My Most Memorable Fiction and Nonfiction Picture Books from 2018

Aside from the art, which is often spectacular, a picture book takes one idea, one that in the grown-up world can seem overwhelmingly complex, and makes it simple. The books on these lists exemplify this. Some are recent publications and others are out of print and hard to find. All are worth the effort of tracking down.

We are living in a golden age of children's literature. Winnowing the 225 picture books I read last year into a short list of fiction and nonfiction books was excruciating. I tried to limit myself to 10 picture books from each of the fiction and nonfiction categories. I couldn't do it. I almost managed to get my fiction list narrowed down to 20, except that last year I fell madly, deeply in love with the work of Keizaburō Tejima, whose books sadly, are now out of print.


A Big Mooncake for Little Star by Grace Lin
The golden yellow against the black background make these illustrations stunningly gorgeous.

Be Kind by Pat Zietlow Miller & Jen Hill (Illustrations)
Jen Hill's illustrations show us a multicultural world living in harmony, if only we can be kind.

Cleo by Sassafras De Bruyn
This is a visually stunning testimony to the power of imagination and friendship.

The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson & Rafael López (Illustrator)
We can and must learn how to make space for each other. While reading this I experienced all the feelings: shivers, awe, joy and tears. 

Feathers by Phil Cummings & Phil Lesnie (Illustrator)
This book just gobsmacked me. It's visually, lyrically and emotionally stunning as we view the world from the perspective of a sandpiper on it's annual migration.

Hansel & Gretel by Bethan Woollvin
Because sometimes dark and twisted is what you need.

Here We Are: Notes for Living on Planet Earth by Oliver Jeffers
Jeffers has good advice for all of us, and the illustrations are glorious!

I Am a Story by Dan Yaccarino
This powerful picture book traces the history and power of story telling.

I'm Sad by Michael Ian Black & Debbie Ridpath Ohi.
I am in awe of these two collaborators. Their characters, a little girl, a potato, and a flamingo, reveal to us important truths about what it means to be human.

Jerome by Heart by Thomas Scotto & Olivier Tallec (Illustrator)
Raphael loves his friend Jerome unabashedly. This book pays homage to these kinds of close friendships. It's beautifully written,  translated and illustrated.

Life by Cynthia Rylant & Brendan Wenzel (Illustrations)
Brendan Wenzel's illustrations are jaw dropping gorgeous. Cynthia Rylant's profound words dance because of them.

Love by Matt de la Pena & Loren Long (Illustrator)
I got shivers right from the first page of this book. Tears came to my eyes with each page I turned. Loren Long's illustrations take Matt de la Peña's words and together they raise up powerful truths.

Mango, Abuela, and Me by Meg Medina
The book makes my heart sing. I love the sweetness of the text and the charming illustrations in this story of a girl and her grandmother.

Mixed: A Colorful Story by Arree Chung
This book is a story for our times. Ultimately our children are more beautiful when we mix with one another.

Mr. George Baker by Amy Hest & Jon J. Muth (Illustrator)
This book shows us love across skin colour and age and reminds us that we are never to old to learn something new. 

Ocean Meets Sky by Terry Fan & Eric Fan
This is my favourite Fan Brothers book so far. Beautiful story and beautiful images. Just Wow!

The Rabbit Listened by Cori Doerrfeld
This book reaffirms why picture books are so important for people of all ages. In charming illustrations and simple text it shows how to support friends and family who are going through hard times. 

Storm by Sam Usher
If you are not acquainted with this series that highlights a relationship between a grandfather and grandson, set against the backdrop of different kinds of weather, then you must are living a deprived life.

This Is Not a Picture Book! by Sergio Ruzzier
I am completely infatuated with this author's work. This metaphor for learning to read is a gorgeously illustrated celebration of the power of words.

Wolf in the Snow by Matthew Cordell
This sublimely illustrated book packs a profound emotional punch.

And then there are these works by Keizaburō Tejima. His wood cut illustrations are swoon worthy. The messages in the text are deeply philosophical and dizzyingly profound. 
I hope you manage to track down and read at least one of his books in the new year.

Swan Sky by Keizaburō Tejima
The art on the cover drew me in. Then I opened the pages and got lost in this story of life and death.

Fox's Dream by Keizaburō Tejima
A lonely fox wanders through a winter forest and sees different images in the snow formations in the trees.

Woodpecker Forest by Keizaburō Tejima & Susan Matsui (Translator)
This coming of age tale tells the story of a young woodpecker who must learn to live by himself.


The quality and quantity of nonfiction picture books available today is mind boggling. This is especially true in the area of biography and memoir. Here are also some books that tell us about long lost places, introduce us to the secret life of trees, and show us how culture and nature are intricately connected.

Africville by Shauntay Grant
Shauntay Grant's paintings are absolutely stunning in this beautiful homage to a lost community in Halifax, Nova Scotia. 

Between the Lines: How Ernie Barnes Went from the Football Field to the Art Gallery by Sandra Neil Wallace & Bryan Collier (Illustrator)
When Bryan Collier illustrates something, it's automatically award worthy. This biography will appeal to young athletes and artists alike.

The Book Itch: Freedom, Truth & Harlem's Greatest Bookstore by V
aunda Micheaux Nelson & R. Gregory Christie (Illustrations)
Lewis Michaux was an unpublished poet and visionary. The National Memorial African Bookstore he created was a haven for black intellectuals, revolutionaries, and artists, but it was also an important place for ordinary everyday people. 

Counting Birds: The Idea That Helped Save Our Feathered Friends by Heidi E.Y. Stemple & Clover Robin (Illustrations)
This book is a delight to read. I was enchanted by the story itself and nearly swooned at the beauty of Clover Robin's illustrations.

Muddy: The Story of Blues Legend Muddy Waters by Michael James Mahin & Evan Turk (Illustrator)
This book is as beautifully written as it is illustrated. Both will knock your socks off and if you are like me, send you off to find some Muddy Waters to listen to.

Ordinary, Extraordinary Jane Austen by Deborah Hopkinson & Qin Leng (Illustrator)
Deborah Hopkins has introduced me to aspects of Jane Austen’s life I didn’t know about. Qin Leng’s illustrations are gorgeous. I love how she captures the time period and essence of these characters.

Photographic: The Life of Graciela Iturbide by Isabel Quintero & Zeke Peña (Illustrator)
The best books are those that resonate long after the last page is turned. This is one of those. It's a portal, an opening into a different way of knowing the world. I might have finished this book, but that doesn't mean it's finished with me.

Trees by Lemniscates
I like this book a lot. It is beautifully illustrated in an abstract fashion. Each chunk of text imparts important information about trees. 

The Sockeye Mother by Hetxw'ms Gyetxw (Brett D. Huson), & Natasha Donovan (Illustrations)

The sense of connection between people and salmon is here in the use of the Gitxsan language in the text, but it’s integral to the illustrations. The images are gorgeously coloured in the shades of the rainforest and river. It all comes together with the use of traditional art in these landscapes.

Vincent Can't Sleep: Van Gogh Paints the Night Sky by Barb Rosenstock & Mary GrandPré (Illustrations)
From endpaper to endpaper this book, in both words and illustrations, is glorious. 

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