The Best Picture Books To Look Forward to in 2023
by Naima Jasmine Russell
Let’s be honest. New Year’s Resolutions are hard to maintain. If your shiny new list of goals lasts past March, you’re doing great. My own grand plans are few: reading to my kids, reading more, and reading often is at the top.
As my family becomes firmly entrenched in the hamster wheel of the elementary years, I’m seizing the few opportunities to have my kids as my captive audience. Recently I’ve started to read aloud during dinner, and it’s been amazing. Their laughs are priceless, and their silence as they hang on to every word of an engrossing story is golden. The books that spark innocent questions and lead to deep discussions are laying the groundwork for the tough conversations I know will come in their teen years.
So, if you’re going to climb Mount Everest, learn a new language, or clean out the garage in 2023, I wholeheartedly applaud you. If you’d rather read more and call it a win, then check out some of the new picture books I’m most looking forward to reading this year.
Any book with Mechal Renee Roe’s eye-candy illustrations and positive messages is an instant buy for me. This newest book in the Happy Hair series celebrates sisterhood, unity, and beautiful Black and Brown girls with their natural hairstyles. Phrases like: Perfect together! Always and forever! My sister and me! sprinkle each page and will have readers feeling self-love and self-confidence in no time.
Uni the Unicorn: Tooth Fairy Helper
Uni the Unicorn is back with another story to delight lovers of this series. Loose teeth can be exciting and scary (I should know; we have several in our house right now). Readers will follow the tooth fairy on her nightly route, but what happens if she gets tired? Good thing Uni is there to help. This new magical adventure will ease fears and spark wonder at this milestone event.
Carol Burnett: A Little Golden Book Biography
For over 75 years, Little Golden Books have brought reading joy to children everywhere. Instantly recognizable with their cardboard covers and gold spines, the newest titles in their biography series are fantastic additions to the collection. Introduce your little one to the first woman to host a comedy-variety show, Carol Burnett. Children will learn to dream big as they read about this multi-talented star. Other upcoming biographies I’m excited about include Dwayne Johnson, Simone Biles, Bob Ross, Iris Apfel, and Harry Belafonte, to name a few.
The Animal Song
A crocodile on a snare drum, a bear on bass, and a weasel on a banjo form a traveling musical trio. The woodland animals can’t get enough of them until it’s time to hibernate for winter. Not ready to hang up their instruments, the band skips their winter naps and searches for more places to play, but will they ever get tired? Musician/author Jonty Howley’s book will be a hit with music teachers and kids alike. With onomatopoeia, additional education resources, and music and lyrics in the back matter, it’s an excellent read-aloud to add to your music-themed storytime.
The Green Piano: How Little Me Found Music
I was thrilled when I heard that Grammy Award-winning singer, Roberta Flack, has a book about finding music at a young age. Growing up poor in a Blue Ridge mountain town, Ms. Flack's father finds a beat-up piano in a junkyard and gives his daughter music and a dream to reach for. I can’t wait to get a sneak peek at the family and inspirational life of this icon whose music touched a generation.
Very Good Hats
Is an empty pudding cup a hat? Raspberries? What about pajama pants? Adult novelist Emma Straub’s first children's book has many ideas about what you can use as a hat and who can wear hats (houses, pots, turtles). This is less a story about fashion and more about imagination, creativity, and ingenuity. It will spark hilarious new hat ideas and make for an enjoyable craft time with your kids.
I am John Lewis
If your kids love the PBS show Xavier Riddle and the Secret Museum, they'll enjoy this series of bite-sized biographies inspired by the show. The newest title highlights civil rights icon John Lewis. Xavier, Yadina, and Brad shadow Lewis as he helps organize critical moments in the civil rights movement and doesn’t worry about getting into good trouble. Each book features a timeline, photos, familiar comic book-style illustrations, facts, and virtues of the historical figure.
Meet Sleepy Sheepy, the little lamb who is NOT TIRED! Children will giggle at the hilarious rhymes and sleepy-eyed illustrations of this bedtime-adverse sheep. With baby siblings in tow, poor Ma and Pa Sheepy try convincing Sleepy Sheepy that rest is best. From skateboarding to karaoke to one last snack, will Sheepy ever get to bed? I’m keeping my eyes open for this adorable story to hit bookshelves soon.
My kids love fractured fairy tales, so we're looking forward to reading this hilarious retelling of Cinderella set in a dog-loving kingdom. When Cinderella wishes for help, she gets a fairy DOGmother instead of a fairy godmother, a ball gown made from dog blankets, and a surprise ending that involves squirrels. This furry tale about living in the moment is perfect for dog and princess lovers.
Good Night, Sister
Moving my kids to separate rooms is on my to-do list, but it will be a big transition for them after sharing a room for so long. In this sweet bedtime story, Kat is excited about getting her own space, but little sister Tina feels nervous about spending the night alone. With their stuffed animals, they hatch a plan to help Tina feel secure, but when a storm rolls in, Kat becomes the one who needs reassurance. This story is perfect for anxious siblings transitioning to their own rooms.
A Take-Charge Girl Blazes a Trail to Congress
Jeannette Rankin was a take-charge suffragist who worked tirelessly to afford women the right to vote. She became America’s first congresswoman and the only woman ever elected to congress from Montana. Children will be inspired by this she-ro who fought for laws that help poor women and children. This one will hit store shelves in time for Women’s History Month.
When I Talk to God, I Talk About You
When I talk to God, guess what I do? It’s really quite simple: I talk about you. Woodland animals recount how they pray to God for the wonderful qualities their little ones possess. This is a sweet, rhyming story about prayers, hope, and faith from This Is Us star Chrissy Metz and her music partner Bradley Collins. It’s an excellent book for a baby shower gift or to add to your collection if you’re a fan of Matthew Paul Turner’s When God Made You.
Children will adore this gorgeous picture book from Grammy Award-winning folk artist and feminist icon Ani DiFranco. It will inspire young readers by asking them to explore the difference between their inner selves and outer personas. It’s a story of self-actualization that you can sing along to while perusing the stunning illustrations inspired by Julia Mathew’s childhood in India.
How to Talk Like a Bear
“ROOOAARR” means I want a sandwich. “ROAAARRRR” means I want to get into beekeeping. Congratulations, you are learning to speak like a bear! Told in fourth-wall-breaking style, this funny new book will have you honing a new language in no time.
“Remember the sky you were born under; know each of the star’s stories.” Native American Poet Laureate Joy Harjo’s renowned poem comes to life through the illustrations of Caldecott Medal winner Michaela Goade. It’s a straightforward petition for readers to ponder their families and heritage, the beauty of nature, and how everything connects. With its wise lesson and stunning illustrations, this book is a no-brainer must-read!
Little Daymond Learns to Earn
FUBU founder and Shark Tank star Daymond John shares his passion for entrepreneurship with young readers in his new picture book. When Little Daymond taps into his friends’ know-how and his own financial savvy, everyone wins. Kids will learn financial basics like saving, interest, and starting a small business. It’s never too early to teach kids that money doesn’t grow on trees (mine especially)!
Gloria’s Promise (American Ballet Theatre)
Fancy Nancy fans will be familiar with this author’s name but might not know that she was once a professional ballet soloist. Little ones with ballet aspirations will love peeking inside a professional dance studio and rehearsal hall. In this story, Gloria wants to get into the summer program at American Ballet Theatre. She pushes herself so hard during auditions that she falls in front of the teacher. Will her determination and perseverance be enough to reach her dream?
The Fantastic Bureau of Imagination
I’m always looking for ways to get my kids to innovate, be creative, and dream big. In this new tale about the FBI (Fantastic Bureau of Imagination), we meet Sparky, a special figment agent. He delivers mail to the various FBI departments until, one day, the Cave of Untold Stories overflows. Can Sparky get people to share their creative ideas with the world?
Repeat After Me
The books we read to our children shape them, just as affirmations and positive self-talk change our inner narrative. Actor and parent duo Jazmyn Simon and Dule Hill, with the help of gorgeous illustrations by Shamar Knight-Justice, allow readers to experience the magic of knowing they are worthy, gifted, and loved. The power of repetition and reading beautiful affirmations to your children will create cherished memories for them.
(On sale: 5/2/2023)