31 Days, 31 Lists: Day Five – 2017 Rhyming Picture Books
This year something struck me about the rhyming picture book crop that usually eludes my notice. I think it’s easy to assume that because a book rhymes, it’s automatically funny. But some of the books on today’s list, like The Road Home or even The Pomegranate Witch, dare to be touching. This begs the question as to why some rhyming books end up on the poetry list and some on the rhyming picture book list. I’d argue that none of the books here really constitute a poem. To my mind, a poem stands on its own without needing visuals, where as a picture book is very reliant on the interplay between text and image. But however you prefer to define it, this year we saw some really great titles. Feel free to mention books you think I missed here in the comments.
2017 Rhyming Books
The Alphabet Thief by Bill Richardson, ill. Roxanna Bikadoroff
Clever alphabet books are often doomed affairs. Parents of the children old enough to appreciate them won’t buy them for their six and seven-year-olds while the younger preschoolers don’t get the jokes. The trick in my household is to have a younger and older child living under the same roof. That way, when I read the book to the 3-year-old, the curious 6-year-old will meander over to see what all the fuss is about and then will start noticing the things the little one misses. The fact that the book rhymes? Gravy.
And the Robot Went . . . by Michelle Robinson, ill. Sergio Ruzzier
This one’s a bit goofier than your average, everyday broken robot book. I suppose I could have included this in yesterday’s 2017 readaloud picture books post, since the sound effects make for some pretty fantastic storytimes. I’ll state honestly that this isn’t your average, middle of the road, picture book fare. Robinson and Ruzzier are doing some pretty wacky stuff here. The rhymes are just the icing on the cake.
Bamboo for Me, Bamboo for You by Fran Manushkin, ill. Purificacion Hernandez
Apparently there are a million different rhymes out there for “bamboo”. So I get the title (which gives away the rhyming game right from the get-go) but I’d like to state for the record that we would have also accepted something like “The Picky Panda Eater”, if only because it’s so much fun to say.
Danny McGee Drinks the Sea by Andy Stanton, ill. Neal Layton
You know, all the books on today’s list are like my children, and I’d be loathe to select the best from such a magnificent array of . . . . . . okay, truth? This is my favorite rhyming book. I don’t even know quite why. I think it may have something to do with its similarities to Shel Silverstein. It takes an inherently ridiculous concept (a boy eating and drinking the world) and just runs with it as far as it can possibly go. Imagine that old Warner Brothers short “Duck Amuck” and you’ll get a lot of what the book is doing here. A can’t miss title.
Dog On a Frog? by Kes Gray & Claire Gray, ill. by Jim Field
I’m subtracting three points for changing the name from the original British Oi, Dog! Yes, I’ll be the first to admit that Americans wouldn’t have any idea what to do with a title like that. Plus, if we changed the title of the book that preceded this one (in England it was Oi, Frog!) then we kind of had to change this one as well. Putting all that aside, this is a great little funny, rhyming picture book. If you need an amusing import, look no further, my friend.
The Giant Jumperee by Julia Donaldson, ill. Helen Oxenbury
Oxenbury, man. She just keeps blowing and going. Clearly she’s going to outlive us all, and keep producing gorgeous picture books as she does. Here we have the British picture book version of a supergroup (Donaldson + Oxenbury), though the book itself is merely amusing. Funny enough for a gentle storytime, though, and all the rhymes scan. And really, isn’t that all you’ve ever wanted out of life anyway?
Grandma’s Tiny House: A Counting Story by JaNay Brown-Wood, ill. Priscilla Burris
Boy, I liked this little book. Again, we’re not taking over the world with it or anything, but the combination of rhymes and numbers is so sublime. I’m becoming a real fan of Priscilla Burris’s art, and the story just works. Loads of family members descend on the titular tiny house until one small girl finds a perfect solution to an overcrowding inevitability.
Me Tall, You Small by Lilli L’Arronge
Well clearly someone is feeling fancy in their shiny little Kirkus Prize Finalist medal. And unlike yesterday’s Bear Make Den, I don’t hear Kirkus complaining about animals speaking like cavemen here. Seems they liked it just fine. The kicker is that this rhyming book is actually a translation from Germany. So a hat tip and bow to translator Madeleine Stratford for doing such a good job that the book received an Honor.
Nothing Rhymes with Orange by Adam Rex
Confession: There is a possibility that I like this primarily because the dancing Nietzsche is the most Monty Python-esque thing I’ve seen in a picture book this year outside of the picture book version of The Ministry of Silly Walks. 2017 has been good for cameos, though. Remember Schrödinger’s kitten on the board book list I put out? Good times. I think this book works as a read aloud but I highly suggest that you practice it before attempting any kind of a public presentation. It’s a fun read but it doesn’t make your job easy for you.
The Pomegranate Witch by Denise Doyen, ill. Eliza Wheeler
One of the best and most understated (and maybe even under-appreciated) picture books of the year. It is a mistake to dismiss this book as a mere Halloween title. Doyen and Wheeler give us a slightly longer storyline, and an epic one of that. Hand it to parents or educators that lament the fact that picture books these days are shorter than Make Way for Ducklings. In this book the neighborhood kids wage war, regularly, upon the local “witch” in their attempts to eat one of her pomegranates. She, in turn, gives them what for and how to. I haven’t had this much fun repeating a word (the titular “pomegranate”) since One Day in the Eucalyptus Eucalyptus Tree. The rhymes all work, and I think Doyen should get combat pay for the sheer number of pages she had to fill. Extra Bonus: It made my kids really really want to eat a pomegranate.
The Road Home by Katie Cotton, ill. Sarah Jacoby
Here’s how long it took for me to read this book – I only picked it up to read it yesterday. AUGH! Thank goodness I’ve been working my way through the Best Books lists put out by NYPL, Chicago, and Multnomah County. I came this close to missing one of the loveliest books of the year. There’s a great deal of comfort embedded in its pages, but there’s also very real threats and a darkness kids both choose to see and not see. The concept examines a variety of different animals, predators and prey, bedding down for the winter. Don’t make the mistake I almost did. Discover this book.
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 Reprints & Adaptations
December 3 – Wordless Picture Books
December 4 – Picture Book Readalouds
December 5 – Rhyming Picture Books
December 6 – Alphabet Books
December 7 – Funny Picture Books
December 8 – CaldeNotts
December 9 – Picture Book Reprints
December 10 – Math Picture Books
December 11 – Bilingual Books
December 12 – Translated Picture Books
December 13 – Books with a Message
December 14 – Fabulous Photography
December 15 – Fairy Tales / Folktales
December 16 – Oddest Books of the Year
December 17 – Poetry Books
December 18 – Easy Books
December 19 – Early Chapter Books
December 20 – Comics for Kids
December 21 – Older Funny Books
December 22 – Fictionalized Nonfiction
December 23 – American History
December 24 – Science & Nature Books
December 25 – Transcendent Holiday Picture Books
December 26 – Unique Biographies
December 27 – Nonfiction Picture Books
December 28 – Nonfiction Chapter Books
December 29 – Fiction Reprints
December 30 – Middle Grade Novels
December 31 – Picture Books
Filed under: Best Books, Best Books of 2017
About Betsy Bird
Betsy 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.
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