The cold nights of December, at least for those of us in the northern hemisphere, are the perfect time for curling up under blankets and sharing picture books with your young readers. Sophie and Rebecca have put together a list of seven picture books they have discovered recently that will be ideal for reading together over the holidays.
Yeti Baby by Elias Bark, Illustrated by Meg Hunt
Sophie’s first book to share is Yeti Baby by Elias Bark, illustrated by Meg Hunt. This adorable picture book comes from the same board book series as Pumpkin Baby, which was included in our first Halloween reading roundup of 2020.
Yeti Baby is a lift-the-flap book featuring an adorable baby yeti on their adventures spending a day on a snowy mountainside. As they explore, they meet gumdrop elves and cute polar creatures including a narwhal, sea otter, and polar bear. They hide out under the mistletoe, take a ride on a miniature steam train, and get snug in bed once night draws in. Sophie found the design of the yeti a little odd—she’s certainly never seen one that’s blue with horns before—but that certainly didn’t make them any less cute.
The artwork is beautiful throughout. The whole book is primarily drawn in tones of blue, gray, and teal, yet somehow still manages to look inviting despite these cool colors. Sophie immediately wanted to crunch through the crisp white snow and watch the elves at work, and maybe share some of the steaming hot chocolate Yeti Baby discovers alone the way.
There’s little actual story here, but that’s not the point. Young readers will love lifting the flaps to see what Yeti Baby is up to on each page, while adults will enjoy reading the simple rhymes aloud and seeing the illustrations.
I’m Programmed to Love You by Elias Barks, Illustrated by Gemma Román
Elias Barks is rapidly becoming one of Sophie’s favorite picture book authors, as you might be able to tell given that this is his second appearance in this post! I’m Programmed to Love You is another of his ridiculously adorable picture books, this time featuring a mom and a kid robot.
Across the rhyming pages of this book, the mom bot talks to her child, explaining all the ways she is programmed to love them. She has an umbrella attachment to keep them dry in the rain, a special nightlight antenna to help her child fall asleep, a projector to show them amazing sights, and many arms to hold onto books and offer hugs. As the blurb on the back says, “a mother’s love has many applications and it’s always automatic.”
The artwork here is beautiful and surprisingly soft for a story with robots at its heart, all pastel tones of pinks and blues done in a chalky style with no harsh lines or sharp edges. There are a few nice hidden Easter eggs for adults reading aloud—the books the mom bot reads includes titles like The Very Hungry Harddrive and The Uncanny Valley—and plenty of details that will bring a smile to your face such as the robot animals the pair soar over on a day trip.
This is another wonderful picture book from Elias Barks that gives parenting a modern twist while keeping the focus on the love between a mother and her child.
Christmas: A Count and Find Primer by Greg Paprocki
Sophie fell in love with Greg Paprocki’s stunning illustrations back in September when she read his Day of the Dead Count and Find Primer for the Halloween reading Roundup, so she was thrilled to discover he has also produced a Christmas book in the same style.
Christmas: A Count and Find Primer includes ten stunningly beautiful scenes with things to find in them. Young readers can kick off by finding one bag of toys in Santa’s workshop; spot four cookies and carrots as a family set them out for Santa on Christmas Eve; look for seven snow angels on a winter’s day; and finally, count up to ten gifts on Christmas morning. The final pages of the book also list an additional ten items to locate throughout the book, all of which are a different color. Can you spot a grey cat, yellow shovel, or brown boots?
As with the Day of the Dead primer, the colors here are spectacular and leap out from every page. The book has a retro style that reminds Sophie of 1950s futurism of the style now seen in Tomorrowland at the Magic Kingdom. Everything is picture-perfect with happy smiling faces, and Sophie was pleased to note a diverse range of people throughout the pages.
This is the kind of book that makes Sophie wish she still had young children to sit and read with—she suspects her eleven-year-old gamer would not appreciate being asked to sit and count out six reindeer with her anymore—and she is sure it will bring joy to many families for many holiday seasons to come.
Santa and the Goodnight Train by June Sobel, Illustrated by Laura Huliska-Beith
Continuing on with another Christmas themed picture book, next up is Santa and the Goodnight Train by June Sobel, illustrated by Laura Huliska-Beith. This sweet, rhyming story will appeal to little train fans in particular but is also a great Christmas bedtime tale for all.
The Goodnight Train is off on its regular evening trip picking up sleepy youngsters, but tonight is an extra special night; it’s Christmas Eve! The train has been decorated with lights and holly, and the porter is checking tickets to see who has been naughty and who has been nice. As the train continues its voyage, the children aboard keep an eye out for Santa and his reindeer while they pass through a gingerbread town and on to Gumdrop Crossing with Santa always just ahead. However, when the engineer has to hit the brakes, they pick up some extra special passengers for the final leg of the journey.
Santa and the Goodnight Train is a great Christmas story that young ones will want to be read out to them again and again. The rhyming style makes it fun to read aloud and there are lots of train noises and Christmas sounds to join in with too making this ideal for a little interactivity at bedtime. The illustrations are bright, bold, and inviting—Sophie wanted to step aboard the train, crunch through the snow, and smell the gingerbread on every page. This will be a great addition to your Christmas picture book library.
Interstellar Cinderella by Deborah Underwood, Illustrated by Meg Hunt
Sophie’s final picture book selection is Interstellar Cinderella by Deborah Underwood. This one is illustrated by Meg Hunt, who is also making her second appearance on this list!
Interstellar Cinderella is a retelling of the classic fairytale with a STEM twist. Cinderella lives with her step-mother and step-sisters, spending her days fixing the household robots and appliances, but she dreams of one day working on spaceships and spends her limited free time studying spaceship mechanics. When the family is invited to the Prince’s Royal Space Parade, Cinderella is left behind and her step-sisters even steal her toolbox to prevent her from fixing a broken ship and joining in. Of course, Cinderella’s godrobot is soon there to help, furnishing Cinderella with new tools, a power gem that will last until midnight, and an atomic blue jeweled spacesuit!
When the Prince’s royal ship develops a fault, Cinderella is there to help and the pair spend all night discussing ships until Cinderella has to run, leaving behind her sonic socket wrench. The prince then scours the galaxy searching for the girl who can use the wrench to repair a ship until he is reunited with Cinderella, despite her family’s best efforts.
This was Sophie’s second Cinderella retelling of the year (she previously read Cinderella Is Dead over the summer), and it was an instant five star read. The rhyming structure of the story is perfect for reading aloud and the story flows well, never feeling forced or awkward in its new, outer space framework. There are some fun twists on the original story, like Cinderella leaving behind her socket wrench instead of a slipper and her little mouse friends becoming robots, but enough of the story remains that it will be instantly familiar to even very young readers. Sophie also loved the way the young Cinderella handled the Prince’s proposal at the end of the story.
This is a wonderful retelling of a classic story that brings it into the modern-day while keeping its heart and soul intact.
Music Is… Words, Sounds, and Pictures by Stephen T. Johnson
Rebecca, a musician, was excited to get this picture book in the mail, and it did not disappoint! Music Is… is a celebration in all kinds of musical styles. Reminiscent of Zin! Zin! Zin! and Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, this is a read-aloud must! Ten musical styles are explored: classical, Latin, jazz, country, heavy metal, hip-hop, rock and roll, rhythm and blues, electronica, and pop.
“Hip Hop is…
boom box beats to get into the flow,
bust a rhyme just in time and you’ll know where to go.
Loopin’ and mixin’ the vinyl’s a spinnin’
The book is an accordion-style fold-out with a mixed media art style that is as much fun as the text itself. This will be a book any child will love to read along with. There are also supplemental pages for older children and parents to explore the musical styles in more depth including playlists to check out.
“Heavy metal is… roughened steel blazing a trail of light
out of the darkness of an abyss.
There’s a monster in my room- chugga-chugga-doom-and-gloom
Got to get it out and soon- chugga-chugga-doom-and-gloom
Enter wizard with a beard- chugga-chugga-doom-and-gloom
Only one the monster feared – chugga-chugga-doom-and-gloom”
Recommended for all ages 3 and up.
Clouds: Life’s Big and Little Moments by Angie and Alli Simpson, Illustrated by Lucy Fleming
Rebecca’s second book was inspired by musician Cody Simpson, who has a talented family. His mother and sister wrote this picture book based on a lullaby written by Cody and their father, Brad. Clouds: Life’s Big and Little Moments is a simple rhyme told from mother to daughter, watching her grow and learn. The clouds paint a picture of the memories as the mother remembers.
Although the text will be more poignant to mothers than to their children, the illustrations are a delight for all ages. Fleming’s landscapes are gorgeous, while the people in them are adorable. With each memory, clouds swirl into shapes. This is a book about relationships and how time passes but the love between a mother and daughter is always there.
“Writing dreams in the sand by a sapphire sea,
wispy clouds weaving thoughts of how you used to be.”