I am more than a little saddened to say that this was one of the hardest roundups to do. I just have not had time to dedicate to children's books, as I've been juggling three jobs with my writing and also, you know, laundry and eating regularly. Life is hard, guys. I don't know how you mothers do it. You have my overwhelming respect!
But, here, with little flourish, but promises that these books really are great, are my top fifteen picks for 2011 (in alphabetical order by author):
The Artist Who Painted a Blue Horse by Eric Carle: Another joyful celebration of the imagination by one of the most prolific and beloved illustrators alive today.
The Iron Giant by Ted Hughes, illustrations by Laura Carlin: I've always loved this fantastic story since I first came across the animated film. It gets a fresh look for a new generation with wonderful new illustrations by Laura Carlin.
I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen: One of my favorite illustrators (see last year's Cat's Night Out), John Klassen is wry and funny in his little tale about a bear and his hat.
To Market, To Market by Niki McClure: McClure's gorgeous paper cut-outs celebrate the incredible diversity of produce and the great fun it is to go to the Market.
The High Street by Alice Melvin: A flip-book for your resident anglophile. (Me! Me!)
Orani: My Father's Village by Claire Nivola: Nivola's gorgeous illustrations of her father's village in Italy remind me of Anno. Her prose is lucid and vibrant. It makes me want to live there!
Brother Sun and Sister Moon by Katherine Patterson, illustrated by Pamela Dalton: I know! Another picture book about Francis of Assisi. But oh my goodness, the illustrations! Beautiful! They have also produced a companion piece--The Story of Christmas.
A Ball for Daisy by Chris Raschka: Raschka is hilarious and touching, as always, in this story about a dog and her beloved toy.
One Starry Night by Lauren Thompson, illustrated by Jonathan Bean: A pretty and elegant new take on the Christmas story. Perhaps the best new Christmas book in years.
Press Here by Herve Tullet: By far and without a doubt, this is my favorite book of 2011.
Along a Long Road by Frank Viva: Another in the retro-style picture books, this is about a bike ride, and the long road makes, in fact, and infinite loop that will fascinate attentive readers.
A Zeal of Zebras by Woop Studios: I love me a good collective noun. And a good alphabet book. And a good animal book. How fun to have all three in one title.
All the Way to America by Dan Yaccarino: The mind behind the brilliant and engaging The Fantastic Undersea Life of Jacques Cousteau, Dan Yaccarino, has created a tale about four generations of an Italian family--starting with the arrival on Ellis Island. A real delight.
And don't forget the reprinted editions:
The Phantom Tollbooth (scroll to the end of the post)
The Rescuers by Margery Sharp, illustrated by Garth Williams: finally back in print--one of the best adventures ever.
Related: The dangers of the Caldecott