2017’s Best New Picture Books (So Far)

I’m lucky enough to do storytime here at the Lawrence Public Library, and while there are some challenging days of herding toddlers, it is a joy and a privilege to introduce children to literature and catch a small slice of their innocence and wonder.

When we started up storytime again this fall, I wanted to try something different: Read a handful of random books, held together only by the fact that they were published in 2017. (Weirdly, most of them are from February; who knew that was such a hot picture book publishing month?)

Here are a few of my favorites. My only disclaimer is that I chose these for a Toddler Storytime audience; I think all of these would work well for older and younger kids — I mean, they utterly delight me — but keep in mind they were picked to work for toddlers especially.

A Perfect Day” by Lane Smith (February 2017)

The twist at the end of this book had me giggling in delight. Imagine your perfect day … then add a bear. The illustrations are full of life and are just as engaging as the text. Lane Smith is well known for his work with Jon Scieszka in “The Stinky Cheese Man” and “The True Story of the Three Little Pigs.” While there is echo of the same style, the illustrations are much dreamier and less dark. I could stare at them all day.

Stack the Cats” by Susie Ghahremani (May 2017)

What do cats do? Stack! A cute counting book full of adorable kittens who, for some reason, are going to stack themselves. A silly premise with equally quirky and colorful illustrations, this book subtly introduces math concepts in the form of stacking cats. What’s not to like?

A Good Day for a Hat” by T. Nat Fuller, Illustrated by Rob Hodgson (March 2017)

Mr. Brown has a hat for every occasion. Raining? He’s got a hat for that. Cooking? Chef’s hat engaged. Fire-breathing dragon? Helmet acquired! With increasingly ridiculous situations and hats for specific needs, the repetitiveness of the book has you smiling as you await the next wacky situation. Boldly colored and hilarious.

Ribbit” by Jorey Hurley (February 2017)

Gorgeous. That was my immediate thought when I flipped through “Ribbit” for the first time. I was a little worried to read this for toddler storytime because of the sparse text, with one word per two-page spread. But the illustrations are so beautiful and engaging, mesmerizing the kids as well as myself. In the picture-book world, which is sometimes full of busy illustrations with tons of text, “Ribbit” is a calm break in the clamor that reminds you less is more.

Not Quite Narwhal” by Jessie Sima (Feb 2017)

A book with narwhals and unicorns? Sign me up! Kelp the “Narwhal” is just trying to find his place in the world. He knows he doesn’t fit in with his narwhal buddies, but when he views a strange creature on land, he realizes he might not be the narwhal he thinks he is. With swoon-worthy illustrations and an excellent message, I highly suggest this adorable book.

What’s your favorite picture book from 2017 so far? Luckily, we’ve still got three months to go. Sound off below!

— Lauren Taylor is a youth services assistant at the Lawrence Public Library.