Hi! We’re Cindy V and Eric P, and we have some thoughts about the best picture books of 2018. It seems like several of our favorites this year tended to revolve around big feelings – especially fear and rage. Is that a reflection of the world we’re living in, or just of where we’re at right now? Shut up, I’m not weeping under the desk, you’re weeping under the desk!
An expressionistic yawp of a book, bursting with rage and unreasonable resentment and all the contradictions inherent in the moods of a child – and, let’s face it, also in the moods of me. “I hate you but I want you to love me.” GET OUT OF MY HEAD, PICTURE BOOK!
By focusing on close-up minutiae of a family’s home life and the particulars of their ramshackle bike, and by conveying those details through the textures of Van Thanh Rudd’s dynamic paintings, the book almost lets us fail to notice that it’s set in an African community beset by poverty. But just as these illustrations – painted on repurposed cardboard boxes – make a virtue of limited resources, the irrepressible siblings invite readers from all backgrounds along for the ride.
Turk’s story of a mother and baby whale emphasizes the fragility of these giants, which makes it legitimately scary when the saturated colors of their world are invaded by sharply delineated harpoons. We then accelerate unexpectedly through two centuries of war and industrialization before landing in the conflicted eyes of a child on a cruise ship communing with a whale. The same whale as before? In Turk’s story of connectivity and accountability, it might as well be.
The extravagant black backgrounds of Lin’s double-page compositions, populated by puckishly expressive characters engaged in playfully kinetic mischief, give life – and a touch of “In the Night Kitchen” style absurdity – to her modern but timeless mythmaking.
This plea for accepting children’s identities as they present themselves to us is cunningly tucked inside an exuberant and whimsical story that bleeds imperceptibly from the subway to an undersea fantasia and back again. By cannily giving us access to the joyful vivacity of Julian’s imagined self-image early in the story, Love makes his no-nonsense abuela’s unquestioning support of her grandson both inevitable and a palpable relief.
The symbolism’s a little on-the-nose – okay, it is the nose, it’s the whole nose – but the personification of the main character’s relentless fearfulness as an elastic marshmallowy creature of many moods is both delightful and persuasive.
A goofy comedy routine in which a bunch of annoying kids pester the dark Sith lord, turning him into the deadpan comic foil he’s apparently always secretly wanted to be. Darth Vader as Margaret Dumont – thank you, Adam Rex.
It begins as an effervescently illustrated, but familiar, paean to a child’s imagination as filtered through all the colors of the paint box. But between Tamaki’s bold and striking paintings and the weighty portents of her lyricism – we wonder what crows are thinking but “their dark eyes won’t tell. They just pull their big bodies into the air” – the world of this book acquires an open-ended portentousness.
Like Eric, I love this Aussie import. The use of cardboard as canvas perfectly suits this story of siblings using whatever they can scavenge to make a bike. And the artwork is stunning – especially the first image of “our fed-up mum.” This book will spark creativity and hopefully, conversation about world poverty.
Thick acrylic paint relays this deceptively simple, heartrending and ultimately hopeful story of a boy and his dog. Seeger’s companion to the Caldecott Honor winning “Green,” this is the book on my list with all the feels.
A grandfather and grandson bridge the generational divide with art. Caldecott winner Santat’s considerable skill is on full display as he masterfully blends the grandfather’s accomplished pen & ink drawings with the grandson’s bold, colorful illustrations made with markers.
Okay, this one actually has all the feels. As Taylor deals with disappointment, a bunch of different animals try tell him how he should feel or how to act. The rabbit is the only one that listens, allowing the child to work through all the emotions.
The bright cut-paper collage illustrations add energy and movement to debut author/illustrator Oge Mora’s sweet story about sharing and community. Omu just wants to enjoy the delicious stew she’d made for supper but the aroma, depicted with white curvy paper throughout the book, attracts her neighbors. Of course, she shares her bounty, of course the pot is empty when she is ready to eat but she is rewarded with a delightful meal provided by all those she shared with.
The star of this mean girl learns a lesson in empathy story is Corinna Luyken’s illustrations. Clever use of color to convey Adrian and his rich imagination is countered with muted tones when he isn’t the focus.
Based on the author/illustrator’s immigration story, the artwork is spectacular. Morales incorporated original paintings, her childhood artwork, stitchery, fabric and more to create a unique visual experience which begs for repeated looks. And I’m a bit biased, but any book that portrays the library as welcoming and inspiring is fine by me.