Favorite Picture Books of 2013

It's that time of year!  Now is the time to look through my list of books read throughout the year and pick my favorites.  I love remembering what I was thinking and feeling at the time of reading those books.  There is something special about deciding on which ones will find a place on this special list. 

Below are my top 13 for 2013. There were so many more that I wanted to add to the list but I decided to limit my list.  Also, I haven't listed the books in any special order.   And, though I would love to see some of them end up with shiny stickers at the end of January, this is really the list of books that  resonate with me after a year of reading.

Bluebird by Bob Staake (Schwartz & Wade, April 9, 2013) - Click here to view book trailer.

Journey by Aaron Becker (Candlewick, August 6, 2013) - Click here to view book trailer.

Fossil by Bill Thomson (Two Lions, November 5, 2013) - Click here to view book trailer.

Little Red Writing by Joan Holub; Illustrated by Melissa Sweet (Chronicle Books, September 24, 2013)

The Story of Fish and Snail by Deborah Freedman (Viking Juvenile, June 13, 2013)

Mr. Tiger Goes Wild by Peter Brown (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, September 3, 2013) - Click here to view book trailer.

The Mighty LaLouche by Matthew Olshan; Illustrated by Sophie Blackall (Schwartz & Wade, May 14, 2013)

The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywelt; Illustrated by Oliver Jeffers (Philomel, June 27, 2013)

Mysterious Traveller by Mal Peet, Elspeth Graham; Illustrated by P.J. Lynch (Candlewick Press, October 8, 2013)

No Fits, Nilson by Zachariah Ohora (Dial, June 13, 2013)

Flora and the Flamingo by Molly Idle (Chronicle Books, February 5, 2013) - Click here to view book trailer.

Deep in the Sahara by Kelly Cunnane; Illustrated by Hoda Hadadi (Schwartz & Wade, October 8, 2013)

One Gorilla: A Counting Book by Anthony Browne (Candlewick Press, February 12, 2013)

What picture books would end up on your list?

Book Review & Virtual Blog Tour: Glasswings: A Butterfly's Story

Author/Illustrator: Elisa Kleven
Publisher: Dial Books for Young Readers (April 11, 2013)
Source: Copy for Review
Audience: Prekindergarten to First Grade
KeywordsFiction * Butterflies * Flowers * City/Town life

Description from GoodReads:
Claire, a glasswing butterfly whose transparent wings reflect her lush home, finds herself lost in the city after being separated from her family. She doesn’t know how they will ever see her, but she finds new city friends, a pigeon, an ant, and a ladybug, who search for the flowers Claire needs to live. They come upon a tiny urban garden, and as Claire drinks from the flowers’ nectar, she pollinates more flowers. Soon the garden—and Claire's clear wings—fill with color, allowing her family to recognize her at last. Together they create an oasis for all to enjoy.  Facts about glasswing butterflies and pollination complete this beautiful and educational picture book. Kleven’s latest offering is as colorful and delicate as a butterfly’s wings—a treasure that can be cherished for years.

My thoughts on this book: 
When I first saw this book several months ago, I thought it was just beautiful.  Here was a story about a glasswing butterfly named Claire that was charming, and also provided me with information about a type of butterfly that I hadn't heard about before.  In addition, Elisa Kleven's illustrations provided just the right feel for the story.  

Recently, I took a second look at the book, and re-read the note at the beginning of the story.  The note stated that Glasswing butterflies are found in Central and South America, and are called Espejitos, or "Little Mirrors".  This time as I read through the book, I picked up all of the subtle ways that the illustrations provide readers with a sense of being in a Central American countryside at the beginning of the book and in a Latin American city as Claire is swept away from her family and to the city.  In her new location, everything is different and new.  Claire misses her family and makes new friends.  
Slowly, as Claire moves around a small city garden, flowers bloom, and other life help to spread seeds and pollinate even more flowers.  The illustrations provide readers with a sense of the magic bursting around Claire and her friends, and a beautiful conclusion to the story. 

Though this may be a fictional story, it would pair beautifully with a unit on flowers and plant growth which is part of kindergarten curriculum.  Look for a copy of this book at your local independent bookstore or community library.  

Click on this link for IndieBound.org to purchase a copy of the book.  And stop by on Thursday, for an interview with author/illustrator, Elisa Kleven's as the virtual blog tour continues.     

About the author:
Children’s book author and illustrator Elisa Kleven has touched the lives of thousands of kids and their parents over the past two dec ades with stunning storytelling accompanied by gorgeous drawings in her more than 30 published books . Kleven grew up in Los Angeles and has lived in the San Francisco Bay area since moving there to study at the University of California, Berkeley. Kleven’s latest book “ Glasswings: A Butterfly’s Story ” released Spring 2013 from Dial Press, and her forthcoming tit le this September, “Cozy Light, Cozy Night, ” is one of four featured titles of the debut children’s press Creston Books.

Elisa Kleven's website: http://www.elisakleven.com/

Link to the virtual blog tour dates and information: http://www.jkscommunications.com/virtual-tour-for-elisa-klevens-childrens-picture-books/

Truck Stop Blog Tour, Giveaway & A Special Guest Post

Yes, Anne Rockwell has a new book out.  Truck Stop was released on yesterday, May 16, 2013 by Viking Juvenile.  As a new teacher, many of my first books for my young students were written by Anne Rockwell.

One of my favorites was Apples and Pumpkins which was prominently featured in several lessons and projects that I did with students.  I probably have several paperback copies of this book that I took apart, ran through the laminator, and re-stapled so that little hands wouldn't damage the books.

Imagine how thrilled I was to discover that not only would I get to be a part of the blog tour for Truck Stop, but Anne Rockwell along with illustrator Melissa Iwai would be stopping by to share their responses to my Children's Book Week prompt "Books can take you anywhere..."?!  Thanks to Blue Slip Media for helping to coordinate the blog and a giveaway of Truck Stop.   

Anne Rockwell answers "Books can take you anywhere..."

Anne Rockwell - Photo credit @2013 Oliver Rockwell

It’s true that books can take you anywhere, including that cozy diner off the highway heading north or south, deep in the woods, where the truck stop is ready with a good-smelling cup of hot coffee, and whatever you are hungry for.

Sullivan - Photo credit @2013 Oliver Rockwell

I love to travel, and have seen a lot of the world, including most of the United States. But no matter where I go, there’s still a yearning for the safety and comfort of home. The American truck stop mom and pop diner is as worthy of tribute as the French sidewalk café, the Italian trattoria, the British pub, or those many Chinese 24-hour open restaurants lining Ghost Street in Beijing or a mountain road inn that’s been nestled in the remoter parts of China for centuries. I’ve spent a good deal of time in the last three years in such places because my son, my Chinese daughter-in-law, and Littlest Grandson, Sullivan Wong Rockwell, live there. When I saw Chinese patrons rinse their chopsticks in their green tea before using them I was reminded of our own roadside home places and the seemingly essential need humans the world over have for familiar food and companionship. TRUCK STOP is the story that came out of this. And of course, there was also Sullivan’s love for big trucks and work machines, a love he shares with so many children.

Note: Sullivan Wong Rockwell reading his first book not yet knowing that his NaiNai (Mandarin Chinese for paternal grandmother) wrote and illustrated it many years ago for another little boy who grew up to be Sullivan’s BaBa.

Ilustrator, Melissa Iwai answers "Books can take you anywhere..."

“Jamie? Jamie…? Hellooo?”

When I am being ignored by my 8-year old son, Jamie, my emotions can range from annoyance to exasperation. But there’s one occasion where he gets a free pass: When he’s reading a book. I can tell he’s in another place and time. And I fully understand and appreciate that. A great story can have that effect on a reader. Fortunately, I grew up experiencing the same wonderful feeling.

My favorite thing to do from the time I was 4 or 5 years old was visiting the library (we didn’t have a bookstore back then in our small town!). Looking at the collection of picture books there, I would be transported to other worlds. We’d check out a collection to bring home, and I’d look forward to many hours of visiting those places again and again. My favorites at that age were Maurice Sendak’s books, Richard Scarry’s Best Word Book Ever (I could pore over the text and pictures for hours every day), the Lois Lenski book series of the “Small” people, and many others.

Through the years the list has grown and changed of course, but I still get the thrill of anticipation of “story travel” when I begin a new book.

So the next time my son isn’t responding to me asking him something, and his nose is buried in a book, I’ll save it for later and let him enjoy the journey.

Stop by Melissa's blog for activity sheets: http://www.melissaiwai.com/fun/activity-sheets/

For the next blog stop, check out As They Grow Up on Saturday, May 18, 2013. 

Enter below to win a copy of Truck Stop.  US mailing addresses only: a Rafflecopter giveaway

Bluebird by Bob Staake

One of my favorite new books is Bluebird by Bob Staake.  I fell in love with it when I saw the F & G back in November.  Sometimes I worry that a book like Bluebird by Bob Staake will get overlooked.  Will readers catch the depth of this wordless picture book?  The message is powerful.   Look for a copy at your local independent bookstore and consider sharing it with a child.

Check out the official book trailer for Bluebird below:

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday - Who Says Women Can't Be Doctors?

Author: Tanya Lee Stone
Illustrated: Marjorie Priceman
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. (February 19, 2013)
Source: Personal Copy
Audience: Ages 5 to 8
Nonfiction * Biography * Women's History * Women Doctors

Description from the Publisher's Website:
In the 1830s, when a brave and curious girl named Elizabeth Blackwell was growing up, women were supposed to be wives and mothers. Some women could be teachers or seamstresses, but career options were few. Certainly no women were doctors.

But Elizabeth refused to accept the common beliefs that women weren’t smart enough to be doctors, or that they were too weak for such hard work. And she would not take no for an answer. Although she faced much opposition, she worked hard and finally—when she graduated from medical school and went on to have a brilliant career—proved her detractors wrong. This inspiring story of the first female doctor shows how one strong-willed woman opened the doors for all the female doctors to come.

My thoughts on this book:
First, I caught a glimpse of Who Says Women Can't Be Doctors? The Story of Elizabeth Blackwell a few months ago at ALA Midwinter.  At that time, I knew it would be a perfect book for both Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday and also for Women's History Month.  This year, the theme of Women's History Month is Women Inspiring Innovation Through Imagination with a focus on women who have contributed to STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics) fields.   

Second, Tanya Lee Stone is the author of this book.  I almost feel like I need to say nothing more.  Seriously, Stone is an amazing, amazing author of nonfiction books.  I was recommending nonfiction titles to one of my librarians a few weeks ago, and suddenly I stopped and realized that nearly every title I had recommended was a book written by Stone.  And to top it all off, Tanya Lee Stone writes both picture books and nonfiction for older readers.

I guess I should finally get to my thoughts on Who Says Women Can't Be Doctors?

Stone tells the story of Elizabeth Blackwell who became the first woman doctor in the United States.  Not an easy thing in the mid-1800's.  Blackwell received 28 rejections from medical schools until she received an acceptance letter from Geneva Medical School in upstate New York.  Blackwell graduated from medical school in 1849 at the age of 28.  Though the book ends with Blackwell's graduation from Medical School, the end notes provide further information about the challenges Elizabeth faced.  Those challenges led her, with the assistance of her sister who also became a doctor, to eventually open up the New York Infirmary for Women and Children in 1857.  This was followed by the opening of a Women's Medical College in 1868. 

Though the book focuses more on Blackwell as a child and what factors led her to pursue becoming a doctor, the inclusion of the author's note rounds out the story.  Stone's description of Blackwell's personality and spirit as a child is humorously portrayed through Priceman's illustrations.  What shines through the story is the determination and strength that Blackwell possessed that allowed her to break ground for other women to later become doctors. 

With Blackwell's text and Priceman's spirited illustrations, young readers will find this story very accessible.  If you love looking for nonfiction picture books or nonfiction biographies, then you will want to add Who Says Women Can't Be Doctors? The Story of Elizabeth Blackwell to your personal collection or to a classroom or school library. 

Look for this book at your local bookstore and shop indie when possible.

More about Tanya Lee Stone: website | blog | twitter | facebook |

Don't forget to link up your nonfiction reviews: