Bad ones will trigger a disdain in you normally reserved for terrible art you paid a fortune to see.
I'm not kidding.
Some of it is because it's not like reading for adults. You think a book isn't right for you, as a grown-up, and you put it down.Try that with your five-year-old in the middle of a bad story. The other part of it is children's books are pricey, the library helps us out with that, but we still buy many books over the course of a year-especially when smaller children will want to read them over and over: it's a high cost of admission for something that might be awful. And then there's that very problem- where it might bore the brain right out of your skull, but your child may love it enough to read it x3 daily.
Awesome picture books will begin to feel like amazing finds. There are a ton of them, but landing one will still make you feel lucky.
I used to rely on recommendations from homeschooling sites as to what to grab my kids, and I still do that when I have time. But mostly now, it's just grab-and-go.
When my older kids were small, we had the Jon J. Muth picture books about the zen-ish panda and "Flotsam". Things they requested regularly. "Flotsam" doesn't even have WORDS and it's still beautiful. It was something we read every summer for a long, long time.
It's harder now, with a seven year plus age gap to even think of getting a picture book all three kids will gather around me for: the older kids can't be called for story time anymore, it has to be that they were genuinely interested in the book-though for the record, still works for Arthur books...
I found "Cinnamon" by accident, on our 12th wedding anniversary while shopping around for something else when it jumped out at me. My husband and I are Gaiman fans (who isn't, though?) but I didn't think both my toddler and nearly middle-schooler would both love the story.
But they did.
And I did, too.
The illustrations are simple but evocative of exactly what they need to be displaying- a home of wilderness and exotic royalty where any danger is outweighed by beauty.
And the heroine and the text are Gaiman style magic, likening the tiger who comes to teach a silent, blind princess to speak to a god.
For parents who love mythology and a bit of the unordinary, this will be a book you won't mind having around to read again and again. It also talks about the importance meaningful experiences give us, and it's not lost on me that the main character is a beautiful princess, the kind that normally is kept away from that sort of thing (science actually tells us we tend to encourage female children not to venture forth as often as our male babies, and that sucks). My older daughter, a lover of all things wild cats, grabbed this title herself and read it. And the toddler sat through the entire story quietly. Those are the most glowing references I can give a picture book.
A book I grabbed mostly for my son ended up delighting my youngest reader as well. "Not Quite Narwhal" has some of the brightest, most energetic illustrations I have seen in a long time and we loved that.
The story itself was about belonging when you don't fit into the neat boxes we place things in-when you might be half one or the other. Important things to talk to kids about in a society that really does strive to draw a line around what you are. But it's not a preachy message. It's just a fun, beautiful book with an adorable protagonist. If I'd of seen this before I had my son, he might have had a blue unicorn/narwhal nursery. It's a nice read that belongs in your picture book collection.
If anyone has come across some really memorable picture books this year, let me know. We're always looking.