December 24, 2018

Favorite Picture Books of 2018

A banner year for books about immigration, refugee experiences, and the coming together of different cultures, it was tough to narrow down this list as always, but here are the fifteen books that stood out not just in story, but in illustration and book design. Cannot wait to see what fresh new designs and illustrators 2019 will bring! 



Drawn Together
Written by Minh Lê and illustrated by Dan Santat

When a young boy visits his grandfather, their lack of a common language leads to confusion, frustration, and silence. But as they sit down to draw together, something magical happens-with a shared love of art and storytelling, the two form a bond that goes beyond words.

To read my review of this book click here.
To peek underneath the dust jacket click here.



Dreamers
Written and illustrated by Yuyi Morales

In 1994, Yuyi Morales left her home in Xalapa, Mexico and came to the US with her infant son. She left behind nearly everything she owned, but she didn't come empty-handed. She brought her strength, her work, her passion, her hopes and dreams...and her stories. Caldecott Honor artist and five-time Pura Belpré winner Yuyi Morales's gorgeous new picture book Dreamers is about making a home in a new place. Yuyi and her son Kelly's passage was not easy, and Yuyi spoke no English whatsoever at the time. But together, they found an unexpected, unbelievable place: the public library. There, book by book, they untangled the language of this strange new land, and learned to make their home within it.

Dreamers is a celebration of what migrantes bring with them when they leave their homes. It's a story about family. And it's a story to remind us that we are all dreamers, bringing our own gifts wherever we roam. Beautiful and powerful at any time but given particular urgency as the status of our own Dreamers becomes uncertain, this is a story that is both topical and timeless.

To read my review of this book click here.



The Field
Written by Baptiste Paul and illustrated by Jacqueline Alcántara

The world’s most popular and inclusive sport has found its spirited, poetic, and authentic voice in Baptiste Paul’s debut picture book—highlighting the joys of the game along with its universal themes: teamwork, leadership, diversity, and acceptance. Creole words (as spoken in St. Lucia, the author’s birthplace island in the Caribbean) add spice to the story and are a strong reminder of the sport’s world fame.

To read my interview with illustrator Jacqueline click here.



The Forest
Written by Riccardo Bozzi and illustrated by Violeta Lopiz and Valerio Vidali

A lyrical book about the adventure of life, The Forest is also a magnificent visual work, both painterly and a technical feat of paper engineering. Here, sensory experience and the textures of the material world are rendered through die-cuts, embossing, cutouts, and two gatefolds. A beautifully considered work.

To peek underneath the dust jacket click here.



Heartbeat
Written and illustrated by Evan Turk

This cinematic picture book from critically acclaimed author and illustrator Evan Turk follows the life of a baby whale from birth, to song, to silence, to a new song of compassion and hope for a brighter future.

To read my interview with author-illustrator Evan click here.
To peek underneath the dust jacket click here.



Hello Lighthouse
Written and illustrated by Sophie Blackall

Watch the days and seasons pass as the wind blows, the fog rolls in, and icebergs drift by. Outside, there is water all around. Inside, the daily life of a lighthouse keeper and his family unfolds as the keeper boils water for tea, lights the lamp's wick, and writes every detail in his logbook.

To read my interview with author-illustrator Sophie click here.
To peek underneath the dust jacket click here.



Inside the Villains
Written and illustrated by Clotilde Perrin

An extraordinary pop-up book that reveals the secrets of the most famous fairy-tale villains--the giant, the wolf and the witch--with interactive flaps, a twist on well-known tales, and personality cards for each villain. Lift the flaps to see the diabolical thoughts inside the villains' heads, what hides beneath their disguises, or the victims of their last meals (now comfortably settled inside their stomachs).

To read my review of this book click here.



Julián Is a Mermaid
Written and illustrated by Jessica Love

While riding the subway home from the pool with his abuela one day, Julián notices three women spectacularly dressed up. Their hair billows in brilliant hues, their dresses end in fishtails, and their joy fills the train car. When Julián gets home, daydreaming of the magic he’s seen, all he can think about is dressing up just like the ladies in his own fabulous mermaid costume: a butter-yellow curtain for his tail, the fronds of a potted fern for his headdress. But what will Abuela think about the mess he makes—and even more importantly, what will she think about how Julián sees himself?

To read my interview with author-illustrator Jessica click here.
To peek underneath the dust jacket click here.



The Little Barbarian
Written and illustrated by Renato Moriconi

Being a barbarian is no easy task. A barbarian must be able to survive an army of one-eyed giants or a pit of venomous snakes. He must bravely fight off manticores, dragons, and sea serpents. Luckily, a barbarian can always rely on his trusty steed to see him through any peril.

To read my review of this book click here.



My Hair Is a Garden
Written and illustrated by Cozbi Cabrera

After a day of being taunted by classmates about her unruly hair, Mackenzie can't take any more and she seeks guidance from her wise and comforting neighbor, Miss Tillie. Using the beautiful garden in the backyard as a metaphor, Miss Tillie shows Mackenzie that maintaining healthy hair is not a chore nor is it something to fear. Most importantly, Mackenzie learns that natural black hair is beautiful.

To read my interview with author-illustrator Cozbi click here.



Ode to an Onion
Written by Alexandria Giardino and illustrated by Felicita Sala

Pablo has a lunch date with his friend Matilde, who shows the moody poet her garden. Where Pablo sees conflict and sadness, Matilde sees love and hope. The story is less a biography of Neruda and his muse, Matilde Urrutia (1912–1985), and more a simple ode to a vegetable that is humble and luminous, dark and light, gloomy and glad, full of grief and full of joy—just like life!

To read my interview with illustrator Felicita click here.
To peek underneath the dust jacket click here.



Stuff of Stars
Written by Marion Dane Bauer and illustrated by Ekua Holmes

Before the universe was formed, before time and space existed, there was . . . nothing. But then . . . BANG! Stars caught fire and burned so long that they exploded, flinging stardust everywhere. And the ash of those stars turned into planets. Into our Earth. And into us. A seamless blend of science and art, this picture book reveals the composition of our world and beyond — and how we are all the stuff of stars.

To read my review of this book click here.
To peek underneath the dust jacket click here.



Thank You, Omu!
Written and illustrated by Oge Mora

Everyone in the neighborhood dreams of a taste of Omu's delicious stew! One by one, they follow their noses toward the scrumptious scent. And one by one, Omu offers a portion of her meal. Soon the pot is empty. Has she been so generous that she has nothing left for herself?

To read my interview with author-illustrator Oge click here.



These Colors Are Bananas
Created by Jason Fulford and Tamara Shopshin

What color is a banana? It can be at least 25 different shades, according to this artful swatchbook of versatile subjects. An inversion of the way we typically look at color, this book challenges readers' predispositions towards using a particular crayon for a particular object. 11 items are each presented alongside a grid of color ranges: the "apple" page features yellows, greens, and reds; the "egg" page a range of greens to grays; even "grass" is surprising, with suggestions of pink. The read-along text is playful and philosophical, poetic and factual… all towards expanding readers' assumptions. Inspired by the Whitney Museum's approach to looking at art, these books provide a new way to look at the world.



Undocumented
Written and illustrated by Duncan Tonatiuh

Undocumented is the story of immigrant workers who have come to the United States without papers. Every day, these men and women join the work force and contribute positively to society. The story is told via the ancient Mixtec codex—accordion fold—format. Juan grew up in Mexico working in the fields to help provide for his family. Struggling for money, Juan crosses over into the United States and becomes an undocumented worker, living in a poor neighborhood, working hard to survive. Though he is able to get a job as a busboy at a restaurant, he is severely undercompensated—he receives less than half of the minimum wage! Risking his boss reporting him to the authorities for not having proper resident papers, Juan risks everything and stands up for himself and the rest of the community.

To read my interview with author-illustrator Duncan click here.





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