PICTURE BOOKS OF THE YEAR: Authors and illustrators showcase history, science, faith, and fun
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Our committee spent the past year combing library and bookstore shelves as part of our annual search to find picture books that are beautiful, engaging, and wise. The following five selections comprise WORLD’s 2022 Picture Books of the Year list. They feature diverse topics that we hope will help families continually cultivate a culture of reading at home.
The Story of Bodri
Fried—now 97 years old—offers readers a glimpse into her experience during the Holocaust. Stina Wirsén’s pen-and-ink illustrations with splashy watercolors introduce Fried, a Jew, her Christian friend Marika, and Fried’s beloved dog Bodri. When Hitler’s forces take Fried and her family away (endnotes explain that she “experienced the horrors of Auschwitz, Bergen-Belsen, and several work camps”), the simple line drawings turn stark and grim. Although Fried suffers great loss, ultimately, she and her younger sister reunite with the family dog. The ending of this worthy read provides a counterbalance to help elementary-aged children process a tragic period in history. —K.G.
Go and Do Likewise! The Parables and Wisdom of Jesus
This follow-up to 2016’s Miracle Man boasts pages saturated in color and Biblical truth. Striking illustrations turn up the volume on a collection of Jesus’ parables and the beatitudes. Across 40 pages, author and illustrator John Hendrix presents readers with 12 teachings from Jesus’ ministry. Younger readers may struggle with the stylized text, but the book works well as a family read-aloud or for older children who will appreciate the almost graphic-novel style of many pages. While Hendrix offers a paraphrase of the gospel texts, an author’s note at the end provides references to the Scriptures for further study. —K.G.
What’s Inside a Flower? And Other Questions About Science & Nature
This book stands out as an engaging alternative to the plethora of dry science reference books geared for children. Its vibrant illustrations provide a visual feast as readers explore the life cycle of flowers. The main illustrations are surrounded by smaller labels and doodles, identifying different plants and critters and giving children plenty to point to, discuss, and relate to everyday sightings in nature. It introduces some complex botanical terms, but not in a way that loses a child’s interest. This refreshing science book will inspire readers to wonder at the beauty and intentionality of God’s handiwork in nature. —M.J.
Road Trip! A Whiskers Hollow Adventure
Bear needs a new headlight for his old truck. He enlists his friends Rabbit, Mouse, and Donkey to take a road trip to Elephant’s Old Junk Tree. They traverse the town of Whiskers Hollow, driving over a rickety bridge and through a thorny tunnel. At the junkyard they discover lots of interesting things and have fun exploring together until they find just the right part for Bear’s truck. Soon the gang is back on the road to their next adventure. Road Trip! features delightfully detailed illustrations and endearing characters who, despite distinct personalities, enjoy spending time together. —S.B.
Corey R. Tabor
A young kingfisher named Mel decides it’s time to fly. Swallowing her fear, she dives off a branch—and falls. As she descends, her neighbors try in vain to help: a family of squirrels, a hive of bees, a spider, a snail, and an army of ants. Finally, Mel dives underwater and surfaces with a fish in her beak. She flies back up past her cheering friends. At the top of the tree, she releases the startled fish and hugs her mother. “I flew, I flew!” said Mel. “I knew you could!” said Mama. Readers turn the book sideways to follow Mel’s fun path down and back up again. —S.B.
In For Every Little Thing, June Cotner and Nancy Tupper Ling compiled beautiful Poems and Prayers to Celebrate the Day. Roberta Gibson’s How to Build an Insect explores insect anatomy and leaves readers marveling at God’s entomological world. Watercress, by Andrea Wang, offers gorgeous illustrations and a heartfelt story about hardship and family.
A read-aloud treasure
This year one exceptional book delighted our committee members: Little Pilgrim’s Progress by Helen Taylor with illustrations by Joe Sutphin (Moody Publishers). At just over 300 pages, Little Pilgrim’s Progress was too long to qualify officially for our picture book of the year list. Yet Sutphin’s charming ink sketches combine with Taylor’s text to create a beautiful volume that will appeal to older preschoolers and elementary-age children alike.
Parents who are familiar with Taylor’s version will notice a few updates. This 2021 edition has an anthropomorphic twist reimagining John Bunyan’s characters as woodland animals: Christian and Christiana are rabbits, Evangelist is an owl, Faithful is a groundhog, and so forth. Just as Taylor’s 1947 work adapted John Bunyan’s words for a younger audience, Moody Publishers refreshed Taylor’s text so that it “will read more familiar, accurate, and helpful to today’s audience.” The plot still closely follows the original story of Christian overcoming trials and temptations as he journeys to the Celestial City, and the allegory’s message of faith and perseverance prevails.
With short chapters and regularly spaced illustrations, Little Pilgrim’s Progress would work well for family read-aloud time. Committee members shared that their children—who range in age from 4 to 10—stayed engrossed in the story, eager to read each new chapter. The book makes a worthy addition to family libraries. —K.C.
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