August 14, 2015

How I Find New Picture Books (and Where You Can Too)

Wondering how to find picture books that are actually worth reading? Here's where one mama and children's librarian looks for her next favorite books!

As I've mentioned on this blog a bazillion times, I almost never just browse for books at the library. Practically every book we bring home is one I've specifically requested.

Which means I get asked a lot, "WHERE do you find picture book recommendations?"

I'm glad you asked:
  • The Horn Book. The magazine is fairly expensive (if your library has it available for checkout, I'm totally envious - most libraries have a subscription but don't circulate it), but if you don't want to fork over the money for a subscription of your own, their blog is a complete treasure trove. I love the "Recommended Books" column with both reviews and round-ups, and I especially love the "Calling Caldecott" section that focuses exclusively on picture books (the comment section is amazing).
  • Junior Library Guild. I won't bore you with a long description of how this works (librarian nerd alert!), but each month they select a best book in every category you can imagine. You could spend the rest of your life working your way through the back lists - which, incidentally, I seem to be doing. Here is the Pre-K to K booksK-1st books, and a SECOND group of K-1st books (because who could pick only twelve a year?).
  • The Cybils Shortlists. Every year, a team of bloggers, writers, and librarians reads an enormous pile of nominated books and comes up with a list of a half dozen 5-7 of the best books in a genre. Check out the book lists for a whole slew of winners.
  • Amazon. I love their Books of the Month lists (in part because they aren't huge) and I also look up my favorite books and then see what other books are recommended based on that title. 
  • State Book Awards. I think it's almost impossible to be a librarian who doesn't love a good book list. And so many states put together tremendously good ones. For picture books, check out the Texas 2x2, Arkansas Diamond, Illinois Monarch, Kansas Bill Martin Jr., South Dakota Prairie Bud, New Hampshire Lady Bug, Maine Chickadee, Delaware Diamonds, Indiana Young Hoosiers, Washington Children's Choice, and Wyoming Buckaroo. Whew. And considering how many of these book awards have been going on for years, you'll be DROWNING in possibilities.
  • Houston Library Next Reads. The Houston library puts out a brief list every month of recommended books for kids, often on a theme. 
  • The New York Times Notable Books. At the end of the year, the NYTimes puts out a list of their ten best illustrated books. Here is 2014 and 2010 and 2009. This was the 60th year of it, so just Google "NYTimes Best Illustrated Children's Books" and the year you want. 
  • ALA Notable Book List. The American Library Association (which awards the Caldecott and Newbery medals) puts out a much longer list every year of really great books, divided into younger readers, middle readers, older readers, and all ages. When I was in grad school, one of my professors was a committee member, and I worked with her sorting, organizing and reading the hundreds of books that got sent to her by publishers. It goes without saying that this was basically the best job of all time.
  • The Read-Aloud Handbook. If you're looking for some solid lists of classic books, this is THE place to go
  • Instagram. I don't read a lot of book blogs but I follow quite a few of Instagram accounts dedicated to books. I particularly like Little Books Big World and The Little Book Collector. And of course, I post picture book recommendations almost every day on Instagram, and I'd love to have you follow along. 
  • And of course, ask a librarian. Your tax dollars are at work at your local library, so you might as well take advantage and ask your children's librarian what she recommends.
Any other suggestions for where to find books that doesn't involve pulling books at random off the shelf?


  1. Ummm ... we get most of our recommendations from you. And pulling random books off the shelf. Have you read Stick and Stone? Highly recommend.

  2. Excellent list! The library here is a satellite library, which means there are 30+ little libraries all over town, and you can request anything in the entire system to be delivered to your local library. Which is nice, but it means I don't really browse the shelves either, since the selection is tiny. Thanks for the list though - and I appreciate you acting as an additional filter for book recommendations!

  3. I would love a long description of the junior library guild - fellow nerd right here. :)

    Also, I'd love to hear about any other Instagram book accounts you like. When I first joined Instagram, I followed a bunch of them and soon found that they were posting about every book they read, and it didn't seem like they were very selective. I want to follow accounts that are highlighting their very favorites. Also, a lot of the book accounts only show books and it really helps me to see more of the actual person so I would love to know about any accounts that combine books and lifestyle (basically I'm asking for more accounts exactly like yours).

  4. You must not have an independent bookstore near you...Indies are the BEST source of recommendations I know of, from shelftalkers to knowlegeable and friendly staff with a love of children's books. Used to work in one, now write adult book reviews as the kids have gotten older...

  5. My sister got me the The New York Times Parent's Guide to the Best Books for Children and I love it. It's organized by age and by topic with room in the margins to write notes (it's fun to go back and remember which child loved what book at what age). I often buy it as a baby shower gift.

  6. My sister got me the The New York Times Parent's Guide to the Best Books for Children and I love it. It's organized by age and by topic with room in the margins to write notes (it's fun to go back and remember which child loved what book at what age). I often buy it as a baby shower gift.

  7. I like to let my kids pick out their own books, they are usually ones I wouldn't pick and it's always nice to find some really good books that way.

  8. I just want to the library with my daughter and checked out the book Press Here, by Herve Tullet. Have you ever read it? Such a great interactive book for kids. I wish they would've had it out when I was a child I would've LOVED it!


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