Our Favorite Picture Books of 2020
At our house, we read A LOT of picture books, and that has been especially true this year. As a fun way to wrap-up 2020, we want to share some of our favorite books with you. We've included a variety of categories, so feel free to skim the list and see if any appeal to your family. Most of the books cater to children ages 2+, but, as always, use your discretion. We hope you enjoy!
Our Favorite Train Book
Because I'm publishing a book about a train, we had to include our favorite train book of 2020!
Follow The Track All The Way Back
Author: Timothy Knapman
Illustrator: Ben Mantle
Publisher: Walker Books (UK) & Candlewick Press (US) (2017)
Book Description: A young train ventures out on the track all by himself for the first time. He is nervous, but his anxiety quickly turns to exhilaration as he becomes comfortable with his newfound freedom and sees what adventures the landscape has to offer. It is only when he reaches the end of the track that night (and is alone in the dark) that his excitement fades, and he wishes to be safe at home with his parents. After wondering what he should do, he remembers the advice that his parents gave him before he left home: “Just follow the track all the way back.”
If you’re interested, check out the animated trailer for the book below:
Why We Love It:
The text includes fun train sounds and actions and a very catchy refrain.
The illustrations are beautiful, and they include lots of animals that kids can look for.
The book’s theme of growing up and gaining independence is really relatable for kids.
Avery loves to follow the train’s journey on the book’s endpapers.
Our Favorite Potty-Training Book
Avery just turned three years old, so we have spent much of the year talking and learning about potty-training. We’ve read several books on the topic over the last year, and this one is our favorite by far:
Author: Hope Vestergaard
Illustrator: Valeria Petrone
Publisher: Sterling Publishing (2010)
Book Description: Join the class of young animals at Sycamore Preschool as they learn proper restroom etiquette in this very silly (but very memorable) rhyming book. Each student in the class commits a common potty faux pas but learns from their mistake, thereby teaching young children the dos and don’ts of potty-training. For example, Freddie is afraid to flush the toilet, and Wilbur does not like to wash his hands. Suki forgets to go potty before naptime, and Ziggy forgets to zip up his pants. This book covers everything from peeing outside to wiping to passing gas in public, but it does so in a light-hearted way that is appropriate for young children. It is charming, funny, and a must-read for potty-training toddlers!
Why We Love It:
The text is long, but the rhyme scheme is very well-done and keeps the reader’s interest.
The characters are cute and memorable, and the included etiquette lessons touch on a wide variety of topics.
The lessons that the characters learn are summed up in simple phrases that are repeatable in everyday conversation. Many of them have become go-to phrases for maintaining good potty etiquette in our household. For example, "Don't forget to flush, Freddie!" 😊
Our Favorite New Release
This book is WAY up there on my list, rivaling Penguin Cha-Cha (below) for my favorite book of the year. In my opinion, it's a must-read!
Dozens of Doughnuts
Author: Carrie Finison
Illustrator: Brianne Farley
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons – An Imprint of Penguin Random House (2020)
Book Description: LouAnn is a bear who decides to make and eat one dozen doughnuts before going to sleep for the winter. Just as she sits down to eat, however, her doorbell rings. A friend has come to visit and would like to share in LouAnn’s feast. LouAnn happily shares her doughnuts; however, one by one, more guests arrive, and each one expects her to share. LouAnn grows frustrated as she makes batch after batch of doughnuts, only to give them all away to her friends. Eventually, LouAnn runs out of ingredients…and patience. In a fit of rage, she scares away her friends and sulks in her den, hungry and alone, until…DING DONG! Who is at LouAnn’s door this time, and what surprise might they have in store?
Why We Love It:
The characters and illustrations are adorable.
The book's rhyme scheme and its unexpected interruptions are executed perfectly.
It teaches kids about counting, sharing, and being a good friend.
Every time we read it, Avery and I select our favorite doughnuts on the book's front endpapers. When we finish reading, we check the rear endpapers to see if we "ate" all of our chosen doughnuts. It’s a fun game, and they all look so delicious!
*Note: Reading this book might make you want to eat at least a dozen doughnuts!
Our Favorite Christmas Book
This was one of our favorite library books last Christmas. Avery loved it so much that I bought it for her this year, and we have already read it more than any other Christmas book we own...and it's not even December yet. 😊
The Broken Ornament
Author & Illustrator: Tony DiTerlizzi
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books (2018)
Book Description: Jack is a young boy who wants it ALL for Christmas: more decorations, a bigger tree, and, of course, more presents! When Jack accidentally breaks his mom’s most cherished ornament, he doesn’t understand why they can’t just get another one to replace it. Then, in a moment of magic, a pixie named Tinsel arrives on the scene and gives Jack everything that he THINKS he needs to make the holiday special: an indoor winter wonderland complete with caroling elves, a herd of reindeer, and lively snowmen. Unfortunately, something is still missing for Jack. However, with Tinsel's help, Jack realizes the true magic of Christmas, and he sets outs to make his mother a priceless Christmas gift to replace her broken ornament.
Why We Love It:
The text is charming and witty, and the dialogue is expertly-crafted.
The illustrations are incredible. I am particularly impressed by their crisp lines, fine details, and the use of light and shadows to highlight certain areas of each picture.
The story is full of Christmas magic, but it also teaches children that Christmas is about much more than decorations and presents.
Our Favorite Series
So far, we have read fourteen books in this series and have purchased six of them. We plan to read (and probably buy) more. This series is a winner!
Animal Antics A to Z
Author: Barbara deRubertis
Illustrator: R.W. Alley
Publisher: Kane Press (2010)
Series Description: Each student in Alpha Betty’s class is the star of their own book in this fun animal alphabet series. From Alexander Anteater, who attempts to perform an amazing act for his school’s talent show, to Zachary Zebra, who zippity zooms through the day until he starts losing precious "zzzz’s" at night, each of the 26 characters has their own unique story to tell. Each book features one letter of the alphabet and teaches phonemic awareness by incorporating words that use the featured letter in a variety of ways.
Why We Love It:
There is a character and storyline for every child. Each character is very memorable, and each storyline is very relatable for young children.
The featured letter is used at the beginning, middle, and end of many words (as opposed to only at the beginning).
Each book includes fun facts about the real-life animal that inspired the book’s main character AND educational activities related to the featured letter.
Avery loves scanning the class picture at the beginning of each book and finding the featured character. She also loves scanning the illustrations and naming all of Alpha Betty's students that she is familiar with.
Of the books that we have read so far, here are some of our favorites:
Eddie Elephant’s Exciting Egg-Sitting
Gertie Gorilla’s Glorious Gift
Hanna Hippo’s Horrible Hiccups
Polly Porcupine’s Painting Prizes
Tessa Tiger’s Temper Tantrums
Walter Warthog’s Wonderful Wagon
We checked out this book from the library right before COVID-19 hit in March. I just returned it it last month (mostly because I felt bad for keeping it so long). Reading it makes us smile, giggle, and want to dance. What more could we ask for?
Author & Illustrator: Kristi Valiant
Publisher: Random House Books (2013)
Book Description: A young girl named Julia loves to dance and enjoys spending her Saturdays watching live shows at her local zoo. One Saturday, Julia is watching dancers perform when she notices that a group of penguins is hiding backstage, and they are sneakily collecting the dancers’ discarded accessories. Julia can’t help but wonder what the penguins are up to, so she follows them to find out. It turns out that the penguins are putting on their own secret dance show! Julia really wants to dance with the penguins, but, whenever she tries, they freeze and act like there is nothing going on. Will Julia find a way to earn the penguins’ trust and join their exclusive dance crew? Tap, Flap, Cha-Cha-Cha!
Why We Love It:
The book is about dancing penguins…what’s not to love?!
The book has fun rhythmic and rhyming language interspersed among simple prose text.
The illustrations have several small details that complete the story and keep things interesting for the reader.
The book leaves the reader wondering about the next adventure…and wanting more.
It's as simple as this...Avery LOVES Daniel Tiger!
Daniel Tiger’s 5-Minute Stories
Publisher: Simon Spotlight – An Imprint of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division (2017)
Book Description: This book is a collection of twelve 5-minute stories starring Daniel Tiger. Daniel is a fun-loving Tiger who enjoys going on adventures, trying new things, and learning important lessons along the way. Each story invites the reader to tag-along with Daniel and his family, friends, and neighbors as they explore and experience new things, such as starting school, visiting the doctor, trying new foods, enjoying a first sleepover, welcoming a new sibling, etc.
Why We Love It:
Daniel teaches kids important life lessons in a very approachable and relatable way.
Daniel is very friendly and lively, and he loves to sing. His songs have great messages, and many of them serve as helpful parenting tools.
Since we read a lot, it’s great to get twelve stories for the price of one hardcover book.
In addition to the books, Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood is a TV show on public television. It is an updated, animated version of Mister Roger's Neighborhood that provides high-quality educational content. Avery is a big fan of the show!
We sincerely hope that you enjoy these books as much as we have! To receive monthly book recommendations, sign-up for my newsletter at the bottom of this page. Otherwise, if you have any picture book recommendations for us, please type them in the comments below. We are ALWAYS looking for fun new books to read! 😊
Happy holidays (and happy reading) from our family to yours!