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31 Days, 31 Lists: Day 17 – 2016 Older Picture Books

31daysTime to define my terms again!

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


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.