10 Favorite Picture Books from 2016

2016 was another great year for picture books. I didn’t read as many as I usually do, but overall the quality of my picture book reading was up because I was more selective (rather than going to the library and grabbing a bunch of books at random).


My very favorite book of the year was Brendan Wenzel’s They Saw a Cat. I wrote about it in my Favorite Books of 2016 post earlier in the week.


Princesse CamCam uses such delicate cut-paper art to tell a wordless story about a fox who seeks refuge from a winter storm in Fox’s Garden.

dance dance underpants

I really struggle with reading Ballet Cat books aloud: I end up laughing so hard that I totally mangle the read-aloud. Especially since no one I ever read these books to thinks they’re quite as funny as I do. But I know I’m right: Dance! Dance! Underpants! is one of the funniest books of 2016.


Cumulative stories might be delightful to children, but they’re often a little bit boring to me. There is nothing the least bit boring about One Day in the Eucalyptus, Eucalyptus Tree, however. The use of language is so fresh and engaging, and Brendan Wenzel’s illustrations are so funny and detailed.


I was skeptical about School’s First Day of School, but I shouldn’t have been. Adam Rex creates a rounded and engaging character in the school and Christian Robinson’s illustrations are perfect, as always.


Darkly funny, even a bit macabre, A Hungry Lion, or A Dwindling Assortment of Animals had me laughing from the title. This is one I know my college students will appreciate.


A book that quietly, beautifully, explores loneliness, friendship, and what it means to live a purposeful life with exquisite illustrations by Erin Stead.


When Green Becomes Tomatoes features wonderful seasonal poetry by Julie Fogliano and charming illustrations by Julie Morstad.

monk and white cat

The White Cat and the Monk is one that I keep thinking about, months after first reading it. Smith’s illustrations are remarkable, and the simple text by Bogart has a lovely meditative quality.


Such a strong and surprising conclusion to Klassen’s brilliant trilogy. Not what I was expecting but absolutely what I needed.





11 responses to “10 Favorite Picture Books from 2016”

  1. carriegelson Avatar

    Lovely, lovely selection. You need to read Ballet Cat with younger students. They find it completely and utterly hilarious! Your giggling would be much appreciated. You would need to read it multiple times and then listen to it multiple times as they read it to you!

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      I can’t think of anything better than multiple readings of Ballet Cat–I’d happily read it ten times in a row and then sit, rapt, listening to them read it to me!

  2. Marcia Strykowski Avatar

    Excellent choices. Here’s to 2017 and many more new picture books!

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      Yes! PBs are my favorite reading, by far.

  3. Akilah Avatar

    Perhaps I need to give Ballet Cat a try…

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      Oh yes! Please, please do. I LURVE Ballet Cat. Big hit with my students too–even though they don’t cry with laughter as I do.

  4. Elizabeth Avatar

    Ahh! I should have guessed you read picture books too haha! That’s probably the thing I miss most about nannying. (Adults are rather frowned upon browsing the picture book section when unaccompanied by a child at my library) And you’ve got some of the ones I’ve most wanted to get my hands on! I guess luckily there’s the request option at the library, but I enjoy browsing rather more *sighs*

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      Totally obsessed in fact. I am a regular in the picture book section at the library. I usually just put holds on everything I want to read, however, because I don’t always have the patience to sort through the stacks. I think of it like this: I’ve done my browsing online! I couldn’t live without PBs. Hands down, my favorite reading. I’ll take They Saw a Cat over every other book I read this year. (Thankfully I don’t have to. But I also enjoy making extreme statements about picture books!)

  5. Elizabeth Avatar

    I want to get that Ballet Cat book! We’ve been reading one of them this week (where the Pony doesn’t want to dance) and it cracks me up. I also want to read the Klassen. I got a bunch of books for Owen for Christmas on your recommendation, and my favorite is the one about Nanette and the baguette. Nanette is beset with regret! Etc. Owen really likes the one about the chicken in space.

  6. pinkss5 Avatar

    Have you read a manga series of Japan? An anime pocketbook. These books are very interesting and you summarize all the story in just a click! Also the pictures it gives highlight about the story.

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