OPL Staff Picks - Favourite Children's Picture Books 2018

The Ottawa Public Library is back to share some of their new books for children with us. This month’s post is by Xiao Feng Xing, Librarian, Youth Collections at the Ottawa Public Library.

This selection is from her reading and reviews of new picture books published in 2018. We hope you will enjoy reading them!

They Say Blue, by Jillian Tamaki

They Say Blue was written and illustrated by Jillian Tamaki who is best known for her graphic novel This One Summer. This is her first picture book, but she’s already received two important awards – the Boston Globe Horn Book Award and a Governor General’s Award, as well as numerous starred reviews. The two illustrations below are examples of her powerful and creative style. This book about a young girl who contemplates colours in the world is a true gem.

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Hello Lighthouse, by Sophie Blackall

Ms. Blackall is the winner of the 2016 Caldecott Medal for illustrating Finding Winnie. The illustrations in this book are outstanding. One of them shows a realistic cutaway interior of a lighthouse, letting us see what it would be like to live inside a lighthouse.

In just 32 pages, the book highlights important moments of the life of a lighthouse keeper in a remote location. “On the highest rock of a tiny island at the edge of the world stands a lighthouse. It is built to last forever. Sending its light out to sea, guiding the ships on their way. From dusk to dawn, the lighthouse beams.”

This is a saga to celebrate the lighthouse keeper’s selfless devotion to saving lives and protecting ships at sea. It’s a sad story too since we learn that his job is eventually replaced by a machine.

The Rabbit Listened, by Cori Doerrfeld

When the amazing blocks that Taylor had just built up were smashed down by a flock of birds, he was very sad. The animals came over to him one by one, each thinking that they knew how to help, but none of their suggestions impressed Taylor. And so they all left. Then a rabbit came by and sat quietly beside Taylor; he didn’t try to fix the problem or offer solutions – just listened. After sharing his feelings with the rabbit, Taylor was happy again. It’s such a simple and cute story but it teaches kids, and maybe even some adults, a big life lesson. 

Night Job, by Karen Hesse

This story about a father and son bonding is very touching. A boy helps his dad who has a job on the night shift as a school custodian. Even though life can be difficult, as long as he can be with his dad, the boy feels happy.

They eat dinner together while at work, and after they come home, “I climb up beside dad and soon we are drifting away together…” Life is hard but it is sweet to stay together with dad.

The powerful illustrations will help kids build up empathy and understanding for a life situation that shows that not every family has a worry-free life.

The Rough Patch, by Brian Lies

Evan, the farmer’s fox and his pet dog loved to do things together. What they loved the most was working in Evan’s magnificent garden. But one day Evan’s dog died. Evan was heartbroken and stopped caring about the garden because he no longer had any desire to look after anything.

In time his garden turned wild. One morning, Evan spotted a pumpkin vine sneaking under the fence. So he let it be. Eventually, he brought his giant pumpkin to the fair. It felt good to be out again, even if it wasn’t quite the same as before. He won third prize in the pumpkin competition and claimed his prize. From inside the box, he heard a scrabbling sound…. The last illustration in the book shows Evan driving home with a small dog.

The lovely illustrations and the touching story will show kids how to overcome a rough patch, that very sad feeling that comes when they lose a pet or a loved one, and that life continues.

The Day War Came, by Nicola Davies

This is one of the most powerful books that I have read dealing with children refugees.

A young girl’s peaceful, normal life is turned upside down when war comes to her town. She becomes a refugee and is forced to roam all by herself. She finds a school and attempts to enter the classroom but a teacher won’t let her in. “There’s no room for you, you see. There is no chair for you to sit on”. Then comes a happy and touching moment when a young boy and his classmates all bring their chairs for the young girl. The last illustration shows the kids hand-in-hand walking together on a road lined with chairs.

This book will open a window for kids learning about the plight of children refugees and teach them empathy and kindness.

THANK YOU, OMU! by Oge Mora

This is a heart-warming story about kindness and sharing. It’s a perfect match for the holiday season.

“Omu” is the lgbo term for “queen”. Omu has cooked a delicious stew. The smell brings all the people one-by-one to knock on her door. Omu offers each of them a portion of her meal and pretty soon the pot is empty. As she’s sitting at the table with her empty pot, she hears someone knock at the door. All the people who received food from her are now coming back, one by one, bringing food to her. Omu’s heart is full of happiness and love.

Africville, by Shauntay Grant

I’m so glad to see this wonderful book about Africville as there aren’t enough books about the Canadian black community.

This book uses a girl’s imagination to replay the happy life the black community enjoyed in their old home of Africville.

The author provides a note at the end of the book that details the sad and dark history of Africville and the tragic injustice and racial discrimination that took place.

That’s Not Hockey, by Andrée Poulin

It’s only common sense to wear a helmet and a face mask when playing hockey. But did you know that not that many years ago, hockey players and even goalies, didn’t wear any facial protection when they played?  This book is a true story about the goalie Jacques Plante and how he grew up as a kid from a poor family to become one of the greatest goalies of all time and play for the Montreal Canadians. He changed the history of hockey with his courage and determination to be the first to wear a mask while playing the game.

Henry and the Yeti, by Russell Ayto

A little boy makes up his mind to find Yeti. Everyone laughs at him and his school principal tells him to remember to bring evidence if he does find Yeti.

The little boy overcomes a lot of difficulties to find Yeti, and he takes pictures too. But when he comes back to school to let everyone know what he found, he can’t show them his evidence because he lost his camera. Everyone laughs at him again, and nobody except his own father believes him. You can imagine the surprise then when Yeti comes to visit the little boy’s school. This is a heartwarming and witty story about believing in yourself.

Grace for Gus, by Harry Bliss

This is a near wordless graphic novel-style picture book.

It’s a hero story about a little girl named Grace who sneaks from her bedroom to go to the subway station to play the violin, draw caricatures in the park, and finally to perform acrobatics in the subway car. She raises a lot of money and the next day secretly puts it all in the jar for the classroom pet hamster fund.

If you want to read more wonderful picture books, please click here.