Our Favorite Children’s Picture Books, 2014

‘and what is the use of a book,’ thought Alice ‘without pictures or conversations?’


A LION IN PARIS by Beatrice Alemagna “This oversized book about a bored young lion who visits Paris to find “a job, love and a future” is worth every bit of paper and ink. The lion atop the Eiffel Tower, mane blowing in the wind, captures the essence of this artful, whimsical delight.”
—Kirkus Reviews, starred review

“By the time he decides to settle in the City of Lights, readers will be thoroughly charmed by both the lion and his creator.”
—Publishers Weekly

“Ms. Alemagna’s illustrations are made up of drawings, colored cutouts and bits of photography—an increasingly popular approach known as mixed-media collage—and she is playful with perspective. The effect is both mesmerizing and warming as we follow the great beast around the City of Light.”
—The Wall Street Journal

THE MOUSE MANSION by Karina Schaapman.“Schaapman’s ingenious miniature interiors are certain to captivate all ages.” – Kirkus Reviews, starred review

“Dollhouse aficionados will be thunderstruck by Schaapman’s engrossing debut, a room-by-room exploration of an actual mansion built to the scale of tiny gray cloth mice…the lived-in space—no fancy upper-class dollhouse—recalls Dickens’s London or, given Schaapman’s home city, Rembrandt’s Amsterdam. The mice lead humble, contented lives, and their mansion is sure to astonish.” – Publishers Weekly, starred review

THE HELPFUL ELVES by August Kopisch. “Based on a well-known poem by Kopisch (1799-1853) and illustrated in muted tones by Braun-Fock (1898-1973), the charm of this tale lies in the tiny elf tabs found at the top of each page. Together in a row, 10 elves are perched expectantly — each made distinct with a different smile or a long white beard — forming a miniature audience to watch readers. One can almost hear them gleefully giggling at the comeuppance they know is coming at the end. An enchanting, if abrupt, piece of German lore brought to a new audience. The lesson, curiosity killed the cat, rings true in all cultures.’ — Kirkus Book Reviews

ONE NIGHT FAR FROM HERE: A Magically revealing bestiary by Julia Wauters. It’s pitch-dark and everything seems asleep, but as dawn approaches, the worlds shrouded in darkness are revealed with all of their multitudes of creatures as we visit the Amazonian rainforest, the savannah, the tundra, the forest at our back door, and the deep blue sea. Clear acetate pages with printed illustrations and text create a wonderful “reveal” narrative as the pages are turned. Kids will love to see what’s behind each page. A game of hide and seek in a book with beautifully illustrated natural ecosystems that gradually reveal their inhabitants as its acetate pages are turned. With a full list of species included, One Night, Far From Here is both educational and fun, with art that highlights the wonder of each of these perfectly conceived natural worlds for eager young minds.


LION LION by Miriam Busch. “Beautiful pencil and watercolor illustrations give this book an old-fashioned feel…the story will keep readers on the edge of their seat. With a trick up his sleeve, our brave hero outwits a…hungry lion. With sophisticated humor and an ingenious twist, this story begs to be read and reread.” (Erin Barker, Hooray for Books!, Alexandria, VA for the Autumn 2014 Indie Next Picks)

“Sly, dark humor for little ones—at its best.” (Kirkus Reviews)

“With plenty of chuckle-worthy illustrations and a simple but enjoyable story, this should work well in storytimes or for one-on-one reading.” (School Library Journal)

“Amusing…[with] a Sendakian flair…An excellent way to introduce younger listeners to the deliberate subversion of expectations.” (Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books)

“A killer combination of twisty wordplay, kid-perfect watercolors and characters that demand funny voices, Lion, Lion is a read aloud sure to leave your audience delighted and you just a little hoarse.” (NPR)

ONCE UPON AN ALPHABET by Oliver Jeffers “The silly, spare, slightly surreal text occasionally rhymes and endlessly surprises. An utterly delightful alphabet book.”–Kirkus Review, starred review

“With wry humor, equally droll ink illustrations, and a solid dose of alliteration, Jeffers creates delightful mini-narratives for each letter of the alphabet.”–Publishers Weekly, starred review

“An altogether stimulating, surprising, and satisfying reading experience.”–School Library Journal, starred review

“Jeffers knows how to catch the attention of his young audience while challenging their imagination, intellect and vocabulary. This whimsical exploration of letters and language begs to be read over and over again.”–BookPage

“Handsome, humorous and clad in bright tomato-red, [this] is the sort of book you may want to rush into the arms of imaginative, good-natured children between 4 and 10 years old. [T]his is no traditional abecedarian exercise.The stories are wonderfully varied, sometimes philosophical and often end surprisingly; the drawings are just as quirky and unpredictable.”–The Wall Street Journal

THE FARMER & THE CLOWN by Marla Frazee “The book opens in a subdued landscape with the grim farmer, whose displeasure is evident when he’s obliged to rescue the young clown thrown from a passing circus train. At first, the farmer and the clown seem in stark contrast. The young clown is dressed in a red one-piece, with a relentlessly cheerful, painted smile, while the old, bent-over farmer has stark black overalls and an unchanging, glum face. But when it is time to wash up, the farmer sheds his black and white clothes and reveals a red one-piece of his own. The clown’s painted smile is wiped off, revealing that the child’s face is actually sorrowful. The emotional resonance of that single mirroring scene is extraordinary. In fact the entire book, with Frazee’s perfect pacing of images and use of negative space, light and shadow is true poetry.” (New York Times Book Review October 19, 2014)

Joyful, tender and triumphant, without a word spoken, this is storytelling at its finest. (The Washington Post September 30, 2014)

ONCE THERE WAS A BOY… Boxed set by Oliver Jeffers “An uplifting story…pictures of such spare beauty…suffused with a dreamlike quality.’ Independent Online ‘Oliver Jeffers makes impressive use of space in this affecting story of friendship…illustrations capture feelings of loss and loneliness through the most delicate nuances of facial expression…and body language.’ Julia Eccleshare, The Guardian

‘Beautifully illustrated, simple warm story…little children will love to share it.’ Carousel

‘Jeffers has a unique writing and illustrative style. It’s a wonderful picture book.’ Publishing News


MR. BROWN’S FANTASTIC HAT By Ayono Imai. An enchantingly positive story of love, loneliness, and the hope of renewal.
“Who needs friends?” thinks Mr. Brown. “I can suit myself and wear my smart hat all day long.” Try as he might, however, Mr. Brown is lonely. But when a woodpecker decides Mr. Brown needs some company, his life is transformed. “Splendid, surrealistic illustrations . . . The sheer whimsy of the bear and the simplicity of his cottage and the surrounding town add a quaintness that is quite touching. Savvy readers will enjoy the detailed and dreamy, imaginative artwork, including stunning illustrations of birds. With a binding as tall as Mr. Brown’s hat, this book will require a special place on your bookshelves. But it won’t stay there long.” —Carol Connor, School Library Journal

DORY FANTASMAGORY by Abby Hanlon. Move over, Junie B. Jones and Ivy & Bean! Here comes a lovably energetic little sister with a BIG personality—and an imagination to match!

As the youngest in her family, Dory really wants attention, and more than anything she wants her brother and sister to play with her. But she’s too much of a baby for them, so she’s left to her own devices—including her wild imagination and untiring energy. “This book is AMAZING! Perfection of tone, plot, pacing, art, you name it… In a word, fantastico.” –??Betsy Bird, A Fuse 8 Production Blog

“This is one of the best children’s books I’ve seen all year. If all is fair in this world, we’ll get treated to more Dory books.” – Julie Danielson/Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast

FIREFLY JULY: A Year of Very Short Poems by Paul B. Janeczko (Author), Melissa Sweet (Illustrator). Celebrated poet and anthologist Paul B. Janeczko pairs with Caldecott Honoree Melissa Sweet for a collection of short poems to sample and savor.”Executed in watercolor, gouache, and mixed-media, they capture and expand the spirit and sensibility of the verses they illustrate to wonderful effect. The harmonious cooperation of words and images provides a memorable reading experience for each season and for the whole year round.” Preschool-Grade 3. –Michael Cart, Booklist

SAM AND DAVE DIG A HOLE by Mac Barnett (Author), Jon Klassen (Illustrator). With perfect pacing, the multi-award-winning, New York Times best-selling team of Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen dig down for a deadpan tale full of visual humor. “Barnett’s well-chosen words and plentiful white space support readers. Klassen’s cross-section illustrations give readers a mole’s-eye view of the underground proceedings, extending the spare text with visual humor. As in his previous books, Klassen shows an uncanny knack for conveying meaning with the subtlest of eye movements. How fitting that the wordless final spread features a knowing look between the dog and a cat familiar to Klassen fans; all that’s missing from the trippy conclusion is the theme music from The Twilight Zone. Mind-blowing in the best possible way.”
—Horn Book (starred review)

Available for a limited time: three Autographed books by Chris Van Allsburg:

THE POLAR EXPRESS In 1986 The Polar Express was awarded the prestigious Caldecott Medal and hit the New York Times bestseller list. Since that time, more than six and a half million copies have been sold, and every December it faithfully reappears on national bestseller lists. Chris Van Allsburg autographed 50 copies for us during his recent signing at Book Beat. Stop by or call to save a copy soon!

THE CHRONICLES OF HARRIS BURDICK. This inspired collection of short stories features many remarkable, best-selling authors in the worlds of both adult and children’s literature: Sherman Alexie, M.T. Anderson, Kate DiCamillo, Cory Doctorow, Jules Feiffer, Stephen King, Tabitha King, Lois Lowry, Gregory Maguire, Walter Dean Myers, Linda Sue Park, Louis Sachar, Jon Scieszka, Lemony Snicket, and Chris Van Allsburg himself.

THE MISADVENTURES OF SWEETIE PIE From two-time Caldecott winner Chris Van Allsburg, creator of Jumanji and The Polar Express, comes a poignant story of one hamster’s struggle with destiny. Being a pet store hamster isn’t much fun for Sweetie Pie, but life in human homes proves downright perilous. As Sweetie Pie longingly gazes out of his cage at the squirrels frolicking in the trees, he wonders if he’ll ever have the chance to feel the wind in his fur. Allsburg’s expressive, soft-hued illustrations artfully capture a hamster’s-eye view of the wide and wonderful world where maybe, just maybe, Sweetie Pie could someday run free.

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