31 Days, 31 Lists: 2018 Rhyming Picture Books
Oh, Dr. Seuss, what hath thou wrought? Up and coming children’s authors everywhere should be taught one very important lesson before they set fingers to keyboards: Rhyming is a privilege. Not a right. And, quite frankly, not everyone is good at it. There is no pain quite like the pain a librarian feels when they must stumble through a book’s ill-begotten rhyme schemes and clunky scansion (Clunky Scansion is going to be the name of my next cat, by the way).
When done well, however, such a book can be enchanting. Consider, for example, Britain’s love affair with The Gruffalo a.k.a. the book that taught the English to love rhyme in picture books.
Today, we celebrate the books unafraid to rhyme, the editors unafraid to publish them, and the readers unafraid to try these books out on their tongues. So to speak.
2018 Rhyming Picture Books
The Dragon and the Nibblesome Knight by Elli Woollard, ill. Benji Davies
A year or two ago Woollard and Davies paired together to bring the world the marvelous, miraculous Giant of Jum. I love that book. Like this one it rhymes and tells a story. Unlike this book it involved a cake the size of a small cottage, but that’s okay. I like this book (a natural follow-up) even without the presence of oversized baked goods inside. The tale is your typical meet cute. Boy searches for dragon to kill, and finds what he thinks is an overgrown duck. Dragon searches for a knight to nibble on and finds what he thinks is an average everyday boy. They bond, discover one another’s true identities, and bring the kingdom together. And special shout out to the illustrator. He’s the same guy behind all those Bizzy Bear books, which, in my babies’ early days, saved me a lot of mental wear and tear.
Fur, Feather, Fin: All of Us Are Kin by Diane Lang, ill. Stephanie Laberis
“All animals on Earth are kin,/ while not the same outside or in./ Some we stroke with loving hand;/ some we don’t yet understand.” Oh yeah. I’m including nonfiction on this list too. And why not? When the author has the chutzpah to try their hand in rhyme (and succeeds) that’s worth celebrating. In this book Lang discusses the six classes of animals alongside two other categories, and the book contains such fabulous lines as this one: “Detritovores, so oft forgotten, / dine on things both dead and rotten.” Biodiversity with a couple of couplets on the side.
Hello, Door by Alastair Heim, ill. Alisa Coburn
Technically this book straddles the line between today’s list and Monday’s (wordless picture books). I could also have mentioned it on yesterday’s list (readalouds) because I get a huge kick vocalizing this naughty cat burglar’s thoughts. “Hello, door. Hello, house. / Hello, mat. Hello, mouse.” I love lingering on those lines. Those hellos at the start of the book all turn to bye-byes at the end, though, when the true denizens of the home return to find a foxy loxy ransacking their goods. Great for storytimes and one-on-ones alike.
Hey-Ho, to Mars We’ll Go! by Susan Lendroth, ill. Bob Kolar
Yeah, I know. I already put this on the readaloud list. But that’s the thing about picture books that are based on songs. A lot of the time, they rhyme. And rhyming, as we all know, is easier when you can sing it.
Hip-Hop Lollipop by Susan McElroy Montanari, ill. Brian Pinkney
Mama says, “Lollipop, stop! Stop!
Jumping snapping nonstop.”
Arms and shoulders pop ‘n’ lock.
Lollie’s dancing hip-hop.
Forget about getting the kids to settle down if you read them this particular bedtime book. Look at that gorgeous rhythm at work! Can I quote you another couple lines from it? Check these out: “”Hands tutting. Knees jutting. Arms cranking. Body swanking. Hip gyration. Exultation!” And what brilliant editor thought Montanari and Brian Pinkney would be a clever pairing? Whoever it was, I doff my cap to you. The man knows how to convey dance on the page. One of these days I’d love to do a posting on how dance appears in picture books. Everyone presents it in a different way, but the fluidity of Mr. Pinkney’s watercolors can’t be topped.
A Home in the Barn by Margaret Wise Brown, ill. Jerry Pinkney
Another member of the Pinkney clan! And this time, hard at work bringing an old Margaret Wise Brown book to life. The thing about Brown is that she’ll never stop producing. Never mind that she’s been dead for more than seventy years. She left behind a trunk of manuscripts that will be published and republished with new illustrators long after we’re all dead and gone. Most of those should have stayed locked up, but not this book. I absolutely love the language at work here. First off, it really captures winter’s chill. Second, it makes the occasional sly allusion to classic nursery rhymes: “Here is the barn / Hear the wind rattle / Open the door / And see all the cattle.” And then, to top it all off, you have Pinkney in fine form and fettle. That barn feels cozy. Wouldn’t mind stopping by it myself these days. That wind outside is killer!
The Honeybee by Kirsten Hall, ill. Isabelle Arsenault
When my library placed The Honeybee on our 101 Great Books for Kids list of 2018 we had a devil of a time figuring out where to put it. Was it destined for the picture book section or the nonfiction section? Interestingly, we opted for picture book, but I’d maintain that there’s no reason to take it from nonfiction. One thing we can all agree on? This is one of the best books of the year. Listen to how it tells its tale: “There now, it drills now,/ the bee sips and spills now,/ there now, it swills now, it sits oh-so-still now./ There now, it fills now, it’s back to the hill now….” Lin-Manuel Miranda, eat your heart out.
Kate, Who Tamed the Wind by Liz Garton Scanlon, ill. Lee White
I’m admittedly stretching the definition of “rhyming picture book” just a hair so that I can include this one in today’s roster. That said, there is a fair amount of verse in the text. “The time flew as the trees grew… / and grew… / and Kate did, too.” It was Horn Book‘s review of this title that pointed out that for a long time the words will rhyme with “blew”. This changes in the latter-half of the book to rhyme with tree: “tea steeped, and the birds peeped…and the old man poured sweet tea.” Neat.
This Is the Nest That Robin Built by Denise Fleming
Cumulative rhymes deserve love too, y’know. Particularly when they involve intersections between different elements in nature.
Three Grumpy Trucks by Todd Tarpley, ill. Guy Parker-Rees
I talked this up quite a bit in the Readaloud category (next year I’ll be a bit more judicious in how I separate them out). All you need to know is that it rhymes like a dream.
Tiny and the Big Dig by Sherri Duskey Rinker, ill. Matt Myers
You know, it was Ms. Rinker that figured out that if you combined rhymes with bedtime with construction equipment, you could cook yourself up a bonafide hit (Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site). I was actually a little surprised that this book wasn’t released in an Easy Book format. Maybe that’s in the works for the future, because the rhymes here are done with a limited vocabulary much of the time. “Oh, Tiny, stop! You’re far too small. There’s nothing in that hole at all.” I mean, that sounds like it’s straight out of that old Perkins story The Digging-est Dog, don’t you think? In the best way possible.
Interested in the other lists? Here’s the schedule of everything being covered this month. Enjoy!
December 1 – Board Books & Pop-Ups
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 Books for Kids
December 11 – Bilingual Books
December 12 – Translated Picture Books
December 13 – Books with a Message
December 14 – Fabulous Photography
December 15 – Fairy Tales / Folktales / Religious Tales
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
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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