31 Days, 31 Lists: Day Five – 2017 Rhyming Picture Books

This year something struck me about the rhyming picture book crop that usually eludes my notice. I think it’s easy to assume that because a book rhymes, it’s automatically funny. But some of the books on today’s list, like The Road Home or even The Pomegranate Witch, dare to be touching. This begs the question […]


This year something struck me about the rhyming picture book crop that usually eludes my notice. I think it’s easy to assume that because a book rhymes, it’s automatically funny. But some of the books on today’s list, like The Road Home or even The Pomegranate Witch, dare to be touching. This begs the question as to why some rhyming books end up on the poetry list and some on the rhyming picture book list. I’d argue that none of the books here really constitute a poem. To my mind, a poem stands on its own without needing visuals, where as a picture book is very reliant on the interplay between text and image. But howsoever you prefer to define it, this year we saw some really great titles. Feel free to mention books if you think I missed something here.

2016 Rhyming Books

The Alphabet Thief by Bill Richardson, ill. Roxanna Bikadoroff


Clever alphabet books are often doomed affairs. Parents of the children old enough to appreciate them won’t buy them for their six and seven-year-olds while the younger preschoolers don’t get the jokes. The trick in my household is to have a younger and older child living under the same roof. That way, when I read the book to the 3-year-old, the curious 6-year-old comes over to see what all the fuss is about and starts noticing things the little one misses. The fact that the book rhymes? Gravy.

And the Robot Went . . . by Michelle Robinson, ill. Sergio Ruzzier


This one’s a bit goofier than your average, everyday broken robot book. I suppose I could have included this in yesterday’s 2017 readaloud picture books post, since the sound effects make for some pretty fantastic storytimes. I’ll state honestly that this isn’t your average, middle of the road, picture book fare. Robinson and Ruzzier are doing some pretty wacky stuff here. The rhymes are just the icing on the cake.

Bamboo for Me, Bamboo for You by Fran Manushkin, ill. Purificacion Hernandez


Apparently there are a million different rhymes out there for “bamboo”. So I get the title (which gives away the rhyming game right from the get-go) but I’d like to state for the record that we would have also accepted the title The Picky Panda Eater, if only because it’s so much fun to say.

Danny McGee Drinks the Sea by Andy Stanton, ill. Neal Layton


You know, all the books on today’s list are like my children, and I’d be loathe to select the best from such a magnificent array of . . . . . . okay, truth? This is my favorite rhyming book. I don’t even know quite why. I think it may have something to do with its similarities to Shel Silverstein. It takes an inherently ridiculous concept (a boy eating and drinking the world) and just takes it as far as it can possibly go. Imagine that old Warner Brothers short “Duck Amuck” and you’ll get a lot of what the book is doing here. A can’t miss title.

Dog On a Frog? by Kes Gray & Claire Gray, ill. by Jim Field


I’m subtracting three points for changing the name from the original British “Oi, Dog!” Yes, I’ll be the first to admit that Americans wouldn’t have any idea what to do with a title like that. Plus, if we changed the title of the book that preceded this one (in England it was “Oi, Frog!”) then we kind of had to change this one as well. Putting all that aside, this is a great little funny, rhyming picture book. If you need an amusing import, look no further, my friend.

The Giant Jumperee by Julia Donaldson, ill. Helen Oxenbury


Oxenbury, man. She just keeps blowing and going. Clearly she’s going to outlive us all, and keep producing gorgeous picture books as she does. Here we have the British picture book version of a supergroup, though the book itself is merely amusing. Funny enough for a gentle storytime, though, and all the rhymes scan. And really, isn’t that all you’ve ever wanted out of life anyway?

Grandma’s Tiny House: A Counting Story by JaNay Brown-Wood, ill. Priscilla Burris


Boy, I liked this little book. Again, we’re not taking over the world with it or anything, but the combination of rhymes and numbers is so sublime. I’m becoming a real fan of Priscilla Burris’s art, and the story just works. Loads of family members descend on the titular tiny house until one small girl finds a perfect solution to an overcrowding inevitability.

Me Tall, You Small by Lilli L’Arronge


Well clearly someone is feeling fancy in their shiny little Kirkus Prize Finalist medal. And unlike yesterday’s Bear Make Den, I don’t hear Kirkus complaining about animals speaking like cavemen here. Seems they liked it just fine. The kicker is that this rhyming book is actually a translation from Germany. So a hat tip and bow to translator Madeleine Stratford for doing such a good job that the book received an Honor.

Nothing Rhymes with Orange by Adam Rex


Confession: There is a possibility that I like this primarily because the dancing Nietzsche is the most Monty Python-esque thing I’ve seen in a picture book this year outside of the picture book version of The Ministry of Silly Walks. 2017 has been good for cameos, though. Remember Schrödinger’s kitten on the board book list I put out? Good times. I think this book works as a read aloud but I highly suggest that you practice it before attempting any kind of a public presentation. It’s a fun read but it doesn’t make your job easy for you.

The Pomegranate Witch by Denise Doyen, ill. Eliza Wheeler


One of the best and most understated (and maybe even under-appreciated) picture books of the year. It is a mistake to dismiss this book as a mere Halloween title. Doyen and Wheeler give us a slightly longer storyline, and an epic one of that. In this book the neighborhood kids wage war, regularly, upon the local “witch” in their attempts to eat one of her pomegranates. I haven’t had this much fun pronouncing a repeated word (the titular “pomegranate”) since One Day in the Eucalyptus Eucalyptus Tree. The rhymes all work, and I think Doyen should get combat pay for the sheer number of pages she had to fill. Extra Bonus: It made my kids really really want to eat a pomegranate.

The Road Home by Katie Cotton, ill. Sarah Jacoby


Here’s how long it took for me to read this book – I only picked it up to read it yesterday.  AUGH! Thank goodness I’ve been working my way through the Best Books lists put out by NYPL, Chicago, and Hennepin County. I came this close to missing one of the loveliest books of the year. There’s a great deal of comfort embedded in its pages, but there’s also very real threats and a darkness kids both choose to see and not see. The concept examines a variety of different animals, predators and prey, bedding down for the winter. Don’t make the mistake I almost did. Discover this book.


Interested in the other lists of the month? Here’s the schedule so that you can keep checking back:

December 1 – Board Books

December 2 – Board Book Reprints & Adaptations

December 3 – Wordless Picture Books

December 4 – Picture Book Readalouds

December 5 – Rhyming Picture Books

December 6 – Alphabet Books

December 7 – Funny Picture Books

December 8 – Calde-Nots

December 9 – Picture Book Reprints

December 10 – Math Picture Books

December 11 – Bilingual Books

December 12 – International Imports

December 13 – Books with a Message

December 14 – Fabulous Photography

December 15 – Fairy Tales / Folktales

December 16 – Oddest Books of the Year

December 17 – Older Picture Books

December 18 – Easy Books

December 19 – Early Chapter Books

December 20 – Graphic Novels

December 21 – Poetry

December 22 – Fictionalized Nonfiction

December 23 – American History

December 24 – Science & Nature Books

December 25 – Transcendent Holiday Titles

December 26 – Unique Biographies

December 27 – Nonfiction Picture Books

December 28 – Nonfiction Chapter Books

December 29 – Novel Reprints

December 30 – Novels

December 31 – Picture Books


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