My Favorite 2019 Picture Books

As a book blogger and mom of two, I read hundreds of picture books every year. The past year I got to read so many wonderful new books, and today I’m thrilled to share with you my 10 favorite picture books published in 2019. Each and every book on this list is beautifully illustrated, features a diverse cast of characters, and carries an uplifting message.

Without further ado, here are my top 10 favorite picture book releases of 2019!

When Grandma Gives You a Lemon Tree

The unnamed protagonist has a long list of pricey gadgets she’d like for her birthday, but her grandmother presents her with a very unexpected (and slightly disappointing) gift – a lemon tree! In this clever spin on the classic refrain, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade,” the little girl eventually comes around to the odd gift and spends the course of a year tending her tree, harvesting the lemons, and even running a successful lemonade stand. Her efforts leave her with enough cash to buy all of the gifts on her original list, but she decides instead to give back to the community that helped nurture her beloved tree. This clever and funny story celebrates the pleasures of perseverance, hard work, cooperation, and nature.

When Charley Met Emma

When Charley goes to the playground and sees Emma, a girl with limb differences who gets around in a wheelchair, he doesn’t know how to react at first. Once Charley and Emma get to know each other, Charley learns that different isn’t weird, bad, sad, or strange. Different is just different, and different is okay! Authored by the mother of a child with special needs, this book will help kids think about disability, empathy, and how to behave when they meet someone who is different from them.

Clem and Crab

While treasure hunting on the beach, Clem discovers a crab that has become entangled in a plastic bag. After the crab stows away in Clem’s things, she unwittingly brings him home with her. When Clem brings Crab to school for show and tell, her teacher suggests that Crab would be better off back on the beach. Clem replies, “The beach is messy and dangerous. I try my best to keep it clean, but it’s a big job.” When Clem returns to the beach, she discovers that her classmates have arrived to help clean up and make a better home for their new crustacean friend. This will appeal to young environmentalists and beach-lovers alike.

A Piglet Named Mercy

In this picture book prequel to the Mercy Watson series, a tiny piglet arrives on the doorstep of 54 Deckawoo Drive, bringing plenty of chaos and joy to the ordinary lives of Mr. and Mrs. Watson. Chris Van Dusen’s bright and bold gouache illustrations perfectly capture the zany cast of characters in this sweet story. This book is a must-read for Mercy Watson fans, but the story stands on its own and will serve as a delightful introduction for younger listeners as well.


Sulwe’s skin is the color of midnight. She’s darker than everyone in her family, and everyone at school. Sulwe gets teased by the other children at school because of her dark skin and wishes she could look more like her mother and sister. Sulwe tries everything she can think of to lighten her skin, from only eating light-colored foods to praying to God. Then one night, Sulwe goes on a magical journey that leads her to discover her own beauty and self-worth. This stunning book is written by Academy Award-winning actress Lupita Nyong’o, inspired by her own childhood.

Apple Cake

“Thank you, hedge, / Thank you, tree. / Thank you, flower, / Thank you, bee. / Thank you, rain, / Thank you, sun. / Thank you, farmers, / every one.” This simple, rhyming book follows a little girl as she expresses gratitude for all of the wondrous gifts that nature provides. The book includes a recipe for a wheat-free apple cake with a honey glaze.

Planting Stories: The Life of Librarian and Storyteller Pura Belpré

This vibrant biography tells the story of Pura Belpré, New York City’s first Puerto Rican librarian. After moving from Puerto Rico to New York in 1921, Belpré took a job as a bilingual assistant at the New York Public Library. She went on to transform library services through culturally diverse storytelling and targeted outreach. This book is an inspiring portrait of one groundbreaking individual, as well as a passionate reminder of the power of storytelling.

What’s Cooking at 10 Garden Street?

The residents of 10 Garden Street are all cooking up something delicious! Mr. Ping stirs up broccoli stir fry and Señora Flores makes black bean soup. Maria mashes avocados for guacamole while Penelope and Miles help their mother make Greek rice. When all the cooking is finished, everyone brings their dishes downstairs and the neighbors enjoy a meal together in the garden. Each illustration is paired with a recipe so readers can try their hand at some of these tasty multicultural dishes!

Greta and the Giants

Greta is a little girl who lives in a beautiful forest surrounded by animals. When the forest is besieged by giants who cut down the trees to build cities, the animals have nowhere to go. Greta knows that she must help save the forest – but how? This uplifting fable was inspired by Greta Thunberg, the young Swedish environmental activist who was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2019.

Fry Bread: A Native American Family Story

“Fry bread is food. / It is warm and delicious, piled high on a plate. / Fry bread is time. / It brings families together for meals and new memories.” Told in verse, this story is a lively depiction of a modern-day Native American family. Fry Bread celebrates not only the food, but all the history and tradition that it represents.

How many of these books have you read? What were your favorite 2019 picture books?

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