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10 of the Best Recent Picture Books To Read With or Without Kids

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Danika Ellis

Associate Editor

Danika spends most of her time talking about queer women books at the Lesbrary. Blog: The Lesbrary Twitter: @DanikaEllis

Here at Book Riot, we believe in reading picture books as an adult. If you don’t have kids, or if your children are older, you may not have read a picture book in a long time — and that’s a shame. Picture books have beautiful artwork and moving messages. They’re also a great introductory point to learning something new — just pick up a nonfiction picture book for a primer! They can help you learn a new language if you read a bilingual picture book. They can help you with things you’re struggling with, including body acceptance and grief — after my dog died, I found the most helpful books were all aimed at children because they didn’t try to intellectualize the experience. Reading picture books is also a great way to practice self-care. It can help you relax, especially before bed, and it can remind you to acknowledge the little kid within.

That’s why task #11 of the 2024 Read Harder Challenge is: Read a picture book published in the last five years. Why the last five years? Because often, adults only pick up the picture books they read as kids, which means the same handful of kids’ books show up time and time again at baby showers. The idea of this task isn’t to reread your favorite picture books from when you were a kid — though that’s a great way to spend an afternoon, too. Instead, it’s an invitation to explore the incredible picture books that are coming out now, especially because picture books have gotten a lot more diverse recently.

I’ll have lots of recommendations for you below, but if you’re looking for more, reading award-winning picture books from the past five years is a great way to complete this task. For example, you can browse through the recent winners of the American Library Association’s Caldecott Medal. Speaking of libraries, I highly recommend checking out a stack from your local library so that you can sample a bunch at once. Consider both the illustration style and the content. You can even ask your librarian for recommendations of recent picture books to check off task #9 (Read a book recommended by a librarian) at the same time!

I’ve included some of my favorite recent picture books below, but I also asked other Book Riot contributors for their recommendations, and they had so many they wanted to shout out! This includes some recommendations from Margaret Kingsbury, who writes The Kids Are All Right, Book Riot’s children’s book newsletter, and also the Instagram account @BabyLibrarians, which are both great resources for keeping up with new picture books.

Without further ado, let’s jump into the books!

Our Little Kitchen cover

Our Little Kitchen by Jillian Tamaki

I love this picture book about a community kitchen, which features whimsical illustrations of a diverse cast of characters, including disabled characters.

Love in the Library Book Cover, showing a Japanese woman looking up at white man in a library, both holding books in their arms. The woman is seated with her leg folded to one side on the floor while the man in standing and looking down at her

Love in the Library written by Maggie Tokuda-Hall and illustrated by Yas Imamura

This is based on the true story of Tama and George meeting while working in the library of a concentration camp for Japanese Americans during World War II, and it has a note from the author with historical context — and how it connects to our current political climate.

bathe the cat book cover

Bathe the Cat written by Alice B. McGinty and illustrated by David Roberts

This was one of the books that just kept getting recommended. It’s a silly story about a two-dad family trying to get the chores done while their cat goes to great lengths to avoid getting a bath.

Well, now that I’ve fallen down a rabbit hole and put about 20 picture books on hold at the library, we better wrap it up. What are you planning to read for this task? And what’s your favorite recent picture book? Let’s chat in the comments!

Check out all the previous 2024 Read Harder posts here!

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