Following my previous post about my favorite books of 2014, I wanted to share a few of my favorite contemporary children’s authors. After having gone through scores of books that had been stored up from my 1970s childhood, and having been throughly unimpressed by most of them, I have been struck by the quality of the storytelling and illustrations in recent years. Here are a few standouts.
Brian Floca heads up my short list for his book Moonshot, which tells the story of Apollo 11. His enchanting narrative and his meticulous drawings somehow manage to satisfy both star-gazing children and “rivet counting” engineers. He has followed up this first book with several others on the general theme of transportation.
- Racecar Alphabet
- Five Trucks
Bonny Becker has created a delightful series of books about the relationship between a high-maintenance bear and a very tolerant mouse.
- A Bedtime for Bear
- The Sniffles for Bear
- A Visitor for Bear
- A Birthday for Bear
- A Library Book for Bear
It’s not a huge stretch to claim that Chris Van Dusen’s books offer as much rollicking play with words and images as the best Dr. Seuss classics. His illustrations have a 1950s inspired feel to them—but reimagined and fresh. Randy Riley’s Really Big Hit is among my kids’ top 10 favorites. Play ball!
- If I Built a Car
- Down to the Sea with Mr. McGee
- A Camping Spree with Mr. McGee
- King Hugo’s Huge Ego
- The Circus Ship
- Randy Riley’s Really Big Hit
- Learning to Ski with Mr. McGee
- If I Built a House
Jerry Pickney and Helen Ward are gorgeous illustrators. Check out these retellings of classic children’s stories. I keep coming back to these books again and again, and they continue to fascinate our kids through different stages and interests.
- Noah’s Ark
- The Tortoise and the Hare
- The Rooster and the Fox
- The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse
Sally Lloyd-Jones is the author of the enormously popular Jesus Storybook Bible. She teamed up with her illustrator, Jago, for this follow-up of Bible-inspired riffs—not quite songs but often lyrical, not poetry but often poetic—for children.
- Thoughts to Make the Heart Sing
Honorable mentions for these compilations, published by British publisher Usborne: Illustrated Classics for Boys and Illustrated Classics for Girls, which are perfectly pitched and handsomely illustrated for your early listeners—and mercifully abridged for us older readers.
There’s nothing like reading aloud. I hope that you enjoying that lost art with a kid, or a kid at heart, this Christmas season.