2016 Finalists: Fiction Picture Books

A Hungry Lion, or A Dwindling Assortment of Animals
by Lucy Ruth Cummins
Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Nominated by: Sondra Eklund

“Once upon a time there was a hungry lion” the book begins, and then lists all the other adorable animals surrounding him. Oh wait, that’s not quite right. Let’s try listing those animals again. And again. And… where did everybody go? Surprise! Of course the lion didn’t eat them all! It’s a party! Um….they’re going to eat the cake, right? Well….maybe not….

There are quite a few “a hungry animal is going to eat you, no, wait, it’s just a party” books, but this one stands out with its triple-twist and giggle-worthy ending. Cummins’ bright, colorful illustrations feature an adorable assortment of animals – and a stoic lion with a glare that fits his naughty personality perfectly. Cummins has a perfect sense of timing as she plays out the joke and surprises readers on every page. A Hungry Lion will keep your storytime audience and classes laughing hysterically as they request multiple readings so they can catch every detail.

Jennifer Wharton, Jean Little Library

Ida, Always
by Caron Levis, illustrated by Charles Santoso
Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Nominated by: Jennifer Rumberger

Filled with lyrical language and vivid verbs, this book reads like poetry. The story of Gus and Ida touches on death and friendship in a peaceful and hopeful way. The illustrations add depth and power to the well chosen words. The unmistakable bond between Ida and Gus creates an emotional resonance that stays with you long after you’ve read it. You’re reminded that those you’ve lost are right there with with you. Always.

Kirstine Call, Reading for Research

One Day in the Eucalyptus, Eucalyptus Tree
by Daniel Bernstrom, illustrated by Brendan Wenzel
Nominated by: Heidi G.

“One day in the leaves
of the eucalyptus tree
hung a scare in the air
where no eye could see,

when along skipped a boy
with a whirly-twirly toy,
to the shade of the eucalyptus,
eucalyptus tree.”

Are your toes tapping? There’s a definite rhythm going that makes this book a natural read-aloud. Children can of course see the snake peeking out of the eucalyptus tree, and that snake gobbles up that boy with the whirly-twirly toy. The boy keeps calm and immediately hatches a plan, convincing the snake to swallow more and more adorably illustrated creatures, until he is finally so full, he…er…burps them all out. Early literacy skills, a feeling of empowerment, fun illustrations, science and social studies extensions, and just plain fun make this a well-rounded addition to the list.

Ami Jones, A Mom’s Spare Time

Strictly No Elephants
by Lisa Mantchev, illustrated by Taeeun Yoo
Simon & Schuster
Nominated by: Flowering Minds

When one little boy and his tiny pet elephant try to participate in Pet Club Day, they are met with a sign that says: Strictly No Elephants. Despite their sadness, they push forward together and ultimately travel from the realization that they do not fit in that club, to a joyful accomplishment and a place where they can celebrate their differences with friends. This well-written and aptly-illustrated book conveys the sadness and sweet success often found in the process of finding true friends and subtly suggests the meaning of friendship.

Lynne Marie, My Word Playground

The Night Gardener
by Terry and Eric Fan
Simon & Schuster
Nominated by: Betsy

The Night Gardener is a magical book. A small town is forever changed by the works of the Night Gardener, a mysterious man who creates new topiaries out of the local trees each night. One little boy, William, is impacted a bit more. One night after celebrating with the neighbors late into the night, William comes upon the Night Gardener and gets to help him create many creations in the local park. Though the trees only last until fall, the community is never the same again. And a small gift from the Night Gardener inspires William for a life time.

The text in this book is fairly minimal, with no more than a few sentences per two-page spread. The illustrations begin in muted tones with only the topiaries in color. But as the story progresses and the people in the neighborhood are impacted by the Night Gardener’s sculptures, they begin to appear in color as well. By the end of the book, the whole town is in full color, appearing as vibrant and alive as the people of the town. This book is perfect for kids ages 4-8.

Kate Unger, Mom’s Radius

There’s a Bear on My Chair
by Ross Collins
Nosy Crow Books
Publisher/ Author Submission

“There’s a bear on my chair!”
On my chair!
I declare! A bear on my chair!

A mouse arrives home and discovers an enormous polar bear is sitting on his chair. How far will the mouse go to remove that bear from his chair?

There’s a Bear on My Chair is a exuberant tale filled with surprising rhyme and unexpected plot twists and wild mouse mood swings. This is a book children will ask to hear over and over again, with side benefits: you will love reading it over and over, and it will soon be a book children will find they can read solo.

Dare to ensnare this rare and extraordinaire bear-chair affair, There’s a Bear on My Chair.

Deb Nance, Readerbuzz

They All Saw a Cat
by Brendan Wenzel
Chronicle Books
Nominated by: PragmaticMom

“The cat walked through the world, with its whiskers, ears, and paws . . .”
When you see a cat, what do you see? A child sees a cute calico cat and wants to pet the kitty. But a mouse sees a large black cat with yellow crazed eyes, large pointed teeth, and long sharp claws ready to pounce. It is all a matter of perspective in Brendan Wenzel’s debut. He gives children twelve animals’ vision of the cat. The beautiful images will have children thinking about size and perspective, giving them a new view of their world.

Sue Morris, Kid Lit Reviews