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Kids Book Matters: Best Picture Books of 2012

Best Picture Books of 2012

2012 was a great year for picture books. There were some familiar faces, some new voices, and of course lots of brilliant artwork (I’d especially like to point out the heartwarming illustrations of my partner on with all my heart, Samantha Chaffey!) So how do I pare down to the best of the best in a year when there were so many great offerings?

For me, it comes down to the “Ha! Awww! Wow!” factor. My friend, and fellow children’s author Lana Krumwiede (author of FREAKLING), pointed out that the best books make you laugh (Ha!), touch your heart (Awww!), or challenge your perceptions (Wow!) So these are the factors I looked for in choosing my favorites for 2012 as listed here.

THE DUCKLING GETS A COOKIE!? written and illustrated by Mo Willems

Mo Willems doing Mo Willems as only Mo Willems can!

Pigeon is aghast to find that Duckling gets a cookie by just asking. Pigeon recounts the many things he’s asked for to no avail. Duckling eases Pigeons laments with a kind gesture (or clever plot!)

PRESS HERE written and illustrated by Herve Tullet

The most fun you’ll ever have pressing make believe buttons!

This book is a delightful reinvention of how to interact with books. By following instructions, readers control the “action” of this book. Press dots to change their size, color or locations. It’s impossible not to smile as you play along and “Press Here.”

THE OBSTINATE PEN written and illustrated by Frank Dormer

A pen with a mind of its own brings havoc or happiness to its user!

Uncle Flood is eager to try out his new pen. But instead of writing the true story he has in mind, the pen writes “You have a BIG nose.” Enraged, Uncle Flood flings the renegade pen out his window. It is picked up and continues its obstinate behavior as it is passed from owner to owner until it finds its way to nephew Horace. This tale is a clever commentary on the battle between our subconscious and conscious minds.

ANDREW DREW & DREW written and illustrated by Barney Saltzberg

A true heir to Harold and the Purple Crayon!

Andrew doesn’t always know how his drawings will turn out. What starts as stairs can turn into a really big dinosaur. But for Andrew (and readers) that’s the fun of drawing and drawing… This book is cleverly designed with flaps and folds to extend the story beyond the page.

THIS MOOSE BELONGS TO ME written and illustrated by Oliver Jeffers

A simple and profound lesson on sharing!

A young boy befriends a wild moose. The moose even abides by (some of) the rules the boy has given his “pet.” But when the boy learns that his pet moose answers to other names from other “owners,” he realizes a greater joy in sharing.

THE FANTASTIC FLYING BOOKS OF MR. MORRIS LESSMORE written by William Joyce illustrated by William Joyce and Joe Bluhm

A gorgeously illustrated ode to the magic of books!

Morris’s life is an open book, literally. He is carried off and carried away by books. His world is colored by their stories. He loves them and they love him back. He recounts his stories and reactions to them in his own story; and when the time is right that story transports another eager reader into a lifelong love of books.

OTTO THE BOOK BEAR written and illustrated by Katie Cleminson

A “Toy Story” in book form!

Otto likes to leave his book and explore on occasion. But when his family moves and leaves him behind, he must back his book bag and find the perfect new home.

I LOATHE YOU written and illustrated by David Slonim

A monsterized (yet touching) version of Guess How Much I Love You?

A papa monster loathes his hideous child even more than the gross things the cat drags in. The monster child is delighted by dad’s declaration. But what if the child slips up? What if he accidently says “please,” or cleans up after himself? Will his dad still loathe him just a much?

ROCKET WRITES A STORY written and illustrated by Tad Hills

Great advice for aspiring young writers (including how to growl at writer’s block!)

A little bird helps Rocket the dog write his first story. Through the magical power of words, Rocket gains self confidence and a new friend.

LLAMA LLAMA TIME TO SHARE written and illustrated by Anna Dewdney

Impeccable rhythm in both rhyme and story!

Llama llama returns for another rhyming, rollicking adventure. In this story Llama has reservations about the new girl (who really is a gnu girl!) He learns to overcome his reluctance and make a gnu friend in the end. As always, Dewdney perfectly captures the emotional drama that plays out in the daily life of little llamas and the children who love them.

THIS IS NOT MY HAT written and illustrated by Jon Klassen

A fish (almost) pulls off the perfect crime!

In this clever cautionary tale a small fish steals a hat from a bigger fish while it sleeps. While making his getaway, the little fish lists all the reasons that he’ll never be caught. But he learns the hard way that there’s no such thing as the perfect crime.

PETE THE CAT AND HIS FOUR GROOVY BUTTONS written by Eric Litwin illustrated by James Dean

A groovy guide to staying optimistic even when things don’t go your way!

Pete the cat is proud of his four groovy buttons. When one falls off, he could choose to dwell on the negative and wallow in self pity. But that’s not Pete’s style. Pete just rocks on with his three groovy buttons. A great guide for helping kids cope with adversity even when they’re down to their last groovy button.

Brian Rock is a blogger for JenningsWire, a blogging community created by Annie Jennings.