Children around a globe

Alyson Beecher of Kid Lit Frenzy and Michele Knott of Mrs. Knott’s Book Nook are hosting a Mock Sibert. I’m thrilled to join, remembering my favorite nonfiction picture books from 2016. My nominations are:

Cover of book shows Esquivel floating above piano keyboards.


Esquivel! Spage-Age Sound Artist (my post about the book coming soon)

I loved the lively language and the great onomatopoeia in this book. The back matter extended the information in the text. Quotations were elegantly woven into the text. The distinctive art captures the spirit of the time.



Cover of The Secret Subway showing a man with his finger to his lips standing next to a subway car on rails.


The Secret Subway

This is a fascinating story about a technology that didn’t catch on. The story involved science, technology, and the politics of Tammany Hall, and I was impressed at how Shana Corey provided scaffolding for what kids need to know to understand her book. Red Nose Studio’s art is unusual (and uses orientation turns to great effect).


Cover of "Ada's Violin" showing an orchestra standing on a trash heap. Close up of a girl playing a violin made of old metal cans.


Ada’s Violin

I love the trend of nonfiction picture books about recent events, and I was particularly moved and inspired by this story. Like most of my favorite nonfiction picture books, this one has fascinating back matter.





A coyote in the moonlight.


Coyote Moon

Simple, powerful language tells the story of an urban predator. The art, done in shades of dark, is gorgeous, and the back matter helps me as a reader know how this story connects to my own neighborhood.



Cover of I Dissent with illustrations of Ruth Bader Ginsburg as a child and as a Supreme Court justice


I Dissent

This biography takes a simple but profound idea–that dissent can be collegial and productive–and shows it throughout Ginsburg’s life. The book weaves together archival and legal research elegantly.




Cover of Freedom in Congo Square, showing a stylized picture of a black man dancing over cobblestones.


Freedom in Congo Square

This book celebrates slaves without celebrating slavery. It uses both front and back matter to contextualize the book–I especially liked the back matter.






Cover of The Music in George's Head shows George Gershwin seated at a piano


The Music in George’s Head

This book has an ambitious structure that covers Gershwin’s childhood, his composition of Rhapsody in Blue, and performance history of the piece. It has a rich back matter that is a joy to explore.





Cover of Giant Squid shows 2 tentacles and one eye of a squid underwater


Giant Squid (my post about this book coming soon)

This book gives the natural history of the giant squid while making the bigger point that scientists need to draw conclusions about the whole from small parts. The back matter is written directly to the child reader and expands on that idea. The book uses (and sometimes subverts) the conventions of picture books brilliantly.



There are three books I would have liked to nominate, but they’re not eligible.

Pink is for Blobfish

Beautiful book design gives all the facts about pink animals while making larger points. But the author, Jess Keating, is Canadian.


Cloth Lullaby

I thought this was the most beautiful and lyrical book of the year, but its artist is Canadian.


Are You an Echo?

An ambitious and untraditional picture book biography, but most of the contributors are Japanese.