the map she holds in her hands. But her grandmother’s love, expressed through a simple game, fills her heart and reminds us that often the most ordinary can be the most beautiful.
The Ocean Calls Written by Tina Cho, Illustrated by Jess X. Snow, Kokila (PRH)
Dayeon wants to be a mermaid like her grandmother when she grows up. A hanyeo mermaid. Every morning, Dayeon follows her grandmother to the ocean’s edge where she watches the hanyeo divers as they plunge beneath the water, diving deep for shells and starfish, without any equipment. Can Dayeon overcome her own fear of the ocean in order to hear its call?
Special note: watch for this book to be made into a kids’ TV series!
The Oldest Student Written by Rita Lorraine Hubbard, Illustrated by Oge Mora, Schwartz&Wade
Published last year (2020), this gorgeous book tells the almost unbelievable (if it weren’t true) story of Mary Walker, who learned to read at 114 years old! A gripping story told with kindness and grace, this picture book biography is full of family, faith, and forgiveness. You MUST read this book!
The Ramble Shamble Children Written by Christina Soortenvant, Illustrated by Lauren Castillo, Nancy Paulsen Books
Merra and her four brothers live together in a ramble shamble house that they lovingly tend. But when they find a picture of what a home “should” look like, they make some changes, and chaos ensues. This sweet story tugs at the heart as it teaches that a home and family may be messy or different than what others expect, but can still surround and comfort the ones who live there.
Eyes That Kiss in the Corners Written by Joanna Ho, Illustrated by Dung Ho, HarperCollins
One little girl notices that her eyes are different than others – they kiss in the corners and glow like warm tea. But as she looks around her family, and finds the love and strength and grace there, she realizes that her eyes – and the eyes of her mother, sister, and grandmother – are a revolution!
How to Wear a Sari Written by Darshana Khiani, Illustrated by Joanne Lew-Vriethoff, Versify (HMH)
A new favorite in our household, Darshana Khiani gives step by step instructions for how to impress grown-ups with your sari skills, convincing them that you are NOT just small. Full of fun, laughs, and actual steps for wearing a sari, my daughter and I can’t wait to get our hands on saris of our own and give it a whirl!
Noah’s Seal Written and Illustrated by Layn Marlow, Candlewick
Noah longs to sail with his grandmother to the cove where the seals live. While he waits, he builds a sandy seal of his own. But when a storm comes and his seal “swims away,” Noah finds that magic is all around him.