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Ten Picture Books You Should Read in 2016

I’m participating with a lovely group of authors and bloggers in a picture book review schmooze (PCJ Kidlit Faves Blog Party). We are discussing our favorite children’s books of 2016! Each of us has written about one book; my review is below, followed by a list of links to the others’ reviews. You can learn more about the participants at the bottom of this page.

Without further ado…

My favorite picture book of 2016 so far is RETURN. RETURN is the third and final installment of the JOURNEY trilogy of wordless picture books (written and) illustrated by Caldecott honoree Aaron Becker. As with all wordless picture books, the burden is completely on the artwork to tell the tale. And it should come as no surprise that Becker’s wondrous illustrations are more than up to the task.

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We follow once again an adventurous girl and her magical red crayon. This time, her father follows her through the magic portal she draws. And this time, their foes brandish a device that negates the magic crayons’ ability to create. Dad and daughter can only flee. Is the solution to their dilemma contained within mysterious petroglyphs they discover?

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Audiences can enjoy RETURN without having read its predecessor books. The magnificent artwork is extremely effective at building an alternate world, immersing readers into that world, and conveying a story without using a single word (perhaps the trilogy is itself an homage to petroglyphs). Unconstrained by vocabulary level, RETURN is a marvelous read for kids of any age, while the artwork makes it coffee table-worthy for adults as well.

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About the authors/bloggers

Cate Berry is an author, performer, songwriter, and teacher. She’s the author of two original shows, one of which (Dish) was produced at the Long Center for Performing Arts in 2014. Cate’s debut picture book, Penguin and Tiny Shrimp Don’t Do Bedtime will be available in Spring 2018 (Balzar + Bray).

Charnaie Gordon, a computer programmer by trade and a Distinguished Toastmaster, is the blogger behind the popular Here Wee Read blog, where you’ll find tips and suggestions for finding the best children’s books, and be inspired to make the most of your read aloud time, however much that is.

Danna Smith is the author of many books for children, including her most recent fiction titles, Swallow the Leader and Arctic White, as well as numerous non-fiction titles, such as Balloon Trees and the forthcoming The Hawk of the Castle: A Story of Medieval Falconry (Candlewick, 2017).

Eileen Manes is a writer, an artist and the blogger behind Pickle Corn Jam, a blog about books and writing for children of all ages. She was recently nominated as a finalist for the SCBWI-Austin Cynthia Leitich Smith Writing Mentor Award, and her current projects include picture books, a middle grade novel and a novel for adults, all in various stages of completion.

Henry L. Herz is the author of numerous books for children, including Mabel and the Queen of DreamsLittle Red Cuttlefish and the forthcoming Dinosaur Pirates (Sterling, 2017). He’s a regular panelist at conventions, including San Diego Comic-Con and WonderCon, and has been a guest blogger on several blogs, including Tara Lazar’s Picture Book Idea Month (PiBoIdMo) and Angie Karcher’s Rhyming Picture Book Month (RhyPiBoMo).

Karen Santhanam is a writer, an artist, a blogger and host of the popular Storybook Spotlight podcast. Storybook Spotlight is about reading with kids, children’s books and family fun, including interviews with children’s books authors, illustrators, librarians, teachers, preschool folks and friends. She was also recently nominated as a finalist for the SCBWI-Austin Cynthia Leitich Smith Writing Mentor Award.

Kell Andrews writes novels and picture books for children and nonfiction for adults. A little bit of magic helps with both. Her first novel, Deadwood, was published in 2014 and her debut picture book, Mira Forecasts the Future, came out this year (2016, Sterling).

Keyosha Atwater is an avid reader, Instagramer and blogger. When she isn’t reading to her own kiddos or reviewing books on Instagram @weebooklovers, you’ll find her working on her brand new blog, Wee Book Lovers, where she’ll be reviewing even more books and suggesting the best of the best kid-tested, mom-approved books to try with your own family.

Liz Garton Scanlon is the author of numerous beloved books for young people, including the highly-acclaimed, Caldecott-honored picture book, All the World, and her debut novel for middle grade readers, The Great Good Summer. She’s also a poet, a teacher and a frequent, popular presenter at schools, libraries and conferences.

Vanessa Roeder (Nessa Dee) is an illustrator, painter and self-proclaimed crafty mess-maker. She’s worked as a muralist and made art for magazines, children’s books and homes around the world. She’s taught art, writes stories, has been featured in Highlights Magazine and on Apartment Therapy and was the grand prize winner in the Austin SCBWI 2016 portfolio contest.

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