Mason & Hayden's Top Picture Books 2009

thumbs-up Lynn: Our list of top pictures books is going to be a bit different from the format of our other lists this week. As we’ve mentioned, our focus group, my 6-year-old grandsons, take their job very seriously and they were giving me so much input about the picture book choices that we decided to step back and let them do the choosing. So this is the list of THEIR favorites this year. Right before Christmas I gathered a huge pile of books and I let the boys sort out the ones they enjoyed the most. Clearly the gene pool breeds true because they had as much trouble as I do in limiting their choices to ten. After much negotiation, this is the list in alphabetical order by title. Since Cindy and I have a few other favorites, we’ll list those at the end.

Hayden and Mason’s Picks

Big and Small, Room for All by Jo Ellen Bogart, illustrated by Gillian Newland. Tundra, 2009.

Lynn and boys: The boys were fascinated not only by the progression of big to small but also how each small thing became big on the following page. And then of course there was that humongous flea – what small boy could resist that?

Bobby Bramble Loses His Brain by Dave Keane, illustrated by David Clark. Clarion, 2009.

Lynn and boys: Hilarious cartoon drawings, a boy destined to crack his head open and a pink brain on legs hiding in the pictures? It’s a no-brainer as to why the boys love this.

Cindy: I delighted in the puns in this romp of a tale and it makes me laugh just to think about this book. It will remain on my gift-book list for a long time.

Bob’s Best-Ever Friend by Simon Bartram. Candlewick, 2009.

Lynn and boys: Bob, the man on the moon tour guide KNOWS there is no such thing as aliens. Sharp-eyed readers know he is clueless and spot Bob’s “dog” long before it becomes his best-ever friend. This book has been a top favorite of the boys since we first read it last summer.

The Book That Eats People by John Perry, illustrated by Mark Fearing. Tricycle Press, 2009.

Lynn and boys: There is a warning on the first page – this book eats people and it is always hungry! Hayden and Mason love this book with a sort of semi-horrified fascination. They know it’s a joke – but they insist on keeping it on the bottom of a very heavy stack of books just in case and they check it every day when they come from school. Then there was the day I pulled the book out of the stack to check the copyright and set it back on top. Now they really don’t trust it but we read it ALL the time 😉

Cindy: I stumbled upon this gem, new, at a used bookstore and snatched it up for my book-themed personal collection but our focus group is set on protecting me from it’s hungry ways and has kept it sequestered so it hasn’t gotten blogged, but we LOVE it just the same.

Higher! Higher! by Leslie Patricelli. Candlewick, 2009.

Lynn and boys: This one has also been a favorite since we first read it. The boys love predicting what the swinger will see next. This was also a top favorite of their kindergarten class that I read to each week last year. And of course – there is an alien.

Cindy: This was my early favorite for a Caldecott medal or honor. I gave it to my daughter for high school graduation due to its theme of reaching for the stars but knowing you have parents to catch you. Love, love, love the illustrations. Again!

lion-and-mouseThe Lion & the Mouse by Jerry Pinkney. Little, Brown, 2009.

Lynn and boys: This is our top choice of the year. We’ve read it so much I may need to buy another copy. We all love the glorious pictures and the boys love telling me the story, each time finding something new to add to the tale. I asked the boys today to pick their MOST favorite and they both grabbed this. Caldecott Committee – are you listening?

Cindy: I’m so grateful to our focus group for their willingness to test our adult opinions. This book is exemplary not only for the stunning art and the risks it took (no title or author on the cover?) but also for the way in which it enriches a well-known centuries-old fable in a non-didactic way. So glad to know that 6-year-olds also love it.

Nic Bishop Butterflies and Moths by Nic Bishop. Scholastic, 2009.

Lynn and the boys: Bugs, gorgeous pictures of bugs, fascinating information about bugs, bugs, bugs…..

The Odd Egg by Emily Gravett. S&S, 2009.

Lynn and boys: The boys never get tired of the joke here and jump every time the alligator leaps out of the egg. The clever design of the book is such fun and we all love that crazy duck.

Put It On the List by Kristin Darbyshire. Dutton, 2009.

Lynn and boys: The theme of this book really struck a chord since I am always out of something. Hayden and Mason really responded to the simple funny illustrations with their embedded jokes and especially love tracing the family’s progress through the grocery store.

Pigs Make Me Sneeze by Mo Willems. Hyperion, 2009.

Lynn and boys: Mo Willems is genius. He does SO much with such simple drawings and so few words. The boys read this to me and we all giggle so much we have to stop and regroup. It takes us ages to read this.

Cindy: I haven’t seen this yet. Will you guys share? After a month sneezing with a cold, I could use a laugh!

The Sleepy Little Alphabet: A Bedtime Story from Alphabet Town by Judy Sierra, illustrated by Melissa Sweet. Random, 2009.

Lynn and boys: The boys adore alphabet books and I think this may be their all-time favorite. Each clever page shows harassed adult capital letters trying to corral energetic small letters for bed. Hayden and Mason especially like finding all the small items in each scene. Naughty N rules!

Cindy: Sierra’s rhyming text is as fun as the illustrations. A delightful addition to the alphabet and bedtime book cannons.

Tsunami by Kamiko Kajikawa, illustrated by Ed Young. Penguin, 2009

Lynn and boys: Sadly we didn’t get around to blogging this gorgeous book – probably because the boys wouldn’t give it up so Cindy could read it. They loved the drama of the valiant story as much as they loved the collage illustrations.

Waiting for Winter by Sebastian Meschenmoser. Kane Miller, 2009.

Lynn and boys: I fell in love with this book from the minute I read it but I wasn’t sure what the boys would make of its pencil sketches and unusual style. It really hits their funny bone though and has become a top favorite. They love knowing more than the animals and giggle so much when we read it they fall off the couch.

Cindy: I need to come over to read to the boys. It sounds like you have too much fun! I will never forget the illustration of grumpy bear who has HAD ENOUGH. The unique look of this book is supported by a great story.

Cindy’s Extra Picks

The Bog Baby by Jeanne Willis, illustrated by Gwen Millward. Random/Schwartz & Wade, 2009.

Cindy: The illustrations and the sensitive story about bringing home a wild pet have curled around my heart like the fiddle-head ferns that grace the pages. I continue to hope that Bog Babies live in my bayou.

Let’s Do Nothing by Tony Fucile. Candlewick, 2009.

Cindy: I lusted after this book at the title. That the boys’ antics and hilarious illustrations carried the story was a bonus. It’s still on display in my living room as a reminder that I should try, occasionally, to do…nothing.

Red Sings from Treetops: a Year in Colors. by Joyce Sidman, illustrated by Pamela Zagarenski. Houghton, 2009.

Cindy: It was a strong year for poetry (maybe we need another category next year) but this is one that stretches across several age levels and would inspire art and poetry collaborative lessons at the secondary level with creative teachers. I was enchanted by the folk-art feel of the illustrations.

Lynn’s Extra Picks:

All the World by Liz Garton Scanlon, illustrated by Marla Frazee. S&S, 2009.

Lynn: This book really took me captive. The warm beautifully curving illustrations reminds me somehow of Robert McCloskey’s One Morning in Maine. I loved spending time with each page, following the families and characters throughout the day. The boys liked it too but weren’t ready to sit quietly with it.

Redwoods by Jason Chin. Roaring Brook, 2009.

Lynn: This imaginative book is the perfect blend of information and fun – and a visual treat too. The little boys loved this book but I made them stop with twelve and promised it I’d sneak it in as one of my choices 😉

Cindy: I see you are teaching them your sneaky ways of adding to our lists. I’m surprised you didn’t just take the opportunity to teach them about Baker’s Dozens…



About the Author:

Cindy Dobrez and Lynn Rutan are Booklist reviewers and middle-school librarians who have chaired both ALA’s Best Books for Young Adults and the Michael L. Printz Award for YA Literature committees. Follow Bookends on Twitter at @BookendsBlog. You can also find Cindy at @cdobrez and Lynn at @482april.

7 Comments on "Mason & Hayden's Top Picture Books 2009"

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  1.' Helen says:

    Picture books are so wonderful these days. Here’s my recommendation: the Mr. Men and Little Miss books (British). My daughter is 9 (and I am older than that) and we both still have fun reading them together.

  2.' Laura W says:

    Excellent choices, focus group! I hope your predictions come true 🙂

  3.' Paula says:

    Oh, I agree with Mason and Hayden so much! My boys, about the same age, were similarly over the moon about A Book by Mordicai Gerstein, and also There are Cats in this Book, even though I thought they’d be too old for it. And I suspect that my children ARE the boys in Let’s Do Nothing!

  4. Waiting for winter is definitely one I’m on the look out for, but otherwise there’s lots on your list I don’t know – sometimes I’m amazed by the differences between US and UK publishing / book popularity – whilst I’m sure all of these titles are available over here, the only ones I would say have had much publicity apart from Waiting for winter are the Bog Baby and The Odd Egg.

  5.' Judy Scheible says:

    Great list. I hope you also considered my second favorite (after “Lion & Mouse”), “I Need My Monster” by Amanda Noll.
    Judy S

  6.' JPerry says:

    Thanks for the nice words (pity they didn’t appear in Booklist). is the website for “The Book That Eats People.”

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