Friday, April 15, 2022

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2021 Best Picture Books for Preschoolers Awards

Welcome to the 2021 Best Picture Books for Preschoolers Awards!

I started this award last year, and am now delighted to share the best books for preschoolers (two-six year old children) published in 2021!

We have had books nominated by dozens of publishers, authors, teachers, and parents! I have literally read hundreds of books in preparing this list! Narrowing it down to only 21 winners was extraordinarily difficult! There are many other good books, but I truly believe every preschooler should be exposed to these books!

These award winners were judged on the following criteria:
1- Does this book add significant value to the literature available for preschoolers?
2- Do preschoolers enjoy having someone read this book to them?
3- Do adults enjoy reading these books and/or see value in reading them to children?
4- Was this book published between October 1, 2020 and December 31, 2021?

Obviously awards have a subjective nature to them, and as the host of the award, I retain the final verdict in choosing each title. I hope you enjoy the winners!

A quick note from your sponsor: These awards are brought to you by Preschool Powol Packets (your host here!), and Turtle Trails Publishing! Turtle Trails Publishing released three paperback books last year (Ten Very Merry Yetis, Who Needs a Volcano?, and When Will Cicada Sing?), but they were not included in the contest because we don't want to create a conflict of interest!

And now, on to the awards! I have divided the winning books into eight categories: Most Important, Laugh Out Loud Fun, Inspiration, Emotions & Social Skills, Disability Awareness, Nonfiction, For New Readers, and Great Explanations:

The MOST IMPORTANT picture books from 2021 focus on personal strength and the power we each have for good:

Change Sings by Amanda Gorman encourages us to be the change we need in the world. I love this quote from the author: "My hope was to craft a poem that would take young readers on a journey of self-discovery and ultimately empower them to see how they could become change-makers..."

The Tree in Me by Corinna Luyken reminds us that we all have strength and potential that we sometimes forget.

Apple's Big Dream by Jessica Collaco is a poignant reminder that sometimes disappointment can lead to happiness, and if we can allow our plans to change, sometimes they turn out even better than we expect!

LAUGH OUT LOUD FUN books are especially delightful to read and reread, for both children and adults:

A Pizza With Everything On It by Kyle Scheele explores what happens when you want everything on the pizza! I especially love the space tie-ins!

The Leaf Thief by Alice Hemming follows a paranoid squirrel that thinks someone is stealing his leaves! I especially like the seasons and science connections!

These INSPIRATION books inspire our world-views and encourage us tor reach higher:

Milo Imagines the World by Matt de la Pena reminds us that we can't judge others while encouraging our own creative outlook.

Born to Stand Out by Nikki Rogers is a creative and adorable reminder that the world needs all of our unique preferences! My kids especially loved matching up each species of chameleon that was represented in the story with its picture in the backmatter pages, and "finding" the main character throughout the book!

The EMOTIONS & SOCIAL SKILLS books use fantastic and simple stories to address feelings that are common in preschoolers:

Big Feelings by Alexandra Penfold looks at disappointment, excitement, sharing, and problem-solving all in the context of a creative playground creation!

Jenny Mei is Sad by Tracy Subisak is a gentle reminder that we don't always know how others are feeling. Children who have experienced great sadness might still show up and smile sometimes, and we need to remember to be kind to everyone.

Gilly Ghost Loves Scaring the Most by Heather Robyn teaches kids about boundaries (both respecting others and insisting that others respect yours) with a hilarious and adorable ghost story. My preschoolers found cute little Gilly so adorable that we "had" to re-read the book several times, which of course emphasized the very important lesson (without feeling "preachy") as well! 

These DISABILITY AWARENESS books are each wonderful stories that can serve as a springboard for much bigger topics:

What Happened to You? by James Catchpole shows kids how children with those disabilities should be recognized for themselves, and not any disabilities they might have. Backmatter even includes suggestions on how to talk to your kids about children with visible disabilities and what kinds of questions they might be tired of hearing.

This Kid Can Hyperfocus by Patty DeDurr is all about determination and friendship, but the subtle challenges and strengths that can come with ADHD ride just below the surface throughout the entire story. My preschoolers love this kid, and the story emphasizes some important aspects of ADHD that I shared with my older kids as well.

Mighty Mila by Katie Petruzziello is a story about Mila wanting to do everything by herself, a struggle every preschooler can relate to! It just happens that Mila also has cochlear implants, which creates a great springboard for discussions with your children, ranging from the science behind hearing loss to how much children have in common (whether or not they have visible disabilities). 

These NONFICTION books include history, counting, and hidden pictures:

Try It!: How Frieda Caplan Changed the Way We Eat by Mara Rockliff includes a history lesson about our grocery stores while encouraging preschoolers to try new foods!

Ten Little Sandpipers by Kim Ann is a counting book for young children. One of my preschoolers kept this book within arm's reach for about three weeks, and we read it several times a day! They love the adorable sandpipers, predictable rhymes, hidden pictures, and counting practice!

There it is! Ahi Esta! A Search & Find Book in English & Spanish by Marta Almansa Esteva features a set of themed "hidden" pictures on every page, with labels in English and Spanish. The hidden pictures are absolutely irresistible, and this book came with us on every car drive for about a month! They are "hidden" just hard enough that young children feel very successful as they find them without assistance, and I appreciate the bilingual aspect of the book as well.


See the Cat: Three Stories About a Dog by David LaRochelle could easily fit in the Laugh Out Loud category above -- it is absolutely hilarious! The story proceeds between a narrator who says things like "See the cat." and the main character, a dog, who replies with things like "I am not a cat!" The humor is brilliant! I am putting it in this category, however, because most of the words are decodable, which makes it perfect for kids who are ready to start reading some of the words in their books!

What's an Og? by Mary Barry became another most-requested book the first time we read it. With fun word play and rhymes, the reader is introduced to an "og" -- a creature made from logs, dogs, frogs, and other hilarious combinations of words that end with '-og.'  My preschoolers love when I read it to them, and my beginning reader loved seeing so many words that she could decode as we read.

These GREAT EXPLANATIONS books range from fable to flower anatomy--they all have a very unique way of explaining things:

How the Zebras Lost Their Colors by Janet R. Adams is a modern fable about how the zebras colored the world around while finding their own identity. My preschoolers loved tracking the colors, seeing what changed, and discussing how some animals are colorful and others are black and white.

One Drop, Endless Ripples by Jayshree L. Patel introduces the water cycle with a gentle poem. My preschoolers were entranced by the illustrations, and insisted on finding and counting the "hidden" drops on every page. I also love the unusual approach to the water cycle!

What's Inside a Flower by Rachel Ignotofsky has preschooler-friendly diagrams of flower anatomy, along with wonderful explanations of how plants work! This is a fantastic child-friendly reference book! (Yes, this also fits in the Nonfiction category, but I love its explanations too much to not put it here!)

A Note to Authors & Publishers:

Authors and publishers who were featured are welcome to share this list, link to it, and share the collage images. You are also welcome to use this digital badge for your own promotional purposes:

If you are an author or publisher who would like to have your 2022 books considered for next year's awards, please plan on submitting your book between November 1st, 2022 and February 1st, 2023. You can sign up here to receive an email when submissions open in November.


Happy Educating,

Dinosaur Made Me Sneeze!
This awesome book introduces the rock cycle with dinosaurs, volcanoes, and more!
(hint: You can buy it on Amazon or use the code Dinosaur25 at!!)

Have you seen HEEP? It is a preschool homeschool curriculum! Learn more here!

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