Dec 9, 2015

2015 in Review: Favourite Picture Books

2015 in Review: Favourite Picture Books

As I’ve done for the past few years, I’m opening my Year in Review series of posts with a look at the best picture books I discovered this year (not all of which are necessarily 2015 releases). In 2015 I did my best to continue to expand my picture book knowledge, both for work-related reasons (I started doing storytimes semi-regularly, so it’s more important than ever that I keep up to date) and because, let’s be honest, picture books are a lot of fun and you’re never too old for them.

Here’s my list — one of my favourite things about working on these posts is that they give me the chance to share some of my favourite art of the year, so I hope you’ll enjoy that regardless of whether or not you have any interest in the books themselves:

  • Olivia by Ian Falconer

  • What’s it about? The most awesome girl pig the world has ever known. I could list the whole series here, because once the first one fell into my hands I devoured all the others in one big gulp. Olivia is a person, in all the glorious complexity this implies, and the books are full of humour and individuality. The art is remarkable, too — minimalist but extremely expressive, making great use of contrast and of a limited colour palette. If I had to pick a favourite, I’d probably go with Olivia Forms a Band or Olivia and the Missing Toy, but all of them are a triumph.

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  • Professor Astro Cat’s Frontiers of Space by Dominic Walliman and Ben Newman

  • What’s it about? Space! This non-fiction picture book is an introduction to the science of space in all its glory. It’s accessible without being oversimplified, it’s full of candy-coloured, humorous, beautiful art, and it evokes the sense of awe and possibility the best science writing for any age conveys.

  • Rosie Revere, Engineer by Andrea Beaty and David Roberts

  • What’s it about? A girl who’s interested in inventions, and her relationship with the great-aunt who encourages her passion and tells her to persevere. A beautiful, creative celebration of women in STEM and of female mentorships. I mean, what’s not to love?

  • Young Charlotte, Filmmaker by Frank Viva

  • What’s it about? Another creative girl with an older woman as a mentor, this time in the field of film. This gorgeously designed book introduces young readers to the art of filmmaking through the eyes of Charlotte, a little girl who’s in love with the old black and white films she watches with her father. Charlotte learns to hone her art with the help of a woman who works as a curator at the Museum of Modern Art.

  • Swan: The Life and Dance of Anna Pavlova by Laurel Snyder and Julie Morstad

  • What’s it about? A biography of late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century ballet superstar Anna Pavlova, and a moving evocation of Pavlova’s passion for her art. Swan has what just might be the most beautiful illustrations I’ve seen all year: I could happily stare at this book for hours.

  • Shackleton’s Journey by William Grill

  • What’s it about? Well, the title is a bit of a hint. This book won this year’s Kate Greenaway Medal, and I can see why: the art is absolutely gorgeous, and it tells Shackleton’s story with economy and elegance, picking just the right details to bring the Antarctic to life. Having said that, I’d have been far happier without the assertion at the end that Shackleton and his men survived due to their “strength of character” — the counterpoint being of course that those who did not survive similarly extreme experiences were simply weak. I desperately wish we told these stories in a way that acknowledges that the outcome of such situations is largely the product of chance, rather than of innate superiority.

  • Home by Carson Ellis

  • What’s it about? The concept of “home” and its endless variations, both physical and metaphorical, explored through imaginative art and minimalist language.

  • The Princess and the Pony by Kate Beaton

  • What’s it about? Fearsome Warrior Princess Pinecone and her tiny pony, who defeats her foes through sheer adorableness. This book is full of Kate Beaton’s customary humour, and it made me smile from start to finish.

  • I’m a Girl by Yasmeen Ismail

  • What’s it about? Why gender essentialism is stifling and why it should be gleefully and pointedly ignored. A delightful, joyful book about a little girl who enjoys games and activities some adults appear to believe are “for boys”, and who later in the story is joined by a little boy who unapologetically plays with dolls. As the two say, “we’re us — there’s no one better.”

  • Pool by JiHyeon Lee

  • What’s it about? A boy and a girl who dive into a pool and explore an underwater world. Using nothing but images, JiHyeon Lee tells a rich and nuanced story whose sense of wonder stays with you beyond the last page.

  • Rules of Summer by Shaun Tan

  • What’s it about? Two boys who break the unspoken rules of summer and discover a dark, dreamlike world full of wonder, possibility and awe. This is another book I could stare at for hours: Shaun Tan never disappoints.

  • Miss Hazeltine’s Home for Shy and Fearful Cats by Alicia Potter and Birgitta Sif

  • What’s it about? Trust and care — and cats, of course. It tells the story of a witch who runs a home for fearful cats, and it celebrates gentleness, community and support while subverting the stereotypes surrounding women who live alone with cats.

  • North: The Amazing Story Of Arctic Migration by Nick Dowson and Patrick Benson

  • What’s it about? What the subtitle says. If Frozen Planet were a stunningly illustrated picture book, I suppose it would be North. Much like Professor Astro Cat’s Frontiers of Space, it evokes the sense of wonder many of us experience when in close contact with science and nature, and it does it so vividly it actually made me tear up.

  • What a Hoot! by Fran Preston-Gallon

  • What’s it about? Owls and their adorableness. Much like Preston-Gannon’s equally brilliant Hot Dog Cold Dog, it’s a celebration of contrast, colour and shape accompanied by sparse but wonderfully rhythmic language.


    1. Lovely, thank you! This gives me some good ideas for Christmas presents...

    2. Awesome. I am definitely going to look for some of these.

    3. What a list of wonderful looking books! I wish I knew children I could give them to. Since I don't maybe I will have to check my library and see if I can enjoy some of them just for myself :)

    4. A lot of these are new to me. Some of them look too old for my classroom but some of my co-workers might like them.

      Also, next year I'm hosting a picture book reading challenge; you might enjoy participating.

    5. Wonderful list! I loved many of them as well.

    6. What a fantastic list! And just as I'm panicking over what to get my nephew for Christmas.


    Thank you so much for taking the time to comment - interaction is one of my favourite things about blogging and a huge part of what keeps me going.