HomeBooks by AgeAges 0-3The Best Picture Books of 2019

The Best Picture Books of 2019

The Children’s Book Review

We can’t get enough of these amazing picture books! Here are 25 titles that we’re willing to call the best picture books of 2019.

Fry Bread

Written by Kevin Noble Maillard

Illustrated by Juana Martinez-Neal

Publisher’s Synopsis: Told in lively and powerful verse by debut author Kevin Noble Maillard, Fry Bread is an evocative depiction of a modern Native American family, vibrantly illustrated by Pura Belpre Award winner and Caldecott Honoree Juana Martinez-Neal.

Fry bread is food.
It is warm and delicious, piled high on a plate.

Fry bread is time.
It brings families together for meals and new memories.

Fry bread is nation.
It is shared by many, from coast to coast and beyond.

Fry bread is us.
It is a celebration of old and new, traditional and modern, similarity and difference.

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Ages 3-6 | Publisher: Roaring Brook Press | October 22, 2019 | ISBN-13: 978-1626727465

When Sadness is at Your DoorWhen Sadness is at Your Door

Written and Illustrated by Eva Eland

Publisher’s Synopsis:A comforting primer in emotional literacy and mindfulness that suggests we approach the feeling of sadness as if it is our guest.

Sadness can be scary and confusing at any age! When we feel sad, especially for long periods of time, it can seem as if the sadness is a part of who we are–an overwhelming, invisible, and scary sensation.

In When Sadness Is at Your Door, Eva Eland brilliantly approaches this feeling as if it is a visitor. She gives it a shape and a face, and encourages the reader to give it a name, all of which helps to demystify it and distinguish it from ourselves. She suggests activities to do with it, like sitting quietly, drawing, and going outside for a walk. The beauty of this approach is in the respect the book has for the feeling, and the absence of a narrative that encourages the reader to “get over” it or indicates that it’s “bad,” both of which are anxiety-producing notions.

Simple illustrations that recall the classic style of Crockett Johnson (Harold and the Purple Crayon) invite readers to add their own impressions.

Eva Eland’s debut picture book is a great primer in mindfulness and emotional literacy, perfect for kids navigating these new feelings–and for adult readers tackling the feelings themselves!

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Ages 3-7 | Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers | January 29, 2019 | ISBN-13: 978-0525707189

Because by Mo WillemsBecause

Written by Mo Willems

Illustrated by Amber Ren

Publisher’s Synopsis: Mo Willems, a number one New York Times best-selling author and illustrator, composes a powerful symphony of chance, discovery, persistence, and magic in this moving tale of a young girl’s journey to center stage. Illustrator Amber Ren brings Willems’ music to life, conducting a stunning picture-book debut.

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Ages 5-6 | Publisher: Hyperion Books for Children | March 5, 2019 | ISBN-13: 978-1368019019

Lubna and Pebble

Written by Wendy Meddour

Illustrated by Daniel Egnéus

Publisher’s Synopsis: In an unforgettable story that subtly addresses the refugee crisis, a young girl must decide if friendship means giving up the one item that gives her comfort during a time of utter uncertainty.

Lubna’s best friend is a pebble. Pebble always listens to her stories. Pebble always smiles when she feels scared. But when a lost little boy arrives in the World of Tents, Lubna realizes that he needs Pebble even more than she does.

This emotionally stirring and stunningly illustrated picture book explores one girl’s powerful act of friendship in the midst of an unknown situation.

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Ages 4-8 | Publisher: Dial Books | March 5, 2019 | ISBN-13: 978-0525554165

My Papi Has a Motorcycle

Written by Isabel Quintero

Illustrated by Zeke Peña

Publisher’s Synopsis: A celebration of the love between a father and daughter, and of a vibrant immigrant neighborhood, by an award-winning author and illustrator duo.

When Daisy Ramona zooms around her neighborhood with her papi on his motorcycle, she sees the people and places she’s always known. She also sees a community that is rapidly changing around her.

But as the sun sets purple-blue-gold behind Daisy Ramona and her papi, she knows that the love she feels will always be there.

With vivid illustrations and text bursting with heart, My Papi Has a Motorcycle is a young girl’s love letter to her hardworking dad and to memories of home that we hold close in the midst of change.

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Ages 4-8 | Publisher: Kokila | May 14, 2019| ISBN-13: 978-0525553410

Buy the BookGoing Down Home with Daddy

Written by Kelly Starling Lyons

Illustrated by Daniel Minter

Publisher’s Synopsis: “On reunion morning, we rise before the sun. Daddy hums as he packs our car with suitcases and a cooler full of snacks. He says there’s nothing like going down home.”

Down home is Granny’s house. Down home is where Lil’ Alan and his parents and sister will join great-grandparents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. Down home is where Lil’ Alan will hear stories of the ancestors and visit the land that has meant so much to all of them. And down home is where all of the children will find their special way to pay tribute to family history. All the kids have to decide on what tribute to share, but what will Lil’ Alan do?

In this rich and moving celebration of history, culture, and ritual, Kelly Starling Lyons’ eloquent text explores the power of family traditions. Stunning illustrations by Coretta Scott King Honor-winner Daniel Minter reveal the motion and connections in a large, multigenerational family.

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Ages 4-8 | Publisher: Peachtree Publishing Company | April 1, 2019 | ISBN-13: 978-1561459384

Saturday

Written and Illustrated by Oge Mora

Publisher’s Synopsis: In this warm and tender story by the Caldecott Honor-winning creator of Thank You, Omu!, join a mother and daughter on an up-and-down journey that reminds them of what’s best about Saturdays: precious time together.

Today would be special. Today would be splendid. It was Saturday! But sometimes, the best plans don’t work out exactly the way you expect….

In this heartfelt and universal story, a mother and daughter look forward to their special Saturday routine together every single week. But this Saturday, one thing after another goes wrong–ruining storytime, salon time, picnic time, and the puppet show they’d been looking forward to going to all week. Mom is nearing a meltdown…until her loving daughter reminds her that being together is the most important thing of all.

Author-artist Oge Mora’s highly anticipated follow up to Caldecott Honor Thank You, Omu! features the same magnificently radiant artwork and celebration of sharing so beloved in her debut picture book.

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Ages 4-8 | Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers | October 22, 2019| ISBN-13: 978-0316431279

Buy the BookWhere Are You From?

Written by Yamile Saied Méndez

Illustrated by Jaime Kim

Publisher’s Synopsis: This resonant picture book tells the story of one girl who constantly gets asked a simple question that doesn’t have a simple answer. A great conversation starter in the home or classroom—a book to share, in the spirit of I Am Enough by Grace Byers and Keturah A. Bobo.

When a girl is asked where she’s from—where she’s really from—none of her answers seems to be the right one.

Unsure about how to reply, she turns to her loving abuelo for help. He doesn’t give her the response she expects. She gets an even better one.

Where am I from?

You’re from hurricanes and dark storms, and a tiny singing frog that calls the island people home when the sun goes to sleep….

With themes of self-acceptance, identity, and home, this powerful, lyrical picture book will resonate with readers young and old, from all backgrounds and of all colors—especially anyone who ever felt that they don’t belong.

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Ages 4-8 | Publisher: HarperCollins | June 4, 2019 | ISBN-13: 978-0062839930

Birdsong

Written and Illustrated by Julie Flett

Publisher’s Synopsis: A tender, luminous portrait of art, nature, and connecting across generations.

When a young girl moves from the country to a small town, she feels lonely and out of place. But soon she meets an elderly woman next door, who shares her love of arts and crafts. Can the girl navigate the changing seasons and failing health of her new friend? Acclaimed author and artist Julie Flett’s textured images of birds, flowers, art, and landscapes bring vibrancy and warmth to this powerful story, which highlights the fulfillment of intergenerational relationships and shared passions.

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Ages 3-8 | Publisher: Greystone Kids | October 8, 2019 | ISBN-13: 978-1771644730

Small in the City

Written and Illustrated by Sydney Smith

Publisher’s Synopsis: It can be a little scary to be small in a big city, but it helps to know you’re not alone.

When you’re small in the city, people don’t see you, and loud sounds can scare you, and knowing what to do is sometimes hard. But this little kid knows what it’s like, and knows the neighborhood. And a little friendly advice can go a long way.

Alleys can be good shortcuts, but some are too dark.

Or, there are lots of good hiding places in the city, like under a mulberry bush or up a walnut tree.

And, if the city gets to be too much, you’re always welcome home, where it’s safe and quiet.

In the first book that he has both written and illustrated, award-winning artist Sydney Smith spins a quiet, contemplative tale about seeing a big world through little eyes.

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Ages 4-8 | Publisher: Neal Porter Books | September 3, 2019 | ISBN-13: 978-0823442614

Truman by Jean ReidyTruman

Written by Jean Reidy

Illustrated by Lucy Ruth Cummins

Publisher’s Synopsis: After his best friend Sarah leaves for her first day of school, a tortoise named Truman goes on an adventure across the living room and learns to be brave in this thoughtful and heartwarming twist on a first experience story.

Truman the tortoise lives with his Sarah, high above the taxis and the trash trucks and the number eleven bus, which travels south. He never worries about the world below…until one day, when Sarah straps on a big backpack and does something Truman has never seen before. She boards the bus!

Truman waits for her to return.
He waits.
And waits.
And waits.
And when he can wait no longer, he knows what he must do.

Even if it seems…impossible!

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Ages 4-8 | Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers | July 9, 2019 | ISBN-13: 978-1534416642

The Neighbors by Einat TsarfatiThe Neighbors

Written and Illustrated by Einat Tsarfati

Translated by Annette Appel

Publisher’s Synopsis: As a young girl climbs the seven stories to her own (very boring!) apartment, she imagines what’s behind each of the doors she passes. Does the door with all the locks belong to a family of thieves? Might the doorway with muddy footprints conceal a pet tiger? Each spread reveals—in lush detail—the wilds of the girl’s imagination, from a high-flying circus to an underwater world and everything in between. When the girl finally reaches her own apartment, she is greeted by her parents, who might have a secret even wilder than anything she could have imagined!

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Ages 4-8 | Publisher: Harry N. Abrams | January 8, 2019 | ISBN-13: 978-1419731686

Pokko and the Drum

Written and Illustrated by Matthew Forsythe

Publisher’s Synopsis: From E.B. White Read Aloud honor artist Matthew Forsythe comes a picture book about a magical drum, an emerald forest, and the little frog who dares to make her own music.

The biggest mistake Pokko’s parents ever made was giving her the drum. When Pokko takes the drum deep into the forest it is so quiet, so very quiet that Pokko decides to play. And before she knows it she is joined by a band of animals —first the raccoon, then the rabbit, then the wolf—and soon the entire forest is following her. Will Pokko hear her father’s voice when he calls her home?

Pokko and the Drum is a story about art, persistence, and a family of frogs living in a mushroom.

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Ages 4-8 | Publisher: Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books | October 1, 2019 | ISBN-13: 978-1481480390

A Stone Sat Still

Written and Illustrated by Brendan Wenzel

Publisher’s Synopsis: The brilliant follow-up to the Caldecott Honor-winning and New York Times bestselling picture book They All Saw a Cat by Brendan Wenzel!

A Stone Sat Still tells the story of a seemingly ordinary rock but to the animals that use it, it is a resting place, a kitchen, a safe haven…even an entire world.

This is a gorgeous exploration of perspective, perception, and the passage of time, with an underlying environmental message that is timely and poignant.

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Ages 3-7 | Publisher: Chronicle Books | August 27, 2019 | ISBN-13: 978-1452173184

Carl and the Meaning of LifeCarl and the Meaning of Life

Written and Illustrated by Deborah Freedman

Publisher’s Synopsis: From the often Caldecott-buzzed Deborah Freedman, a sweet and funny story about finding your place in the world.

Carl is an earthworm. He spends his days happily tunneling in the soil until a field mouse asks him a simple question that stops him short: “Why?” Carl’s quest takes him on an adventure to meet all the animals of the forest, each of whom seems to know exactly what they were put on this earth to do, unlike the curious Carl. But it’s not until the world around him has changed that Carl begins to realize everyone, no matter how small, makes a big difference just by being themselves.

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Ages 3-5 | Publisher: Viking Books for Young Readers | April 2, 2019 | ISBN-13: 978-0451474988

My HeartMy Heart

Written and Illustrated by Corinna Luyken

Publisher’s Synopsis: From the author-illustrator of The Book of Mistakes comes a gorgeous picture book about caring for your own heart and living with kindness and empathy.

My heart is a window. My heart is a slide. My heart can be closed…or opened up wide.

Some days your heart is a puddle or a fence to keep the world out. But some days it is wide open to the love that surrounds you.

With lyrical text and breathtaking art, My Heart empowers all readers to listen to the guide within in this ode to love and self-acceptance.

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Ages 4-8 | Publisher: Dial Books | January 8, 2019 | ISBN-13: 978-0735227934

Planting Stories- The Life of Librarian and Storyteller Pura BelprePlanting Stories: The Life of Librarian and Storyteller Pura Belpré

Written by Anika Aldamuy Denise

Illustrated by Paola Escobar

Publisher’s Synopsis: An inspiring picture book biography of storyteller, puppeteer, and New York City’s first Puerto Rican librarian, who championed bilingual literature.

When she came to America in 1921, Pura Belpré carried the cuentos folklóricos of her Puerto Rican homeland. Finding a new home at the New York Public Library as a bilingual assistant, she turned her popular retellings into libros and spread story seeds across the land. Today, these seeds have grown into a lush landscape as generations of children and storytellers continue to share her tales and celebrate Pura’s legacy.

Brought to colorful life by Paola Escobar’s elegant and exuberant illustrations and Anika Aldamuy Denise’s lyrical text, this gorgeous book is perfect for the pioneers in your life.

Informative backmatter and suggested further reading included.

A Spanish-language edition, Sembrando historias: Pura Belpré: bibliotecaria y narradora de cuentos, is also available.

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Ages 4-8 | Publisher: HarperCollins | January 15, 2019 | ISBN-13: 978-0062748683

The Undefeated

Written by Kwame Alexander

Illustrated by Kadir Nelson

Publisher’s Synopsis: The Newbery Award-winning author of THE CROSSOVER pens an ode to black American triumph and tribulation, with art from a two-time Caldecott Honoree.

Originally performed for ESPN’s The Undefeated, this poem is a love letter to black life in the United States. It highlights the unspeakable trauma of slavery, the faith and fire of the civil rights movement, and the grit, passion, and perseverance of some of the world’s greatest heroes. The text is also peppered with references to the words of Martin Luther King, Jr., Langston Hughes, Gwendolyn Brooks, and others, offering deeper insights into the accomplishments of the past, while bringing stark attention to the endurance and spirit of those surviving and thriving in the present. Robust back matter at the end provides valuable historical context and additional detail for those wishing to learn more.

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Ages 6-9 | Publisher: Versify | April 2, 2019 | ISBN-13: 978-1328780966

What Is Given from the HeartWhat Is Given from the Heart

Written by Patricia C. McKissack

Illustrated by April Harrison

Publisher’s Synopsis: This final, magnificent picture book from three-time Coretta Scott King Award winner and Newbery Honor author Patricia McKissack is a poignant and uplifting celebration of the joy of giving.

“Misery loves company,” Mama says to James Otis. It’s been a rough couple of months for them, but Mama says as long as they have their health and strength, they’re blessed. One Sunday before Valentine’s Day, Reverend Dennis makes an announcement during the service– the Temples have lost everything in a fire, and the church is collecting anything that might be useful to them. James thinks hard about what he can add to the Temple’s “love box,” but what does he have worth giving? With her extraordinary gift for storytelling, McKissack–with stunning illustrations by Harrison–delivers a touching, powerful tale of compassion and reminds us all that what is given from the heart, reaches the heart.

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Ages 4-8 | Publisher: Schwartz & Wade | January 8, 2019 | ISBN-13: 978-0375836152

How to Give Your Cat a Bath- in Five Easy StepsHow to Give Your Cat a Bath: in Five Easy Steps

Written by Nicola Winstanley

Illustrated by John Martz

Publisher’s Synopsis: In this hilarious and clever “how-to,” a little girl and a know-it-all narrator are thwarted by a cat who refuses to take a bath. The perfect read-aloud for fans of Snappsy the Alligator and Interrupting Chicken.

Step one: fill the bath
Step two: put the cat in the bath
Step three: put shampoo on the cat
Step four: rinse the cat
Step five: dry the cat

Seems simple, right? One problem: the cat has no intention of doing ANY of these things! Watch as the steps keep changing, the cat keeps escaping, the girl keeps eating cookies and the mess keeps escalating. Soon it’s not just the cat who needs a bath–it’s the whole house!

This spoof on an instruction manual features an increasingly bewildered human, a nonchalant cat and a know-it-all narrator . . . who really doesn’t know it all. How DO you give a cat a bath? Read on to find out!

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Ages 3-7 | Publisher: Tundra Books | January 22, 2019 | ISBN-13: 978-0735263543

When Grandma Gives You a Lemon TreeWhen Grandma Gives You a Lemon Tree

Written by Jamie L.B. Deenihan

Illustrated by Lorraine Rocha

Publisher’s Synopsis: When Grandma gives you a lemon tree, definitely don’t make a face! Care for the tree, and you might be surprised at how new things, and new ideas, bloom.

“When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” In this imaginative take on that popular saying, a child is surprised (and disappointed) to receive a lemon tree from Grandma for her birthday. After all, she DID ask for a new gadget! But when she follows the narrator’s careful—and funny—instructions, she discovers that the tree might be exactly what she wanted after all. This clever story, complete with a recipe for lemonade, celebrates the pleasures of patience, hard work, nature, community . . . and putting down the electronic devices just for a while.

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Ages 3+ | Publisher: Sterling Children’s Books | March 5, 2019 | ISBN-13: 978-1454923817

Magic Ramen- The Story of Momofuku AndoMagic Ramen: The Story of Momofuku Ando

Written by Andrea Wang

Illustrated by Kana Urbanowicz

Publisher’s Synopsis: Inspiration struck when Momofuku Ando spotted the long lines for a simple bowl of ramen following World War II. Magic Ramen tells the true story behind the creation of one of the world’s most popular foods.

Every day, Momofuku Ando would retire to his lab–a little shed in his backyard. For years, he’d dreamed about making a new kind of ramen noodle soup that was quick, convenient, and tasty for the hungry people he’d seen in line for a bowl on the black market following World War II. Peace follows from a full stomach, he believed.

Day after day, Ando experimented. Night after night, he failed. But Ando kept experimenting.

With persistence, creativity, and a little inspiration, Ando succeeded. This is the true story behind one of the world’s most popular foods.

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Ages 4-8 | Publisher: little bee books | March 5, 2019 | ISBN-13: 978-1499807035

Mary Wears What She WantsMary Wears What She Wants

Written and Illustrated by Keith Negley

Publisher’s Synopsis: From the award-winning creator of My Dad Used to Be So Cool and Tough Guys Have Feelings Too comes a charming picture book inspired by the true story of Mary Edwards Walker, a trailblazing 19th-century doctor who was arrested many times for wearing pants.

Once upon a time (but not that long ago), girls only wore dresses. And only boys wore pants.

Until one day, a young girl named Mary had an idea: She would wear whatever she wanted. And she wanted to wear pants!

This bold, original picture book encourages readers to think for themselves while gently challenging gender and societal norms.

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Ages 4-8 | Publisher: Balzer + Bray | January 15, 2019 | ISBN-13: 978-0062846792

The Bell RangThe Bell Rang

Written and Illustrated by James E. Ransome

Publisher’s Synopsis: A young slave girl witnesses the heartbreak and hopefulness of her family and their plantation community when her brother escapes for freedom in this brilliantly conceived picture book by Coretta Scott King Award winner James E. Ransome.

Every single morning, the overseer of the plantation rings the bell. Daddy gathers wood. Mama cooks. Ben and the other slaves go out to work. Each day is the same. Full of grueling work and sweltering heat. Every day, except one, when the bell rings and Ben is nowhere to be found. Because Ben ran. Yet, despite their fear and sadness, his family remains hopeful that maybe, just maybe, he made it North. That he is free.

An ode to hope and a powerful tribute to the courage of those who ran for freedom, The Bell Rang is a stunning reminder that our past can never be forgotten.

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Ages 4-8 | Publisher: Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books | January 15, 2019 | ISBN-13: 978-1442421134

The Frog BookThe Frog Book

Created by Steve Jenkins and Robin Page

Publisher’s Synopsis: Caldecott Honor–winning team Steve Jenkins and Robin Page explore form, color, and pattern, and capture the very unique nature of frogs in this brilliantly illustrated picture book. Perfect for fans of The Beetle Book, and young readers looking for nonfiction about this perennially fascinating animal.

Long legs, sticky tongues, big round eyes, and other dazzling features—what’s not to love about frogs?

In this magnificently illustrated picture book, Caldecott Honor–winning team Steve Jenkins and Robin Page explore one of the world’s most diverse—and most threatened—animals. With more than 5,000 different frog species on the planet, in every color of the rainbow and a vast number of vivid patterns, no creatures are more fascinating to learn about or look at. Jenkins and Page present a stunning array of these intriguing amphibians and the many amazing adaptations they have made to survive.

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Ages 6-9 | Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers | February 26, 2019 | ISBN-13: 978-0544387607

For more of the best new picture books for kids, follow along with our articles tagged with Picture Books, Books for Ages 0-3, Books for Ages 4-8, and .

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Bianca Schulze is the founder of The Children’s Book Review. She is a reader, reviewer, mother and children’s book lover. She also has a decade’s worth of experience working with children in the great outdoors. Combined with her love of books and experience as a children’s specialist bookseller, the goal is to share her passion for children’s literature to grow readers. Born and raised in Sydney, Australia, she now lives with her husband and three children near Boulder, Colorado.

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