Marcia Strykowski

More 2017 Picture Books

After a couple of posts in summery locations, it’s time to get back to books. Scanning my list of new library purchases I realize I’ll have to save at least half for another post, not only because I haven’t had a chance to read many of them, but because they are checked out. At my library we used to have high shelving throughout the children’s area. But then, once upon a time, we realized that not only could young readers not reach the high shelves but those tall bookcases gave the library a darker, more cluttered look. So our trusty handyman proceeded to remove the top layer of shelving. Wow, what a difference. From the main circulation desk we can see straight through to the far colorful walls of the children’s areas. And we get to place all our new book purchases upright on the new shelf tops. Their bright shiny covers are hard to resist, hence the lack of picture books for me to check out—they’re all in the hands of happy readers! The following are new titles with quick reviews on each of them.

May I Have a Word? written by Caron Levis and illustrated by Andy Rash is a very clever book from title to concept. I mean who among us is not familiar with refrigerator magnets? The story begins with an argument between the letters C and K about which one of them should be the star, leading to a fun way to learn the difference between these two letter sounds. Although the type size of the actual story seemed a little small (maybe to keep it from getting mixed up in all the magnetic letters?), this book still has enough humor and cheerful color to keep kids interested.

The Legend of Rock Paper Scissors, written by Drew Daywalt and illustrated by Adam Rex is strange, bizarre, crazy, and a LOT of fun. Follow the stories of these three warriors to find out how they went from being on their own to teaming up to be a popular playground game.

Monkey Brother, written and illustrated by Adam Auerbach is a cute book. The story has a good message as well as fun illustrations and a surprise at the end.

Everyone Loves Cupcake is written by Kelly DiPucchio and illustrated by Eric Wight. What a sweetheart—everyone knows someone like Cupcake, someone who tries so hard to be perfect and then sometimes goes overboard until those same friends she wants so desperately to gain begin drifting away. This book came out in 2016, but is new to me.

Pandora, written and illustrated by Victoria Turnbull, is about a sweet-faced fox who always makes the best of things. She is patient and kind and a good friend, as well as a lover of nature. A small bird enters her dark, dreary realm and rewards her with a tiny twig of life that rebuilds the world around them. Beautiful soft illustrations of colored pencil and watercolor add much to this important tale.

Home in the Rain, written and illustrated by Bob Graham, is one of those books that takes a small episode and makes it into a special memory. Journeying home through a major rainstorm brings inspiration of the grandest kind. Rather than getting all stressed out about the stormy weather, this super mom and daughter, Francie, stay calm and centered. They even have a picnic and decide on a new name for the upcoming birth of Francie’s baby sister!

The Sheep Who Hatched an Egg, written and illustrated by Gemma Merino, is a fun tale about Lola who learns she can feel proud and happy even when she isn’t perfect or beautiful because kindness and friendship is much more important than having the best hairdo. The animal characters have well-done expressive faces.

I Wrote You a Note is written and illustrated by Lizi Boyd and provides an interesting glimpse at the many places a written note might wander to before arriving at its destination. I love the soft, lively, earth-tone illustrations.

Jabari Jumps, written and illustrated by Gaia Cornwall, is such a sweet tale and one that everyone can relate to. Jabari is ready to dive into the pool, but can he do it? With the help of his caring dad and cheering baby sister, Jabari’s road to success is told with warmth and humor.

LIFE,  written by Cynthia Rylant and illustrated by Brendan Wenzel, is an absolutely beautiful book. Wenzel’s unique layered illustrations can be appreciated over and over again. They are a perfect partner for Rylant’s lyrical prose about the whole essence of what it means to live. I would quickly gift this stunning book to anyone of any age who is feeling overwhelmed.

If I Weren’t with You, written by Rosie J. Pova and illustrated by Philip Martineau, is a reassuring story, perfect for bedtime or story time. It’s hard for young ones to picture their parents as anyone BUT their parents which leads Willie to question his mother’s love as they stroll through the forest. Her reaffirming answers bring comfort, while cute illustrations add to the story.

Deep in the Woods is written and illustrated by Christopher Corr. From the gorgeous colorful endpapers to the bright and dazzling illustrations, this is a beautifully designed book. A gentle tale about a variety of animals who despite being very unlike each other, discover they can not only live together but can overcome a disaster by once again working together in order to not leave anyone out (especially a large bear who caused the house to fall down when he couldn’t fit inside.) Colors are like a brand new box of pastels of many shades.

She Persisted, written by Chelsea Clinton and illustrated by Alexandra Boiger, offers wonderful encouragement for young girls with big dreams. I love reading inspirational biographies and found this to be a jackpot with thirteen nuggets in one. The brief stories of these amazing women flow nicely together and show how each woman persisted with her ideas despite running into roadblocks or being told her goal was impossible.

The Secret of Black Rock, written and illustrated by Joe Todd-Stanton, was another fun find. As soon as I saw the cover for this book, I knew I had to get a copy—seals, puffins, and a girl in a boat could only mean great adventures lie ahead. Very enjoyable tale and illustrations!

The Children’s Garden: Growing Food in the City, written by Carole Lexa Schaefer and illustrated by Pierr Morgan, is thoroughly enjoyable. The busy happy children in this lyrical story will inspire everyone to want a garden, whether it be a single flower pot or something larger. The cheerful sun-filled illustrations have a beautiful earthy quality, vivid yet at the same time soft and airy. I especially like seeing all the children doing their own work from planting and tending to harvesting. Love the seed packets on the endpapers, too! This delightful book is based on a real community garden in Seattle, WA.

Little Ree (a child version of the author), written by Ree Drummond and illustrated by Jacqueline Rogers, is told in first-person monologue style. It can be interesting to see how celebrities are allowed to break traditional rules when dabbling in picture book writing. The colorful pictures fill in some of the spaces in this slice of life episode. For example, I enjoyed how with nary a word, the illustrator adds a whole scene of Ree receiving cowgirl clothes from her grandparents. The many cousins who come to visit Ree are fun to match up from page to page, as well.

So now you know, if you enter the children’s area of your local library and see worn copies of old books on display, it might only be because those were the last books taken out and then the library pages tossed them back on top again. Newer picture book purchases could be sitting tidily on the bottom shelf (in alphabetical order by author) never to see the light of day. Despite what some library patrons might think, all fortunate libraries DO buy new books, you might just have to hunt for them OR better yet, ask your friendly librarian to find you a copy!

For more reviews of 2017 picture books, please click here to see my post from several months ago.

As always, happy reading!


  1. Michelle

    Wonderful post on our new children’s books. Your reviews were very helpful.


  2. Joyce Teal

    I do agree that books should be placed at eye level to the reader. We have a library in our community center and it is a battle to get the kids books on their level. Love the new books and your perspective on book placement.


    • Good to know you agree and are encouraging good placement in your community library. Thanks, Joyce!


  3. Wow! What a great collection. The kids will love all of these.


    • They do seem to be flying off the shelves lately. Then again, our library has been super busy all summer. I’m glad you enjoyed the post, Darlene!


  4. These are excellent choices, Marcia. Thank you for the reviews. Three are
    “must haves” for me!


  5. You are right – these colorful books are hard to resist! I work in a library and our children’s shelves are low, like yours are now. Of course, the bottom shelves are in full use too, a little hard on my knees, but the little ones have no problem. I’ll have to share these titles with our children’s librarians. I’m sure they will recognize more titles. As you noted on my blog, The Legend of Rock Paper Scissors is a good one! Happy reading!


    • Yes, those bottom shelves end up the messiest with little ones reorganizing the books at random. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Another reason I love your blog Marcia!! I get to meet so many new books I’ve never heard of!! Love Cynthia Rylant in all her varied forms– (favorite: Christmas in the Country) And this one looks so intriguing. I’ll have to track it down. And The Rain book looks like one we’d love. Reminds me of Peter Speier’s Rain (Dutch, no words but amazing illustration-have you seen it?) Thanks thank Marcia. I’m headed over to Amazon to read more about these titles! Hope you’re having a lovely weekend– we are mostly doing laundry and packing to leave Monday early for our daughter’s Wisconsin wedding! thanks again for the book ideas!! xoxox


    • Yes, I know of Spier’s wonderful book: Rain, nice comparison. Have a wonderful time in Wisconsin, Rhonda! xo

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Is it just me or does the cover of Pandora remind anyone else of the Little Bear books by Maurice Sendak? I’ve always liked that style of cover, which is probably why that thought occurred to me.
    I’ve just finished reading about each of the books in turn, and I can see why they are proving so popular they all sound lovely as does the newly designed children’s area. You have an amazing ‘job’ Marcia, and I rather wish I was you!


    • Good spotting, Barbara! The Pandora cover IS similar to the design of the Little Bear books, I hadn’t thought of that. There’s only so much time to research book purchases and I like to mix it up a bit instead of only buying those with many starred reviews or from the ‘big 5’ publishers, but sometimes you just have to go with the crowd because the books look that good. And then on these posts I try to review a variety whether they end up being my favorites or not. I love working at the library. 🙂


  8. Colleen

    Life- that book looks wonderful! What a fabulous career you have, Marcia. The library must be such a memorable experience for the children ( and for those like me who are not going to be “grown-ups”ever! Thank you for this post – new books on my list!!!


    • You’re not alone, Colleen, I think many of us are still kids-at-heart! 🙂


  9. Bette Norton

    I love your post on picture books! What fun to see all the wonderful book jackets! I have a bookcase full of picture books that I have collected. Including some of mine from childhood.. I love your selections especially Pandora, Life and She Persisted! I will have to check them out! A great post! 🙂


  10. Ashley

    Awesome looks like a great batch!!


  11. Thank you for the quick views of these 2017 picture books, Marcia. Because I write PBs I read them…but I mainly read them because they are fun and wonderful. Picture books also take me to a peaceful place when things seem out of control.


    • Nice description of why picture books are important to you. Thanks for adding to the conversation, Lynn!


  12. Thanks for the great gift ideas for my little niece– I’m always looking for good books for her. The reviews are helpful.


    • Great, I’m glad you got some ideas from the post. Thanks for your comment, Damyanti!


  13. mirkabreen

    Do librarians actually read all the books they acquire for the library? I can see this with the PBs. Lovely ones you posted here, Marcia.


    • Ha, not at all. Pictures books are just to fun to ignore. I can’t keep up with even a fraction of the middle grade books I choose, never mind everything else. We buy hundreds of books each year and it would certainly be nice if we could read them all. 🙂 Thanks, Mirka!


  14. I have read Jabari Jumps- but all the rest are new to me. My school didn’t put my book order in yet, so it seems that school will start without any new books- but hopefully they will arrive by the end of September. New books are always fun. Thanks for sharing all of these with us!


    • Oh, I hope you get your new books soon! Although old favorites can be just as fun, especially to a whole new batch of students. 🙂


  15. Thanks for the glimpse into all these books, Marcia. My grandson is growing too quickly! So many books that he will grow out of before I have an excuse to read them!


  16. Everyone Loves Cupcake is for sale for $4 thru Scholastic Book Club at my son’s school. I loved that one from the library, and would get it, but he wants a dinosaur book pack that costs $12, so maybe I can get ELC next time. =)


    • Aw, maybe next time. Sounds like another good picture book idea—The Battle Between Dinosaur and Cupcake! 🙂


  17. I always enjoy reading your book recommendations. I need to buy a gift for a 1-year-old. Would any of these books be especially good for that age group?


    • Hmm, any of these could be read to babies, but they might be a little bit advanced for them to really get into (holding, chewing, playing with, etc.) I think I’d go with something younger and more interactive. DEAR ZOO is a great lift-the-flap book for one-year-olds and of course GOODNIGHT MOON (comes in board book form, too, IF they don’t already own it). So many good ones coming out. CATCH ME IF YOU CAN is new and cute, it’s one of those that you pop your finger through the holes in the pages. DANCE by Matthew Van Fleet is also new and fun. Anything by Sandra Boynton is a great choice, too. Good luck and happy shopping!


      • Thanks! This is really helpful. I always find it difficult to know which books to select for very young children – and I know that I’ll refer to your suggestions multiple times in the future.


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