Picture Books 2022

Hyacinths by Hannah Foley. All rights reserved (www.hannah-foley.co.uk)

The Tree is down and the decorations put away. The kids have been freshly bathed and checked for head lice (what a job!), ready for the new term. I brought the hyacinth bulbs we planted in the autumn, out of the shed and onto the windowsills. Green beaks puncture the dark soil. Now I am sitting with my back to the kitchen radiator, mug of tea in hand, watching the sun go down behind the trees. 2023 is here and we are ready!

I wondered if this might be my last year of posting our favourite picture books from the last twelve months. Wren is six and dragged beyond her years by her older siblings’ reading habits. She pours over Little Owl’s graphic novels and methodically sounds out each phonic in Finch’s chapter books. But no, she is as delighted as ever by being read to. She snuggles up, utterly absorbed by the experience. Once we start reading, I notice Finch pause, and slowly creep closer so he can nonchalantly cast an eye at the pictures. He still loves a picture book too. So, without further ado, here are the picture books we were bought, given or borrowed, and LOVED, in 2022…

Mouse’s Wood by Alice Melvin is a seasonal wander and wonder through the woods, meeting the animals, plants and other creatures in each month. Alice’s vintage style illustrations make this book feel like a charming throwback to the 1930s and will be especially loved by fans of Alison Uttley’s Little Grey Rabbit. But what makes this book so enchanting is the flaps that allow you to see inside the animals’ homes, boiling up fruit for jam or snuggling up by the stove.

The Queen of the Birds is written by acclaimed folk singer, Karine Polwart. After a storm the birds of the world are in such a muddle, they decide they need a king to sort them out. The result isn’t quite what they expected and the ending especially tickles Wren, but I won’t spoil it! This book is splendidly illustrated by the incredible Kate Leiper, whose pictures manage to be so lifelike yet so full of character at the same time.

Wren’s favourite picture book author-illustrator is Briony May Smith. She was delighted when we visited the Waterstones window in Exeter last year, which Briony had painted with characters from her latest book. Wren is desperate for Briony’s upcoming book, The Mermaid Moon, out in the US but not yet here. So instead, we settled for an older title we didn’t have, Little Bear’s Spring. The text is by Elli Woollard but it’s Briony’s characterful illustrations which make this book so special. As Little Bear searches for Spring we are drawn through the natural world waking up from a long winter. We’ll have to let you know what we think of The Mermaid Moon next year. It’s on the birthday list!

The Wall in the Middle of the Book by Jon Agee has the feel of a vintage classic from the 60s. The deceptively simple story and illustrations cleverly play with the visual line created by the spine of the physical book. In the grand tradition of 60s picture books, this story mixes humour and politics to brilliant effect.

Finch loved Joe Todd-Stanton’s graphic novel-esque series, Brownstone’s Mythical Collection. The Comet is similarly, impeccably illustrated, but is a more traditional picture book story. A little girl moves to a new home in the city and struggles to adjust, until, one day, a comet passes overhead. This story is all about finding the beauty where we are.

The Last Rainbow Bird by Nora Brech is another stunningly illustrated story which explores conservation themes. Alex and Jo journey though a magical world in search of the rarest bird, the Rainbow Bird. Will they find it in time for Professor Feather to save the species?

I am the Subway by Kim Hyo-eun has been translated from Korean by Deborah Smith. It is written from the perspective of the subway, fondly exploring the lives of the inhabitants of the city. It has an anime quality to it, a beguiling mix of poetry, story and artwork.

The Baker by the Sea by Paula White was one of the Sunday Times Best Children’s Books of 2022 and tells the story of an old fishing community from the perspective of the baker’s son. While undoubtedly, the village is portrayed through rose-tinted spectacles, the strong sense of place, loyalty to community and the idea that each person has their part to play is a powerful message for children faced with the fickle and transient global marketplace of a world we live in.

A Dress With Pockets by Lily Murray and Jenny Lovelie is a delight of a book. When Aunt Augusta takes Lucy dress shopping, Lucy causes outrage by asking for one with pockets. Where else will she keep the things she finds when she goes exploring? The shells and frogs and stones and feathers? By being true to herself, Lucy changes the view of the adults around her. What a special message for our small ones, who have so little power but are precious beyond our imaginings.

So, there we are. Our favourites from this year. As always, we are so grateful to the booksellers, bloggers and reviewers who have brought these fabulous books to our attention. Three cheers and thankyou!

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