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.  

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