2017 Gift Guide: Picture Books

Each year, Cracking the Cover compiles a list of books that make great gifts. The following are picture books published and/or reviewed in 2017. Scroll down for the complete list or click or tap the following links to directly visit a section. BOARD BOOKSAGES 2 & UPAGES 3 & UPAGES 4 & UPAGES 5 & UPAGES 6 & UP


LITTLE CONCEPTS: ABC COLOR: APRICOT, BURGUNDY & CHARTREUSE, 26 COOL NEW COLORS ARE OUT ON THE LOOSE! by Ingela Peterson Arrhenius, Walter Foster Jr, Nov. 1, 2017, Board Book, $12.95 (ages 5 and up)

The alphabet and colors are combined in Ingela Peterson Arrhenius’ charming ABC Color. What makes this book stand out is the more nuanced colors featured on each page — apricot, chartreuse, mauve, onyx, etc. The illustrations are bold and engaging. The suggested age range for ABC Color is 5 and up, but if your child already has a handle on basic colors and the alphabet, I would start at 3 ½ or 4.


Ten flaps are uniquely designed with shapes (triangles, circles or squares depending on the book) that reveal a hidden image underneath. Each of the flaps coordinates with a number as well. When these three titles arrived at my house, my 3-year-old immediately took hold of them and started exploring. The intuitive nature of how these books are designed meant my daughter was able to figure them out on their own. Once she was finished, she played teacher to my student, testing me on my own skills. These are great for preschoolers, helping reinforce what they’re already learning in class.

BUILDABLOCK, by Peskimo and Christopher Franceschelli, Harry N. Abrams, Sept. 19, 2017, Board Book, $16.95 (ages 0-4)

Buildablock is the fifth book in the Alphablock series, which includes Alphablock, Countablock, Dinoblock, and Cityblock. We already own Cityblock so my daughter knew exactly what to expect when Buildablock arrived. Buildablock introduces readers to more than 24 construction vehicles through die-cut shapes and flaps. I would argue that Buildablock has a more universal appeal than Cityblock since not everyone lives in a city, but everyone has seen some sort of construction vehicle. My daughter loves “scooper trucks” and immediately fell in love with this fin book.

ALL ABOARD!: LET’S RIDE A TRAIN, by Nichole Mara and Andrew Kolb, Harry N. Abrams, Sept. 5, 2017, Board Book, $9.95 (ages 2-5)

All Aboard!: Let’s Ride a Train is one of the more creative board books I’ve come across. Folding out car-by-car, this accordion-style book takes readers on a tour of what’s inside a train. The adventure begins when a child starts looking for his missing hat. Each car features something different that also needs finding — things that make loud noises, things in different shapes, certain colors. If that wasn’t enough, the back of the book features a running landscape dotted with objects for children to find and count. All Aboard was an instant hit in our house and still is a few months in.

BEEP BEEP ROBOT! A SPINNING GEARS BOOK, by Scholastic, Cartwheel Books, Sept. 26, 2017, Board Book, $9.99 (ages 3 and up)

What little kid doesn’t love robots and gears? I feel as if this book was specifically designed for my daughter. Robot’s colorful gears show how gears connect and help machines move. Rhyming text from a cute narrator helps connect the dots by utilizing color. With each turn of the page another gear appears until finally the spinning gears match those inside the robot. Since sharing this book with my daughter, she’s become obsessed. We read it multiple times a day and she’s insisting on taking it for sharing time at preschool. (I recently saw Beep Beep Robot! on my daughter’s book order for $9. So if you do Scholastic’s book club, keep an eye out.)

Return to Top


ALL MY FRIENDS ARE FAST ASLEEP, by David Weinstone and Magali Le Huche, Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR), September 5, 2017, Hardcover, $17.99 (ages 2-6)

It’s hard to fall asleep, and no matter how hard a little boy tries, he just can’t. So he decides to find another place to lay his weary head. He tries hanging by his feet like a bat, standing like a horse, swimming like a whale and curled up in a nest, among other things. Nothing seems to work, so he heads back home where he finds his bed is best after all.

All My Friends Are Fast Asleep is written by David Weinstone, the creator of the Music for Aardvarks program. So it should come as no surprise that the text here is rhythmic and soothing. This is one of my favorite books to read aloud. Paired with sweet illustrations by Magali Le Huche, this will make a charming addition to your bedtime routine.

ALPHAMALS: A-Z, by Graham Carter, Big Picture Press, Oct. 3, 2017, Hardcover, $17.99 (ages 2-5)

From aardvark to zebra, this ABC collection features animals that are accompanied by a brief, lyrical description of features.

There have only been a few times when I’ve actually considered taking apart a book to hang its artwork on the wall. Graham Carter’s Alphamals is one such book. Carter’s bold and graphic illustrations are fantastically detailed. Their stylized nature only serves to heighten the attraction. My daughter immediately loved the vibrant colors and was able to identify all but the more obscure animal/letter combinations (quoll, urial, hedgebog and armadillo).

Return to Top

 AGES 3 & UP

TODAY I FEEL . . .: AN ALPHABET OF FEELINGS by Madalena Moniz, Abrams Appleseed, Feb. 28, 2017, Hardcover, $14.95 (ages 3-5)

Today I Feel relies heavily on illustrations. Each spread features a letter of the alphabet representing an emotion or feeling — adored, brilliant, curious. Some of the feelings are a bit more abstract — free, light, mini — and rely heavily on context and some extra explanation from a grownup.

My husband reads Today I Feel with our daughter almost every night before bed. She loves to snuggle in his arms and talk about the pictures. Together, they discuss different emotions and talk about how our daughter has felt throughout the day. We’ve noticed a marked difference in our daughter’s awareness of her own emotions since starting with this book and feel like it’s been a great help in that regard. Madalena Moniz’s watercolor illustrations are beautiful, and I love the pairing of the alphabet with emotions. I highly recommend this for toddlers on up.

I AM (NOT) SCARED by Anna Kang and Christopher Weyant, Two Lions, March 21, 2017, hardcover, $17.99 (ages 3-7)

In I Am (Not) Scared the two fuzzy creatures find themselves at an amusement park, trying to convince each other that there are much scarier things than a roller coaster. But the more things they list — hairy spiders, a pit of hot lava, a pan of fried ants — the more scared they become. And just when they think it can’t get worse, a roller coaster WITH a snake pulls in. But perhaps, being scared isn’t so bad when you’re scared together.

Like its predecessors, I Am (Not) Scared features simple text and bright, animated illustrations. The two are perfectly paired. Kang’s text is straight-forward, creating the framework in which Weyant’s ink-and-watercolor illustrations take center stage. Weyant’s expressive characters are at once loveable and easily understandable for young readers.

LADYBUG GIRL’S DAY OUT WITH GRANDPA, by David Soman and Jacky Davis, Dial Books, May 16, 2017, Hardcover, $17.99 (ages 3-5)

Ladybug Girl’s Day Out With Grandpa follows Lulu as she explores the natural history museum with her grandfather. Lulu is so excited to see the museum, and she wants to see everything! Grandpa thinks they should take their time, exploring bit by bit, but Lulu thinks they can do it — she is Ladybug Girl after all. But as they start exploring, Lulu realizes there might be too much to see, even for Ladybug Girl.

Beyond the overarching message of taking time to enjoy the little moments, there are two other big reasons for loving Ladybug Girl’s Day Out With Grandpa. It’s fun to see Lulu’s world expand. Seeing her one-on-one with her grandfather makes for a nice addition to the series. Ladybug Girl’s Day Out With Grandpa is classic Ladybug Girl. Lulu maintains the same spunk and curiosity she’s known for, and the watercolor illustrations are as exquisite as usual.

THAT’S ME LOVING YOU by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Teagan White, Random House Books for Young Readers, Dec. 27, 2016, Hardcover, $16.99 (ages 3-7)

That’s Me Loving You celebrates a parent’s love for a child in all things big and small — a soft breeze, the bright sun or the feeling in your heart. Amy’s text is warm and inviting and will resonate with readers of all ages.

Teagan White’s charming illustrations perfectly pair with Amy Krouse Rosenthal’s text. With the exception of three scenes, Teagan’s artwork focuses solely on children. It’s the perfect way to help little ones visualize being loved even when a parent isn’t there. I love the muted colors and simple scenes that give That’s Me Loving You a classic feel.

STACK THE CATS, by Susie Ghahremani, Harry N. Abrams, May 2, 2017, Hardcover, $14.95 (ages 3 and up)

Cats of all shapes and sizes scamper, stretch and yawn across the pages of this adorable counting book. And every now and then, they find themselves in the purrfect fluffy stack! —Synopsis provided by Abrams

Stack the Cats is a simple counting book that little readers — especially fans of cats — will love. Though simple, it does go beyond the basics, introducing two stacks of three cats for six and three stacks of three for nine. It’s a great introduction to basic math. The accompanying illustrations are charming.

Duck and Hippo Lost and FoundDUCK AND HIPPO LOST AND FOUND, by Jonathan London and Andrew Joyner, Two Lions, August 15, 2017, Hardcover, $17.99 (ages 3-7)

This time around Duck and Hippo invite their friends to share a picnic at their favorite pond. Everyone arrives with something to share. Everyone except Hippo. Before the celebration can begin Hippo sets off into the forest to pick some wild berries. Hippo is gone for a long time, and his friends begin to worry he’s lost. Together, they follow Hippo on an adventure into the forest.

Duck and Hippo Lost and Found features the same playfulness found in Duck and Hippo in the Rainstorm. The characters are bright and expressive. Illustrator Andrew Joyner has taken author Jonathan London’s rhythmic and animated text and expanded upon it. There’s no ambiguity here. Duck and Hippo Lost and Found is a delightful look at the true meaning of friendship. It’s already made its way into our reading rotation.

This and That Mem FoxTHIS & THAT by Mem Fox and Judy Horacek, Scholastic Press, Jan. 31, 2017, Hardcover, $17.99 (ages 3-5)

When you first look at This & That written by Mem Fox and illustrated by Judy Horacek, you see a sweet picture book about two mice that set out on an adventure through cavernous caves and magical castles. But if you take a moment to look more closely, you see much more.

Fox’s rhythmic and repeating text is at once inviting and interesting. But if you look at her text alone, you realize she never once mentions mice. If you look at Horacek’s illustrations without the text, you see two cute mice in interesting places, but the context is missing. Only when the text and illustrations come together does This & That reach its full potential. And it has great potential. My daughter loves the bright illustrations. After one reading she was already repeating the main line with me, and the “hidden” nature of the mice gave her an immediate interactive feel. This and That quickly made it into our bedtime rotation and has remained for almost a year.

Uni the Unicorn and the Dream Come TrueUNI THE UNICORN AND THE DREAM COME TRUE, by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Brigette Barrager, Random House Books for Young Readers, Aug. 29, 2017, Hardcover, $17.99 (ages 3-7)

Once upon a time, there was a unicorn named Uni who believed with all her heart that girls were real. When the other unicorns laughed at her, she just smiled and kept believing. Uni the Unicorn and the Dream Come True, the sequel to Uni the Unicorn, by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Brigette Barrager, is the realization of that belief.

Uni the Unicorn and the Dream Come True reads like a story two little girls made up while sitting under a tree and playing pretend. That’s why it works. Without that kind of silly, unbelievable magic, the story would fall flat. The entire book is a like a snapchat filter on overload. And, again, that’s why it works. There are sparkles and flowers and rainbows to slide down. And there’s a lot of joy. You can’t help but smile as you read the story and get swept up in the charming illustrations. This is a must-have for imaginative girls who want something sparkly without the princesses.

PENGUINS LOVE THEIR ABC’S, by Sarah Aspinall, The Blue Sky Press, Aug. 29, 2017, Hardcover, $17.99 (ages 3-5)

If you’re a fan of Sarah Aspinall’s Penguins Love Colors, then you’ll probably want her latest book, Penguins Love Their ABCs. Six loveable penguins are going on an alphabet hunt, and along the way, they ask for young readers to chime in and help. There are clues along the way, and lots of time for play as well. Once the penguins finish their hunt it’s time to tuck into a big bowl of Mama’s alphabet soup, where words are hidden, too.

As with her other Penguins book, Aspinall uses a white “snow” backdrop that really makes the penguins and the items they’re collecting pop. The alphabet is a bit more complicated than colors, so be prepared if you’re buying this based solely on the first book. Otherwise, it’s a darling book with a slightly different take on the ABCs.

TOUCH THE EARTH , by Julian Lennon and Bart Davis, Sky Pony Press, April 11, 2017, Hardcover, $17.99 (ages 3-7)

It’s never too early to learn about preserving Earth for future generations. Jump aboard the White Feather Flier, a magical plane that can go wherever you want. The Flier’s mission is to transport readers around the world, to engage them in helping to save the environment, and to teach one and all to love our planet.

If your child is already a fan of PBS shows like Nature Cat, Wild Kratts or Sid the Science Kid then Touch the Earth will be right up their alley. Touch the Earth not only asks kids to take an active part in conservation, it also asks them to take part in the story. Simple instructions like, “press the button” or “tilt the book” move the story forward in a fun and rewarding way. Bart Davis’ illustrations are inviting and a special poem written by Julian Lennon is included. This is the first book in a planned trilogy. A portion of the proceeds from book sales will go to support the environmental and humanitarian efforts of the White Feather Foundation.

ELLIE IN CONCERT, by Mike Wu, Disney-Hyperion, April 18, 2017, Hardcover, $17.99 (ages 3-6)

Since Ellie saved her home with her wonderful paintings, the zoo is back in business and the animals are more energetic than ever. All except for Lucy the giraffe, who hasn’t been able to sleep with all the noise. Determined to help her friend, Ellie tries to tone down the ruckus and organizes the animals into an orchestra. But is it possible to conduct the cacophony of the zoo into beautiful music? — Synopsis provided by Disney-Hyperion

Ellie In Concert is a fun book to read aloud. I love that Ellie’s love of art is combined with music. Mike Wu’s text is smooth and features silly noises my daughter loves copying. Wu’s illustrations are the perfect accompaniment. They’re sweet and silly and overall charming.

WINDOWS, by Julia Denos and E.B. Goodale, Candlewick, Oct.17, 2017, Hardcover, $15.99 (ages 3-7)

Before your city goes to sleep, you might head out for a walk, your dog at your side as you go out the door and into the almost-night. Anything can happen on such a walk: you might pass a cat, or a friend, or even an early raccoon. And as you go down your street and around the corner, the windows around you light up one by one until you are walking through a maze of paper lanterns, each one granting you a brief, glowing snapshot of your neighbors as families come together and folks settle in for the night. —Synopsis provided by Candlewick

Windows is a celebration of the familiar. It takes everyday ideas and actions and makes them seem a bit magical. Julia Denos’ sparse text builds on E.B. Goodale’s dreamy illustrations, and vice versa. There is a particular spread that stands out for its simplicity. The text — “There might e a hug, or a piano, and someone might be learning to dance.” — plays out in the windows of an apartment building. Another spread utilizes twilight’s shadows when the boy and his dog stop at an empty home. Windows is a beautiful read that parents and children alike will love.

Return to Top


Princess Cora and the CrocodilePRINCESS CORA AND THE CROCODILE, by Laura Amy Schlitz and Brian Floca, Candlewick, March 28, 2017, Hardcover, $16.99 (ages 4-8)

When Princess Cora was born, her parents rejoiced; their new daughter was perfect. Then her parents realized that one day Princess Cora would become queen. They quickly set out to teach and train her. By the time Princess Cora turns 7, her entire life is dedicated completely to lessons. All that training would be better, Cora thinks, if only her parents would get her a dog. When they say no, Princess Cora turns to the only other person she can think of and writes to her fairy godmother for help. But instead of a dog, Princess Cora receives a crocodile — a crocodile who cannot only talk, but one that enjoys mischief, too.

Princess Cora and the Crocodile is a picture book-storybook hybrid/early chapter book similar in style to Shannon Hale’s Princess in Black. Both books feature princesses not willing to fit the mold. In Princess Cora and the Crocodile, Cora has an outdoor adventure — climbing trees, picking strawberries and getting dirty. This delightful story paired with equally charming illustrations will appeal to children who are being read to and learning to read on their own. I’m looking forward to sharing it with my own daughter when she’s old enough.

Earth-My-First-4.54-Billion-Years-EARTH! MY FIRST 4.54 BILLION YEARS, by Stacy McAnulty and David Litchfield, Henry Holt and Co., Oct. 24, 2017, Hardcover, $17.99 (ages 4-8)

Do you know the history of Earth? In Earth! My First 4.54 Billion Years, Earth herself tells readers her story. This fact-filled picture book is broken down into kid-sized facts that are easy to digest. Earth begins her story with her family, explaining how she has seven siblings — Venus and Mars are the closest — and Pluto who is more like the family pet. Earth shares how she spends her time and shows off key moments from her childhood. Earth talks about how lonely it was before life arrived and how life has changed over the years, and how much she likes humans.

Earth! My First 4.54 Billion Years is a great source of material for all the “whys” younger readers ask, and the perfect jumping off point for older readers who need a place to start before digging deeper. Stacy McAnulty’s text is bright with just the right amount of humor mixed in. David Litchfield’s illustrations are bold and inviting. Earth! My First 4.54 Billion Years is a great option for established and new fans of our planet and outer space.

IT STARTS WITH A SEED, by Laura Knowles and Jennie Webber, words & pictures, Sept. 5, 2017, Hardcover, $18.95 (ages 4-8)

It Starts With a Seed literally starts with a picture of a seed. From there, it follows the seed’s transformation from a seedling to a young tree. Finally, the tree matures to the point where animals make it their home until it becomes a large tree with its branches and roots filling the page.

The tree in It Starts With a Seed is a sycamore, and its seedpods will immediately look familiar to readers — they’re the kind you love to twirl when you’re a kid. Laura Knowles text perfectly pairs with Jennie Webber’s illustrations that show what’s going on both above and below ground. This is the perfect book for preschoolers who learn about leaves and trees in school, but it’s also a lovely choice for adults who love nature. I’m sure my mom would love to prominently display this one on her coffee table.

ZOG AND THE FLYING DOCTORS, by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler, Arthur A. Levine Books, Sept. 26, 2017, Hardcover, $17.99 (ages 4-8)

Zog the dragon, Princess Pearl and Sir Gadabout have taken to the skies! No sniffly lion or sunburned mermaid will go without care while the flying doctors are on duty. But Princess Pearl’s unconventional career path doesn’t sit so well with her uncle, the king. He thinks princesses should stay in their towers and embroider cushions all day! When the king’s mysterious illness befuddles all the royal doctors, however, it’s Princess Pearl to the rescue! She not only heals the king — she also changes his mind about what it means to be a princess. —Synopsis provided by Arthur A. Levine Books

Zog and the Flying Doctors is a companion to A Gold Star for Zog. You may also recognize the author/illustrator duo from the popular Room on the Broom book. Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler employ the same bouncy rhymes and brilliant cartoon-like illustrations fans have come to know and love. Each vignette has something extra that really makes it special. As with Donaldson’s other books, it does take a reading or two to take in all the text. Once familiar, though, it’s great fun to take off at a faster pace.

BIZZY MIZZ LIZZIE, by David Shannon, The Blue Sky Press, Oct. 10, 2017, Hardcover, $17.99 (ages 4-8)

Lizzie is the busiest, buzziest bee in Hivetown! David Shannon’s vivid artwork and Lizzie’s endearing efforts to “do it all” will make children laugh aloud at her frantic antics as she juggles school, multiple sports, dance, violin, and art. With charm and determination, she longs to impress the Queen by winning a spelling contest, but she studies to the point of exhaustion. When she dozes off in the middle of the competition, the only solution is rest — and her refreshing visit to the local Garden finally teaches Lizzie to stop and smell the flowers, “which . . . is exactly what bees are supposed to do.” —Synopsis provided by Scholastic

I’ll be honest. I’ve never been a huge fan of David Shannon’s David books (I know, I know, I may be the only person who doesn’t love them.) Bizzy Mizz Lizzie, however, is a different story. Shannon’s story reminds us all it’s important to stop and smell the roses. His stylized illustrations almost have a steampunk look to them that really helps to emphasize the story.

FEATHER, by Cao Wenxuan and Roger Mello, Elsewhere Editions, Oct. 18, 2017, Hardcover, $18 (ages 3-7)

A feather is blown across the sky, meeting various birds along the way, and asking each one, “Do I belong to you?”. Cao Wenxuan tells the story of a single feather who is swept away on a journey of discovery and belonging. Encountering a variety of birds, from a kingfisher to a magpie, Feather is hopeful of meeting the bird she belongs to. Again and again, she is dismissed or ignored. Only when she sees that there is also beauty in being close to the earth does fate offer a reunion. —Synopsis provided by Elsewhere Editions

Feather is unlike any other picture book I’ve seen. Before you even open the cover, its shape and size deviates from the norm. Then you get to the text, which is nuanced and timeless in its nature. And then there are Roger Mello’s striking illustrations. Mello’s use of space is fantastic — sometimes taking up an entire spread with a bold, blue heron and other times remaining very spare. The book itself has a portfolio/boxlike design that plays into the story as a whole. Feather does feature quite a bit more text than books for the suggested age range of 3-7. I’d probably wait until 4 with this one.

THE BOOK OF GOLD, by Bob Staake, Schwartz & Wade, Sept. 12, 2017, Hardcover, $17.99 (ages 4-8)

Young Isaac Gutenberg isn’t a curious boy . . . that is, until he meets an old shopkeeper who tells him about The Book of Gold. This special book, hidden somewhere in the world, holds all the answers to every question and turns to solid gold when opened. Isaac is determined to find the book—it will make him rich! He opens many books in his search, but quickly closes them when they don’t turn to gold. That changes one day when he opens a book, looks at the page, and a question pops into his mind. From then on, he reads every word. Time passes and Isaac ages, but he still scours dusty attics and flea markets, crisscrossing the world, searching for The Book of Gold. —Synopsis provided by Schwartz & Wade.

The Book of Gold is not your average picture book. The story unfolds in sepia tones until Isaac starts to question the things he reads. Suddenly the world becomes colorful. The story is beautiful and so are the illustrations, which have a stylized almost Pixar-like quality to them.

THE WOLF, THE DUCK, AND THE MOUSE, by Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen, Candlewick, Oct. 10, 2017, Hardcover, $17.99 (ages 4-8)

When a woeful mouse is swallowed by a wolf, he quickly learns he is not alone: a duck has already set up digs, and, boy, has that duck got it figured out! Turns out it’s pretty nice in there, with delicious food and elegant table settings, courtesy of the wolf’s unchecked gluttony. And there’s something even better: no more fear of being eaten by a wolf! In fact, life is pretty good, until a hunter shows up. —Synopsis provided by Candlewick

I love the humor in The Wolf, The Duck, and the Mouse. This is one of those books that’s just as fun for the reader as it is for the person being read to. There’s a morbid sort of humor to it that just works. And Jon Klassen’s mixed-media illustrations are perfectly on point. Never has someone been able to say so much through the illustrated eyes of an animal.

SMALL WALT, by Elizabeth Verdick and Marc Rosenthal, Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books, Oct. 31, 2017, Hardcover, $17.99 (ages 4-8)

Small Walt and his driver, Gus, take on a blizzard! All the bigger snowplows doubt that Walt has what it takes to plow the roads in the storm, but Walt is determined to prove them wrong. Brimming with onomatopoeia and Walt’s affirming chants, this sweet picture book shows that when it comes to strength, size doesn’t matter. —Synopsis provided by Simon & Schuster

When you pick up Small Walt, you can’t help but think of Virginia Burton’s Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel or Katy and the Big Snow. And like Burton’s books, Small Walt has a lot of heart. Charmin illustrations and text that’s fun to read and listen to made it an immediate hit in our home. Small Walt has timeless feel and themes of perseverance and hard work that ring true for readers of all ages.

IN YOUR HANDS, by Carole Boston Weatherford and Brian Pinkney, Atheneum Books for Young Readers, Sept. 12, 2017, Hardcover, $17.99 (ages 4-8)

A black mother expresses the many hopes and dreams she has for her child in In Your Hands. “When you are a newborn, I hold your hand and study your face. I cradle you as you drift to sleep. But I know that I will not always hold your hand; not the older you get. Then, I will hold you in my heart And hope that God holds you in his hands.”

In Your Hands features lovely, lyrical text that gently rolls off the tongue. Brian Pinkney’s pastel illustrations have a swirling, loose nature to them that create a feeling of both permanence and impermanence. In Your Hands celebrates black lives and helps reinforce “Black lives matter. Your life matters.”

PILLOWLAND, by Laurie Berkner and Camille Garoche, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, Nov. 7, 2017, $17.99 (ages 4-8)

Laurie Berkner, “the queen of children’s music” (People), pairs the lyrics of her beloved hit with Camille Garoche’s illustrations in this bedtime picture book. “I know a place, a kingdom far away, where people wear pajamas every night and every day. Where all the houses, the buildings, and the trees are made of fluffy pillows that are soft as they can be.”

I’ve never heard Berkner’s Pillowland, but reading the text, the rhythm becomes immediately clear. The sweet text is pairing with whimsical illustrations that have an almost 3-D quality to them.

Return to Top


South Daniel DuncanSOUTH by Daniel Duncan, Harry N. Abrams, May 2, 2017, Hardcover, $17.95 (ages 5-7)

Once upon a time, there was a fisherman who sailed the seas alone. He was lonely, so when he discovered an injured bird on his boat, he decided to nurse it back to health. The two quickly became good friends, sharing fish and music each day. But the fisherman knew that a boat was no home for a bird and so he came up with a plan to make sure his friend made it south for the winter.

The suggested age range for South is 5-7, but based on the simplicity of the text, I think you can go younger. My 3 ½-year-old has likes it and any questions she does have are the start of great conversations. The star of South is Daniel Duncan’s illustrations. While the story itself is quite simple, there’s nothing simple about the artwork. Duncan’s lovely illustrations beg to be perused. I would buy this book for the cover alone, as an added bonus there’s lots to enjoy inside the covers as well.

BUSY BUILDERS: Construction Site, by Katherine Sully and Carles Ballesteros, Silver Dolphin Books; Box Toy/Pa edition, Dec. 20, 2016, Softcover/Box Toy, $19.99 (ages 5 and up)

Busy Builders: Construction Site is one of three sets offered by Silver Dolphin. The other two feature a fire station and an airport. All three follow the same items — a book, model pieces and a foldout play set.

The book in and of itself is a lot of fun. Construction Site features little vignettes on the different construction workers, tools, safety, vehicles, prep work, building stages and finishing touches. The stars of Construction Site, however, are the 60 model pieces and foldout building site. I’ve had to keep this hidden from my 3 ½-year-old because I know once she has it, I’ll never get my hands on it again — except maybe to play with her. I’m amazed at the intricate designs that are still durable for young hands. It’s awesome that the excavator actually scoops!

THE PRINCESS IN BLACK: THREE SMASHING ADVENTURES, by Shannon Hale and Dean Hale, Candlewick; Box Set, Aug. 28, 2017, Softcover, $20.97 (ages 5-8)

Fans of princesses and superheroes, rejoice! Here comes a handy boxed set offering an irresistible introduction to Princess Magnolia and her monster-fighting alter-ego, the Princess in Black. Look out for inconvenient monster alarms, royal birthday parties, and a case of monstrous cuteness in a collection that includes The Princess in Black, The Princess in Black and the Perfect Princess Party, and The Princess in Black and the Hungry Bunny Horde. —Synopsis provided by Candlewick Press

To say that the Princess in Black is popular in our house would be a huge understatement. Since the arrival of this box set, we’ve read one of the three books all the way through both morning and night. My daughter won’t be 4 until February, but these are a great introduction to chapter books for little ones. And I’m sure she’ll enjoy them when she’s old enough to read them by herself, too. Combining princesses and super heroes is brilliant on the part of authors Shannon and Dean Hale. And LeUyen Pham’s watercolor-and-ink illustrations have an old-school animation feel to them. We’ve already requested the fourth book for Christmas and have pre-ordered the fifth. These make a great addition to any home library.

Return to Top


GOODNIGHT, MR. CLUTTERBUCK, by Mauri Kunnas and Jill Timbers, Elsewhere Editions, Nov. 28, 2017, Hardcover, $18 (ages 6-8)

Mr. Clutterbuck is blissfully unaware of his reputation as the busiest and loudest sleepwalker in town. Meek and mild-mannered when awake, at night Mr. Clutterbuck seeks thrills and adventures. Often the accidental instigator of chaos, Mr. Clutterbuck soon becomes the lead singer of a rock band, an entrepreneur, a disco king, and, eventually, the hero of his town. Goodnight, Mr. Clutterbuck is sure to captivate readers of all ages as we wonder what kind of situation Mr. Clutterbuck will find himself in next.  —Synopsis provided by Elsewhere Editions

The first thing I noticed upon opening Goodnight, Mr. Clutterbuck was the amount of text. There’s a lot compared to the current trend in American publishing. Goodnight, Mr. Clutterbuck, however, was originally written in Finnish by Finland’s most successful author of illustrated children’s books. Once you get used to the text and layout, everything seems natural. And this humorous book has great illustrations that you could spend hours perusing.

Return to Top

© 2017, Cracking the Cover. All rights reserved.


About Author

Jessica Harrison is the main reviewer behind Cracking the Cover. Prior to creating Cracking the Cover, Jessica worked as the in-house book critic for the Deseret News, a daily newspaper in Salt Lake City. Jessica also worked as a copy editor and general features writer for the paper. Following that, Jessica spent two years with an international company as a social media specialist. She is currently a freelance writer/editor. She is passionate about reading and giving people the tools to make informed decisions in their own book choices.

Leave A Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.