Best Picture Books 2019 | SLJ Best Books

Twenty-one exemplary titles made SLJ's list of the best picture books published in 2019.


Picture Books

How To Read a Book

by Kwame Alexander. illus. by Melissa Sweet. HarperCollins/Harper. ISBN 9780062307811.
PreS-Gr 2 –From Alexander’s sumptuous poetry, comparing reading to peeling the skin of a clementine, digging in to its juiciness, enjoying it “piece by piece, part by part,” to Sweet’s ingeniously detailed mixed-media collage artwork, children are encouraged to slow down, “get cozy between the covers,” and spend time enjoying and exploring every morsel of word and image in this glorious homage to the magic of reading.



The Little Guys

by Vera Brosgol. illus. by author. Roaring Brook. ISBN 9781626724426.
PreS-Gr 2 –A cohort of acorn-size beings, the Little Guys, explore the possibilities of collective action, discovering that they can move mountains when they work together. Whether they wield their awesome power for good or ill remains to be seen in this clever comic-style cautionary tale about forest domination by the witty and inventive Brosgol.


Lion and Mouse

by Jairo Buitrago. tr. from Spanish by Elisa Amado. illus. by Rafael Yockteng. Groundwood. ISBN 9781773062242.
PreS-Gr 2 –In this modern retelling of a classic tale of unlikely friends, readers go deeper into the friendship of the Lion and the Mouse beyond the notion of favors and experience how true relationships develop and grow. The engaging mixed-media illustrations add a layer of whimsy and warmth that make this version of the story so distinct.


Camp Tiger

by Susan Choi. illus. by John Rocco. Putnam. ISBN 9780399173295.
PreS-Gr 2 –A boy hopes that his family’s end-of-summer camping trip will never end so that he will not have to start first grade. Things change when a tiger appears at their campsite, and the young narrator finds himself taking on challenges he never would have thought possible. Imagination and realism flawlessly flicker and blend in this strikingly illustrated story about growing up and gaining independence.


The Scarecrow

by Beth Ferry. illus. by the Fan Brothers. HarperCollins/Harper. ISBN 9780062475763.
PreS-Gr 3 –Season after season, a stalwart scarecrow guards his domain, keeping the woodland creatures at bay, until a fledgling crow lands at his feet and touches his heart. He tucks the injured bird into his overalls, cares for him until he can fly, and opens his arms when the crow and his mate return to build a nest. The Fan Brothers have spun straw into gold in their lovely, expansive, and richly textured artwork.



by Julie Flett. illus. by author. Greystone. ISBN 9781771644730.
K-Gr 2 –Forced to move from her home by the sea, a young Cree girl, a budding artist and nature lover, befriends her elderly new neighbor who is an avid gardener and a potter. This tender and deeply resonant book explores the cycle of seasons and the cycle of life and celebrates an intergenerational friendship par excellence. With spare text and warm pastel and pencil art, this evocative selection is a poem for the heart.


Field Trip to the Moon

by John Hare. illus. by author. Holiday House/Margaret Ferguson Bks. ISBN 9780823442539.
PreS-Gr 2 –On a lunar outing, a spacesuit-garbed student wanders off into the monochromatic landscape, pulls out a sketchbook, and begins to draw, only to discover (after an unintended nap) that her teacher and classmates have left her behind. Five one-eyed, gray creatures, skittishly watching from afar, are intrigued by her multicolored crayons and together have their own field day with the art supplies. An irresistible, wordless wonder, brimming with wit and humor.


The Thing About Bees

by Shabazz Larkin. illus. by author. Readers to Eaters. ISBN 9780998047799.
PreS-Gr 3 –Larkin spins a buoyant monologue to his young sons about why bees are so important and how they are analogous to rambunctious children; the narrative is threaded with unconditional love for both subjects. Hand lettering, bold coloring, and textural, mixed-media artwork add energy while evocative language makes for a spirited and joy-filled read-aloud.


When Aidan Became a Brother

by Kyle Lukoff. illus. by Kaylani Juanita. Lee & Low. ISBN 9781620148372.
PreS-Gr 2 –When Aidan was born, everyone thought he was a girl, but as he grew older, he knew that he was “really another kind of boy.” He and his parents have worked together to make his life feel right, but now he worries about providing a perfect welcome for his soon-to-be-born sibling. Pairing effervescent artwork with a child-centered perspective, this satisfying family tale sweetly conveys Aidan’s heartfelt journey.


Going Down Home with Daddy

by Kelly Starling Lyons. illus. by Daniel Minter. Peachtree. ISBN 9781561459384.
Gr 2-5 –Lil Alan worries about what he can share when called upon to present at his great-grandmother’s anniversary celebration. Centered in a loving family, enriched by their memories, and on the land they have farmed for generations, the child is provided with his answer. Evocative, layered acrylic wash artwork in vibrant colors illuminates this moving tribute to family and history.


Fry Bread: A Native American Family Story

by Kevin Noble Maillard. illus by Juana Martinez-Neal. Roaring Brook. ISBN 9781626727465.
PreS-Gr 2 –This poetic homage to a food with origins in the diaspora of Native peoples in the United States takes a sensory approach to its subject, exploring the meaning and excitement of a family tradition. Superb back matter, a recipe, and soft, mixed-media illustrations that are both playful and poignant complete this stunning, important title.



by Oge Mora. illus. by author. Little, Brown. ISBN 9780316431279.
PreS-Gr 2 –A trip to the library, a picnic, and a one-night-only puppet show are some of the activities Ava and her mother have planned for their day together. But when Saturday arrives, the two are met with disappointment after disappointment until the day ends on an absolutely “splendid” note thanks to the resourceful and imaginative child. Imbued with a storyteller’s cadence and illustrated with brilliant collage images bursting with color, this is a book that begs to be shared again and again.


The Proudest Blue: A Story of Hijab and Family

by Ibtihaj Muhammad with S.K. Ali. illus. by Hatem Aly. Little, Brown. ISBN 9780316519007.
K-Gr 4 –Young Faizah tells the story of her big sister Asiya’s first day of sixth grade and first day of wearing hijab. Faizah’s enthusiasm and the girls’ mother’s words of strength shine a light on this important cultural milestone. Aly’s warm, rich, child-friendly images express pride and sisterly love.


My Papi Has a Motorcycle

by Isabel Quintero. illus. by Zeke Peña. Penguin/Kokila. ISBN 9780525553410.
K-Gr 2 –When Daisy’s tired papi arrives home from work, they strap on helmets and take off on his shiny blue motorcycle for a sunset tour of their Corona, CA, community. They zigzag and zoom through busy streets, savoring familiar sights and sounds, and cherishing time spent together. Motion-packed artwork and lyrical text portray the incandescent affection shared by father and daughter while offering a heartfelt homage to a vibrant city, built by immigrants and faced with constant change.


Puppy Truck

by Brian Pinkney. illus by author. S. & S./Atheneum. ISBN 9781534426870.
PreS –Instead of getting the puppy he’s been longing for, young Carter receives a toy truck for his birthday and transforms it into his pet. Pinkney’s bright and energetic acrylic and India ink artwork holds enormous appeal for a young audience, who’ll eagerly “vroom,” “beep,” and “bark” along with Carter.


¡Vamos! Let’s Go to the Market

by Raúl the Third. illus. by author. HMH/Versify. ISBN 9781328557261.
K-Gr 2 –Readers travel along as Little Lobo and his pooch deliver a wagonload of supplies to a bustling Mexican mercado, stopping along the way to watch street performers, sample tasty treats, and chat with friendly shopkeepers. Featuring endearing anthropomorphic animals, the vivacious cartoon artwork and simple text are jam-packed with Spanish words and cultural references, inviting youngsters to explore and discover while diving into the details of this delightful seek-and-find story.



by Jean Reidy. illus. by Lucy Ruth Cummins. S. & S./Atheneum. ISBN 9781534416642.
PreS-Gr 1 –When his person, Sarah, puts on a backpack and heads out the door, Truman gets worried and decides to venture out of his comfortable aquarium to find her. Journeying across furniture and the “endless rug,” the intrepid little reptile valiantly struggles his way, oh-so-slowly, to the front door...just as Sarah returns home from her first day at school. Turtle’s-eye view compositions, dramatic framing, and Truman’s hilariously earnest expressions will inspire giggles and repeated readings.



by Christian Robinson. illus. by author. S. & S./Atheneum. ISBN 9781534421677.
PreS-Gr 2 –In this cinematic, wordless picture book, a little girl and her cat go on a surreal journey into a parallel dimension. An identical black cat (wearing a blue collar instead of a red one) leads the pair through a mysterious portal to a topsy-turvy place where she meets new friends and encounters her own friendly doppelgänger. Robinson’s vibrant shapes, inventive compositions, and careful use of color and white space evoke mid-century modern masters. An adventure, an invitation, and a thought-provoking exploration of perspective.


The Quiet Boat Ride and Other Stories

by Sergio Ruzzier. illus. by author. Chronicle. ISBN 9781452152899.
PreS-Gr 2 –Despite their very different personalities—Fox prefers the serenity of a silent boat ride or a spectacular sunrise and Chick tends more toward energetic and overly imaginative pursuits—these two friends always manage to find common ground. Told with smile-producing illustrations and simply worded dialogue balloons, this quiet charmer is just right for sharing aloud or for bolstering readers taking their first steps toward chapter books.


The Phone Booth in Mr. Hirota’s Garden

by Heather Smith. illus. by Rachel Wada. Orca. ISBN 9781459821033.
K-Gr 3 –In the wake of a devastating tsunami, Makio watches as his neighbor builds a phone booth in his garden and talks to his son, who was snatched by the ocean. Mr. Hirota comes back day after day, and soon the other grieving villagers visit the booth as well. Makio, who had been silent since losing his beloved dad, finally picks up the disconnected phone and starts on his path toward healing. A beautiful and haunting story about loss, hope, and resilience.


Small in the City

by Sydney Smith. illus. by author. Holiday House/Neal Porter Bks. ISBN 9780823442614.
PreS-Gr 1 –Traversing a wintry cityscape can make anyone feel small and vulnerable, especially a young child or a lost pet. Smith’s brilliant, high-contrast pen and watercolor panels, pages, and panoramas provide the backdrop and capture the very real drama as a boy canvasses his neighborhood, hangs signs, and offers his missing cat tips, shortcuts, and encouragement to make its way home.

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Caitlin Siciliano

The link for transitional chapter books doesn't seem to be working.

Posted : Nov 19, 2019 09:45

Alia Jones

Just wanted to say that Julie Flett's last name is misspelled for BIRDSONG and so is the corresponding tag

Posted : Nov 19, 2019 01:44



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