We have a full-on love affair with the library at our house. Despite having two full bookshelves of their own books, my kids prefer to only read books from the public library and the library at their school. It’s insane, yes. And there are some books at home they read again and again (the Elephant and Piggie ones and Raina Telgemeir’s graphic novels). But at least once a week, I approach the library and try to find some books my kids will love and — at least on the picture book front — I will not find insufferable.
In the last few years, I feel like there’s been a resurgence of truly beautiful picture books. I am an absolute sucker for matte pages with watercolor illustrations. This aesthetic works with more serious books, and it can add something to a sillier book, too.
As we approach the holidays, maybe you’re looking for a great picture book to gift to your special little ones. Or maybe you just need some new ideas for the library!
Either way, here are some of my very favorite picture books that are beautiful and interesting to read.
Strictly No Elephants by Lisa Mantchev, illustrated by Taeeun Yoo
I found this book recommended at an independent bookstore in Rhinebeck, New York, and brought it home to my preschool son as a gift. He’s an animal-lover, so he thinks this book, where the main character has a pet elephant, is great. It’s also a wonderful message about inclusion and friendship told through a slightly silly lens.
Julia’s House for Lost Creatures written and illustrated by Ben Hatke
Julia’s house is quiet, so she puts up a sign inviting “lost creatures” in. But soon her house is wild and full, and she has to problem-solve to find a happy medium. Hatke’s creatures are imaginative and adorable. We also adore Hatke’s Nobody Likes a Goblin, which is both silly and enchanting.
There Might Be Lobsters by Carolyn Crimi, illustrated by Lauren Molk
This story about a dog with a lot of fears having a day at the beach tickled us. Maybe I relate to the dog too much. The simpler illustrations really let the words speak. We all just adored Crimi’s book, and it’s one my kids will probably get for Christmas.
Du Iz Tak? written and illustrated by Carson Ellis
You wouldn’t think a book consisting entirely of a made-up language could be so readable and interesting, but the gorgeous illustrations carry this book along. Insects speak in nonsense (to us!) syllables about a flowering plant. My kids are charmed by this, in love with the violin-playing grasshopper, and like to say “rup furt!” to each other.
A Greyhound, a Groundhog by Emily Jenkins, illustrated by Chris Appelhans
This book is all about wordplay. What do a greyhound and a groundhog have in common? Not much. But when they meet, this book describes their antics in near tongue-twisters. I shouldn’t be surprised that I love Appelhans’s illustrations so much; he also illustrated Sparky!, another of my favorite picture books.