Top Ten Picture Books for Children

I’ve recently joined a committee to help select the best Canadian picture books published in 2013. It’s not as prestigious as it sounds–I’d never even heard of the award before I got involved–but it sure is exciting to flip through a new stack of books, straight from the publisher, and choose the one I’ll read next. It’s like going through a box of chocolates! The rest of my family is weighing in, too,(we’ve read most of the books together) and I’m recording our opinions so I’ll be able to narrow the list of books from 57 down to the top 10. To help me be more decisive, I ask myself after each reading, “Is this a book I’d be willing to advocate for to convince someone else of it’s merit?”

During this process I’ve thought about my own all-time-favourite children’s books list and decided to record my nominees for the Friesen Reed award, right here! Partway through jotting my list, I stopped to wonder why I was spending time on this. My children are now on to chapter books (I had to rescue some of these favourites from the garage sale they staged on our front lawn this summer) and it seems almost silly I’m still preoccupied by picture books. But then I remember I’ve always loved picture books, even before I had children, and that only the most skillful and elegant of story tellers can engage a six-year old audience.

Here are the books we’ve read and re-read in our household; books we’ve given as gifts; books I’m willing to advocate for. I’ve included some of the themes that resonate with me in italics:

Roxaboxen creativity, nostalgia, community

Bagels from Benny generosity

The Relatives Came family… expressive artwork

Harriet You’ll Drive Me Wild This one is so comforting for both parents and children on a rough day

The Man with the Violin noticing beauty, music, …the art fits the story perfectly

All the Places to Love sense of place.. My friend, Kjerstin, bought this for me when I was in university and I’ve relished reading it ever since

Little Lost Bat loss and recovery, adoption ,… full of interesting facts about Mexican free-tailed bats, tender but not sentimental

The Arrival immigration, resilience … this book is in a category of it’s own for the depth of story communicated through the graphics

The Sneetches consumerism, thinking for yourself

Paper Bag Princess Robert Munsch can get on my nerves, but every little girl needs to read this book

Most of these authors have written other books we’ve also enjoyed, and their names register like those of old classmates or distant relatives. Oh, it’s Kathy Stinson, I know her! And good ol’ Cynthia Rylant and Mem Fox–you can always rely on them! Perhaps there are a few titles here you don’t recognize… I hope so, for your sake; I know I love discovering new books.

Besides reading, we were busy in our yard and with friends this weekend. Once again, the potatoes (from my last post) came through for us. On Friday, we hosted an all-evening dinner affair served in multiple courses. It was a pretty classy event and I kept on reminding our guests, “We’re dining like the French tonight…”


The chefs (Dion, Jason and Stan) fried potatoes for four hours straight, under the gleam of the trouble light, in our garage.


Dion kept shuttling fries into the house and the kids kept eating.


They kids started with veggies and dip at 5:30 and then ate fries, in courses, until about 9:30 (between rounds of hide-and-go seek in the park.)

Is this what you pictured when you read “classy”? Well, I meant classy in the way that 7 to 12-year-olds understand it; no plates–piles of fries were dumped right on the table covered with brown paper, and chairs optional–but useful for standing on to reach half-way across the table. The kids ran out the back door between servings and the woman folk returned to their spots at the grease-stained table, between batches, with red wine and conversation… That’s the kind of class I’m talkin’ about.

Wishing you enough to eat, with good books to read and share, this week,


PS. It was SO hard to  narrow my booklist down to 10. Which of your favourites did I miss? Do tell!

PPS. Here’s the yapita for the grandparent/aunty audience


Sometimes Belén and Susie are like little machines you just have to re-set every once in awhile. On Saturday I asked them to help me stomp down the leaves in the compost bin and then they stayed there for hours, long after their chore was finished, playing “apartment”.



Susanna’s fiddle teacher suggested recording the songs the girls are working on and playing them back to see where they still need to improve. Here’s a shot of Susa providing moral support, and Belén’s classic I’ve-made-a-mistake-and-what-exactly-is-my-sister-doing? expression.

3 thoughts on “Top Ten Picture Books for Children

  1. I just read “The man with a violin” a while back and wanted to buy it for our violin playing friend. I agree, the pictures made the book. Good titles here, I’m glad I recognized quite a few! There’s a book, “A second is a hiccup” which I always think I’ll get through and always end up teary on the last page. All about the passage of time and how to explain things like a second, minute, hour, day, seasons, and childhood to kids. It’s perfect.

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