Top Ten(ish) Picture Books of 2014: The Best Books for Kids' Holiday Gifts

top ten picture books kids 2014 book long enough

2014 was a fantabulous year in picture books, so it's been really hard for me to narrow down all the books I liked into a list of my top favorites. Thus, the reason there are twelve titles below, instead of ten! Without further adieu, and drumroll please, here are the 2014 books you absolutely CANNOT miss sharing with a child! We'll check back in late January to see if any of the awards committees agreed with me ... 

My Grandfather's Coat by Jim Aylesworth and Barbara McClintock

ages 4-8

Other picture book retellings of the well-known Yiddish folktale (often referred to as "Something from Nothing" in oral folklore or by the song title "I Had a Little Overcoat") exist, but this one is by far my favorite. I am a huge fan of both Aylesworth and McClintock's work; when they get together, good things always happen. They've incorporated an Ellis Island immigration story here, with lots of artistic detail surrounding Jewish-American culture in the last hundred years. McClintock's end note explains the meticulous research she did to honor that culture in her watercolor illustrations. Aylesworth is an expert folktale reteller with a knack for bringing zest to traditional tales that is difficult to accomplish outside of oral retellings. Besides all that, My Grandfather's Coat is a lovely, heartwarming story about family and cultural identity being passed from one generation to the next. And all that is accomplished with simple, lyrical text true to the original song, along with inviting, boisterous artwork. This one is going in my permanent collection and you need to own a copy to share with your children, too! Here's a two-page spread so you can see what I mean:

Nana in the City by Laura Castillo

ages 4-7

I'm pretty much starstruck when it comes to this endearing, gentle picture book. A young boy is a bit frightened to stay overnight with his Nana, who lives in a bustling picture-book version of New York City. He sees so many scary things there ... loud traffic, crowded streets, and down-and-out folks, to name a few. Castillo's artistic talent shines through here, as she makes skyscrapers and other tall city buildings seem to loom over and lean in on the small boy. Ample use of varying shades of gray demonstrates just how foreboding the city feels to this young child. The vibrating walls of Nana's apartment make it hard to fall asleep, but things look up when she presents her grandson with a bright red cape she's knitted while he slumbered. With cape as superpower, the boy feels braver and begins to see the colors, movement, and life force that make the city extraordinary. And, of course, Castillo's colors change as his fear wanes. 

Every person (child or adult) has faced and overcome fears with a change in perspective, which makes this book deeply relatable. It's also a tender story of the relationship between grandparent and grandchild, and a love letter to New York. And did I mention that the gradually warming ink and watercolor illustrations perfectly gel with the story's reassuring tone? I added a copy of Nana in the City to my permanent collection. Run and do the same!

Kid Sheriff and the Terrible Toads by Bob Shea and Lane Smith

ages 5-10

Read my review here.

I'm My Own Dog by David Ezra Stein

ages 5-8 

Read my review here.

Extraordinary Jane by Hannah E. Harrison

ages 4-7

Read my review here. 

Gaston by Kelly Dipucchio and Christian Robinson

ages 4-8

Read my review here. 

Tiny Creatures: The World of Microbes by Nicola Davies and Emily Sutton

ages 7-10

Read my review here.

Hug Machine by Scott Campbell

ages 4-7

Read my review here.  

Link disclosure: A Book Long Enough is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. That means if you purchase a book through an Amazon link that appears on my site, I receive a commission. 

New Science Picture Books that Make Great Kids' Gifts: From Backyard to Cosmos

If you know a kid ages two to 12 whom you'd like to encourage to explore the natural world, check out my favorite science picture books published in the last two years. These books prove that modern picture book non-fiction makes learning both intriguing and fun, and they make perfect gifts for children with inquiring minds! Read on to find books about animals, outer space, natural patterns, conservation, and weather:

On the Wing by David Elliott and Becca Stadtlander

ages 4-10

I'm a bit bird crazy, so I knew I'd be biased toward this amazing collection of poetry and art. But, the fact that my nine year old raved about this book helped me know that it is truly worth crowing (bad pun) over. The poems are clipped and witty and the gouache illustrations are so lively that the varying subjects seem to fly off the pages and into your soul. It's so hard to do this book justice without putting it into your hands, so here's a page spread to help:

Go, buy, gift it, immediately!

Gravity by Jason Chin

ages 3-9

Jason Chin is a gifted artist who has a talent for taking incredibly complex scientific topics and distilling them down into a few choice words (and some breathtaking imagery) to make books for kids. The otherwise-difficult concept of gravity receives noteworthy treatment here. Take a look at one of my favorite blogs to find out just how Chin developed and edited this fantastic book

Mysterious Patterns: Finding Fractals in Nature by Sarah C. and Richard P. Campbell

ages 6-10

Sarah Campbell is an award-winning science writer for children, who works with her husband to share complex topics through kids' picture books. I wish I could show you a page spread of this one, because the large-scale photography and the intermittently sparse/a bit more detailed text make for an intriguing book that will absorb kids of many ages. (If you follow through the link on the title or the cover photo, Amazon will let you look inside the book.) I'm so excited that topics like fractals (seriously, fractals) can be made not just accessible to kids, but fascinating to boot.

Blue on Blue by Dianne White and Beth Krommes

ages 2-7

I have been obsessed with everything Beth Krommes does for several years now, ever since I started reading Swirl by Swirl, another superb science picture book, to my toddler son. Krommes has been awarded a Caldecott Medal (the highest distinction for children's book illustration) for her inticrate scratchboard-and-watercolor work. This time Krommes joins up with a new picture book author to take young readers through a rainstorm on a farm. Blue on Blue has received accolades in each of the major children's book review journals. I love that it takes something that can be scary and turns it into a joyous celebration of the beauty and power of nature ... from raindrops to mud. This is a picture book that you don't want to miss.

Born in the Wild: Baby Mammals and Their Parents by Lita Judge

ages 4-8

Lita Judge has made quite a splash in the picture book scene in the past couple of years, and she steps up her game with this appealing introduction to some adorable baby mammals and their mamas and daddies. Born in the Wild received starred reviews from School Library Journal, Kirkus, and Publishers Weekly. The relationships between animal parent and child are tenderly rendered in a warm manner that makes this book accessible to kids across a wide range of ages. Snuggle up with a little one you love and prepare to enjoy!

The following are titles I've reviewed in the past 18 months. More of my favorite science picture books:

Look Up!: Bird-Watching in Your Own Backyard by Annette LeBlanc Cole

ages 8-11

See my review here.

Shimmer and Splash: The Sparkling World of Sea Life by Jim Arnosky

ages 8-12

See my review here.

Mama Built a Little Nest by Jennifer Ward and Steve Jenkins

ages 5-9

See my review here.

The Secret Life of the Woolly Bear Caterpillar by Laurence Pringle and Joan Paley

ages 6-10

See my review here.

Tiny Creatures: The World of Microbes by Nicola Davies and Emily Sutton

ages 7-10

See my review here.

Neighborhood Sharks by Katherine Roy

ages 7-11

See my review here.

Elizabeth, Queen of the Seas by Lynne Cox and Brian Floca

ages 6-10

See my review here.

Some Bugs by Angela DiTerlizzi and Brendan Wenzel

ages 2-6

See my review here.

The Case of the Vanishing Little Brown Bats: A Scientific Mystery by Sandra Markle

ages 9-12

See my review here.

I'm thrilled just thinking about more kids getting their hands on these wonderful books! Come back soon for a look at biography picture books that make great gifts!

Link disclosure: A Book Long Enough is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. That means if you purchase a book through an Amazon link that appears on my site, I receive a commission.