Are you looking for some amazing new children’s picture books, full of fun, beauty and heart? You’re in the right place! I love reading picture books, both to my young daughter and by myself. (You can really get lost in the gorgeous artwork when there aren’t any small hands grabbing at the pages…)
Here are some of my favourite picture books that I’ve read in the last year. There’s everything from jungle animals to young eco heroes, from happy families and magical gardens to apple-shaped aliens. Yep, even that last one.
I hope you and the kids in your life love these picture books as much as I do. And if you want to discover more interesting, inclusive children’s books, handpicked each month by a children’s author (that’s me!), you can subscribe to my What Book Now? newsletter here.
You’re Safe with Me
by Chitra Soundar, illus. by Poonam Mistry
(Lantana Publishing, 2018)
Wow wow WOW. This book is a real hypnotic, kaleidoscopic beauty. The illustration is so intricate, with animals and plants and all the elements swirling around one another – I’ve never seen anything quite like it. And the text is gorgeous, too, Mama Elephant comforting the baby animals of the forest with her lilting lines and lullaby-like refrain, ‘You’re safe with me’.
In its gentle way, this book helps younger children understand nature’s connected cycles, too. The baby animals are afraid of the wind and thunder, the lightning and the noisy river – until Mama Elephant explains how they help the forest. The wind brings seeds, the storm clouds bring water and the river ‘takes the water back to the sea, so the sea will never dry up’.
Old Enough to Save the Planet
by Loll Kirby, illus. by Adelina Lirius
(Magic Cat Publishing, 2020)
It’s pretty overwhelming to think about how much needs to be done to help our planet, right? Especially for a child who’s only been on Earth for a few years, but already knows that the future won’t be safe unless we take serious action. What can they even DO? This delightful book has some great ideas and inspiration, from kids around the world who’ve come up with practical, positive answers.
Bite-sized chunks of text are perfectly pitched for young readers, showing how these activists’ projects – from composting schools’ food waste in Ukraine to planting natural flood defences in Indonesia – are impressive but achievable. The illustrations are fun, friendly and colourful, and a ‘How to help’ section at the end gives kids clear actions to get them started.
Love Makes a Family
by Sophie Beer
(Caterpillar Books, 2018)
What an absolute JOY this book is! Full of colourful, cheery and realistically chaotic scenes that feel like a big, bright bear hug. It has all kinds of inclusive happy families, from ones with two mums to ones with grandparent caregivers. And it does a really nice job of showing how real love is in the everyday moments – from helping to find a lost shoe to reading ‘just one more’ book together.
It would also be a fabulous choice for kids who are just starting out with reading or who get a bit frustrated and fed up with it. The text is lovely and spare, and there’s lots of storytelling and fun details to spot in the pictures. (It took me a couple of goes through to spot the cheeky thieving monkey, but it was worth it!)
You Belong Here
by M.H. Clark, illus. by Isabelle Arsenault
If you’re a crier (guilty x 1 million), you might want to brace yourself for this one. Not because it’s sad, not at all, but because it’s just the most beautiful, universal expression of the love that we all really need. The kind of love that says you’re wanted and needed, unconditionally and non-negotiably, even when you feel all out of place.
It also gently insists, through its dreamy illustrations and comforting lullaby lilt, that everything else in nature shares our right to belong. That people and places, animals and seasons, are all woven fast together in a single existence. And that preserving Earth’s beautiful balance isn’t just what we should do – it’s the only way that the world makes sense.
by Nathan Bryon, illus. by Dapo Adeola
(Puffin Books, 2019)
Rocket LOVES space and stars and reeling off astronomy facts. Her mum says her head’s in the clouds but she wants everyone (including her phone-obsessed big brother) to look up and see how big and amazing our universe is!
The first-person text and expressive illustrations work together perfectly to make Rocket’s chatty charm completely irresistible. And it’s amazing how high-stakes a meteor shower outing can be when you just can’t bear to see a sweet, excited little girl be disappointed! A second book, Clean Up!, is also out now.
The Extraordinary Gardener
by Sam Boughton
What a scribbly, splotchy BEAUTY this book is. Full of colours and textures and magical little details that reward a bit of closer attention. Its simple story is of a boy with a wild imagination who plants a single seed. Then a few more. Then a lot more.
With patience and care, colour and life creeps into his grey, uninspiring surroundings – and transforms the people living there too. A light-handed, lightly fantastical look at taking small steps to create the kind of world you want to live in.
We Are Family
by Patricia Hegarty, illus. by Ryan Wheatcroft (Caterpillar Books, 2018)
I’m not going to lie, there was a moment reading this to my grizzly daughter, on a sleep-deprived day, that I felt annoyingly envious of all the cheery, charming, chiselled-cheeked families playing and snuggling so perfectly…
But seriously, this is a beautiful book that shows kids how different happy, loving families – including ones with single parents and grandparents raising children – can look. Its gentle rhyming text and everyday scenes give a clear, positive idea of how a family should treat each other.
by Matthew A. Cherry, illus. by Vashti Harrison
(Puffin Books, 2019)
I know this story – of a dad trying to style his daughter’s beautiful hair for a special day – isn’t exactly an undiscovered gem. It’s based on an Oscar-winning short film and Blue Ivy Carter reads the audiobook, for God’s sake! But it’s so sweet, gorgeously drawn and full of joy that I don’t want to risk anyone missing it.
FYI, if you want to watch the short film with a child, it’s also lovely but quite different and includes an ill parent – which took me by surprise.
The Night Flower
by Lara Hawthorne
(Big Picture Press, 2019)
One of the most beautiful books I’ve ever had the joy to lay my eyes on, and a great reminder that nature can be as magical and mysterious as any fictional world.
Children journey into the Sonoran desert in pursuit of a night-blooming cactus flower that shows itself just once a year. And they’re not the only ones waiting in anticipation… there are all sorts of fascinating animals to meet there, too.
Crescent Moons and Pointed Minarets
by Hena Khan, illus. by Mehrdokht Amini
(Chronicle Books, 2018)
I read this gorgeous book through a couple of times, lost in its jewel-like colours and singing text, before noticing the illustrator’s dedication: ‘To all the truth seekers of our time, in hope of a better future’. Well, that got me.
This book shows tiny truth-seekers the gentle, familiar beauty of the shapes and rituals at the heart of Muslim art and daily life around the world. An oasis in the barren desert of prejudice that still so often surrounds Islam in our society.
Don’t Worry, Little Crab
by Chris Haughton
(Walker Books, 2019)
Those eyes! I fell for this blocky little poppet of a crab when I bought this book for a friend’s son. He was anxious about being around crowds of people, and this sweet little story seemed just the thing.
Little Crab wants to go out into the ocean but it’s all a bit much. Big Crab’s loving, gentle encouragement helps Little Crab gradually build up the courage to face his fears and take the plunge.
It Might Be an Apple
by Shinsuke Yoshitake
(Thames & Hudson, 2015)
One of my all-time favourites, this gloriously weird book starts with an apple and goes … well, everywhere. Might an apple get scared, or want a haircut? Could it actually be an alien in disguise?
In a world of fake news and shouted certainties, kids SO need books like this to help them bravely question and explore the world from all angles. Because if we don’t do that, how do we make a better one?
Also suitable for older children – there’s a lot of fun little details to spot, and big questions to think about!
I hope you’ve found some picture books on this list that you’re excited to share with the kids in your life. And, if you haven’t already, make sure to subscribe to What Book Now?, my monthly newsletter. It’s packed with interesting, inclusive children’s books and other great stuff!
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