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31 Days, 31 Lists: Day Four – 2016 Great Picture Book Readalouds

31daysTo be fair, every single picture book, with the exception of the wordless ones, is a readaloud.  You’re not supposed to just silent there silent and stony when a child’s on your lap.  Picture books are meant to engage through the voice of the reader.  That said, not all of them do well when it comes to reading them to groups.  When I first because a children’s librarian I learned the hard way that some classic titles (Horton Hatches the Egg, Blueberries for Sal, etc.) die ignoble deaths at your hands when read to groups of preschoolers.  I began to rely on a core group of picture books with every storytime.  The danger with that, though, is that you never try anything new.

With all this in mind, these are some of the picture books of 2016 that I felt do particularly well when read to groups.  Obviously there are other great ones out there.  These are just the ones that come immediately to mind.

 2016 Picture Book Readalouds: For Preschoolers

Box by Min Flyte, ill. Rosalind Beardshaw


About this time you’ll start noticing some duplication between my lists.  The fact of the matter is that if a book is truly good, it isn’t just one thing.  Box appeared already on the Board Book list, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t do well as a readaloud too.  So prepare for some familiar covers!

Everyone Is Yawning by Anita Bijsterbosch


Bijsterbosch (now THAT is a name!) helps you out with this book.  She’s basically telling the adult reader how to read each animal as you go.  One is soft and quiet.  Another yawns three times in a row.  And even though it’s not the largest book out there (clocking in at a mere 9″ X 8.5″), thanks to the lift-the-flap mouth element you can see it across a crowded room without difficulty.

I Dare You! by Nicole Maubert

idareyouTry running around the room with this one, getting the kids to touch the witch’s warts, pet the monsters’ fur, and stick their hands in the slathering jaws of hungry beasts.  As long as it keeps in one piece, it will be beloved.

Monsters Go Night-Night by Aaron Zenz


I adore this.  I mean talk about a book that upsets expectations.  I’m putting it on the younger list here because I can, but much like Mac Barnett and Adam Rex’s Guess Again (a highly underrated readaloud) this book upsets the expectations of its potentially jaded readership.

Grumpy Pants by Claire Messer


I had to be told by a children’s librarian in my branch that this book is a wonderful readaloud for groups.  I knew it was lovely to look at but until she spoke up I never would have thought to consider it for large groups.

2016 Picture Book Readalouds: That You Can Sing

5 Little Ducks by Denise Fleming


It still works if you don’t know the tune, but I think singing it is best.  Plus look at that duck that’s front and center on the cover.  How can you say no to that little guy?

Groovy Joe: Ice Cream & Dinosaurs by Eric Litwin, ill. Tom Lichtenheld


While the title does sound like free word associations for kids (“Name me two things your little brother would want at his birthday party”) this is the Pete the Cat author at work.  The book’s pretty catchy.  For the music, download the free song.

Old MacDonald Had a Truck by Steve Goetz, ill. Eda Kaban


For years Jessica Souhami’s version of Old MacDonald was my favorite, and it may still be at the top of the ranking (WHEN is someone going to republish it?!???), but this book is gunning to be a close second.  You’ve got Mrs. MacDonald welding, plenty of construction equipment, and just gorgeous art.  Keep an eye on that Eda Kaban.  That name may become better known in the future.


2016 Picture Book Readalouds: That Rhyme

A Dark, Dark Cave by Eric Hoffman, ill. Corey R. Tabor


Aww. This was one of my favorites early in the year.  It sort of reminds me of the Berenstain Bears classic Spooky Old Tree in a way.  Fear, it seems, is a great motivator when coming up with picture book themes.

Dinosaur Rap by John Foster, ill. Debbie Harter, sung by Mikey Henry Jr.


I usually avoid any book that includes the word “rap” anywhere near its title with a ten-foot-pole.  But the bright art and fun rhymes convinced me otherwise.  Technically I think it’s a song but I preferred reading it by itself.  The rhymes hold up.

The Forgetful Knight by Michelle Robinson, ill. Fred Blunt


So much fun with a nice little twist at the end.  And who doesn’t love a twist ending?

Hensel and Gretel Ninja Chicks by Corey Rosen Schwartz & Rebecca J. Gomez, ill. Dan Santat


Funny goes a long way with me, as you can probably tell.

A Toucan Can, Can You? by Danny Adlerman, ill. Various


I think this is the first book on any of my lists to be reviewed on the site as well.  Funny it took so long.  Adlerman and company have created a truly funny book that also works as a writing assignment.  Just smart stuff.

Swallow the Leader: A Counting Book by Danna Smith, ill. Kevin Sherry


More Kevin Sherry, please!

*holds out hand and makes a grabby motion*


2016 Picture Book Readalouds: For School Aged Kids

Alan’s Big Scary Teeth by Jarvis


It is a truth universally acknowledged that books containing crocodiles and alligators are more fun to read aloud than other books (see: It’s a Tiger by David LaRochelle).  Alan is no exception to this rule.  The words of this book are delicious, as is Alan’s destructive tendencies.  And finally, naming him Alan is just hilarious.  It is not a name to strike fear in the heart.

Chimpanzees for Tea! by Jo Empson


Remembering items from the story take a distinct turn for the silly in this book.  I’m a sucker for readalouds where the kids get to yell at the characters for doing something wrong.  In this case, the misremembered list builds to a nice chaotic frenzy over time.  My favorite trope.

The Happiest Book Ever! by Bob Shea


If ever a humor award for picture book is created, Shea’s gonna sweep it every single year.

Hocus Pocus, It’s Fall! By Anne Sibley O’Brien


I know it’s seasonal, and usually I’d limit seasonal books to a different list, but I just loved this one.  It has this little element where you open up a page to reveal something that works from a distance.  Always important when reading to groups.

I Will Not Eat You by Adam Lehrhaupt, ill. Scott Magoon


You’ll pretty much have the kids hooked when you read and show them the title.

Is That Wise Pig? by Jan Thomas, Little Red and the Very Hungry Lion by Alex T. Smith


Jan Thomas could pretty much just repeat the same image over and over in a picture book and I’d find her work splendid.  This is so funny and her art just pops.  A kid in the next county could see it if you held it up.  She’s also one of my storytime staples.

Leave Me Alone! by Vera Brosgol


It’s perfect.  No.  Really.  It is.

Max Speed by Stephen Shaskan


This was a huge hit at my kid’s daycare.  I gave them a copy and they went gaga over it.  And don’t worry.  It has a happy ending.

One Day in the Eucalyptus Eucalyptus Tree by Daniel Bernstrom, ill. by Brendan Wenzel


To a certain extent this has been overshadowed by Wenzel’s other picture book this year They All Saw a Cat.  That book has big readaloud potential in its own way, but if I were to have to pick between that and this one to read to a group, this would win every dang time.  Hands down.

Panda Pants by Jacqueline Davies, ill. Sydney Hanson


I was trying to explain to my daughter today why pants are funny.  What I should have done was just read her this book!

President Squid by Aaron Reynolds, ill. Sara Varon


Read it.  It’s cathartic.  And don’t just do it once every four years either.

Quit Calling Me a Monster! by Jory John, ill. Bob Shea


I MUCH prefer this over John & Shea’s previous outing I Will Chomp You.  That book was fine.  This one is sublime.  I adore the hairy monster and his overly professional name.

That’s Not a Hippopotamus! by Juliette Maclver, ill. Sarah Davis


It’s frentic energy reminded me, just a little, of Hallie George’s Catch That Cookie!  Had a GREAT ending too!

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


About Elizabeth Bird

Elizabeth Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.


  1. Thank you for these lists, Betsy! I’ve added at least one title to my personal shopping list everyday so far, and we aren’t to my favorite categories yet.

  2. I always enjoy hearing the grownups laugh when I read a Jan Thomas book in story time.

  3. This is great list, thank you for putting it together! I love story time books that get the audience involved.

  4. There are a couple titles here I hadn’t seen but the rest of these I heartily agree with and enjoyed!