Notable – (Delightful!) – Children’s Books of 2012

Books play a profound role in a child’s learning. Language skills and greater awareness of the world are just two reasons on a long list of the benefits of reading to your child. Active, engaged reading bonds the caretaker with the child, teaches important themes and introduces drama and wonder to the child’s life, both visually and aurally.

To celebrate the closing of 2012 and the joys of reading, we’re posting the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC) Notable Children’s Books of 2012 in the “Younger Readers” category, which includes children in Preschool (age 2) to Grade 2 (age 7). We love the ALSC’s mission and continue to renew our shelves with the best recent children’s books, along with the classics.

From the ASLC website:

Each year a committee of the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC) identifies the best of the best in children’s books. According to the Notables Criteria, “notable” is defined as: Worthy of note or notice, important, distinguished, outstanding. As applied to children’s books, notable should be thought to include books of especially commendable quality, books that exhibit venturesome creativity, and books of fiction, information, poetry and pictures for all age levels (birth through age 14) that reflect and encourage children’s interests in exemplary ways.

According to ALSC policy, the current year’s Newbery, Caldecott,  Belpré, Sibert, Geisel, and Batchelder Award and Honor books automatically are added to the Notable Children’s Books list.

Outside of Nomura, the library is a great place to visit regularly for an exciting flow of great children’s books. Designated story times are typically well-attended, fun and social occasions at libraries, so check your local library’s calendar for times. Librarians specializing in children’s books are also great resources.

There is a wide and exciting range of books on the list. We organized the 2012 list into categories for easier browsing: Environmental/Physical World, Animals/Pets, Citizenship/Society, Family, Lost – And Found, Magic/Imagination, Language/Introducing Ideas, and Food.


Environmental/Physical World

All the Water in the World. By George Ella Lyon, Illus. by Katherine Tillotson, Atheneum Books for Young Readers. From deserts to the kitchen sink, the water cycle is lyrically yet economically described in Lyon’s poem emphasizing the importance of water conservation. Katherine Tillotson’s digital paintings splash, surge and drip off the page.

Do You Know Which Ones Will Grow?, By Susan A. Shea, Illus. by Tom Slaughter. Blue Apple Books. This book playfully challenges children’s concepts of the growth capacity of living vs. non-living things in a fun and engaging way.

Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site. By Sherri Duskey Rinker, Illus. by Tom Lichtenheld. Chronicle Books. Truck-loving toddlers will be willingly tucked into bed along with the vehicles in this superbly constructed goodnight poem. A NYT Bestseller for 60 weeks and counting.

Grandpa Green. By Lane Smith, Illus. by the author. Roaring Brook Press. Elaborate topiary sculptures give visual form to memories in a wildly fanciful garden tended by a child and his beloved great-grandfather. (A 2012 Caldecott Honor Book)

Little Treasures: Endearments from Around the World. By Jacqueline K. Ogburn. Illus. by Chris Raschka. Houghton Mifflin. Raschka’s pictures give distinct personalities to the subjects of these endearments and the book is a reminder of how much children are loved in every language and culture. Translations and pronunciation guides are included.

Little White Rabbit. By Kevin Henkes, Illus. by the author. Greenwillow Books. Little white rabbit explores the springtime world wondering what it would be like to be different – green, tall, solid, or able to fly  – but when he comes home he knows who loves him.



A Ball for Daisy. By Chris Raschka, Illus. by the author, Schwartz & Wade Books. A wordless tale of an irrepressible little dog whose most prized possession is accidently destroyed. A buoyant tale of loss, recovery, and friendship. (2012 Caldecott Medal Book)

Bring on the Birds. By Susan Stockdale, Illus. by the author. Peachtree. Rhyming couplets and clear, identifiable illustrations remind readers that birds vary in many ways, but all have feathers and are hatched from eggs. Colorful acrylics help provide just the right of information for preschool ornithologists.

The Cazuela that the Farm Maiden Stirred. By Samantha R. Vamos, Illus. by Rafael López. Charlesbridge. Nothing is better than a delicious bowl of arroz con leche unless, of course, a host of farm animals have a hand in the preparation! (A 2012 Belpré Illustrator Honor Book)

Harry and Hopper. By Margaret Wild, Illus. by Freya Blackwood. Feiwel & Friends. A poignant depiction of grief and acceptance at the loss of a beloved pet is relayed in this quietly moving story whose illustrations add emotional depth.

I Broke My Trunk. By Mo Willems. Illus. by the author. Hyperion Books for Children. Piggie is very concerned about his best friend, Gerald the Elephant, who has broken his trunk, and Gerald tells him a long, rambling story about how it happened. (A 2012 Geisel Honor Book)

Me…Jane. By Patrick McDonnell, Illus. by the author. Little, Brown. Watching birds and squirrels in her yard, a young girl discovers the joy and wonder of nature. A glimpse of the childhood of renowned primatologist Jane Goodall. (A 2012 Caldecott Honor Book)

Over and Under the Snow. By Kate Messner, Illus. by Christopher Silas Neal. Chronicle Books. While skiing cross-country with her father, a girl envisions the “secret kingdom” under the snow, where small forest animals shelter in winter. Neal’s bright, snowy landscapes contrast with his depictions of shadowed, subterranean nests.

Prudence Wants a Pet. By Cathleen Daly, Illus. by Stephen Michael King. Roaring Brook Press. In this quietly humorous picture book illustrated in soft colors, Prudence tries out a branch, a twig, a shoe, her little brother, a tire, and sea buddies until her parents finally give her a kitten as a pet.

See Me Run. By Paul Meisel, Illus. by the author. Holiday House. Dogs and more dogs are everywhere: running, sliding, jumping, splashing, and having fun. (A 2012 Geisel Honor Book)

Ten Little Caterpillars. By Bill Martin, Jr., Illus. by Lois Ehlert. Beach Lane Books. Ten different caterpillars inch their ways across vibrantly-illustrated environs in this newly-illustrated, rhyming story. Supplemental facts widen the book’s appeal and usefulness. Ehlert’s watercolor collages are remarkably entomologically accurate.



Mouse & Lion. By Rand Burkert, Illus. by Nancy Ekholm Burkert. di Capua/Scholastic. Mouse is the center of this retelling of a familiar Aesop’s fable.  Elegant illustrations place the story solidly in the natural world of Africa.

Naamah and the Ark at Night. By Susan Campbell Bartoletti, Illus. by Holly Meade. Candlewick Press. As the waters rage, this lullaby reveals Noah’s wife as a nurturer of diverse creatures aboard the ark. Watercolor and collage illustrations amplify the text, a form of lyrical Arabic poetry, called ghazal. 

Should I Share My Ice Cream?  By Mo Willems, Illus. by the author. Hyperion Books for Children. A common human problem is posed and solved with Willems’ minimal illustration and graceful humor.

These Hands. By Margaret H. Mason, Illus. by Floyd Cooper. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Both an affirmation of a nurturing relationship between grandfather and grandson and an explanation of one reason labor unions fought for workers’ rights, the brief text and warm illustrations tell an uplifting American story.



Blackout. By John Rocco, Illus. by the author. Disney/Hyperion Books. A summer power outage draws an urban family up to their building’s roof and then down to the street for an impromptu block party. (A 2012 Caldecott Honor Book)

Chirchir Is Singing. By Kelly Cunnane, Illus. by Jude Daly. Schwartz & Wade Books. In this cumulative story set in Kenya, Chirchir sings as she tries to help with family chores.  Acrylic folk art highlights the activities of daily life in this rural setting. 

A New Year’s Reunion: A Chinese Story. By Yu Li-Qiong, Illus. by Zhu Cheng-Liang, Candlewick Press. Vibrant illustrations highlight a young girl’s joy when her father makes his annual visit for Chinese New Year in this tender story.

Tìa Isa Wants a Car. By Meg Medina, Illus. by Claudio Muñoz. Candlewick Press. Using a cheerful positive tone, Medina depicts a warm relationship between Tia Isa and her niece and shows the strength of community as a life-long dream is realized.


Lost – And Found

I Want My Hat Back. By Jon Klassen, Illus. by the author. Candlewick Press. After losing his hat, Bear politely and patiently questions his fellow forest dwellers as to the whereabouts of his “red pointy hat.” (A 2012 Geisel Honor Book)

Where’s Walrus?  By Stephen Savage, Illus. by the author. Scholastic. Walrus escapes from the zoo and cleverly disguises himself around the city; the zoopkeeper and the children reading the book search for him on each bold, bright page of this wordless book.



King Jack and the Dragon. By Peter Bently, Illus. by Helen Oxenbury. Dial Books for Young Readers. Enhanced by whimsical illustrations, this story of the wonders and terrors created by a child’s imagination, shows the power of playtime and the magic of make-believe.

Stars. By Mary Lyn Ray, Illus. by Marla Frazee. Beach Lane Books. A duet of spare, poetic observations and ethereal illustrations explore the realities and possibilities of many kinds of stars, embracing the immediacy of a child’s experiences. A great read aloud.


Language/Introducing Concepts

Dot. By Patricia Intriago, Illus. by the author. Farrar Straus Giroux. To a child’s delight, bright dots and brief rhyming verses cleverly demonstrate antonyms and synonyms in this clever picture book.

Tell Me the Day Backwards. By Albert Lamb, Illus. by David McPhail, Candlewick Press. Mama bear and child reflect on the day, recounting its events in reverse order.  Gentle and reassuring, this book wonderfully illustrates a sometimes difficult concept: the flow of time.

Who Has What?: All About Girls’ Bodies and Boys’ Bodies. By Robie H. Harris, Illus. by Nadine Bernard Westcott. Candlewick Press. In a cheerful, easy tone, Harris explains who’s got what body parts, their similarities of differences. Girls, boys and adults of many ethnicities – even animals – are included in the loose-lined illustrations depicting the “bare” facts.



Tales for Very Picky Eaters. By Josh Schneider, Illus. by the author, Clarion Books. Five chapters recount James’ refusal to eat yet another disgusting, smelly, repulsive, lumpy, or slimy food. (2012 Geisel Medal Book)