So many terrific picture books have come out already in 2019 that we couldn’t help but take a moment to recognize a few standouts. There are inspiring historical figures, high five competitions, and sneaky circles—something for every young reader! Without further ado, here are our picks for the best new picture books in 2019…So far.
High Five, by Adam Rubin and Daniel Salmieri
The annual High Five Contest is right around the corner, but we’re guessing that you haven’t been staying in shape with the proper calisthenics and stretches. Have no fear!—your dominant hand will be virtually unrecognizable after you follow Rubin and Salmieri’s 64-page plan! Filled with hilarious rhymes, this high-stakes, interactive storybook from the creators of Dragons Love Tacos is an instant classic—don’t miss it!
Hair Love, by Matthew A. Cherry and Vashti Harrison
Zuri’s hair is beautiful, and sometimes it has a mind of its own! When it’s time to get ready for a special day, Zuri’s daddy decides to help her with a style—and quickly realizes that he has a lot to learn. In addition to celebrating Zuri’s confidence and style—and the tender love between a daddy and his daughter—this story is sweetly told and underscored by Harrison’s expressive illustrations.
Camp Tiger, by Susan Choi and John Rocco
A little boy, anxious about starting first grade, goes on a camping trip with his family just before school begins. When they get to their camping spot, they are joined by a smallish, agreeable, talking tiger in this gorgeously illustrated, heart-tugging story about growing up, becoming gradually more independent, and having ambivalent feelings about these big changes. Kids who are worried about the end of summer and the beginning of the new school year will be especially moved and comforted by this tale.
The Undefeated, by Kwame Alexander and Kadir Nelson
“This is for the unforgettable/ The swift and sweet ones/ who hurdled history/ and opened a world/ of possible,” begins this incredible poem that was originally performed for ESPN’s The Undefeated. Kwame Alexander delivers an anthem to Black Americans, accompanied by beautiful portraits by two-time Caldecott Honoree Kadir Nelson, highlighting the endurance and spirit of black people in the United States throughout history and the present day. An important and powerful new work not to be missed.
How to Catch a Unicorn, by Adam Wallace and Andy Elkerton
If you and your young readers are head-over-heels for the How to Catch series, this magical addition is a must-have for your shelf. Maybe you’d like a unicorn for a pet, or perhaps you just want to bring one a little closer to tousle its glittery mane—either way, you’re going to have to make a plan!
Because, by Mo Willems and Amber Ren
Because is a moving celebration of music and the power it has to transform and direct our lives, so it’s a natural addition to any young artist’s shelf. When a young girl seizes a chance opportunity to attend a concert, she sets into motion a series of events which, combined with lots of hard work (and even more luck!), lead her into a life filled with beautiful music.
Circle, by Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen
Award-winning bestselling writer-illustrator team Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen have given dimension to familiar silhouettes Triangle and Square with the first two books in their funny and unique Shapes series. And now, it’s Circle’s turn to be the star in the third and final installment. In it, Circle makes a rule that Triangle promptly breaks, so Circle has to come back around to help her pal out. Kids will love the sneaky shapes in this charming, offbeat trilogy.
When You Are Brave, by Pat Zietlow Miller and Eliza Wheeler
There are many pivotal moments in life that require reassurance and encouragement, but few are more poignant than when we move to a new place. A brand-new city, school and house require breaking in, but making new friends calls for bravery. When a young girl feels small in the face of big change, she must learn to harness and share her bold inner spark in this inspiring book.
Max Explains Everything: Soccer Expert, by Stacy McAnulty and Deborah Hocking
Sometimes kids don’t want to think about big ideas, or even focus on the task at hand, as Max illustrates in this book, a continuation of the series featuring chattering, distracted young Max. “I know a lot about soccer,” Max says. “I’ve been playing it for a long time—almost three weeks.” His mom, driving to the field while he says this, gives the reader the side-eye. Max loves everything about soccer—including the dandelions in the field, the snack break, and posing for photos—except actually kicking the ball. Sometimes the clouds are much more interesting than the wide-open goal that stretches before you with the ball perfectly positioned for a score, right?
The Happy Book, by Andy Rash
The always hilarious Andy Rash studies the shifting emotions of a boy (“one happy Camper”) and a (happy-as-a) Clam. But when Clam bakes a friendship cake to share with Camper, and Camper eats the entire thing, Clam takes a visit to The Sad Book, where he hangs out with the Sad Trombone in the rain. As the friends negotiate their feelings, they move on to The Angry Book, The Scared Book, and finally The Feelings Book, where they can finally express all their emotions. A great book for helping kids identify, express, and feel comfortable with their many-changing feelings.