A round-up of terrific picture books from April to June
Earlier this year, I shared my favourite picture books from the first three months of the year. Here are 11 more picture books I’ve loved this year, all published from April through to June.
Harriet Gets Carried Away by Jessie Sima
Jessie Sima’s debut picture book, Not Quite Narwhal, was a favourite at Readings last year, and her second offering is equally magical and heartfelt. When costume-loving Harriet (she even gets dressed up for the dentist!) dons a penguin outfit on an errand to find the perfect party hats for her birthday, her dads warn her not to get ‘carried away’. But of course she does, by which I mean she is literally carried away by a group of real-life penguins. Sima’s deadpan storytelling and adorable illustrations add lots of warming humour to this madcap adventure.
For ages 3+
Valdemar’s Peas by Maria Jönsson
Valdemar hates peas, but his father says they must all go in the tummy before dessert. Luckily, Valdemar has a brilliant idea – he passes all his peas on to his little sister Lin who gobbles them up. He presents his empty plate to his father and confesses that the peas are in a different small wolf’s tummy. His lovingly exasperated parent gives him dessert anyway which is lucky, because Valdemar loves chocolate icecream. Parents will relate to the familiar struggle on the page, and kids will get a kick out of the unexpected ending. This story can also be gently instructive in teaching toddlers to tell the truth, even if they’ve been naughty.
For ages 3+
The Day War Came by Nicola Davies & Rebecca Cobb
Back in 2016, children’s author Nicola Davies wrote a poem in response to her government’s decision not to allow lone refugee children a safe haven in the UK. That poem sparked a social media campaign at the time, and has just now been released as a picture book with illustrations from Rebecca Cobb. With simple but imaginative text, Davies elegantly depicts the impact of war on a child’s life, from its sudden and terrible arrival to its pervasiveness, and also pays tribute to the power of small actions to enact change. The refugee crisis is one of the most critical issues of our time, and books like this one feel incredibly necessary for helping small people to make sense of what is happening.
For ages 4+.
Love Makes a Family by Sophie Beer
This is a truly glorious board book with an all-inclusive message. Emerging Australian illustrator Sophie Beer has created a bright and colourful ode to rainbow families. In her trademark energetic style, Beer depicts different families which are all the middle of a loving act, such as finding a lost teddy. The repetitive text and families events on the page will appeal to toddlers. I also encourage you all to read this terrific interview with Beer about her process.
For ages 1+.
Square by Mac Barnett & Jon Klassen
Beloved picture book duo Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen released the first story in their Shape trilogy last year. Triangle was a hilarious cautionary tale for kids who love sneaky tricks and it was my stand-out favourite picture book of 2017. Square is book two and just thinking about it fills me with joy. This is a clever, funny, twisty story about misconceptions, and the nature of ‘genius’. I felt such a strong connection to one particular image of the titular character (he’s screaming in frustration, naturally) that I was compelled to print it out and stick it by my computer.
For ages 4+.
Rhyme Cordial by Antonia Pesenti
This large format, lift-the-flap board book is such a surprising and joyful read. While the format is suitable for babies, older children (and adults) will enjoy the silliness of the Antonia Pesenti’s wordplay which sometimes made me laugh out loud – lift the flap and alarm clock becomes alarm croc, suitcase becomes fruit case, and so on. Pesenti is a Sydney based architect and illustrator and her artwork feels very fresh and exciting, with bold strokes and vivid colours.
For ages 1+.
Julian Is a Mermaid by Jessica Love
Jessica Love’s debut picture book is a stunner, a radiant celebration of self-discovery and individuality. Inspired by the spectacular outfits of some women he spotted on the subway, Julian gets dressed up in his own fabulous mermaid costume with the use of a curtain and the fronds of a potted fern. The unquestioning support from his Abuela when she sees him in costume is beautiful to behold. Love’s sparse text means the story is largely told visually and her soft, muted blend of ink, gouache and watercolor create a sense of enchantment that lingers long after finishing the final page.
For ages 4+.
Sorry Day by Coral Vass & Dub Leffler
Sorry Day is a beautifully produced picture book that explores the significance of the Australian government’s public apology for the Stolen Generations. Coral Vass entwines two stories – while a young girl, Maggie, waits with her mother for the speech to begin, we’re also shown the thoughts of the crowd around her which depict their experiences being taken from their families. This is a vital book for talking about Australian history, and how it has shaped our present-day.
For ages 5+.
The Longest Breakfast by Jenny Bornholdt & Sarah Wilkins
From two New Zealanders, this is a rollicking tale about the best meal of the day. When Malcolm is awakened by a hungry baby (‘Toot’) he sets about preparing breakfast, and ends up with a host of unexpected guests and swag of suggestions of what to serve. Mayhem ensues and poor Malcolm ends up quite frazzled, but don’t worry – everyone gets fed in the end. This is such a tremendously warm and winning picture book about family life. I suspect it will be a favourite for a long time.
For ages 3+.
If All the World Were… by Joseph Coelho & Allison Colpoys
If All the World Were… is a gorgeous homage to the relationship between a grandfather and a child. Performance poet Joseph Coelho provides the lyrical text, which is paired with richly swirling illustrations from Melbourne artist Allison Colpoys. This is the kind of picture book that adults can get as much out of as children – I am very close with my own grandfather and I was close to tears reading it. This book can also pave the way for a gentle but frank conversation about death with young people.
For ages 3+.
Hansel and Gretel by Bethan Woollvin
In this darkly funny tale, ‘Hansel and Gretel’ is retold from the witch’s perspective – Willow the good witch to be exact. Some readers may be shocked to discover what absolute hooligans Hansel and Gretel truly were. The two cause such havoc in Willow’s gingerbread cottage that she may just be pushed to extreme behaviour. This is Bethan Woollvin’s third fractured fairytale picture book and I’m a big fan of her striking illustration style. If you enjoy this one, it’s worth seeking out her versions of ‘Red Riding Hood’ (Little Red) and ‘Rapunzel’ (Rapunzel).
For ages 2+.