31 Days, 31 Lists: 2022 Picture Book Readalouds
Okay, we’re slowing it down a little here now. When I begin the 31 Days, 31 Lists series I always like to kick it off with a great big enormous list and then take it down a notch on day two. Even so, readalouds are a critical part of any librarian’s stable of go to resources, so this isn’t a minor list. Yet finding good picture books that can actually engage large crowds is a tall order. That’s why I truly feel the books you see here today are the cream of the crop. And don’t worry. I’ve included plenty of suggestions on how to use them with your kids!
Interested in other readaloud lists I’ve compiled? Then check out the previous years:
2022 Picture Book Readalouds
Ear Worm! by Jo Knowles, ill. Galia Bernstein
Poor Little Worm. There’s a song caught in his head and he just can’t figure out where it came from. When he asks Chipmunk, Bunny, and Fox, they have their own catchy songs, but they’re completely different! Prepare to bop and dance along to this rolicking, rhythmic book. Even years after my last storytime, I still look at pictures with half an ear cocked in the vague hope of finding something I can read aloud well. This book sure seems like a readaloud dream too. Once you find its rhythm, can’t you just see yourself chanting “Shimmy shimmy, no-sashay, shimmy shimmy, no-sashay”? I love the action in the art, the fun storyline, and even the solution at the end. My co-worker Brian Wilson has tried this one out with kids and can attest that for some children it’s a showstopper.
Heads, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes by Nicola Slater
My sole board book inclusion of the day! And if it looks familiar that may be because you just saw it on the board book list. I’m allowing each book on a list the chance to be on one other list. So I once performed this book in a preschool storytime while 9 months pregnant (though in that case it was more “Head, Shoulders, Knees and I-Assume-Somewhere-Down-There-Are-Toes”) so this song is particularly near and dear to my heart. When I see board book adaptations I usually have only two questions in mind: 1) Is the art cute, funny, playful, and actually fun to look at? 2) Did they muck up the words? You would not BELIEVE the number of board books that think it’s a good idea to tweak the scansion on a classic song like this. Happily, you needn’t really worry with the “Beginning Baby” series. Naturally, it will be almost too difficult to both perform this book and read it, so I suggest you double up. Grab a partner and have them turn the pages while you engage in the physical calisthenics. It’ll make for the perfect combo.
Hurry, Little Tortoise, Time for School! by Carrie Finison, ill. Erin Kraan
Every year I select my favorite Back to School picture book title. And this year that honor is going to this marvelous work by Finison and Kraan. I think a fair number of kids will be able to identify with Little Tortoise and her intentions to get to her first day of school on time. Trouble is, she is a tortoise and all, and her initial pep takes a significant hit as more and more animals pass her on the way. But the true joy of the book is the narrative. It’s so enthusiastic with lines like, “She is probably setting a new land speed record for tortoises.” Then you get kooky sounds from other critters, like a llama for some reason saying, “Wock-a-pa, wock-a-pa!” (which strikes me as a bit disco). The surprise reveal of who Little Tortoise’s teacher is makes for a very pleasant capper as well. So the readaloud aspects are great, but then just LOOK at Erin Kraan’s art at work here! Woodcuts illustrated with watercolors? With a gorgeous brown/pink palette? All that and the racing stripes painted on Little Tortoise’s shell make me extra happy.
Hush, Little Trucker by Kim Norman, ill. Toshiki Nakamura
I just gotta say, taking the tune of “Hush, Little Baby” and adapting it to cars and trucks and things that go? Brilliant! Wish I’d thought of it. Ms. Norman’s words scan perfectly, and the end result is a story about a child (who is never technically identified as either male nor female) that loses a truck in the snow one day. Nakamura cleverly lays hints around for readers to pick up on that show that Mama is a truck driver herself. This is ideal for vehicular storytimes, and I have to say that it’s nice to see a title where Mama is the driver at all times. A thoroughly pleasant title to discover.
Mako & Tiger: Two Not-So-Friendly Sharks by Scott Rothmann, ill. Mika Song
Okay. So I’m going to let you in on a little secret. Winning the hearts and minds of children is a shockingly easy prospect. Honestly, all you have to do is read them fantastic picture books, and read them well, and you’ll have them eating out of your hands. Of course, not just any picture book will do. So imagine, if you would, what it would be like to read a funny shark book aloud. One that sports visual gags, written gags, and two completely self-absorbed, greedy sharks as the protagonists. Throw in some turtles in a chorus line wearing girdles (probably my favorite image in a picture book this year) and you’ve got yourself readaloud GOLD, my darlings! And for those shark obsessed kids in your audience, they will be in complete and utter heaven. So give ‘em a thrill. Try this book out on them. You’ll be an instant hero.
Monsters in the Briny by Lynn Becker, ill. Scott Brundage
I guess it was only a matter of time before that sea shanty craze made its way into a picture book of some kind. The shanty in question? “What Should We Do With a Drunken Sailor?” Only in this case it’s more , “what do you do with a grumpy kraken”. Fabulous sea creatures come to a ship full of kids, in need of tending. That would be fine, but there is the small problem that each time a monster comes by, it accidentally gives the kids’ ship a battering. The rhymes? They scan. And even if you don’t know the tune there’s sheet music at the end. Perfect for your Talk Like a Pirate storytimes!
Pizza: A Slice of History by Greg Pizzoli
He’s baaaaack! And he’s created the only nonfiction picture book on today’s list. Take a deep (dish) dive into the history of pizza with your faithful companion Pizza Rat. Learn its true origins and gather some facts you might not have known in this cheery book with a retro look. Boy, I wish Mr. Pizzoli did more nonfiction. Greg just has this endearing, simple style that’s so appealing to look at! I worried for a while there that he got disappointed by the sales of his brilliant book about the guy who sold the Eiffel Tower and got turned off of the whole idea. But now he’s back! He’s back and have you ever seen a better nonfiction storytime title than this one? Pizza gets a history thanks to its narrator, the aforementioned Pizza Rat. It’s great nonfiction for younger readers as well (which we’re always looking for). Good hearted and delicious. What more could you wish for?
Somewhere in the Bayou by Jarrett Pumphrey, ill. Jerome Pumphrey
Ahhh. I’m so glad the Pumphreys have moved away from their books about trucks and boats and stuff like that. Those books were fine, but I’m a humor person myself. And if you throw in various animals getting eaten by toothy water critters, I am ALL in. This book has all the trappings of some classic picture book stories. I am reminded of that old hand rhyme about the monkeys getting picked off one by one by “sneaky Mr. Crocodile”. I think this book reads aloud beautifully. Beautiful too is the art. I adore the bags under these animals’ eyes. The Pumphreys are still working on sticking their landings, and I think you could make this one work if you leaned in real close to the kids and read the twisty final line in a deep, threatening, whisper. Something to consider anyway.
This Book Will Get You to Sleep! by Jory John, ill. Olivier Tallec
Because I was trained as a children’s librarian, sometimes I can’t read through a title without trying to figure out the best possible storytime to use it in. This book? Pajama Time storytimes, obviously! Kudos to the folks at FSG that had the wherewithal to think to pair Jory John with Olivier Tallec. Not a coupling I would have come up with on my own, but it really works here. To wit, an overly enthusiastic kangaroo uses wildly jarring methods to get you, the reader, to sleep. Do you remember the song “With Cat-Like Tread” from the musical The Pirates of Penzance where they sing at the top of their lungs about how quiet they are? This is practically that song in book form. The kangaroo itself has this just wild look in her eyes (it would have to be a her if she has a pocket, right?) as she tries with everything from monster trucks to fifty electric guitars jamming out “wicked, endless guitar solos” to put you to sleep. Can you imagine engaging your audience of kids, having them all do their own guitar solos at the top of their lungs? Storytime will never be silent when this book’s around.
Wombat Said Come In by Carmen Agra Deedy, ill. Brian Lies
It’s sort of what you’d get if wombats were related to hobbits. We’ve all heard the stories of wombat homes being used by other animals during the great wildfires of Australia. This takes that concept and runs with it, with a kindly wombat finding himself on the receiving end of a number of fleeing critters. Brian Lies adds a delightful touch to the storytelling, and he’s ideal for storytimes as his images just POP across a room. As for Ms. Deedy, she’s a longstanding storytime staple. This isn’t a rhyming tale, with the exception of the refrain that happens every time wombat lets someone new in the door:
“Wombat said, ‘Come in!’
Wombat said, ‘Come in!
From smoke and din
and howling wind,
come in, my friend, come in!’ ”
You’ll want to practice it beforehand. If you’re looking to do one of those storytimes that integrate nonfiction picture books alongside plain old fictional picture books, consider pairing this with Wombat Underground: A Wildfire Survival Story by Sarah L. Thomson, illustrated by Charles Santoso. And, naturally, Diary of a Wombat by Jackie French. Wombat it up!
What did I miss? I’m sure you’ve seen other books, ideal for reading to groups. Let me know what you wish you could have seen here.
Eager to read other lists this month? Then be sure to stay tuned for the following:
December 1 – Great Board Books
December 2 – Picture Book Readalouds
December 3 – Simple Picture Book Texts
December 4 – Transcendent Holiday Picture Books
December 5 – Rhyming Picture Books
December 6 – Funny Picture Books
December 7 – CaldeNotts
December 8 – Picture Book Reprints
December 9 – Math Books for Kids
December 10 – Gross Books
December 11 – Books with a Message
December 12 – Fabulous Photography
December 13 – Translated Picture Books
December 14 – Fairy Tales / Folktales / Religious Tales
December 15 – Wordless Picture Books
December 16 – Poetry Books
December 17 – Unconventional Children’s Books
December 18 – Easy Books & Early Chapter Books
December 19 – Comics & Graphic Novels
December 20 – Older Funny Books
December 21 – Science Fiction Books
December 22 – Fantasy Books
December 23 – Informational Fiction
December 24 – American History
December 25 – Science & Nature Books
December 26 – Unique Biographies
December 27 – Nonfiction Picture Books
December 28 – Nonfiction Books for Older Readers
December 29 – Best Audiobooks for Kids
December 30 – Middle Grade Novels
December 31 – Picture Books
Filed under: 31 Days 31 Lists
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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