15 Best Picture Books of 2014

This is an exciting day! It’s the day I announce my list of the Best Picture Books of 2014, just in time for you to make your holiday shopping list. You will love each and every one of these books and so will your children.  I read so many outstanding books this year, I just could not limit my list to 10 books. Each of these titles were reviewed by me during the 2014 calendar year and were published in the last quarter of 2013 or during the calendar year of 2014.

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#1 Best Picture Book of the Year

The Lion and the Bird

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Written and Illustrated by Marianne Dubuc (Enchanted Lion Books)

What Makes This the Best Picture Book of the Year and One of the Best of All Time

The Lion and the Bird is absolutely perfect in every way. It’s the only picture book I read this year that made me cry, because I was so touched by the story. When my daughter came home from college I gave it to her to read, and she cried too. The story tugs at your heart, then warms it up and enriches your soul like it’s never been enriched before.  It’s about loneliness, an unlikely friendship and love, using select few words and outstanding illustrations, with adorable little details, that are so full of emotion and charm, you just won’t know what to do with yourself. The Lion and the Bird is more than just a book.  It’s a symbol of hope and kindness and hands to readers the key to true happiness, all wrapped up in a beautiful package with a bow. There can’t be a better picture book on the planet than this one, so don’t even try to convince me otherwise.

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The Rest of the Best Picture Books in Alphabetical Order

I simply cannot rank these books in order of greatness. They are all winners in their own unique and outstanding ways.

Banjo and Ruby Red

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Written by Libby Gleeson and illustrated by Freya Blackwood (Little Hare – Hardie Grant Egmont)

What Makes This Book Outstanding

I was smitten with the oil-painted illustrations by Freya Blackwood as soon as I saw the cover of the book. She uses beautifully saturated colors along with wispy black ink outlines, resulting in the most eye-catching images. The story is about a farm dog, named Banjo, whose job it is to keep the chickens in the farm yard. Banjo clashes with the most stubborn chicken on the entire farm, Ruby Red, but something happens that turns a rivalry into a very special friendship. Banjo and Ruby Red teach us that compassion, kindness and friendship can even exist between complete opposites. The story is touching and the visual experience you get from reading this book is extraordinary.

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Read My Interview with Illustrator Freya Blackwood

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The Day I Lost My Superpowers

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 Written by Michaël Escoffier, Illustrated by Kris Di Giacomo (Enchanted Lion Books)

What Makes This Book Outstanding

My regular readers all know that Michaël Escoffier, and Kris Di Giacomo are my favorite children’s book author/illustrator team. No matter what the topic of their picture book, they deliver it with unparalleled wit, humor and charm. Kris’ endearing illustrations are irresistible.  The Day I Lost My Superpowers is written from the perspective of a very little girl with a cape and a mask (and a pacifier) who spends her days polishing her “superpowers,” that is until something goes very wrong.  Words can’t begin to properly portray the adorableness of this child and her imaginary play. The carefully chosen words are magical and the illustrations, with all their little details make the reading experience extraordinary. There isn’t a child (or adult) out there who can’t relate to this charming story.

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Read My Interview With Illustrator Kris Di Giacomo

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Fox’s Garden

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Written and illustrated by Princesse Camcam (Enchanted Lion Books)

What Makes This Book Outstanding

This story of compassion is about a fox in need who receives a kind and selfless gesture from a little boy. It’s a wordless picture book, so the reader does all the work figuring out the storyline by interpreting the illustrations. And those illustrations are exceptionally unique. Princesse Camcam creates them by using cut paper and arranging the pieces in display boxes. She then uses lights behind the paper to create brightness, shadows and depth. The illustrations make you feel as though you are right in the middle of the wintry scene yourself. The ending is pure joy, and the story is so genuine you’ll just be a better version of yourself after reading it.

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The Grudge Keeper

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Written by Mara Rockliff, illustrated by Eliza Wheeler (Peachtree Publishing)

What Makes This Book Outstanding

Imagine a town called Bonnyripple, with a “keeper of grudges.” These grudges have been written on paper and rolled up and tied, and there are oodles and oodles of them. Then imagine the chaos that can ensue from all those papers with all those grudges and all that baggage!  The message in The Grudge Keeper is larger than life. The tongue-twisting words are a pure delight to read out loud and the illustrations take you back to an earlier time, with all their eye-catching detail. The Grudge Keeper is a brilliant book and by far one of the best picture books I’ve ever read. If you’ve ever held a grudge, are holding one now or know someone who holds a grudge, then you must buy this extraordinary book. If you know a child, you should buy it for him or her too. This is a classic story that will stand the test of time.

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Read My Interview With Illustrator Eliza Wheeler

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I’m My Own Dog

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Written and illustrated by David Ezra Stein (Candlewick Press)

What Makes This Book Outstanding

The clever wit of I’m My Own Dog, combined with the darling and humorous illustrations make this stand way out among picture books. The story is told from the point of view of one very smart alec dog, who leads you to believe he is the owner of the human, rather than the human being the owner of the dog.  Creative genius and Caldecott Honor winner, David Ezra Stein has a knack to tell a story with so few, clever chosen words and uniquely wonderful illustrations. I interviewed him and was so impressed with the amount of thought and work that goes into his books. There isn’t a detail that’s been overlooked here: even the font of the text matches the playfulness of the dog. You don’t have to have a dog to love this fantastic picture book.

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Read My Interview With Author/Illustrator David Ezra Stein

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Just Right for Two

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Written by Tracey Corderoy and Illustrated by Rosalind Beardshaw (Nosy Crow Books)

What Makes This Book Outstanding

Just when you’re happy to be alone, along comes a stranger who’s very different than you in every way. After you get acquainted with that stranger, well, he’s not a stranger any longer. And once he’s gone, that’s the time you really start to miss him. The message of friendship and sharing in Just Right for Two is delivered in such a gentle and heartwarming way. Rosalind Beardshaw’s illustrations are among my favorite of the year. The characters are absolutely adorable and remind me of fluffy stuffed animals that your child will want to take to bed every night. After reading Just Right for Two, we know are better off sharing with a pal or loved one than we are spending time alone with all our stuff. This is a life lesson we can all benefit from.

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Mr. Frank

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Written and illustrated by Irene Luxbacher (Groundwood Books)

What Makes This Book Outstanding

Inspired by the author’s childhood, Mr. Frank is a tribute to her dad who owned a tailor’s shop for many years up until his retirement. The wholesomeness of a Mr. Frank’s old-fashioned American business is delightfully presented. There’s something extraordinary about a man who spends his life providing an expert service to the people in his town, and does what he does so well.  Irene Luxbacher’s outstanding illustrations are a mix of pencil drawing, paint, as well as scans of photographs and textiles – including some of the fabrics her dad used in his shop. How cool is that? The colors are vibrant and you can almost feel the textures she magically creates. This feel-good story has a lovely surprise ending, leaving you with joy in your heart, wishing you were a small shop owner too.

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Mr.Wuffles

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Written and illustrated by David Wiesner (Clarion Books)

Mr. Wuffles takes humor to a whole new level. This black and white cat has a pile of toys, but he’s only interested in the tiny aliens that have landed in a spacecraft and occupied the house. And that cat is out to get them. Those aliens don’t know what hit them with that cat around, and the goings on are both hilarious and oh, so cleverly concocted. There are only a few words, plus a made up language and phenomenal, beautifully colored illustrations.  This book earned David a  Caldecott Honor, plus he is one of only two, three-time Caldecott Medalists in the history of the award. The story is so clever and original, and the experience the aliens have, who befriend insects inside the walls of the house, is uproariously funny. This almost wordless picture book has a comic strip flair to it and gives readers the chance to do the deciphering.  It’s an incredible treat to do that with illustrations as amazing as these.

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Read My Interview with David Wiesner

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Paul Meets Bernadette

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Written and illustrated by Rosy Lamb (Candlewick Press)

What Makes This Book Outstanding

The cover of Paul Meets Bernadette had me hooked. All throughout the book, every page is an artistic oil-painted masterpiece in and of itself. Oh, what I’d do to own any original illustration from that book! Author Rosy Lamb is an incredibly talented American sculptor and oil artist, living in Paris, and she was inspired one day to try her hand at her first picture book after gazing at her own goldfish bowl sitting in the middle of her art studio. Paul is a fish who swims round and round until the day he meets Bernadette, who suddenly appears in his bowl. She shows him that there’s a lot he’s missing by not taking the time to notice what’s all around him. The message is that the world can look quite different when you see it through the eyes of love. Paul Meets Bernadette is an extraordinary picture book, and my interview with author Rosy Lamb, remains my favorite of all the interviews I’ve ever done. You’ve just got to read her amazing personal story, and you’ve just got to buy this book!

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Read My Interview With Author/Illustrator Rosy Lamb

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Peggy

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Written and illustrated by Anna Walker (Clarion Books by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

What Makes This Book Outstanding

Peggy is an adorable chicken who is content sitting in her hen house day in and day out. But one day, a mighty wind takes her high in the air, outside the comfort of her home and she lands in a nearby city – a place she never would have gone to on her own. We learn through Peggy that we all must step outside our comfort zones to broaden our horizons and experience all the world has to offer. Anna Walker uses subtle humor to tell her lovely story, and her watercolor illustrations are stunning. Peggy is such a likable chicken, and what’s there not to love about a chicken named Peggy anyway? She will steal your heart and inspire you to step outside your own “hen house” and create your own unforgettable, life-changing adventure.

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Sam and Dave Dig a Hole

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Written by Mac Barnett and illustrated by Jon Klassen (Candlewick Press)

What Makes This Book Outstanding

There’s been a lot of hullabaloo about NY Times Bestselling Sam & Dave Dig a Hole, and it’s all well deserved.  This author and illustrator team exemplifies pure creative genius. Sam and Dave are brothers who start digging in the yard to see what treasures they can find, along with their extra observant pooch. The reader knows more about what’s going on than the boys in the story, and what makes this book so outstanding is that the reader has to really pay attention in order to figure out what happens at the end. It’s incredibly clever and original and so entertaining! It really makes children think. The illustrations are so perfect for the storyline and the deadpan humor of these two masters of children’s literature is unparalleled. This is a book that will be flying off the shelves for years to come. You’ve just got to get it.

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Shh! We Have a Plan!

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Written and illustrated by Chris Haughton (Candlewick Press)

What Makes This Book Outstanding

Four characters set out to catch a bird, but their plan fails – over and over again. There’s always hope though, so one says to the others, “Shh! We have a plan!”  Chris Haughton’s keen sense of humor is beguiling and the artwork is spectacular. With blue on blue tones (except for the bird) the illustrations are unique and expressive, adding as much silly humor to the story as the words. And the surprise ending is super clever. Shh! We Have a Plan provides laugh out loud humor and has all the elements of a winning picture book. There’s simply nothing that could be changed to make this book better. It’s perfect just the way it is.

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Take Away the A

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 Written by Michaël Escoffier, Illustrated by Kris Di Giacomo (Enchanted Lion Books)

What Makes This Book Outstanding

There are alphabet books galore, but there’s none like Take Away the A. Once again, my favorite author/illustrator team creates a real winner here with this super creative way to teach children their ABCs and more. Each letter of the alphabet is presented on a two-page spread, and a short sentence presents a word with the featured letter of the alphabet subtracted. So when just one letter is taken out of a word, it transforms into an entirely new word, and the words are all humorous. This book that seems simple in its purpose is beautifully sophisticated and gets little people’s brains spinning. Kris Di Giacomo’s illustrations are darling and humorous. I don’t know how these two can repeatedly take their ideas and turn them into masterpieces, but they manage to do it every single time. Publishers Weekly agrees with me on this one, because they named it one of the Best Picture Books of the Year too.

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Read My Interview With Illustrator Kris Di Giacomo

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Quest

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Illustrated by Aaron Becker (Candlewick Press)

What Makes This Book Outstanding

Aaron Becker’s first book ever, Journey, landed him a Caldecott Honor, was a NY Times Bestseller and Best Illustrated Picture Book. This second title in his wordless picture book trilogy is just as outstanding as his first, and there’s nothing formulaic about it. Each title stands on its own. Aaron’s watercolor illustrations are truly magical – among the best you’ve ever seen. His use of color is mesmerizing and the world he creates is one where I long to be.  A boy and a girl set out to save the king, who is in great danger. The story is full of excitement, adventure and around every corner there’s a surprise. All kids can relate to child heroes and that’s what these two in the book really are. Because Quest is wordless, readers get to decide the storyline for themselves. This second book in the trilogy leaves you eager to dive into the third title, Return, when it’s out next year. Aaron is in Spain right now finishing that up as we speak.

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Read my Second Interview with Author/Illustrator Aaron Becker

Read my First Interview with Author/Illustrator Aaron Becker

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Check out my list of the Best Picture Books of 2013 here.

10 Thoughts.

  1. Thank you so much for such a lovely review of Just Right for Two!
    I am very fond of the book too, I love Tracey Corderoy’s writing and felt honoured to be illustrating one of her titles. And what a thrill to be listed against such greats. I am thrilled! Woo Hoo!!
    Thanks again! xxx

    • Rosalind, when I wish I could climb into a book and hug the characters, I know the illustrations are outstanding, and that’s how I felt when I read Just for Two. Your work is outstanding and you deserve recognition for it! Thanks for the comment!

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