Our Favorite 2019 Picture Books

Arree and I are going to share some of our favorite picture books published in 2019, and then we'd love for you to share your favorites in the comments. That way, we all end up celebrating a bunch of great books and finding new mentor texts. And to help motivate you to share, there's a giveaway at the end of this post.

Arree's Favorites

Is it curious that my two favorite picture books this year involve eating human beings? Can you believe that these books were published? Let’s celebrate their brilliance.

I’ve always admired Ryan T. Higgins’s sense of humor and We Don’t Eat Our Classmates doesn’t dissappoint. What better way to calm first day of school nerves than read about a nervous dinosaur that eats her classmates?

First day of school stories have been told many times and most stories are too message heavy and have predictable endings. They’re not really fun for kids or parents to read. They feel like lessons. But Ryan pulls it off effortlessly with humor, embarrassment, and a few bites. (Don’t worry, no one was seriously hurt.) Telling kids to be empathetic is one thing. Showing how it feels to be bitten is another!

I guess it shouldn’t be any surprise that I also love Hungry Jim, by Laurel Snyder. Melissa Manlove, who edited this book at Chronicle, showed me this book earlier this year, and I immediately loved it.

I gasped as Jim, who turns into a lion one day, devours his mother and practically everyone in the book! The art and the story remind me of Maurice Sendak’s work, wildly imaginative and emotionally honest.

Come to think of it, the idea of eating our emotions isn’t entirely new. People eat to deal with their emotions all of the time. (There’s a reason why Ben and Jerry’s Cherry Garcia is a popular late night checkout item.) I just never thought the concept of eating people could be used in picture books. It’s so refreshing to see this idea explored in two great stories.

Myrna's Favorites

No one gets eaten in the stories that I picked, but I have to say that I also loved the two that Arree picked. There's actually a really delightful podcast where Matthew Winner, Laurel Snyder, and Chuck Groenink discuss Hungry Jim that I'm going to share before I discuss my two picks.

In Between Us and Abuela: A Family Story from the Border, Mitali Perkins has created a story that resonated with me so strongly that I had to get a second opinion from my daughter. I bring home stacks of 10-20 picture books from the library, and she agreed that it was the best picture book in the stack (which included books by Ryan T. Higgins, Adam Rex, Mem Fox, and a lot of award-winning authors and illustrators). 

It's a story about La Posada Sin Fronteras. A mother takes her two children to see her mother, their abuela, through the border fence that separates San Diego (United States) and Tiajuana (Mexico). The children bring gifts for their abuela, and the older sister comes up with a brilliant way to get the picture her brother drew to their abuela. This story has a lot of heart.

And the writing is amazing. “Hugging her would feel like hugging a chunk of cookie dough.”

My second pick is a friendship story that shows how a shared obsession/interest/talent and little bit of kindness can lead to the best kind of friendship. (Another 2019 book that did this well was Andrea Zuill's Sweety.)

Poetree, by Shauna LaVoy Reynolds, wasn't even on my radar. But a librarian displayed it facing out on a top shelf, and I picked it up because of Shahrzad Maydani's beautiful cover. I thought it might be a poetry collection, but it's a story with two characters who write poetry. 

If you love poetry and trees and friendship like I do, this story is for you. 

Thanks for reading! Please leave some of your favorite picture books in the comments so that we can check them out. If you do share your favorites in a comment, we'll enter you in a giveaway for a $20 Barnes and Noble gift card. We'll close the giveaway at midnight on Friday (1/3/20), and I'll pick a winner on Saturday.

Edited to add: Lou Flores won the gift card. Thanks to all of you for sharing your favorites with us!

Happy New Year!

Blog Contributors

Instructor Photo: Myrna Foster

Myrna Foster writes and edits content for Storyteller Academy and the WriteRiders Newsletter for SCBWI Nevada. She has spent a lot of time teaching and coaching children, including five years as a preschool teacher. She's also worked as a journalist, and Highlights High Five has published six of her poems. 

Arree Chung is an author/illustrator and the founder of Storyteller Academy. Arree’s Ninja! series has received starred reviews from Kirkus and School Library Journal. Kirkus also gave a starred review to Mixed, which recently won the FCGB award. 

Today Arree lives a creative life, making stories for children. Arree spends most of his time making picture books, writing middle grade novels, and sharing his love for art, design, and storytelling with kids and dreamers everywhere.

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61 thoughts on “Our Favorite 2019 Picture Books”

  1. I also like “We don’t eat our classmates” because it’s a funny story and well told. I like “Go Girl, Go” because it presents girls in action doing all the jobs that often only are shown with boys doing them. I bought both for my granddaughter this season. She’s five and interested in learning.

  2. I also love the book and illustration of Poetree. It’s such a gentle story, very comforting in a way. I love trees, wildlife, etc. and this idea is so wonderful, just a simple joy in an unexpected friendship and the lovely gifts that that friendship produces.

    1. “This Book Just Ate My Dog by Richard Byrne is a new favorite of mine. My students love reading it over and over. Another favorite book that is considered a picture book is the book called, “ The Book with No Pictures “ by B.J.Novak my grandsons love to read this book. Dad’s and grandpas love reading it to them!

  3. My picks were publushed in 2016 and 2017, but I discovered them this year. Neon Leon and Perfectly Norman were two picture books I found as mentor texts for stories that discuss differences in heartwarming ways. Neon Leon is interactive, and my two year old loves talking back to her books as we read together.

  4. I love pretty everything Ryan T Higgins and Laurel Snyder write! No, really. 😀 Poetree was written by my debut group Notable19 buddy! Can’t wait to share this with her.

    I read over 120 PBs this year and one of my favs is Truman…but honestly, I can’t pick just 2 favorites because I adore so many of them (and I’m in 3 book promo groups so I would feel bad singling out some 😬).

  5. I agree with Teresa! With so many great books, how do you ever choose? In STEM, I love hers and MADE BY MAXINE, by Ruth Spiro. In humor, I love Leave Me Alone! By Vera Brsogol. In historical, Vivian Kirkfield’s! Making Their Voices Heard. There are SO many! What a great problem to have, right?

  6. I loved “Hair Love” by Matthew Cherry, “We Don’t Eat Our Classmates”, and “New Kid”…for different reasons. There were so many great books this year but those floated to the top for me because my daughter and I have been in a constant battle to tame her hair and “Hair Love” gave us giggles and love. I’m teaching a class on Social Justice in Public Schooling and allowed students to read and critique “New Kid” for extra credit. Most of the students have never experienced racism themselves but will be teaching in just a few years – it helped them realize that children have to navigate things they may never really see or understand in the same way. It was a powerful teaching tool!

  7. My top 3 books published in 2019 are The King of Kindergarten by Derrick Barnes and illustrated by our amazing Vanessa NB, Zombies Don’t Eat Veggies by Jorge and Megan Lacera, and Perfect by Max Amato.

    King: This is book lyrical, positive without being preachy, and a blast to read and look at all the illustrations. This is one of the books I bought for myself and not my kids.

    Zombies: hysterical concept with a lot heart. The Laceras bring in Latino culture and a ton of food puns. If you haven’t read it, you should.

    Perfect: Pencil and eraser, a classic friendship story in a nearly wordless book. It is one that I read and wish I had dreamt up. If you need a mentor text anthropomorphic object stories, this is a “perfect” one to start with.

    1. Wow so many amazing books here and in 2019. I’ve read most of these picks in your post and in the comments, but some are going on my TBR, thanks so much for sharing! I have so many, but I’ll share the ones that affected me the most: MY SHAPE IS SAM by Amanda Jackson. It’s about finding where you belong and accepting yourself and there’s math!(in the form of shapes). And THE SILENCE SLIPS IN by Alison Hughes. This is such an important book about down time being important and the art is absolutely stunning.

  8. Happy New Year Myrna and Arree!

    The books you two listed are great. I also love Matthew Winners Children’s Book Podcasts. Hearing interviews with the authors, illustrators, editors is very inspiring.

    Picking two favorites for this year is so hard. As I think about my lessons learned this year, I am thinking about putting me into my writing, having the confidence to let go of the fear of non-acceptance for who am, how I act, the way I think, and how I handle life. So I choose my two favorites that I feel exemplify, putting the heart of author and illustrator on the pages of the books. I know there are more out there and there are way too many books I didn’t get a chance to read this year, but for this moment, these two inspired me from the moment I heard about them. When I got to read them, that inspiration remained.
    Fry Bread by Kevin Noble Maillard a story about Fry bread, family, and Native American culture. The illustrations by Juana Martinez-Neal are soft and as poetic as the writing.
    The other is Lynne Marie’s Molidilocks and the Three Scares. She reinvented an old tale to be inclusive and inviting to any adoptee or outcast. David Rodriguez Lorenzo created creepy zombie illustrations just right for this tale. It’s a treat for Halloween, a story of inclusion, and great for teaching folktale units. Lynne said in an interview that someone told her adoptees love Halloween because it allows them to be whoever they want to be. I wonder if it’s really that we get to experiment and discover who we really are?

  9. So many wonderful books this year – how lucky are we?
    Two that really stand out for me as repeat reads, perfect picture books and mentor texts are:
    What Miss Mitchell Saw (Beach Lane Books) by Hayley Barrett and illustrated by Diana Sudyka (NF)
    and Truman (Atheneum) by Jean Reidy and illustrated by Lucy Ruth Cummins

  10. Two books are actually tied for my favorite picture book of 2019:
    Mario and the Hole in the Sky: How a Chemist Saved Our Planet by Elizabeth Rusch is the biography of Dr. Mario José Molina, the researcher who discovered the horrifying effects of CFCs on our planet’s protective ozone layer and how his efforts to alert the world, brought global changes that have begun to reverse the negative effects.
    The second is Dancing Hands: How Teresa Carreño Played the Piano for President Lincoln by Margarita Engle. I had never heard of Teresa Carreño, the prodigy pianist from Venezuela who began playing the piano as a little girl and composing her own music by the time she was 6. Not only did she play for President Lincoln as noted in this lovely story, but apparently for the famous composers Rossini and Liszt, too!
    Both are remarkable and inspirational stories for all children.

  11. It’s so hard to choose, but some of my favorites this year were:

    “The Buddy Bench” written by Patty Brozo, illustrated by Mike Deas
    “Fry Bread” written by Kevin Noble Mailard, illustrated by Juana Martinez-Neal
    “Super Duper You” written and illustrated by Sophy Henn

    1. So many wonderful books published this year. A few favorites:

      Dancing Hands by Margarita Engle illustrated by Rafael Lopez
      The Love Letter by Anika Denise illustrated by Lucy Ruth Cummins
      Zombies Don’t Eat Veggies by Megan and Jorge Lacera
      Bikes for Sale by Carter Higgins illustrated by Lucy Ruth Cummins

  12. I’m leaving out lots of great books, but here are a few I loved: Truman, by Jean Reidy and Lucy Ruth Cummins; Lenny The Lobster, by Finn & Michael Buckley and Catherine Meurisse,; Duckworth the Difficult Child, by Michael Sussman & Julia Sarda; When Grandma Gives You a Lemon Tree, by Jamie Deenihan and Lorraine Rocha; Hungry Jim, by Laurel Snyder and Chuck Groenink; Paws and Edward, by Espen Dekko and Mari Kanstad Johnsen; Saturday, by Oge Mora; and A Home in the Woods, by Eliza Wheeler.

    Happy New Year, Myrna and Arree!

  13. NF and narrative NF ~ Go, Girls, Go, A Voice for the Spirit Bears, Pluto Gets the Call, Manhattan: Mapping the Story of an Island (lengthy, but interesting), I Campaigned for Ice Cream, The Boy Who Grew a Forest, Sweet Dreams, Sarah, The Book Rescuer, Nine Months: Before a Baby is Born, Carter Reads the Newspaper, Martin and Anne.

  14. Two of my faves this year are surprisongly about nature. First is You Are Home by Evan Turk. It’s a beautiful celebration of the National Parks and a great example of a nonfiction picture book that also works as a read aloud. The other is The Shortest Day by Susan Cooper with gorgeous illustrations by Carson Ellis. If you ever needed a book celebrating the winter solstice, this is it.

  15. I really like Paul McCartney’s “Hey, Granddude!” It’s about a grandpa entertaining his four grandchildren in exciting (and sometimes magical) ways.

  16. I’m embarrassed to say this, but I don’t feel “up” on the newest books at all. Besides the Children’s Book podcast, what are some other ways to stay in the know?

  17. How I Met My Monster… third in a series about the monster under the bed. I LOVE the illustrations, and the story is so cute. When I heard the first one – being read by a librarian in a school library, I had to purchase it for my granddaughter. (her nickname is monster, lol) The second book is just as cute, as his sister now needs a monster. Now the third book goes into how he met his monster. My grandkids love to hear it over and over again…

  18. It is hard to choose one’s favorite Picture Books because there are so many! 🙂 One PB I happened to review for a friend is Jean Matthew Hall’s Thanksgiving themed story called, God’s Blessings of Fall. It is New Year’s Eve today as I write this so, the recent holidays we have all recently celebrated are still fresh in my mind. 🙂 Hence, my choice here.
    I love this PB due to the bright, colorful illustrations that read along with the written words for this lovely tale of gratefulness. This book is a celebration of nature and delights the reader as they enjoy the rich text of this story. Much can learned by the reader as they engage within its’ pages.
    Thanks for allowing me to share this and thanks for the chance to enter your giveaway.

  19. How to Catch a Star
    Lola Shapes the Sky
    Mr. Tiger Goes Wild
    King Mouse
    This is Not my Hat
    Pokko and The Drum
    My Baby Crocodile
    The Boy, The Mole, The Fox, ans the Horse
    So many more…

  20. Loved “We Don’t Eat Our Classmates”! We read that one several times at home and laughed a LOT. My own favorite reads of 2019 include “The Day You Begin” and “Merci Suarez Changes Gears”. Those two really captured my heart in 2019!

  21. So many brilliant books in 2019, it’s difficult to choose so I’ll pick the two I most loved reading with my son and the preschool class I visit.
    We Don’t Eat Our Classmates
    The Very Impatient Caterpillar

  22. Scarecrow (illustration by the Fan Brothers ) was one of my favorites this year. A sweet story and precious illustrations.

    1. There were so many great books, but SCARECROW simply blew me away. That book gave me all the feels and I hope to write like that some day. I read it to kindergarteners and they wanted me to read it again and again.

  23. My favorite was You Are My Friend by Aimee Reid. I love Mister Rogers! Such a sweet and heartfelt book. ❤️

  24. I LOVED We Don’t Eat Our Classmates. I thought it was perfection! And I wonder why books like these never seem to get any Caldecott attention. BUT that book was actually published in 2018!

    So for my 2019 picks, I will say:
    Llama Destroys the World by Jonathan Stutzman, Illustrated by Heather Fox
    Who Wet My Pants by Bob Shea, Illustrated by Zachariah Ohora

  25. Between Us and Abuela is one of my favorites also. The story is beautiful, and the author is such a sweet and generous person. This year, I also fell in love with the books, The Bad Seed and The Good Egg. They resonated with me and I saw my former fourth grade students in those characters–the ones who saw themselves as “bad” and also the ones who tried so hard to be perfect, they started to crack.

  26. I liked a lot of the books already listed here so I am going to pick a few that haven’t been mentioned; Four Otters Toboggan by Vivian Kirkfield and illustrated by Mirka Hokkanen. Beautiful, lyrical, nature. Great for a bedtime read. I just picked up My Tiny Pet written and illustrated by Jessie Hartland. Fun, great story where a girl solves a problem in an interesting way and we learn about an interesting critter. I love Laurie Wallmark’s books and especially liked Hedy Lamarr’s Double Life that came out this year.

  27. I read 100+ picture books this year and have too many favorites to list but these are some of mine published this year:
    We Don’t Eat Our Classmates, Truman, Small in the City, Queen of Physics, Rosie the Dragon and Charlie, Moldilocks
    Wishing everyone a prolific, positive, and peaceful 2020!

  28. The Book Rescuer! Because I heard the author and illustrator AND the book rescuer himself speak one magical evening. ❤️ Also, Dandy, although I have a dandelion story, too. Hers is so much better!! Revision time!

  29. I also love WE DON’T EAT OUR CLASSMATES! But I discovered BUNNY BEAR this year by Andrea Loney and met her at a conference. I bought the book for my baby nephew!

  30. I loved In a Minute, Mama Bear! It shows the different but equally important priorities of a child & a parent. When the priorities are reversed It’s a light bulb moment. The illustrations are bold, simple & colorful & hold the childrens’ attention. The book lends it self to reading in a dramatic fashion which makes it FUN.

  31. Nicole Salter Braun

    I have several favorites from the past year. Hard to narrow it down. I did enjoy a couple that Arree and Myrna mentioned. Also:
    Julian is a Mermaid
    I Am Enough
    Sterling, Best Dog Ever
    The Rabbit Listened
    Dear Girl
    Mary Had a Little Lab

    Some fun, some with a lot of heart…..

  32. Rachael Schweigert

    I love the series by Andrea Beaty for teaching my students (Iggy Peck, Rosie Revere, Ada Twist) I also love that the books rhyme. I was very excited to see her new book out, Sophia Valdez, Future Prez 😃

  33. Nicole Salter Braun

    Ummmm…..Super embarrassing but I’m gonna try this again as I accidentally wrote down 2018 favorites! )First day of the New Year and I’m confused as usual)

    Anyway….I liked

    Dandy by Ame Dyckmann
    Because by Mo Willems
    The Great Indoors by Julie Falatko
    Cowhide and Seek by Sherri Dillard

    1. Don’t be embarrassed. This is a safe place to make mistakes. We all make them, and both of your lists are great. Thank you!

  34. Hi Arree and Myrna,
    Happy New Year! I have several favorites! The first is a nonfiction pb bio with prose that sings! Guess you can tell I love lively prose. The other four are science pbs that are clever, funny, and perfect for budding scientists.

    1) Dancing Hands by Margarita Engle illustrated by Rafael Lopez
    2) Cells: Ann Owner’s Handbook, by Carolyn Fisher
    3) Moon: Earth’s Best Friends
    4) Nerdy Babies: Ocean, by Emmy Kastner
    5) Nerdy Babies: Space, by Emmy Kastner

  35. Mrs. Shawn Holmes

    Happy New Year everyone!
    My name is Shawn and this is my first time posting.
    I must say the book “We Don’t Eat Our Classmates” sounds fun although I’ve never read it! Lol, I totally would not only for my own entertainment but for my “Love -Alots” too ( The grand ladies ). Thanks for the share Myrna (smiley face).
    I’d have to say my favorites for this year are my own book babies ” Eden the Talking Cockatoo,” “Pop-Pop and Me” “Brooklyn, No Nap,” “Wednesday Wonderful,” “Little Mr. Potus Yes I Can,” and “Little Miss President!” (Copywritten and unpublished as of now but soon) I’ve read some stories on my YouTube channel Shawn’s bookbabees feel free to check them out leave a comment. I’d love some feedback from fellow literary creators!
    I anticipate an amazing author’s journey! This is a wonderful creative platform thank you for inviting me Myrna!

  36. Such great picks! Arree’s picks are definitely a throwback to my childhood, filled with stories that have dark humor; it’s similar to Klassen’s work, though more overtly(and comically) dark. I like it. Picture books can accomplish so much if handled appropriately. Myrna’s picks are very interesting, as well. The idea of kids lit poetry is new to me but so, so sweet to consider. I want to check out all of these books. Between Us and Abuela seems so beautiful and important and looks like it’s gorgeously rendered, as well.
    Speaking of #ownvoices projects, early last year I was introduced to Juana Martinez-Neal’s work(very late, I know!) and completely fell in love with her character design and palette. Fry Bread came out in 2019. La Princesa and the Pea is another great book as well.

  37. Two of my favorite picture books that I discovered this past year weren’t published in 2019. One book that I discovered is “First Snow” by Bomi Park. The artwork in it is wonderful and it gives such a peaceful feeling to the theme of the book. Another one of my favorites is “Just Add Glitter” by Angela DiTerlizzi. I found it on display on a table at our public library and the word “glitter” is what piqued my interest since I’m a glitter fan. I checked out the Just Add Glitter book and was instantly inspired by the artwork in it that was done by cutting out paper characters and backgrounds and arranging them as 3-dimensional scenes in the book. I have always loved paper dolls and the artwork in the book is similar to paper dolls living in the scenes of the book. I highly recommend both books. Each are unique and a treat to read and admire the artwork.

  38. Whew, lots of great books! The first one to come to my mind is “Fry Bread,” Kevin Noble Maillard and Juana Martinez-Neal. I initially picked it up because I grew up alongside a Native American community with many N. A. friends. This book is an example of good P.B. writing partnered with satisfyingly rich illustrations. I added it to our P.B Wordsmith Reading List under a couple of categories.

  39. I have loved reading all the favorite books from the year – so many I now need to go check out at the library! And this really helped me think about what I read this year with my kids. My top favorites for 2019 are:
    -My Papi Has a Motorcycle by Isabel Quintero, illustrated by Zeke Pena – this brought back so many memories of childhood of riding with my dad on his motorcycle and growing up in southern california. I loved it!
    -Grandpa’s Top Threes by Wendy Medour, illustrated by Daniel Egneus – a boy helps his grandpa through grief and it is so beautiful. My kids loved it too!
    -The Undefeated by Kawme Alexander, illustrated by Kadir Nelson – more for older readers, but a gorgeous poem that looks at black americans through history. Caldecott winner? Probably!
    -The Proudest Blue by Ibtihaj Muhammad, illustrated by Hatem Aly – I love this sister story about hijab and talking with my kids about how we all show our faith in different ways.
    – Being Edie is Hard Today by Ben Brashares, illustrated by Elizabeth Bergeland – about a girl who imagines being all sorts of animals throughout her hard day at school. The art is gorgeous and it’s a bit of an ode to Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.

    Okay okay, I’ll stop there! Thanks Aree and Myrna! <3
    PS. Will you be at Storymakers this year, Myrna? I'd love to see you!

    1. Shar! It’s so good to see you here! I don’t think I’ll make it to Storymakers this year. The conference is usually in May, and one of my kids is graduating from high school that month. But I will be back at some point. I’d love to see you again too!

  40. I was particularly taken by SMALL IN THE CITY by Sydney Smith. The illustrations and the emotional feel of the book are captivating. I also loved and laughed at WE DON’T EAT OUR CLASSMATES.

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