One beautiful thing about picture books as a genre is that it groups together books that can span target audiences from the very youngest toddlers who are learning to not chew the pages of a book to upper elementary school students who can still be pulled into illustrated stories, albeit the ones with more complex texts. One extremely tricky thing about being a judge in the Fiction Picture Book category for the Cybils Awards is that our collection of books can span target audiences from those wee ones to the pre-teens. Yeah, double-edged sword, I tell you.
In today’s handful of nominated picture books, I want to share five books that I think are worth checking out for the toddlers and preschoolers in your life. They are lighter on text, pull in younger children with fun illustrative styles, and hold up to the multiple readings that parents are very often subjected to carrying out.
1. Night Light by Nicholas Blechman — What is it about toddlers and vehicles? These days, I’m spending lots of time with a couple one-and-a-half-year-olds, and every time they hear the chug of a truck going by or the wail of a siren, they immediately turn to see what amazing-to-them vehicle is going to drive by. (Right now dump trucks and street sweepers are VERY high on that list.) This adorable, colorful book utilizes pinholes of various sizes on the pages to give a preview of the light that is to come with the next page turn. The illustrations are filled with basic shapes and bright colors, and the text incorporates only a few words on each page as the number of lights increase from one to ten. The illustrations on the inside of the back cover reveal a fun little twist to the story that will make kids smile as they point out the variety of vehicles spread across the pages.
2. Dinosaur Kisses by David Ezra Stein — Stomping, chomping, and kissing all come naturally to little kids, and Dinah, the newly hatched dinosaur that graces this cover, is as toddler-like as a prehistoric creature can be. Like a toddler, too, a dinosaur can come on strong, and Dinah has to figure out just how to approach the critters she’d love to plant a kiss on without scaring them away. By the end of the book, Dinah just might have a new pal perfectly suited for toddler, I mean, dinosaur fun and games. I’m a big fan of David Ezra Stein’s work, and I’m happy to see another book by him geared to the littlest readers.
3. Storm Song by Nancy Viau and illustrated by Gynux — When a storm rolls in, young children’s fears often come with it. The crack of thunder and the bright flash of lightning can leave a toddler scared and unable to explain what he is feeling. One way to address children’s fears is through books, and when a familiar scary situation is presented with the characters effectively dealing with it, children can be reassured. This book does just that by showing a trio of little ones who are taken by surprise by a sudden storm, but thankfully their mom helps them find fun in the darkness with a little imagination, a couple flashlights, and some popcorn (cooked on the gas stove that I’m sure she’s thrilled to have!). As we grown-ups know, every storm passes, but sometimes kids need that reminder.
4. Red Hat by Lita Judge — This mostly wordless book puts a knit red hat at the center of an adventure with some curious forest creatures. When a baby bear sees the hat drying on a clothesline beside the little cottage, his “Hrmmm?” is an expression of curiosity that even a toddler can immediately grasp. Grabbed from the line, the hat soon becomes the plaything for a slew of the bear’s wild pals, and through all the excitement, the stitches soon come loose. After a “Yoo-ha!” and a “Hiii-ya!” (and a few other fun-to-mimic sounds), the porcupine’s “Wut-whoa,” will be perfectly understood when young readers see only a pile of red yarn left. Thankfully, the hat’s owner seems to have as good an attitude as a supply of red yarn, and soon enough the hat is remade, along with enough extras for everyone.
5. Ah ha! by Jeff Mack — Just as a frog begins to relax in the sun atop a rock in the pond, along comes a curious boy with a jar and an excited dog. There goes the frog’s fun in the sun, but this frog is determined to get out. As he gets out of one scrap, he seems to get right into another. What he thinks is a rock turns out to be a turtle shell, and the bumpy log ends up having teeth! Several combinations of the words in the title make up the only text in this book, and young children will love copying the exclamations as they wait to see what will become of the frog. Hint, the final word of the book is simply, “Aahh!”
I continue to have nominated picture books trickling in, and I’m happy to share my thoughts on them each week until we wrap up our duties as round one judges by the end of the year. Check out the nominations for more library check out inspirations.
All opinions offered here are mine alone, and do not represent the Cybils Awards.