The Best Picture Books of 2018
The Children’s Book Review | January 4, 2019
Can you feel the force coming from the picture books? There is an abundance of great titles promoting kindness, positivity, and acceptance (both for self and others). The amount of wonderfully inspiring non-fiction picture books in 2018 was fantastic, too—you’ll definitely want to check out our list of the best non-fiction picture books from 2018. With so many amazing picture books to choose from, this was a hard list to put together. Here are 24 of our faves that we think you’ll love just as much as we do!
Written by Jon Agee
Publisher’s Synopsis: A foolish knight is certain that his side of the wall is the safe side in this clever, amusingly meta picture book by the acclaimed creator of It’s Only Stanley.
There’s a wall in the middle of the book, and our hero–a young knight–is sure that the wall protects his side of the book from the dangers of the other side–like an angry tiger and giant rhino, and worst of all, an ogre who would gobble him up in a second! But our knight doesn’t seem to notice the crocodile and growing sea of water that are emerging on his side. When he’s almost over his head and calling for help, who will come to his rescue? An individual who isn’t as dangerous as the knight thought–from a side of the book that might just have some positive things to offer after all!
Ages 2-5 | Publisher: Dial Books | October 2, 2018 | ISBN-13: 978-0525555452
Written and Illustrated by Ed Vere
Publisher’s Synopsis: From the New York Times bestselling author/illustrator of Max the Brave comes an inspiring and adorable picture book about a pair of unlikely friends who face down a pack of bullies.
In this timely and charming story about the importance of being true to yourself, mindfulness, and standing by your friends, we meet Leonard, a lion, and his best friend Marianne, a . . . duck. Leonard and Marianne have a happy life together—talking, playing, writing poems, and making wishes—until one day a pack of bullies questions whether it’s right for a lion and a duck to be pals. Leonard soon learns there are many ways to be a lion, and many ways to be a friend, and that sometimes finding just the right words can change the world . . .
This sweet, funny, thoughtful, and much-needed story will open up readers’ eyes to the importance of being who they are and not backing down to hurtful criticism. It’s an empowering tale about connecting with others and choosing kindness over bullying, and shows children how angry and provocative words can be overcome by empathy and courage.
Ages 2-5 | Publisher: Doubleday Books for Young Readers | June 26, 2018 | ISBN-13: 978-0525578055
Written and Illustrated by Cori Doerrfeld
Publisher’s Synopsis: A universal, deeply moving exploration of grief and empathy.
With its spare, poignant text and irresistibly sweet illustrations, The Rabbit Listened is a tender meditation on loss.
When something terrible happens, Taylor doesn’t know where to turn. All the animals are sure they have the answer. The chicken wants to talk it out, but Taylor doesn’t feel like chatting. The bear thinks Taylor should get angry, but that’s not quite right either. One by one, the animals try to tell Taylor how to process this loss, and one by one they fail. Then the rabbit arrives. All the rabbit does is listen, which is just what Taylor needs.
Whether read in the wake of tragedy or as a primer for comforting others, this is a deeply moving and unforgettable story sure to soothe heartache of all sizes.
Ages 3-5 | Publisher: Dial Books | February 20, 2018 | ISBN-13: 978-0735229358
Written and Illustrated by Brendan Wenzel
Publisher’s Synopsis: A new picture book from Brendan Wenzel, the New York Times bestselling and Caldecott Honor-winning author of They All Saw a Cat!
Hello, Hello! Beginning with two cats, one black and one white, a chain of animals appears before the reader, linked together by at least one common trait. From simple colors and shapes to more complex and abstract associations, each unexpected encounter celebrates the magnificent diversity of our world—and ultimately paints a story of connection.
Brendan Wenzel’s joyous, rhythmic text and exuberant art encourage readers to delight in nature’s infinite differences and to look for—and marvel at—its gorgeous similarities. It all starts with a simple “Hello.”
Ages 3-6 | Publisher: Chronicle Books | March 20, 2018 | ISBN-13: 978-1452150147
Written by Kenneth Wright
Illustrated by Sarah Jane Wright
Publisher’s Synopsis: Meet Lola Dutch, a delightfully creative girl who is bursting with grand ideas.
From the best ways to serve breakfast — an elegant feast! — to the ideal sleeping spot — a majestic blanket fort, of course! — Lola is inspired all day long.
Her dear companion Bear sometimes says she is just too much, but Lola is rich with imagination and originality, which even Bear will agree is AMAZING.The unstoppable Lola Dutch is about to show you how to make every day grand and full of fun. You’ll love her so much!
Inspired by their own four gorgeously feisty children, Sarah Jane and Kenneth Wright are thrilled to introduce the unstoppable Lola Dutch and her fresh, fun, commercial, character-driven series.
Ages 3-6 | Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens | January 30, 2018 | ISBN-13: 978-1681195513
Written and Illustrated by Galia Bernstein
Publisher’s Synopsis: A simple housecat named Simon encounters some bigger cats: Lion, Puma, Panther, Tiger, and Cheetah. Each of the big cats has something to say about Simon not being “cat” enough. According to them, he just doesn’t measure up. He doesn’t have Lion’s mane or Cheetah’s spots. He doesn’t sleep in trees like Panther or climb mountains like Puma. He’s small and fuzzy, not big and strong. But ultimately, Simon shows the big cats that he’s just like them . . . only smaller.
A celebration of both individuality and community, I Am a Cat is a strong debut that shows we’re all more alike than we think . . . if we look closely enough.
Ages 3-7 | Publisher: Harry N. Abrams | February 6, 2018 | ISBN-13: 978-1419726439
Written and Illustrated by Ryan T. Higgins
Publisher’s Synopsis: It’s the first day of school for Penelope Rex, and she can’t wait to meet her classmates. But it’s hard to make human friends when they’re so darn delicious! That is, until Penelope gets a taste of her own medicine and finds she may not be at the top of the food chain after all. . . .
Ages 4-7 | Publisher: Disney-Hyperion | June 19, 2018 | ISBN-13: 978-1368003551
Written and Illustrated by Grace Lin
Publisher’s Synopsis: A gorgeous picture book that tells a whimsical origin story of the phases of the moon, from award-winning, bestselling author-illustrator Grace Lin
Ages 4-7 | Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers | August 28, 2018 | ISBN-13: 978-0316404488
Written and Illustrated by Juana Martinez-Neal
Publisher’s Synopsis: What’s in a name? For one little girl, her very long name tells the vibrant story of where she came from — and who she may one day be.
If you ask her, Alma Sofia Esperanza José Pura Candela has way too many names: six! How did such a small person wind up with such a large name? Alma turns to Daddy for an answer and learns of Sofia, the grandmother who loved books and flowers; Esperanza, the great-grandmother who longed to travel; José, the grandfather who was an artist; and other namesakes, too. As she hears the story of her name, Alma starts to think it might be a perfect fit after all — and realizes that she will one day have her own story to tell. In her author-illustrator debut, Juana Martinez-Neal opens a treasure box of discovery for children who may be curious about their own origin stories or names.
Ages 4-8 | Publisher: Candlewick | April 10, 2018 | ISBN-13: 978-0763693558
Written and Illustrated by Jessica Love
Publisher’s Synopsis:In an exuberant picture book, a glimpse of costumed mermaids leaves one boy flooded with wonder and ready to dazzle the world.
While riding the subway home from the pool with his abuela one day, Julián notices three women spectacularly dressed up. Their hair billows in brilliant hues, their dresses end in fishtails, and their joy fills the train car. When Julián gets home, daydreaming of the magic he’s seen, all he can think about is dressing up just like the ladies in his own fabulous mermaid costume: a butter-yellow curtain for his tail, the fronds of a potted fern for his headdress. But what will Abuela think about the mess he makes — and even more importantly, what will she think about how Julián sees himself? Mesmerizing and full of heart, Jessica Love’s author-illustrator debut is a jubilant picture of self-love and a radiant celebration of individuality.
Ages 4-8 | Publisher: Candlewick | April 23, 2018 | ISBN-13: 978-0763690458
Written by Matt de la Peña
Illustrated by Loren Long
Publisher’s Synopsis: From Newbery Medal-winning author Matt de la Peña and bestselling illustrator Loren Long comes a story about the strongest bond there is and the diverse and powerful ways it connects us all.
“In the beginning there is light
and two wide-eyed figures standing near the foot of your bed
and the sound of their voices is love.
A cab driver plays love softly on his radio
while you bounce in back with the bumps of the city
and everything smells new, and it smells like life.”
In this heartfelt celebration of love, Newbery Medal-winning author Matt de la Peña and bestselling illustrator Loren Long depict the many ways we experience this universal bond, which carries us from the day we are born throughout the years of our childhood and beyond. With a lyrical text that’s soothing and inspiring, this tender tale is a needed comfort and a new classic that will resonate with readers of every age.
Ages 4-8 | Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers |January 9, 2018 | ISBN-13: 978-1524740917
Written and Illustrated by Yuyi Morales
Publisher’s Synopsis: Dreamers is a celebration of what migrantes bring with them when they leave their homes. It’s a story about family. And it’s a story to remind us that we are all dreamers, bringing our own gifts wherever we roam. Beautiful and powerful at any time but given particular urgency as the status of our own Dreamers becomes uncertain, this is a story that is both topical and timeless.
The lyrical text is complemented by sumptuously detailed illustrations, rich in symbolism. Also included are a brief autobiographical essay about Yuyi’s own experience, a list of books that inspired her (and still do), and a description of the beautiful images, textures, and mementos she used to create this book.
Ages 4-8 | Publisher: Neal Porter Books | September 4, 2018 | ISBN-13: 978-0823440559
Written by Jacqueline Woodson
Illustrated by Rafael López
Publisher’s Synopsis: National Book Award winner Jacqueline Woodson and two-time Pura Belpré Illustrator Award winner Rafael López have teamed up to create a poignant, yet heartening book about finding courage to connect, even when you feel scared and alone.
There will be times when you walk into a room
and no one there is quite like you.
There are many reasons to feel different. Maybe it’s how you look or talk, or where you’re from; maybe it’s what you eat, or something just as random. It’s not easy to take those first steps into a place where nobody really knows you yet, but somehow you do it.
Jacqueline Woodson’s lyrical text and Rafael López’s dazzling art reminds us that we all feel like outsiders sometimes-and how brave it is that we go forth anyway. And that sometimes, when we reach out and begin to share our stories, others will be happy to meet us halfway.
(This book is also available in Spanish, as El Día En Que Descubres Quién Eres!)
Ages 4-8 | Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books | Aug. 28, 2017 | ISBN-13: 978-0399246531
Written and Illustrated by Soosh
Publisher’s Synopsis: A heartwarming celebration of the special relationship between a father and daughter from Instagram sensation Soosh.
Ages 4-8 | Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers | May 8, 2018 | ISBN-13: 978-0316438087
Written by Minh Lê
Illustrated by Dan Santat
Publisher’s Synopsis: When a young boy visits his grandfather, their lack of a common language leads to confusion, frustration, and silence. But as they sit down to draw together, something magical happens-with a shared love of art and storytelling, the two form a bond that goes beyond words.
With spare, direct text by Minh Lê and luminous illustrations by Caldecott Medalist Dan Santat, this stirring picturebook about reaching across barriers will be cherished for years to come.
Ages 4-8 | Publisher: Disney-Hyperion | June 5, 2018 | ISBN-13: 978-1484767603
Written by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Paris Rosenthal
Illustrated by Holly Hatam
Publisher’s Synopsis: From the New York Times bestselling author of I Wish You More, Amy Krouse Rosenthal, and her daughter Paris Rosenthal comes the heartwarming and inspiring Dear Girl.
Dear Girl, is a remarkable love letter written for the special girl in your life.
Through Amy and Paris’s charming text and Holly Hatam’s stunning illustrations, any girl reading this book will feel that she’s perfect—whether she enjoys jumping in a muddy puddle, has a face full of freckles, or dances on table tops.
This book encourages girls to always be themselves and to love who they are—inside and out.
Ages 4-8 | Publisher: HarperCollins | January 9, 2018 | ISBN-13: 978-0062422507
Written and Illustrated by Sophie Blackall
Publisher’s Synopsis: A lavish new picture book from Caldecott-winner Sophie Blackall that will transport readers to the seaside in timeless, nautical splendor!
Ages 4-8 | Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers | April 10, 2018 | ISBN-13: 978-0316362382
Written by Samantha Berger
Illustrated by Mike Curato
Publisher’s Synopsis: Creativity, the power of imagination, and the importance of self-expression are celebrated in this inspiring picture book written and illustrated by real-life best friends.
This girl is determined to express herself! If she can’t draw her dreams, she’ll sculpt or build, carve or collage. If she can’t do that, she’ll turn her world into a canvas. And if everything around her is taken away, she’ll sing, dance, and dream…
Stunning mixed media illustrations, lyrical text, and a breathtaking gatefold conjure powerful magic in this heartfelt affirmation of art, imagination, and the resilience of the human spirit.
Ages 4-8 | Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers | April 10, 2018 | ISBN-13: 978-0316390965
Written by David W. Miles
Illustrated by Hollie Mengert
Publisher’s Synopsis: Unicorn is a unicorn. And Horse is, well . . . not.
Horse is brown. Horse is plain. And Horse can’t stand the unicorn he shares a pen with. Unicorn dances. Tra la la! Horse does not. Blah blah blah. But when robbers kidnap Unicorn for a local circus, what will Horse decide to do? Packed with forty-eight pages of hilarious illustrations and deadpan wit, Unicorn (and Horse) is a funny yet endearing lesson on envy with one important truth: We are sometimes unicorns. We are sometimes horses. And happiness doesn’t always come from pink cupcakes for breakfast.
Ages 4-8 | Publisher: Familius | April 1, 2018 | ISBN-13: 978-1945547768
Written by Bridget Heos
Illustrated by T.L. McBeth
Publisher’s Synopsis: A fun, playful, energetic story starring two stegosauruses and one stegothesaurus about family―and synonyms!―for the young word lover in your home, residence, or abode!
Stegothesaurus’s love of language has always put him at odds with his stegosaurus brothers. So when he makes a friend―an allothesaurus―who is just as verbose as he, he is happy, thrilled, and ecstatic! But Stegothesaurus soon learns that the allothesaurus has very different ideas about what constitutes a good meal, and he’ll discover there’s one thing that he loves more than words: his family.
Featuring clever but simple text from Bridget Heos and bold, exuberant art by T. L. McBeth, Stegothesaurus introduces young readers to a memorable, original, unforgettable dinosaur hero.
Ages 4-8 | Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. | June 12, 2018 | ISBN-13: 978-1250134882
Written and Illustrated by the Fan Brothers
Publisher’s Synopsis: From the creators of the gorgeous bestseller The Night Gardener, comes a stunning new picture book about a young boy who sets sail to find a place his grandfather told him about…the spot where the ocean meets the sky.
It’s a good day for sailing.
Finn lives by the sea and the sea lives by him. Every time he looks out his window it’s a constant reminder of the stories his grandfather told him about the place where the ocean meets the sky. Where whales and jellyfish soar and birds and castles float.
Finn’s grandfather is gone now but Finn knows the perfect way to honor him. He’ll build his own ship and sail out to find this magical place himself!
And when he arrives, maybe, just maybe, he’ll find something he didn’t know he was looking for.
Ages 4-8 | Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers | May 15, 2018 | ISBN-13: 978-1481470377
Written and Illustrated by Marianne Dubuc
Publisher’s Synopsis: Mrs. Badger, an avid collector and naturalist, takes a weekly journey up to Sugarloaf Peak, greeting her friends on the way and sharing her discoveries with them. One day she meets Lulu, a very small cat, who wants to go with her to the top of the mountain. On the way, Lulu learns to take care of the natural world, help those in need, and listen to her intuition. Rich in wisdom and beautifully illustrated, Up the Mountain Path offers a profound story full of lessons about love, generosity, and following one’s heart.
Ages 5-7 | Publisher: Princeton Architectural Press | October 2, 2018 | ISBN-13: 978-1616897239
Written by Jessica Kensky and Patrick Downes
Illustrated by Scott Magoon
Publisher’s Synopsis: Based on a real-life partnership, the heartening story of the love and teamwork between a girl and her service dog will illuminate and inspire.
Rescue thought he’d grow up to be a Seeing Eye dog — it’s the family business, after all. When he gets the news that he’s better suited to being a service dog, he’s worried that he’s not up to the task. Then he meets Jessica, a girl whose life is turning out differently than the way she’d imagined it, too. Now Jessica needs Rescue by her side to help her accomplish everyday tasks. And it turns out that Rescue can help Jessica see after all: a way forward, together, one step at a time. An endnote from the authors tells more about the training and extraordinary abilities of service dogs, particularly their real-life best friend and black lab, Rescue.
Ages 5-9 | Publisher: Candlewick | 2018 | ISBN-13: 978-0763696047
Written and Illustrated by Oge Mora
Publisher’s Synopsis: Debut author-illustrator Oge Mora brings to life a heartwarming story of sharing and community in colorful cut-paper designs as luscious as Omu’s stew, with an extra serving of love. An author’s note explains that “Omu” (pronounced AH-moo) means “queen” in the Igbo language of her parents, but growing up, she used it to mean “Grandma.” This book was inspired by the strong female role models in Oge Mora’s life.
Ages 6-9 | Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers | October 2, 2018 | ISBN-13: 978-0316431248