Carson Ellis captured my attention with her 2015 title, Home. It’s the kind of picture book that a child can really spend time with, visiting each sublimely detailed, fanciful home over and over. It was my picture book of last year, the one I purchased for love.

Every year I purchase a few standout picture books for my collection. There are some Caldecott winners or Honors in my collection, some overlooked gems, some foreign books. This year, Ellis’ Du Iz Tak was an immediate purchase, love at first sight. As with Home, the art is luminous and whimsical, but in this book, Ellis creates a magical, small world complete with a unique language. I have no doubt that children will understand this story with its foreign words. In fact, this book speaks directly to the essence of what a good picture book is, the marriage of illustration and text to tell a story. Readers engage their narrative skill to interpret meaning.

I don’t usually like it when a book with more than 32 pages wins a Caldecott, but I think that Melissa Sweet’s Some Writer: the Story of E.B. White has a good chance of being honored. Among other awards,
Sweet has received a Caldecott Honor for A River of Words: The Story of William Carlos Williams by Jennifer Bryant. As with several of her other books, in Some Writer, Sweet employs collage as her medium combining White’s words, photos, and Sweet’s original watercolor paintings to create a visual feast.

Another book that’s in the running for my favorite picture book of 2016 is Joyce Sidman’s Before Morning. Illustrator, Beth Kommes creates cozy scenes of an early morning blizzard that keeps everyone happily home. Kommes was honored with a Caldecott in 2009 for The House in the Night, and I think the engravings in Before Morning are even more finely detailed and beautiful.

The Uncorker of Bottles by Michelle Cuevas is another favorite. Illustrator Erin E. Stead has already won a Caldecott for her collaboration with husband, Philip C. Stead on A Sick Day for Amos McGee. In Uncorker, her characteristic subtly colored woodblock and pencil illustrations compliment Cuevas’ lyrical text about a lonely seaman who collects and delivers messages he finds in bottles. The heart-warming conclusion is a celebration of what is best in people.

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