Picture Books

Picture books are booming. Each month seems to bring to the bookshop shelves more startling illustration, imaginative stories and deadpan comic creations.

What follows is a glance ahead at some of the most interesting-looking picture book titles… where no illustrator is mentioned the creator is both author and illustrator.

Incidentally, there seem to be a lot of picturebook rabbits about this year. In 2020 are we at peak bunny?

JANUARY

Lorna Scobie, Rabbit! Rabbit! Rabbit! (Scholastic)
Scobie’s previous book Collecting Cats was equal parts joyous and colourfur-l. This promises more unique humour and a subtle message of reassurance for anyone who might feel like Rabbit when ‘things start to get awfully crowded at home!’.

Fiona Roberton, Ready, Rabbit? (Hodder Children’s Books)
A story about overcoming your fears featuring a slightly anxious Little Rabbit. Big eyed, addictive illustrated characters.

Meg McKinlay and illustrated by Nathaniel Eckstrom, DUCK! (Walker)
Some calamitous farmyard occurrences with a much-ignored duck who shouts ‘duck!’ More bold colours and comedy to boot.

Kate Davies and illustrated by Isabelle Follath, The Incredible Hotel (Frances Lincoln Children’s Books)
The capacious human world of a grand hotel in technicolour glory. Features great incidental depictions of cats and pigeons.

Louise Greig and illustrated by Laura Hughes, The Bear Who Did (Egmont)
Rhymes, bears and the dangerous allure of honey. Energetic illustrations and sing-song narration. Indie Book of the Month across many independent bookshops.

Katie Abey, We Catch the Bus (Bloomsbury Children’s)
Previously Abey has documented how these animals wear pants, eat bananas and now it’s the turn of transport. In the company of this excellent menagerie discover some other important methods of getting about.

FEBRUARY

Elina Ellis, The Truth About Old People (Two Hoots)
Suspicious though they might appear, Ellis reveals that ‘old people’ however you might term them, are nothing like you imagine.

Jon Burgerman, Everybody Has A Body (OUP)
This looks a quirky and colourful picture book, recognising there is no one ideal body.

Emma Perry and illustrated by Sharon Davey, I Don’t Like Books. Never. Ever. The End (David Fickling)
Emma Perry’s debut picture book, with dynamic and characterful illustrations from Sharon Davey. Mabel does not like books, but this is the tale of how books ensure the stories inside them capture her imagination.

MARCH

Coralie Bickford-Smith, The Song of the Tree (Particular Books)
Known for The Fox and the Star, The Worm and the Bird, and iconic design work on the Penguin English Library series, bird song is the prompt for what is sure to be another mesmerising book.

Beatrice Blue, Once Upon a Dragon’s Fire (Francis Lincoln Children’s Books)
In this magic kingdom, dragons have been getting some poor PR. They’re accused of all manner of terrifying behaviour in books (tsk) but this one sets everything straight… getting to the bottom of how the dragon got it’s fire. Beatrice Blue’s art is distinctive and engaging.

Margarita Surnaite, The Lost Book (Andersen)
Not just one rabbit, but Surnaite’s book takes place in Rabbit Town (!) where everyone likes to read. Everyone except Henry who prefers the outdoors. But a chance encounter leads Henry to both adventure and fall in love with books! Result.

Ciara Gavin and illustrated by Tim Warnes, A Little Bit Worried (Little Tiger)
A worried and anxious weasel confronts his fears of a storm, and the outdoors, with the help of a brave mole. Great illustrations and a positive message.

APRIL

Lou Kuenzler and illustrated by Julia Woolf, Calm Down, Zebra (Faber & Faber)
Annie is trying to teach her little brother Joe about colours. Enter an exuberant Zebra. A follow-up to Not Yet, Zebra, this promises another bright and comic adventure.

Claire Freedman and illustrated by Claire Powell, Tiny Ant (Simon & Schuster Children’s)
A singing ant surprises in the jungle talent contest. Fun with eye-catching animal illustrations.

Rikin Parekh, Fly, Tiger, Fly! (Hodder Children’s Books)
Rikin Parekh’s first picture book for children focuses on Riku, a tiger who is determined to fly. Jim the parrot gives encouragement. More aspirational jungle fun for spring.

Sharon Rentta, Animal Explorers: Lola the Plant Hunter (Scholastic/Alison Green)
A picture book about botany, travel, exploration and for the Lola the polar bear… getting out of your comfort zone.

MAY

Jackie Morris and Illustrated by James Mayhew, Mrs Noah’s Garden (Otter-Barry Books)
In the follow-up to Mrs Noah’s Pockets, Jackie Morris’s words and James Mayhew’s illustrations we find out what happened after the flood…

Rashmi Sirdeshpande and illustrated by Diane Ewen, Never Show A T-Rex A Book! (Puffin)
What would a T-Rex do with a book? Presumably it knows a sharp tail… Words from Rashmi Sirdeshpande, star writer of How to Be Extraordinary, and multi-layered pictures from Diane Ewen.

Blake Nuto and illustrated by Charlotte Ager, Child of Galaxies (Flying Eye)
‘You’re a child of galaxies dreaming’ A book about the mysteries of life, and our place in the universe. The first book from Tasmanian writer Blake Nuto with dream-like illustrations from Charlotte Ager.

Peter Bently and illustrated by Riko Sekiguchi, Where the Sea Meets The Sky (Hodder Children’s Books)
Peter Bently’s story has a sea otter hero on a quixotic journey to reach the horizon, encountering an amazing array of sea creatures along the way. Riko Sekiguchi’s debut artwork in picturebooks following the 2018 Carmelite Prize win.

Patricia Forde and illustrated by Rachael Saunders, Fidget the Wonder Dog (Puffin)
Debut picture-book from author Trish Forde. The story of a dog’s adventure on the high seas, a ‘love to ramble off dog’. Energetic and characterful illustrations from Rachael Saunders.

Anna Milbourne and illustrated by Stephanie Fizer Coleman, Peep Inside a Beehive (Usborne)
A board book in Anna Milbourne’s excellent Usborne series which takes us to the heart of how nature works. This time Stephanie Fizer Coleman illustrates the buzzing mysteries of the interior of the beehive.

Clare Helen Welsh and illustrated by Asa Gilland, The Perfect Shelter (Little Tiger)
Magical illustrations and a quiet story address coping with a cancer diagnosis in the family.

Sarah McIntyre, Don’t Call Me Grumpycorn! (Scholastic)
Grumpycorn is BACK! And this time there’s space-travel.

Katherina Manolessou, Look for Ladybird in Ocean City (Macmillan Children’s Books)
Daisy’s pet ladybird has gone missing again, this time in a submarine in the entirely complex and wonderful world of Ocean City. Manolessou’s drawings are beautiful and intricate and should hold the gaze for days.

JUNE

Emily MacKenzie, Beware! Ralfy Rabbit and the Secret Book Biter (Bloomsbury Children’s Books)
Ralfy Rabbit should be well known as a famous book burglar. In this sequel, Ralfy discovers bite marks in his books and is out to find the culprit…

Dave Skinner and illustrated by Aurelie Guillerey, There’s a Lion in the Library! (Orchard Books)
Lucy has been lying about a lion in the library, until one day she isn’t! Another tale of the dangers of imaginative behaviour around books, but some great illustrations which make the whole thing feel transporting.

Devon Holzwarth, Found You (Scholastic/Alison Green)
A debut picture book about making friends in new surroundings. Sami is helped out by a little bird. Lush, colourful illustrations.

BPsCountryside

JULY

Linda Elovitz Marshall and illustrated by Ilaria Urbinati, Beatrix Potter’s Countryside (Puffin)
Inspired by the author’s visit to the Lake District in 2018, this is a picture book biography of Beatrix Potter’s artistic life and also her acute environmental understanding. Telling the story of Potter’s protection of the Lake District landscape, this new picture book will appeal to many of Sam Read’s customers of all ages.

AUGUST

Stuart Heritage and illustrated by Nicola Slater, Jonathan the Magic Pony (Puffin)
This sounds very funny. A previously successful magician pony finds their skills abandoning them at a crucial moment. Where is Sarah’s bear? The chaos promised in the search will keep us glued to the pages.

Michelle Robinson and illustrated by Deborah Allwright, She Rex (Bloomsbury Children’s)
Word is that She-Rex is ‘a chomping, clomping dinosaur stomp that proves that dino toys are for girls and boys’.

Jonathan Stutzman and illustrated by Heather Fox, Don’t Feed the Coos (Puffin)
The dangers of feeding just the one pigeon (or a ‘coo’) when there are others, ahem, waiting in the wings. LOVE the big-eyed pigeons on the cover.

SEPTEMBER

Neil Gaiman and illustrated by Chris Riddell, Pirate Stew (Bloomsbury Children’s)
A rhyming text from Gaiman which introduces Long John McRon, Ship’s Cook. Pirates babysit a boy and his sister. Bound to be special.

Elise Gravel, What Is A Refugee? (Puffin) – Paperback release
A picture book introduction to one of the pressing issues of our time. Elise Gravel’s approachable book makes a difficult subject easy to talk about.

Rachel Morrisroe and illustrated by Steven Lenton, How to Grow a Unicorn (Puffin)
A rhyming comedy where everything’s coming up unicorns. A topic seldom covered on Gardener’s Question Time, but then they’ve never come across the niche supplier, Mr Pottifer’s Parlour of Plants: a magical shop.

OCTOBER

Isabel Thomas and illustrated by Daniel Egneus, Fox: A Story of Life and Death (Bloomsbury Children’s Books)
The life cycle of the fox from cub to den to plain earth, which addresses the question ‘what happens when we die?’. Natural history, science and life lesson rolled into one, with bold appealing imagery.

Rebecca Solnit and illustrations from Arthur Rackham, Cinderella Liberator (Vintage Children’s Classics)
In an unexpected and beguiling picture book partnership, Rebecca Solnit retells fairytales with classic illustrations from Arthur Rackham.

Katerina Kerouli, Roar (Bloomsbury Children’s Books)
First picture book from graphic designer and illustrator Kerouli, there’s a distinctive look to this animal safari. Bold, stylish and highly appealing.

SnowGhost

NOVEMBER

Tony Mitton and illustrations from Diana Mayo, Snow Ghost (Bloomsbury Children’s Books)
A winter sky, a snow ghost and a small moorland farm. Follows Mitton’s Snow Penguin and Snow Bear for wintery pedigree.

…to be continued in part 2.

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