1. Hoot and Peep by Lita Judge.
Exquisite illustrations reminiscent of Van Gogh’s Starry Night really make this picture book stand out as a gem. The story features a pompous older old brother who wants to share his owly wisdom with his little sister and doesn’t seem to appreciate his sister’s unique voice. When I shared it in storytime, I invited the children to “hoo” along with the owls, which ended up being a big hit! This book is a tad on the longer side, so it’s best to share it slightly older preschoolers, though the toddlers in my group enjoyed “hoo-ing” just as much as the older kids. “Hoo-ing” aside, this is also a quieter book, best shared at the start of storytime before the wiggles really take over.
2. Super Jumbo by Fred Koehler.
Every child dreams of being a super hero, and this picture book perfectly captures the imaginative ways children pretend to save the day. Prior to storytime, I enjoyed examining the pictures and got a chuckle over some of the details. During storytime, I appreciated the spare text that makes this book great for sharing with wiggly kids and toddlers. I also loved the opportunities for open-ended questions that this book presented. Examples include: “Who is he helping?”, “Do you think they want to be helped?”, and “What’s Super Jumbo’s greatest weakness?” The story ends with the message that helping a friend makes the world a little more super.
3. Get Out of My Bath by Britta Teckentrup
This is an older one (copyright, 2015), but I didn’t get a chance to use it in storytime until recently because it had been so popular that it was almost constantly checked out! This is an interactive book in which you tilt and shake the book to make the bath water move. While I’m not thrilled with the way elephant asks the other animals to leave her bath (“Get out of my bath” just seems a little rude to me), the kids definitely enjoyed the story and parents wanted to check the book out after storytime. The illustrations are also cute, and the fact that this book is interactive and short makes it perfect for a wiggly crowd!
4. The Opposite Zoo by Il Sung Na
I’m sure it’s a surprise to no one that a book by Il Sung Na is on this list. This book features Na’s whimsical artwork and also focuses on a favorite topic for the younger crowd: opposites! A monkey visits its neighbors in a zoo, and the readers are introduced to various opposites by the animals. Some are predictable: the sloth is slow, and the cheetah is fast. But other pairings are more imaginative. When I read this in a family storytime, the kids loved pointing out the various opposite pairs. The short text and colorful illustrations makes this book perfect for a toddler storytime, but it works equally well for the slightly older crowd.
5. Good Night Like This by Mary Murphy
Pretty much everything by Mary Murphy is storytime gold, but I love this book in particular because of it’s twilight colors and the calming text. This is a perfect book calming down a hyper-active bunch (if they are able to be calmed down, that is), and it’s also great for a quieter bunch. Perceptive children may even spot the silhouettes of animals telling others good night on each page.
6. I Am Bear by Ben Bailey Smith and Sav Akyuz
I gotta warn you, this book could wrinkle some parent noes over the fact that the bear starts out bare. I personally feel, however, that it’s a good opportunity to expand vocabulary and maybe talk about homophones (plus the kids will get a good laugh). Bare bears aside, this book is wonderful. Full of bright colors with only two sentences per spread, this could work very well for kids of all ages. There’s also an opportunity for a game of peek-a-boo, and who doesn’t love shouting out BOO in storytime?
7. Puddle by Hyewon Yum
Okay, I haven’t actually tried it yet, but I have grand plans for this book in storytime. My plan involves paper, crayons, and having the kids draw their own version of puddles while I read the story. At the end, we’ll all stand up, put our puddles on the floor and jump in! Depending on the crowd, this could either be a great extension activity or a disaster. Still, I’m super excited to try something creative with this imaginative book!
8. Peddles by Elizabeth Ross Stanton
Speaking of imaginative stories, Peddles is about an adorable pig who thinks outside of the box. When Peddles discovers his love for dancing, he goes off to find some appropriate footwear. After a few unfortunate options (paint cans, flower pots, and even bee hives) Peddles finds a nice pair of red boots. Unfortunately, he finds it difficult to walk in said boots until he gets some help from his barnyard friends. Featuring pencil and watercolor illustrations and focusing on the themes of creativity and teamwork, this is a great one to share in storytime!
9. Strictly No Elephants by Lisa Montchev
I feel like I say this a lot — or, at least, I think it a lot — but this book is SO FRIGGIN’ CUTE! A little boy with a pet elephant is excluded from a pet club due to his unusual choice of pet. While this is very disheartening the boy eventually finds other children with weird pets and they start their own club. The illustrations are charming and the story could open up a great conversation about inclusion and treating others as you want to be treated. If that’s a little heavy-handed for your storytimes, you could also change the conversation to what kinds of unusual pets the kids would like to have and make a chart of their pets (unusual or otherwise) to add a STEM activity!
10. Dear Yeti by James Kwan
Two hikers set out to meet the illusive yeti in this wonderful story. Told through a series of (storytime-short) letters to the yeti, we follow the hikers and see how the yeti watches over them on their trip. When a mean, old grizzly attacks, the gentle yeti saves that day using only words (no violence). The story ends with the hikers getting a letter back from the yeti. This is a sweet story to share with a storytime crowd.