This is undoubtedly the most subjective of all my lists. Basically, what I’m saying with it, is that picture books are far more wide-ranging than many people suspect. If you say “picture book” they’ll imagine something for a 4-year-old. Nothing wrong with picture books for 4-year-olds, of course, but picture books hit a great swath of ages and intellects. Some really aren’t for little kids.
This timing on this one is pretty interesting as well. Just yesterday one of my co-workers spoke with me about a picture book that she thought didn’t have a young enough text to be placed in the picture book section. That book actually isn’t on this list (I disagreed with the assessment) but it reminded me that we think of picture books in very specific terms. I’m hoping to break those terms down a bit. Here then are my favorite picture books for older child readers in 2016:
Older Picture Books of 2016
Cry, Heart, But Never Break by Glenn Ringtved, ill. By Charlotte Pardi
I do wonder if it’s a particularly American instinct to recommend this book of gentle death doing his job to older kids. It’s entirely possible that it its native Denmark this book is given to three-year-olds regularly. It’s all about the cultural construction, isn’t it? By the way – this marks the third time this book has appeared on one of my lists. That may be a record for this series (here are lists one and two).
Ideas Are All Around by Philip C. Stead
Ah ha! It took a while but eventually this book ended up on this list! I truly do feel that of all the picture books of this year, this is the most divisive. People who love it, adore it. People who dislike it, loathe it. Me? I like it. But I do feel it’s meant for older kids, and maybe even teens. A quiet, contemplative, fascinating work.
Lucy by Randy Cecil
Aww. I still haven’t decided if I should put this book on my early chapter list or not. Ultimately I don’t think I will, but it’s not exactly your average picture book either. This tale of a little dog that lost her loving home and is on the cusp of entering another is quiet and sweet and just right for the kid willing to wait it out.
Missing Nimama by Melanie Florence, ill. Francois Thisdale
As an American I am ashamed to admit that I was completely unaware of the fact that a great many indigenous women and girls have been going missing for a number of years in Canada. You can read an interview with Melanie Florence and Francois Thisdale about the situation and how they’ve brought it to light with this book. In the story, a Cree girl must grow up without her mother, and the author goes through the years and the simple fact of how hard it is to move on when you just don’t know what has happened.
The Riddlemaster by Kevin Crossley-Holland, ill. Stephane Jorisch
Do you remember Crossley-Holland’s Arthur trilogy from a decade or two back? It was quite the big deal when I started working as a children’s librarian, though it’s faded from the public consciousness quite a bit since then. I was thrilled to find some smart editor had paired the author with the urbane and delightful Stephane Jorisch. There’s an undercurrent of fear to The Riddlemaster, but I loved the old-fashioned riddling of it all. It’s also a beauty to look at.
Rules of the House by Mac Barnett, ill. Matt Myers
And speaking of undercurrents of fear! I was a bit surprised to find that Mac and Matt’s latest is as scary as it is. It gets its spooks legitimately, though. When someone tells you not to go through a certain door, don’t do it! Did Bluebeard teach us nothing?
Why Am I Here? by Constance Orbeck-Nilssen, ill. Akin Duzakin
You know, some years you get just a ton of philosophical picture books. Other years the numbers decrease a bit. I love the dreamy quality of this book and the big questions it’s unafraid to ask. I just don’t have any answers for it.
Interested in the other lists of the month? Here’s the schedule so that you can keep checking back:
December 1 – Board Books
December 2 – Board Book Adaptations
December 3 – Nursery Rhymes
December 4 – Picture Book Readalouds
December 5 – Rhyming Picture Books
December 6 – Alphabet Books
December 7 – Funny Picture Books
December 8 – Calde-Nots
December 9 – Picture Book Reprints
December 10 – Math Picture Books
December 11 – Bilingual Books
December 12 – International Imports
December 13 – Books with a Message
December 14 – Fabulous Photography
December 15 – Fairy Tales / Folktales
December 16 – Oddest Books of the Year
December 17 – Older Picture Books
December 18 – Easy Books
December 19 – Early Chapter Books
December 20 – Graphic Novels
December 21 – Poetry
December 22 – Fictionalized Nonfiction
December 23 – American History
December 24 – Science & Nature Books
December 25 – Transcendent Holiday Titles
December 26 – Unique Biographies
December 27 – Nonfiction Picture Books
December 28 – Nonfiction Chapter Books
December 29 – Novel Reprints
December 30 – Novels
December 31 – Picture Books