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 books, K-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.