Over the next several weeks, we, members of the Advocate Ministry Team, will be sharing our five favorite things. These articles are meant to be interactive. Each time we post an article, we will share our favorites, and then we will ask you to add your own favorites in the comments. This will help all of us build our children’s libraries, ministry libraries, and resource libraries.
If you know me, you know that I absolutely love children’s picture books! I’m going to share with you my five favorites, which is incredibly hard to do! In addition to sharing my favorites with you, I’m also going to share what I look for when choosing a good picture book.
Children’s books are a dime a dozen; but looking at a few key features of a book will help separate the great from the mediocre.
- Story—is the story relevant to today? Is this story just for fun or does this teach a lesson? Does the story explore a sensitive topic (e.g., bullying, mental health, racism, grief, etc.)? Can the story be a companion to a scripture lesson? Even a modern retelling of a classic can make for a great story!
- Language—is the language inclusive and accessible? Not only should the language be inclusive of all genders and characters of all abilities, but the language should be accessible. As you read the story, does it flow smoothly or does the meter trip you up? Think about how a child might read or hear the story.
- Illustrations—are the pictures inclusive? Do the illustrations include characters of color? Do the illustrations include people of all different abilities? How are the protagonists and antagonists depicted?
Here are my current top five favorite children’s picture books:
- The Black Book of Colors by Menena Cottin and illustrated by Rosana Faría
- The Boy and the Gorilla by Jackie Azúa Kramer and illustrated by Cindy Derby
- A Peacock Among Pigeons by Tyler Curry and illustrated by Clarione Gutierrez
- Strictly No Elephants by Lisa Mantchev and illustrated by Taeeun Yoo
- Big Momma Makes the World by Phyllis Root and illustrated by Helen Oxenbury
As a BONUS: here are four fabulous Instagram accounts which provide great recommendations and reviews on books. These creators may also be on other social media platforms, but Instagram is where I follow them.
- @hereweread (this creator also has a podcast by the same name)
How about you, what are your favorite children’s books? What would you add to the list? Share your favorites in the comment section for everyone to see!
One of my favorites is Who is my Neighbor? by Amy-Jill Levine and Sandy Eisenberg Sasso. Thanks for sharing these, I’ll have to check them out and add them to my list!
Why Christmas Trees Aren’t Perfect is my all-time favorite book for children. I have even used it for an extended “children’s message” on Christmas Eve. Project the pictures on a screen so large groups can enjoy the artwork, too.
A colleague introduced me to “What the Road Said” by Cleo Wade–a book she had used during her church officer training. It’s now my newest favorite children’s (and adults) book. Here’s a link to the author reading it https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c1nvYUjtEfA
Koala Lou by Mem Fox. It’s a wonderful story about unconditional love. And it makes me cry every time.
Thank You, Omu! by Oge Mora (caring for others)
All Are Welcome by Alexandra Penfold (inclusivity)
The Rabbit Listened by Cori Doerrfeld (being present; listening)
Maddi’s Fridge by Lois Brandt (friendship & food insecurity)
Last Stop on Market Street by Matt De La Pena (discovering who/what is around you)
I think my new favorite book isn’t out yet. It will be coming next spring, it’s called My Elephant is Blue. It’s about a child who one day has to figure out how to live now that there is a blue elephant around all the time.
Can I Pray with My Eyes Open? By Susan Taylor Brown. It’s a beautiful story of discovery about prayer—there is no wrong time or place for prayer.
The Three Questions based on a story by Leo Tolstoy written and illustrated by Jon J. Muth. When is the best time to do things? Who is the most important one? What is the right thing to do? This is a great story about the importance of the ministry of presence.
Thank you for all these recommendations!