Books for Younguns, Young Adults and the Young-at-Heart

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

My Favorite Picture Books of 2012

I wanted to do a year-end recap, but in an informal way.  So I'm listing my top ten favorite young adult, middle grade and picture books of 2012.  In order to limit my options, books are only eligible if they are a standalone or the first in a series, and--of course--they must have been originally published during 2012.  Other than that, this is a completely subjective list and not meant to be *the best* , only my favorites.  They are not ranked, but listed in alphabetical order by author.  I'd love to hear your favorites in the comments.

My Favorite Picture Books of 2012

Extra Yarn by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Jon Klassen
This charming story has a fable-like feel, but is told with enough whimsy to keep it fresh and modern.  Klassen's illustrations are a highlight, as always, with the knitting's burst of color providing a solid argument for yarn bombing.  Look out for a cameo from some of our favorite characters from I Want My Hat Back.

Hit the Road, Jack by Robert Burleigh, illustrated by Ross MacDonald
There aren't many stories less likely to get a picture book adaptation than On the Road.  And to be fair, most of what plot there is in the original has been stripped away.  What we get is a love letter to the side of America not often celebrated in picture books, from its downtowns to its highways.  The watercolor illustrations practically glow.

Otter and Odder: A Love Story by James Howe, illustrated by Chris Raschka
Such a cute and sweet little story of forbidden love between an otter and a fish.  This can be used as a teaching moment for anything from avoiding prejudice to making compromises.  Raschka's child-like scribblings really strip the story down to the simple emotions at its heart.

This Moose Belongs to Me by Oliver Jeffers
Jeffers does a little something new with each book, and in this one he's chosen to layer his adorable characters over gorgeous landscape photography.  Add to that the timeless story about love and friendship, and this is another winner from a picture book author who deserves more recognition.

Magritte's Marvelous Hat by D.B. Johnson
Teaching anyone about the concepts behind abstract art can be tricky, but this highly fictionalized account of the work of Magritte makes it easy and fun to introduce to the littlest readers.  The acetate pages allow for plenty of fun discoveries.  Make sure to flip through this one to get the full effect.

Black Dog by Levi Pinfold
A strange but beautiful book about the bravery of facing your fears (that might not be that scary after all).  The surreal illustrations lend a dreamy feel to the story.

Kitty and Dino by Sara Richard
This wordless picture book inspired by manga art tells a fairly standard mismatched friendship tale.  It really stands out in its sense of humor and beautifully expressive characters.

Red Knit Cap Girl by Naoko Stoop
The story is simple and great for a bedtime read-aloud, but this book really shines in the illustration department.  Stoop's character is already established from her popular Etsy shop, but the soft and whimsical creatures watercolored onto wood are perfect for transitioning to picture book.

Silly Doggy! by Adam Stower
A great little laugh-out-loud story.  It bubbles with child-like imagination and energy.  And there's a cute bear!  And a surprise ending!  What more could you want?

Piggy Bunny by Rachel Vail, illustrated by Jeremy Tankard
A charming little story of acceptance, this is perfect for any child who feels different, no matter to what degree.  There's enough humor for those just looking for a story, but the pig who wants to be a bunny can be a metaphor for any number of situations, and his case is treated so respectfully anyone would have a hard time arguing that he shouldn't be allowed to be a bunny after all.

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