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A Fuse #8 Production
Inside A Fuse #8 Production

31 Days, 31 Lists: Day 14 – Fabulous 2016 Photography Books for Kids

31daysWhen I was in college I temporarily rejected my natural inclinations to be a librarian (an occupation I dismissed as boring and nightmarishly appealing) and decided I would become a photographer.  So got a B.A. with a concentration in Fine Arts – Photography.  And what I learned from my stint as an architectural/portrait/sports photographer was simple: I’m awful that job.  Shutter speeds are not my friends and f-stops cause me to break out in hives.  So I caved and became a librarian after all, but I never stopped yearning for photography.  Maybe that’s why I’m such an advocate for it in children’s books.  In 2014 at NYPL I held a Children’s Literary Salon with panelists Nina Crews, Joanne Dugan, Charles R. Smith, and Susan Kuklin to discuss the state of photography in books for kids.  It was brilliant, though I was left wondering why, in an age where creating photographic books for kids is cheaper than ever, the pickings are so very slim. 

Here then, are the few, the brave, the books that aren’t afraid of f-stops and shutter speeds the way I once was.  Here is 2016 photography at its finest. I’ve include interior shots where available to give you a taste of what I mean:


2016 Photography Books for Kids

Best in Snow by April Pulley Sayre



I am so happy that by putting this list in alphabetical order by title April Pulley Sayre is at the top.  Her photography over the years has been so luscious and wonderful that were there an award for Best Photography in a Picture Book, she’d be the ringer who gets it over and over and over again.  Best in Snow lives up to its name and is a wonderful title to read with kids right now as the temperatures plummet.

Crow Smarts: Inside the Brain of the World’s Brightest Bird by Pamela S. Turner, photos by Andy Comins, ill. Guido de Flilippo


crowsmarts2Initially when I thought of this list I figured I’d only include picture books that incorporate photography.  That idea sort of fell by the wayside when I realized that there just weren’t enough of them published in a given year.  As a result, I’m including those nonfiction titles where a single credited photographer (in this case the incredibly patient and talented Andy Comings) has done the work.  Crow Smarts also happened to be one of my favorite nonfiction titles in 2016.  It’s not a picture book but rather a long and remarkable look at what may well be the most fascinating, intelligent birds on the planet.

I Am a Baby by Kathryn Madeline Allen, photos by Rebecca Gizicki



My 2-year-old is currently going through that phase where he realizes that babies are smaller than he is.  Consequently, he finds them absolutely fascinating.  His favorite movie right now?  The documentary Babies.  And his favorite baby-related book?  I Am a Baby by Kathryn Madeline Allen.  But it’s Rebecca Gizicki that we should be celebrating today.  If you thought that crow book had some difficult shots in it, just try taking pictures of hoards of babies.  In both cases the subject matter is pretty cute.

I Wonder: Celebrating Daddies Doin’ Work by Doyin Richards



A friend of mine lives in Portland, OR and a couple years ago her husband founded Seahorses PDX, a store dedicated entirely to dads and their kids.  They asked me for book recommendations when they first opened, and I complied.  Had this book been around then, you can bet I would have mentioned it (and I’ll certainly pass it on to them now).  Like I Am a Baby it shows a lot of random babies being cute, but am I supposed to object to that? Bring it on!

Jazz Day: The Making of a Famous Photograph by Roxane Orgill, ill. Francis Vallejo


If it’s any comfort, I know that I’m pushing my luck here.  But the entire book is about a photograph!  Granted there’s only one real photo in the whole books but look how well artist Vallejo incorporates the real kids into the fictionalized ones:



So it stays.

Natumi Takes the Lead: The True Story of an Orphan Elephant Who Finds Family by Gerry Ellis with Amy Novesky



Inviting National Geographic to this party is akin to having a hustler at your weekly poker game.  I acknowledge freely that I’m also breaking my rule about not having multiple photographers.  My weak excuse is that they were all working for the same company (Nat Geo) and therefore we can count them as a single unit.  Still, if I’m going to be honest, the whole reason the book is included is because it features a baby elephant that comes into her own.  Would you kick out a baby elephant?  Would you?  Just look at that punim.

Pink Is for Blobfish: Discovering the World’s Perfectly Pink Animals by Jess Keating, ill. David DeGrand



And speaking of punims . . . also a book where the photographers were ah-plenty.  But it’s all about little known pink creatures and so beautiful.  You should take a gander at it, when you get a chance.

The Secret Subway by Shana Corey, ill. Red Nose Studio




Creating the models for this nonfiction picture book was only half the battle for Red Nose Studio.  Next came the difficulty in lighting the scenes.  Look at the two examples I’ve placed above.  Can you full appreciate the artistry at work here?  The composition is rivaled only by the sheer creativity.

Whose Eye Am I? by Shelley Rotner



There are a few similarities here to Best Foot Forward: Exploring Feet, Flippers, and Claws by Ingo Arndt..  Here’s hoping this eye book will travel in the same circles.

Will You Be My Friend? by Susan Lurie, ill. Murray Head


And I’ll end today with a rarity.  There once was a time when fictionalized picture book texts were frequently paired with photographic images.  Sometimes this yielded transcendent books and sometimes it got a touch on the creepy side (paging, The Lonely Doll).  Even the first book on today’s list doesn’t really go all out fictional.  Lurie and Head are different.  They did this utterly charming book a couple years ago called Swim, Duck, Swim! and now they’re following it up with a classic search for friendship.  Should you buy it?  Here’s an interior spread to help sway you:


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. I suspect the foot book you’re thinking of is the delightful Best Foot Forward: Exploring Feet, Flippers, and Claws by Ingo Arndt.

    • Elizabeth Bird says:

      Awww, pfui. So I am. I’m going to change the text (thereby making this comment thread mildly confusing, but them’s the breaks). Thanks for the correction!

  2. I’m impressed with your use of the word “punim.” I think you should hide a Yiddish word somewhere in every post.

  3. Such a great selection! I love April Pulley Sayre’s work, and her photos for Best in Snow (& Raindrops Roll) are just stunning and fully of such lovely, intricate detail.

    Crow Smarts was fabulous, and I loved the photos of all of the elephants in the Natumi story too!

    I somehow missed Whose Eye Am Eye–very intriguing and will have to check that one out.

    I also love Rick Lieder’s photos for his collaboration with Helen Frost (Among a Thousand Fireflies, Step Gently Out, & most of all, Sweep Up the Sun).

  4. I loved Seeing Things, a book by Joel Meyerowitz about how to “read” a photograph. And its publisher shows its photography cred–aperture brought it out this year.