Episode 12 Transcript: Best Books of 2020!

Intro: Welcome to the Picture Bookstagang Podcast 

I’m Ale

I’m Corrie

I’m Kelly

And we’re the picture bookstagang! We invite you to join us here every other week while we discuss amazing books and issues  in children’s literature.  As well as Early literacy education and parenting as it relates to reading.  We can’t wait to dig in and deep and get nerdy about picture books with you.

0:37 K: Hello and Welcome Back to the picture bookstagang podcast! My name is Kelly and I am joined by my two dedicated, hardworking and super hot co-hosts Ale and Corrie! 

0:48 Ale: Hellooooo I am Ale and it’s true I am super hot

0:53 Corrie: Hiiii I am Corrie and I couldn’t stop being hot if I tried.  

0:58 Kelly: none of us can. Haha do you think that everyone knows that we talk to each other baaaaasically all day every day and remind each other that we are hotties literally all the time? Haha because… we do. 

1:12 Corrie: Can’t stop won’t stop. 

1:14 Kelly: couldn’t if I tried. Haha.  So. we have a very special episode for you today, one that we have been working toward alllllll year long, this is our MEGA end of the year best of 2020 picture books special edition of the picture bookstagang podcast.

1:29 Corrie: Yeah we talked about it a little bit in our last episode but just to recap if you are new to the podcast this is our second year running a Bookstagram awards list, specifically for Picture books. Ale started it last year, just birthed it out of her brilliant brain, and we all ran the back end of it together with our #Bookstagang book club all doing the judging. And now, this is the second annual edition! It’s soooo much bigger this year too. 

1:56 Ale: It’s a lot bigger. Like. a lot.Like Staggeringly bigger. So the way it works is we basically go around and we solicit picture book submissions from allllll the publishers, and the ones who would like to participate will submit books for judging by our panel of all of our members. We have six regular categories which this year were Best Illustration, Best Board Book, Best Read Aloud, Future Classics, Most Innovative Non-Fiction, and Best Biography. Those last two categories were kind of smushed together last year and we realized that we needed to give biographies their own category with like space to breathe, because they just didn’t work right with science books and animal facts. 

2:42 Kelly: yeah and the biography section I found SO hard to judge this year because there are just so many humans with fascinating lives that really, really, all deserve equal billing. But, alas, It was a very tight race. There can only be 10! 

2:59 Ale: 10 sounds like a lot too but It was so hard to choose 10 winners per category when you have hundreds of books, there were just so many great books this year, and so many submissions. But that’s also why we added our two special feature categories: Best books featuring food, and best books with animals. We passed out 5 special mentions each for those to spread the love around a little more. 

3:24 Corrie: and 10 per category plus 5 in the special mentions means we have a FULL SEVENTY winners – which is just SO many amazing and deserving books. It was a pretty involved and onerous job judging all of them, but also a lot of fun. We had around 300 books submitted for judging. All of our judges had some marathon reading and scoring to do. 

3:50 Ale: Our judges! Yes, yes!  Our group! We really have to talk about them before we get to the books! Ok so we have 13 judges, who are all members of our regular book club and group chat the #bookstagang. PLUS we have added an australian list this year which had 8 judges who were headed by @flisatfun who is a regular member of the club but happens to be Australian. We are going to talk a little bit more about the Aussie edition of the list later on in the episode and hear a bit from them about their picks. The Judges for this North American list are of course the three of us, plus@bookish.blair, @bookoholicmom, @myliteracyspace, @houstonlibraryfinds, @noodlenutskidsbooks, @littleblackbooknook, @ihaveabook4that @toddlers.who.read @because.my.mother.read, and @_mybookaddiction_ you can find them all in the show notes.

4:40 Kelly: Within all of those lovely humans we have a doctor, a lawyer, educators, parents, a former children’s lit agent, an SEL expert, social justice advocates, a bit of everything. LOTS of differing perspectives. Some liking very classic feeling books and some of us favouring more modern works. Some with some very strong input from our kids, and some less so. Haha. 

5:05 Ale: River had some words about a few books, hahaha

5:12 Corrie: she sure did, haha. But with that. We gotta dive into the winners. Shall we start with a category that Ale is very passionate about…. Board Books?

5:21 Ale: YES! Yes, Lets do this. 

5:28 Kelly: Ok here are the winners for board books, Just a note that for the sake of time we are only going to read the titles but a FULL detailed list will be in the show notes and on all of our websites and instagram accounts. So, without further The winners for Board books are…. in no particular order: “My Family, Your Family”  — “ Baby Medical School: Vaccines”  —  “Love You Head To Toe”  —  “Nita’s Day”  —   “Unicorns and Rainbows (a very busy board book)”  —  “Dinosaur Surprise”  —  “Your The Cheese in My Blintz”  —  and “Where are You Polar Bear?”

5:57 Ale: Well I gotta say, if you know me you know I love board books I think all books for kids under five should be printed on board books. But out of this selection my kids had some deep love, my toddler Willow her definite favourite is “Dinosaur Surprise” and that one is really neat because it’s like folded over so you open a page and it looks like a small animal, like a spider or a jelly fish and when you open up, SURPRISE! It’s a dinosaur! I’ve read it 600,000 times, 600,000.

C: That’s an exact figure. 

A: Yeah

K: Very Exact Number.

6:40 A: Our other favourite one, well we love “Vaccines” but the one River really really loves of this whole selection is the “Unicorn and Rainbows” one with the little flaps and the wheels, and it has little, little like open it up memory games? It is fantastic, it looks like a unicorn vomited everywhere.

6:59 K: Everywhere

7: 00 A: Everywhere in a really good way.

K: Yes, it’s super fun.

7:05 C: That one is really cool, I love “My Family Your Family” too I think the illustrations are super cute, they’re really inclusive oh and “Where are you Polar Bear” is actually a plastic free book which I think is really neat it’s made out of recycled materials and it has these little windows with like ribbed textures.

A: Yeah we really liked that that was good too.

7:29 K: Yeah that’s a beautiful one.  “My Family Your Family” is probably my favourite board book that came out this year or possibly ever, possibly biased.

7:4- A: Woah that’s strong.

7:42 K: It is strong but there are so few books like that with simple language that have that kind of representation so I really love that one. “Baby Medical School: Vaccines” I can’t even tell you what that has done, the change in our lives it has caused, especially in this pandemic.  Like my kid is like fascinated with vaccines now, that whole series has been like life changing for us, getting the flu shot was like a breeze because he was just so charged up that he was gonna have these superheroes saving the day inside his body. The board books this year were just really strong.

8:14 A: Also just to talk about that “Vaccines” board book, even though it is a board book I love that I learned stuff about vaccines too.  That whole series is fantastic for breaking down stuff that you really should know how it works but most people don’t and especially right now I think everyone needs to learn how vaccines work.

8:35 K: I think despite being called “Baby Medical School” it’s actually really for older children.  But I like the board book format. It makes it really accessible.

8:44 A: And you can clean it!

8:45 K: Yeah you can clean it. That’s something I mentioned this year several times with board books. This year, I got so many requests to share more board books because classroom teachers wanted books that they could wipe down and sanitize.  So you know, books like Baby Medical school vaccines, they’re books that have information for older kids that are appropriate in a classroom setting not just in a daycare or on a baby’s bookshelf.  Bu you can still wipe down and clean in between students in a pandemic.

9:12 A: Fantastic

9:13 C:  So good. Yeah “Love You Head to Toe” is also a really cute one I like the art in there, actually I was really pleased to see with “Nita’s Day” on the back, which teaches sign language for anyone who hasn’t seen it, but they have a deaf culture advisor that helped them develop the book which I think is super important because there are a lot of feelings that we don’t have a lot of time to get into right now between teaching babies sign language and like actual sign language because it’s a full comprehensive complete language with grammatical structure different from English, so, that was cool.  Ok anyway I almost digressed, I actually really want to dive into my favourite category next which is Best Biography Books, obviously. Because I feel like if you’ve visited the TTA website and Instagram, you know how much we love biographies. I am a giant nerd for biographies and there were soooo many good ones. I’m super glad we split the non-fic category into 2 this year. I think it gives us a much better way to showcase the wide range of non-fiction available. And like you said before Kelly this was the hardest category to judge because there are so many fascinating people. But onto the Winners! 

10:39 Kelly: so many cool humans! It was hard to score these. 

10:44 Corrie: totes! so In no particular order our ten winners are!! “Born Curious, 20 Awesome girls who grew up to be awesome scientists”  —   “The Power of Her Pen, The Story of Groundbreaking journalist Ethel L. Payne”  —  “She Was First the trailblazing life of Shirley Chisholm”  —  “Canadian Women now and then”  —  “Saruko the Peruvian archaeologist”  —  “The Teachers March! How Selma’s teachers changed history”  —   “I am not a Label”  —  “111 Trees,” “William Still and His freedom stories”  —  and last but not least “The Fighting Infantryman the story of Alber D. J. Cashier trangender civil war soldier!” 

11:28 Kelly: Are you winded after that!? 

11:30 C: Yes I am very.

11:34 K: I found this category hard to judge because Ale and I are Canadian we’re not familiar with some of the figures in American History at all. So they were all brand new to us. So it was fascinating in that respect. I am really pleased that “Canadian Women Now and Then” won, because when I first got it, like early in the pandemic, I just like sat and read it by myself for like two hours because it’s just, so well put together, and I love the anthology style and I was also really glad that “I am not a label” and “Born Curious” won, because I think anthologies are a great way for younger children to observe, the biographies can get a bit heavy and long for younger kids.

12:23 A: I also prefer anthologies because despite not being a small child, I don’t have a very long attention span. So those were my  favourite except for “The Fighting Infantryman” which I just thought was so moving and beautiful I really loved that one.  My other favourite one was “111 Trees” which was a little bit of a stretch to put in that category because yes it does involve a biography but it also moves on to a story of the community and the whole movement?  We thought it was really important.

12:59 C: I love this entire category so I will try to keep my thoughts brief “The Power of Her Pen” I’m completely obsessed with, I also loved John Parra’s illustration so much, I hope you have all listened to the PB&J episode where he is featured. “Sharuko” was an incredible book I love how proud he was of his indigeneity and “the Teacher’s March” Oh my gosh, a beautiful story, something that not a lot of people talk about now, that specific protest really, I’m still obsessed. I know I said I was going to be brief and I just mentioned all the names.

13:35 K: What you’re getting at is that all the books are your favourite books.

13:40 C: All the biographies! But “The Fighting Infantryman” is super super important to enforced that Trans people have been around and accepted in their communities for hundreds of years and that specific point of the book I think was very important.

14:02 A: I was actually really surprised because I wouldn’t have expected, like the civil war?  And they all rallied around him and they accepted and I was like, wow, look they’re such good dudes you know? A bunch of good dudes. Really liked it.

14:20 K: Yeah and they included a lot of the history in the back of that one that I really appreciated.  I think we need to talk about “I am not a Label” because I think that’s a really important book that came out this year, it’s disabled own voices , it’s a book that’s finally in the realm of disability representation.  Doesn’t present everything as inspiration porn sort of things, it uplifts without going overboard and again it’s an anthology which I already said I enjoy, but it’s an important book and it’s one that the disability community has also rallied around which I think is an important thing for us to pay attention to so I’m pleased it’s another winner, a really clear winner as well.  I also was really pleased to see “William Still and his Freedom Stories” win, last year “Carter Reads the Newspaper” won, Don Tate illustrated that also, so that’s the second year running that we’ve had one of his books win and I think it’s for good reason he has great illustrations, they’re very engaging and accessible and it’s an important story.

15:22 Ale: Sure is! Let’s go on to our next category so that would be the Non-fiction category, and it is very specifically called “Most innovative non-fiction” for a reason.  Because there are a lot of Non Fiction books and many of them are very thoroughly researched, they’re beautiful but they’re not really out of the norm of what you normally see.  So when we were judging the books that were submitted for this category we were really looking for something that we hadn’t seen before, something unique, something that  drew us in, we were looking for innovation!

15:58 Corrie:  And we definitely got it! There is some super cool winners in this Categories.

15:59 Ale: So first we have- 1 “The Farm that feeds us, a year in the life of an organic farm”  — 2  “Bird Watch what will you find?”  — 3  “I ate sunshine for Breakfast”  –  4 “Teatime around the world”  —  5 “Smithsonian Kids Prehistoric Deep Sea”  —  6  “Winged Wonders, solving the monarch migration mystery”  —   7 “In the Garden”  — 8  “Season of the Witch”  —  9 “Me and the World An Infographic Exploration”  —  and 10 “Professor Astrocat’s Deep Sea Voyage!” 

16:45 Corrie: I think we should also mentioned that “Flying Eye Books” pretty much did a clean sweep of this category because their non fiction is just so well put together, the art is always stunning and fantastic, also the like very graphic illustrations that they tend to do are just some of my favourites.  I say this all the time but they remind me of the old travel posters of the 50’s and 60’s and especially like, Professor Astrocat I feel like, that whole series is written by a scientist so I think it’s really like Cara Florance’s books, they’re like written and broken down with these super complex topics, and “I Ate Sunshine for Breakfast” Also amazing I love the illustrations, I love that all the worms are wearing little hats, they’re like these super goofy anthropomorphic insects, I’m sold.  

17:46 K: Buying what they’re selling! I’m raising a tiny David Attenborough, a human just obsessed with the natural world in every single way so all of these books are his favourite “Bird Watch: What will you find” was so good, captivating, comes with this little magnifying glass which I thought would be a gimmick but took the whole book to another later.  “In the Garden” is absolutely beautiful, all the flaps, we like flaps around here.

18:12 C: So flappy, that book is so good.

18:15 K: One of the ones I really really loved that was a winner was the “Winged Monarchs: Solving the Monarch Migration Mystery” If you’ve listened to other episodes of PB&J you know that I raise monarchs in the summer, I thought this book was incredibly well done, it is a little known fact that it’s only in the last 40 years that we discovered where monarchs actually migrate to, and this kind of breaks down how that was uncovered and the people across continents that made that happened. And figured out where their roosting grounds are in the winter in mexico, and I love the way that it was illustrated, accurate which is important to me, we’ve gotten some non-fiction that has inaccurate information in it before.

A: And you’re always the one that finds it.

C: The Tea is Hot! 

19:01 Kelly: So I really enjoyed that and “Season of the Witch” So good! I am obsessed with “Season of the Witch” it is amazing we’ve read it so many times before Halloween and we’ve tapered off now but only because we’re into another holiday season of books.

19:21 A: Yeah I loved “Season of the Witch” just for me, I loved all the Flying Eye books yes the beautiful the style is just something you want to look at you want to keep looking at it, you know you wanna put it on a shelf where you can see it all the time but also they feel so nice and that doesn’t seem like a big deal but it is to me, I just wanna rub my face on them. You know?

19:45 C: It’s the matte pages, the majority of them are matte pages.

19:52 K: Yeah and they do the cloth covers with no dust jackets. And the binding quality..

19:55 A: Dust Jackets are just not as nice to look at right?

19:59 C: Although, I do love it when the dust jacket has something on it and then you take it off and there’s like a surprise on the cover, I know that’s like a controversial statement but I like it when there’s a cover surprise.

2012 K: Such a controversy.

20:16 A: Yeah see I like it but not as an instagrammer, because when you wanna take the dust jacket off because there’s a glare, and then it doesn’t have the same picture, well I can’t take a picture of this now, what am I supposed to do? So we love the Flying Eye but the ones that I thought were super duper unique were the ones that got like an interactive engagement feel as part of it, so Kelly was mentioning the “Bird Watch: What Will you Find?” with the little magnifying glass? Oh my goodness, that, has gone with my kids everywhere for a few weeks now, and they fight over the magnifying glass so I do wish there were two, for next time guys, but they love it they just love it.  They also really like the “Teatime Around the World” that one was really interesting because it was kind of a cross between a story/non fiction. And it like explored all the different cultural ways of having tea and it was beautiful.  Just beautiful.  I loved it, it was so good.

21:14 K: Well yeah and I think that Greystone has that thing going that Flying Eye has in a different way, they really produce really beautifully illustrated books and the quality of their binding, and they always have the matte dust jackets, and I can’t even tell you what a bonus that is for a bookstagrammer.  Every time I open a book and it’s got a shiny cover I’m like “Damn!”  But “The Farm that Feeds US,”  a year in the life of an organic farm, we have been using that in our homeschooling journey.  Every page is a different spread on a different topic, so it’s got that anthology format so we can break it down and use it with all our different seasonal activities so the winter page is open right now, and we’ll talk about all the different concept it’s a beautiful book and thick and heavy I was also really struck by the fact that even in the submissions not just the winners we had a lot of “under the sea books!”

22:17 A: There were a lot of under the sea books, 


A: Yeah! When I was filming them I had enough for like fifteen reels, I was like what am I going to do with all these under the sea books? I mean I don’t even live near the sea!

22:28 C: The Smithsonian kids one was so good though, my favourite was that under the flaps were the pictures of the actual fossils.

22:37 K: It also just had these big huge pull out extra pages that you could slide out that had charts on them I was like, this is mind blowing, and it was a board book but it was definitely for older children. 

22:46 C: Yeah it’s really cool “Me and the World” with the infographics too is super neat, that’s one of those books that you can turn to any sort of page and learn something, or you can read it cover to cover, which I always like in a book, that you can use it multiple ways.

23:03 A: And that one there was really interesting to me, the “Me and the World” Infographic, because each page, it’s very beautifully done, but the way that it displays data in different ways is really striking.  So if you’re talking about math, and sorting and displaying data and graphing with a child, you can really go outside of the box and say like, ‘look this is an infographic with pictures and they’ve managed to display the data in a way that we can understand easily’ so it takes math which is not always the most interesting and they make it cool and easy to understand and I love that.

23:42 K: We got spoiled in the non-fiction category this year you know, we haven’t even, I think it’s so obvious that we all loved it so much, we haven’t even gushed about “In the Garden” which is massive, I think I mentioned it before but it’s massive and the pages completely covered with flaps and it explores all these different concepts about plants and there’s these human shadow figures in it, it’s so beautiful! And very innovative, and I think when I was scoring all the non-fiction, that was almost my touch point of what I was scoring off of for that innovative touch point because I’ve never seen anything like it.

24:18 A: I agree and I think in the end I don’t remember the exact score, but it was one of the highest scored of every single book that we got, everybody loved “In the Garden” it was so beautiful, so striking, it’s just next level stuff “In the Garden” You know?

K: Yeah 

24:33 C: Plus the different shapes too. Which I like.

24:37 K: Yes so true story,  different shaped flaps it’s very engaging.  They’re almost hidden sometimes.

24:41 C: Mhmm, me a 32 year old adult had trouble finding where some of the flaps are.

24:46 K: I don’t think I’ve lifted every flap because there’s so many.

24:50 A: And I love that the flap, even though we’re calling it a flap book, I feel liked people aren’t really envisioning how truly beautiful it is, it’s not just like lift a lift-the-flap..no! It’s a piece of art.

25:00 C: It’s stunning

25:01: It’s stunning, well and that again it’s something that Princeton Architectural Press, there’s a theme with this entire Non-Fiction category, Princeton A.P. they print beautiful books. So that’s what they do, so.  This is a classic example of what they do.  But  I gotta get us back on track.  I think we should pop in our featured categories which we came up with after seeing a lot of trends in our submissions for last year’s Best of 2019 list particularly we saw a lot of food books last year.  And a couple of our favourites from last year were “Amy Wu and the Perfect Bao” and “Bilal Cooks Daal” and those were instant winners, and have remained favourites for us in my house. But food is also hands down Ale’s favourite book topic.

25:49 C: #FictionFeast, which we definitely need to do again. 

25:53 K: Yes.

25:55 A: That is, that is my heart. But it’s not just me as an adult, as a child my favourite picture books always had illustrated food, and I don’t think I’m the only one because other people participate in #thefictionfeast ok?

26:06 C: mhmm.

26:08 K: You’re a bookish food influencer that’s who you are, you know one day I’m going to get you a cheese fridge for your bedroom.

A: Ahh.

C: Under the bed cheese fridge.

A: No empty promises please. 

C: Cheese Fridge! 

26:22  K: But seriously Ok! So the winners ARE for Best Food Books in our featured category are… “Salma The Syrian Chef”  —  “Kids Can Cook” —  “Nacho’s Nachos”  —   “I Really Want the Cake”   —  and “Big Cities Little Foodies: Tokyo!” 

26:30 Ale: So my thoughts on that! Because this is my category you guys.

K: You have a lot of categories.

A: I do, I have three, I love board books, I love food books, and I like to read alouds. But! So of the food books, I want to mention that the “Kids Can Cook” book is actually a cook books for kids, I’m always on the look out for cook books for kids that have illustrations of each step it’s not always that easy to find but this one does that and I love that it is all done in this retro vintage style but all on white, it’s very classy, I liked it. Hundred Percent there.  My daughter Willow really loves it she’s super into the cooking so she’s like my little chef you know? So that one is really well received over here.  Of the story stories my personal favourite are the “Big Cities Little Foodies Book” and that one’s Tokyo they have a couple of others out, and so we’ve been reading that one a lot and we talk about the food a lot and the things that we’ve tried before and what we want to try, that’s what we talk about at night and I just love the illustrations they’re, they’re, I dunno…

K: They’re very iconography illustrations. Yeah. Very graphic.

27:50 A: Yeah.

27:55 C: I really liked “Nacho’s Nachos” too, because not only is nachos a food I can eat any time of day, also I don’t really trust people that don’t like nachos, I’m just gonna make that blanket statement.

K: I think that’s a fair statement, I support that statement.

28:08 C: But it’s also a biography!  Like a history book, so you know I’m always trying to sneak them in there, trying to learn stuff like a big dork.  But also the Kids Can Cook Book is amazing, I really like that one, and Salma is really good too. 

28:26 K: Yeah, Salma the Syrian Chef is probably my favourite, it takes place in Vancouver it’s a story about reclaiming food that reminds you of home and the sensory experience that food can bring you back to a place and a time, I really feel that very very much when I eat a special meal it just takes me back to a time when I’ve enjoyed it before.  It’s a refugee story, it’s a really beautiful book and the illustrations are beautiful they’ve used all this traditional textile design around the images on the pages.  And it’s a Canadian publisher I can’t help but like that.  Kids Can Cook I think is a book I was like immediately like ‘oh we’re gonna use this forever’ we’re gonna keep coming back to this over and over and over again, it’s just an infinitely useful book.  I’m glad we had this category because I’m not sure where else it would fit but it was a clear winner everyone loved it.

20:20 A: I also really want to mention “I really Want the Cake” from Scholastic I think ,that one also captures a lot of really true feelings for me, where this kid can’t stay away from the cake and it’s all sparkly and there are layers. It just, we really liked it, it was fun, you know, it was fun to go back to winner, winner winner, chicken dinner.

29:45 K: Or Cake dinner.

29:46 Cake for dinner? Alright our other featured category is Best Animal Books which was nice because we actually had an astonishing number of incredible books about human people so this gave us a moment to appreciate some equally awesome books with lions and squirrels too. 

30:05 Kelly: I do like a woodland creature now and then. 

30:08 Corrie: And the winners areeeeee….. Hug?  —   Kits Cubs and Calves an Arctic summer — Woodland Dreams  —  Arlo The Lion who couldn’t sleep  —  and Hello Hello!

30:24 Ale: Of this whole category I have to say that my favourite had to be “Woodland Dreams” that one was just beautiful you know? Gorgeous the colour palette, the lyrical quality, the darkness of the forest, I just I think that one for me is a real is a real winner.

30:46 Kelly: Yeah Woodland dreams, for sure instant hit in my house, right up tiny David Attenborough’s aisle there, and Arlo have been a great bedtime read. We mentioned that in our Sleepy Time episode as well.  “Kits Cubs and Calves” is a surprising book I’m glad we were able to fit, it didn’t totally fit elsewhere but it fit here, It’s non-fiction but it also weaves in a story about family it’s Inuit own voices, it’s a very text heavy book so it’s probably more appropriate for slightly older kids, I’m pleased it made the list.

31:32 C: I really love that one too, I think that the Inuktitut words are seamlessly woven into the story, which I really appreciate sometimes when you read a book and they’re sort of trying to teach different vocabulary in a different language without being fully bilingual then it sort of seems forced but this was very easy and there’s the pronunciation in the back.  What I liked about “Hello, Hello” a board book, too is that it’s a funky shape, a bunch of animals in it obviously but then in the back it tells you what the animals are which I really appreciated because when I was reading I was like, I hope they say what these animals are in the back, and then I came across all the animals in the back, and again this proves what a giant dork I am because I just want to learn stuff all the time.

32:26 K: Sometimes the back pages in the book are the best part of the book.

C: One hundo.

32:34 K: Yeah I agree with that, I agree with that completely.  “Hug?” is an interesting book, and there’s a question mark on the end of it so you say “Hug?” with the inflection. It’s kind of an interesting book about consent. It’s Kids Can Press, a Canadian publisher. I’m kind of biased. I think it’s one of two books that Charlene Chua illustrated that are winners this year.

33:01 A: Oh yes that’s true, she’s great.

33:06 K: Anyway let’s move onto our next category. And What I found pretty remarkable is that when I moved onto prepping the images for our winners list in the “Future Classics” category – Every single book is human protagonists. Which, I actually find astonishing, and hopefully and promising that trends in publishing are truly changing for the better. 

33:28 Ale: I think part of that also is that we’re the ones that put them in those categories, so what we’re looking for as judges is we’re looking for stories about people to be on children’s shelves, and we’re looking for beautiful illustrations but also messages of love, self worth.  So that can be self love, or familial love, or love for one’s community or the world at large. It’s about that general sense of, the world being your oyster or go to sleep and dream of how you’re going to seize it.

34:00 Coco: Sneeze the day? Lets talk about the winners of the Future Classics category! Again, in no particular order we have ‘My Day With Gong Gong”, “When We Were Alone,” “When Grandpa Gives You A Toolbox,” “Uncle Bobby’s Wedding,” “You Matter,” “Like The Moon Loves The Sky,” “Child Of Galaxies,” “All Because You Matter,” “Evelyn Del Rey Is Moving Away,” and “Bedtime for Sweet Creatures.”

34:31 Kelly: I have suddenly just realized that not one but two of these books are updated re-releases of already beloved books and it just became even more appropriate that they won in this category. “Uncle Bobby’s Wedding” got the picture book glow up OF THE CENTURY I will fight anyone I don’t think any other book has been updated like this, with Lucia Soto’s incredible illustrations and human characters, and “When We were Alone” got an important Dual Language Swampy Cree update which is beautiful and important because it’s the language of the Author’s grandmother – which is who the book is about. Really took it to the next level for me and added a whole other level of importance for that book. So I’m very happy that they ended up in this category and they were very deserving.

35:24 A: I was actually just reading “When we were Alone” and it is such a heartbreaking story when you, read everything that they went through, but also like heartbreaking in like a hopeful way because it’s still about love and overcoming togetherness.

35:56 Kelly: Reclamation!

35:57 Ale: Yes! It’s a wonderful book and it was done beautifully and I think having the Swampy Cree just brings it to that next level of taking it to the meaning, do you know what I mean?

Kelly: Yes! It adds that extra layer of reclamation, they’re also reclaiming their language. And it mentions it in the book but then it’s also there on the page. I can’t read it but that’s not what’s important, it’s important that it’s there because it’s going to be very meaningful for a lot of people who are still reclaiming their language.

36:17 A: And I would like to say it’s also in the Swampy Cree alphabet but also in the roman alphabet so you could sound it out if you wanted to, which I think is great as well because if you can’t read the alphabet that would be problematic.

36:34 K: Yeah it’s a great teaching tool which is really important for indigenous communities trying to reclaim their language, they’ve got the romanized alphabet  with the phonetic spelling and the traditional Swampy Cree language, so they can learn to read their language in the way it’s meant to be. So I’m very pleased.  It’s a beautiful book it’s a book I think everyone should read. “Uncle Bobby’s Wedding” I feel the same way about, in terms of the other books in this category there’s a lot of affirmation it’s an incredibly diverse category in terms of the humans authors and illustrators involved, lots of #ownvoices stories.

37:04 A: It’s lots of grandparents stories, lots of intergenerational stories, “When Grandpa Gives You a Toolbox” which was a sequel, we also had an interview with their creators and they’re lovely you should listen to it. “My Day with Gong Gong” is also about a girl and her grandfather, and they  don’t speak the same language but they love each other, it’s a lovely story and it’s definitely set in Toronto right?

37:27 K: Oh yeah! There’s Toronto Streetcars in it, I’m a big nerd.

37:35 A: And the Dim Sum looks Mwahh!

37:36 K: Mwah!

37:37 A: Mwah, and also “Bedtime for Sweet Creatures” which is again, not grandparents, but the love between a mother and the father’s in there too, and the child and I love the expressions on the toddler’s face in that one. It’s such an interesting style it’s almost like it feels like a collage but the expressions are so perfectly captured of what a toddler’s face look like and you don’t always get that in books, like sometimes they’re just sort of seem washed out, but this one, perfect, just loved it.

38:13 C: So good, Elizabeth Zunan is such a great artist, of course I loved “Child of Galaxies” so much, it’s, I can only describe it as empowering philosophy, and it makes you think about where you are in the universe and it could drive you to an existential crisis I suppose.  But it’s gorgeous I love the art of course “You Matter” Christian Robinson if you’re out there listening, please come on our podcast.

38:47 A: Oh my god please.

38:48 K: Please, that’s our dream guest, that’s all three of our number one dream guest.

A: Number one.

K: Number one.  Please Christian Robinson come on the Picture Bookstagang Podcast.

A: Play it cool.

C: “All Because you Matter” was also gorgeous.

K: “You Matter” was released around the time of the uprisings, “All Because You Matter” is gorgeous.  It is stunning. And you know  it’s such an affirming book it’s really an important book I cannot stress enough how much I was impressed by that book, people told me I was amazing but then I got to read it and I was like wooowww.  My other favourite though is “Evelyn Del Rey is Moving Away” That book I sobbed the first time I read it, I balled by eyes out, it captures these childhood emotions in the most accurate way I’ve almost ever, like read in a book, I’ve been in that position of a friend moving away, I was just like blown away by that book.  And it’s so gorgeously illustrated.

40:05 A: Yeah that one was all of the feels, and I think that with “All Because You Matter” and “You Matter” and I’m so glad that they’re on the top list for this year because this list should also embody and embody what we are looking for as readers, as book lovers you know?  This, is what you know, if you were to encapsulate one of the major feelings of this year those two books really do it.

30:37 K: Yeah, empowering Black children is something we need to see hundreds of times more in children’s books and when I look at this category we have Indigenous #ownvoices, Chinese #ownvoices, Muslim Own voices this is really a category we have Queer repressentation in this category there’s a lot happening here I’m truly pleased and we didn’t totally realize this as we’re picking the winners based on scores and then placing them into categories but the way it’s shaped up is really beautiful because it is a beautiful crop of books that represent a lot of people in really meaningful ways.

41:23 A: I don’t know if we mentioned how we scored them, so each judge scored each book out of ten then we averaged all the scores for each book, and then we looked at the ones with the highest scores.  

41:43 K: Considering all these people with different backgrounds and this is how it worked out, maybe this is a good time to talk about our Aussie contingent before we move on to the final two categories which are “Best Illustrations” and “Best Read Aloud” and spoiler alert one of those books has the highest scores of the list.

C: Anticipation woooooOOooo

42:11 A: Okay I Just want to jump in and explain the Aussie contingent, so we have this lovely member of the bookstagang, her name is Lucy @Flisatfun she’s great, she really wanted to participate but she’s in Australia and we started talking about how Australia just has so much to give and their books and their artists and their writers they all have their own world their own voices.  They all have their own concerns, so what we did was we picked a wonderful group of Australian bookstagrammers and they got together and they’ve been hammering it out to bring the best that Australia has to offer in kidlit this year and they wanted to talk about a couple of the concerns that they were dealing with while choosing them, on to them!

43:02 Lucy: Hi I’m Lucy! I’m speaking to you today from…. My IG handle is @flisatfun and my pronouns are she/her. My Instagram account is called flisat fun because it centres around an Ikea flisat sensory table predominantly we also have it based around a book because I’m passionate about children’s literature and I really enjoy highlighting Australian children’s literature when I can as well.  One who’s ten one who’s eight and four year old twins, so I really like to engage them with an activity that helps to bring a book alive really.  Bron, what made you start your account?

43:47 B: So hi everyone I’m Bron and I’m talking to you from… country today,  I was really passionate about, I am really passionate about getting Australian literature and books out there especially you know when I started a lot of it was about the young adult age range I guess, where we see a lot of kids start to see American books because they’re the ones the movies are made of.  So I just wanted to do what I could to make sure Australian books and literature and writers in that age group were supported and it has snuck a bit up into Australian adult books and down into Middle Grade and Picture books which I’m especially loving in the moment because I have a six year old daughter and I just love at the end of the day to get her to sit down to read a picture book

44:38 L: I agree there’s nothing better than unwinding and getting to connect and unwind with a book. And I think your point about Australian literature and being passionate about is what prompted me to start our own best of 2020 and highlight Australian children literature within the Bookstagang best of 2020 list because I just feel like in an age of Globalization I feel like our own National Identity and voices are really important to preserve for children so that they can see themselves in books and in things like not having snow in winter over here, or our own unique animals, and environment we started this year.  Very much being shell shocked after the bush fires that ravaged a lot of our country and then moving that in to the pandemic and I think it’s been interesting to see how some of those things have been picked up in books this year.

35:37 B: Definitely I love it too I love kids being able to see pictures in the books that look like themselves and that they can relate to. I think it’s very important. Something else we’ve seen a lot of and people will notice when they’re looking at the winners across the categories is #ownvoices coming from Australian Indigenous people, people are starting to talk more about the truth of colonization that we all live on stolen land that always was and is Aboriginal land, and what does that mean for us living here now? How can we respect the traditional owners of the land, that we live and learn and work on? And how do we respect the country and the people and each other and I think that’s really come through so beautiful and strongly and in a lot of the books that we’ve looked at and picked as winners and a lot of other books that were on our short list.

46:32 L: I agee, I agree, and I think it has been across the board in every category we’ve had some #ownvoices books to consider so you’re looking at one of our board books “Counting our Country” athe Magabala Books by Jill Daniels, right through to picture books

Interestingly enough …

B:I love that.

L: I love that connection that children have it, listening to the song and actually seeing the words in texts and illustration I think it’s a really powerful connection as well.

B: Definitely and something else I love about it is it’s a way to get this message and I guess this education into peoples’ homes.  So people really are, you know, learning about these issues by their kids from fantastic picture books and the amazing job that you know, educators are doing at the schools, and I think it really highlights the importance of picture books that look at issues and social responsibility and all that sort of thing. And how important it is to have them in our homes.

L: I Couldn’t agree more and I think it really reinforces what they’re hearing at our schools.  Invasion at school so yeah, I think our picture books and Australians children’s literature really deserve all the kudos for really highlighting, 

B: Absolutely.  So one of the most difficult things for us when we were judging was the non-fiction category, there was a lot of back and forth.  Undecided. There was so many amazing non-fiction books this year.

L: Yeah I agree, and my oldest is a real non-fiction fan, but even my younger two, I just felt like it was engaging non-fiction as well, it wasn’t just a book of facts. It was really engaging and I think when you looked at a lot of the stuff that came out of Five Mile Press,

B: Yes, “This Boy Can” and “This Girl Can”

L: And then the human kinds theories that was very much, it looked at values in a way it could have been patronizing but because of the short anecdotes and small stories and the characters you’re invested with in a kind of lovely way of opening up conversations with children with how to deal with aspects of Social and Emotional Learning

B: Yes, absolutely, and I think it does it in a fun way, like we were looking for books that, you know, do look at issues, and that reflect our values, but also want them to be fun and engaging for the kids who are reading them and I think that there’s a lot of winners that we’ve got and also a lot of the other books that we’ve considered that you’ll see on all of our Bookstagram accounts just really did an amazing job of that.

49:38 L: I agree, I agree,  It was essentially about a character having a really rough time navigating some big failings really but it was done in such an engaging captivating way in that she, howled like a wolf, she become a wolfish character and, it harked back for me to “Where the Wild Things Are” where Max is sent to bed without any dinner, and he was a wild thing, but this time around in how the mum actually stands with Maggie the main character and basically goes through the feelings with her and helps her navigate that so it just felt like yeah, engaging.

5024: B Yeah!

L: Social and emotional issues presented in an engaging way was a big thing.  I also felt like the environment and community were two sort of things we saw this year in a lot of releases.

50:38 B: Yeah I thought it was a really good reflection of what’s happening in our world.  I think we had three fire specific books on our shortlist this year.

50:52 L: Yeah the “Bushfire Book” and in the best non fiction, and then the “Fire Wombat” which was one of our selections for best picture book which was again a book about the environment and a wombat but it was a beautiful read aloud, just really lovely prose to read aloud at the end of the day.

B: Definitely and we also so, you know, lots of books about Kindness and Hope which I think is something that we all need reminded of and to be encouraged to think about this year with everything else that’s going on.

51:25 L: Yes I agree “The Biscuit Maker” And “I Saw Pete and Pete Saw Me” Those books were very much about hope and community, through a child’s eye so I think those two books were you know obviously as well.

B: Yeah definitely I thought the same thing for “This Small Blue Dot” which was one of our best illustrations books. You know going for the good little special things in our world.

L: Yeah me too me too I really liked that one too.  The strength of releases and the number we had to cull down to was also very much made me feel really proud about the stage that Australian children’s literature is at at the moment.

Ale: ohhh can’t wait to get into that book! Ok so The Australian List. We do have one member of the Bookstagang Book Club who is Located in Australia, Lucy of @flisatfun, everyone else is in North America. And because of the way that bookrights and co-editions work she doesn’t have access to all the same books as us, and also sees so many books that we can’t get too. So we came up with the idea for her to round up a group of Bookstagrammers there and do their own Best of 2020 picture book list. Which also released Today on December 2nd. So We are going to cut away to them quickly so that they can chat a little bit about their winners and what they wanted to highlight

B: Absolutely, I think that’s a great note to wrap up on. To throw back to our Bookstagang friends in North America, thank you so much for having us it’s been absolutely…

L: Thank you Ale, Kelly and Corrie.

B: And thank you Lucy for getting this happening here it’s been a wonderful experience and hopefully you might hear more from us.

L: Yeah I hope so.

B: I’m just putting that out there. 

L: I think it’d be great and we’ve got some other fantastic Aussie Bookstagang members so make sure you look for them we’ll be sharing their accounts in our stories as well moving forward.

B: Yeah! Thanks so much everyone!

L: Thank you!

53:02 A: It was wonderful working with the Australian bookstagram…  I am so glad that we got this opportunity thank you to all of you guys..

53:16 K: Wouldn’t it be cool if we can start this all over the world and have like a picture book award network.

53:24 C: We will we can’t be contained.

A: Except Antartica, because they don’t have picture book publishers.

K: You don’t know that.

Ale: Speaking of nerdiness. Illustrations. We are all – everyone of us –  in the group really, really picky in our own ways about this. AND, it is important to note that, Illustration is incredibly subjective –  of course. But I think that when a group of people all look at something and stop and say, wow, that is beautiful, you have to wonder, is it really that subjective?  Sometimes something can just be beautiful. And I think that’s really what we were looking for here, books where all of our judges were impressed, that where the story was really defined and brought to new heights because of the art.  This category is for beautiful books, that really rely on their illustrations to tell their story.

54: 18 Kelly: Yes and another thing to note about the winners in this category is that SEVEN OUT OF TEN of them have the same author and illustrator. Which we didn’t realize initially either, but it’s just very easy to see when an illustrator knows how to tell a beautiful visual story! They’ll rely on their visuals So here are the winners:” Animals Brag About The Bottoms”,- a personal favourite “Sugar In Milk,” “If You Come To Earth,” “Obsessive About Octopuses,” “It’s A Great Big Colourful World,” “Neighbours,” “Ways To Say I Love You,” “Gustavo The Shy Ghost,” “Freedom We Sing,” and “Julian At The Wedding.”

55: 06 Corrie: I just have to mention “If You Come to Earth” is the overall winner of this whole thing, by far. Which it’s a really awesome book, it’s about a kid writing a letter to aliens, if they come to earth. And talking about earth. It’s hilarious and beautiful of course, ah I just, listen you two I love illustration so much I could go on, so long.  We already know my love for Flying Eye, and “Obsessive About Octopuses” I just love that whole series I think it’s the most gorgeous gifts set of all time “Sugar in Milk” ridiculously beautiful the colours are so rich and “Freedom We Sing” just like “Child of Galaxies” super empowering kind of abstract backgrounds, obsessed, love it.

56:00 Ale: THinking about what you were saying about how most of the books that won this category where most of the books that won this category are authors and illustrators I have to wonder if the reason they’re so stand out in the category because there was nothing lost in translation between getting the story from the author over to the illustrator because usually they don’t have any communication in the way that things are done in this industry as we’ve learned from talking to a lot of these creators. Now from these, my favourite has to be “Animals Brag about their Bottoms” That one’s just, you know it sounds silly and it is exactly what it is, it’s animals and they’re bragging about their different bottoms but it’s all self love, all bodies are beautiful and it’s just fun you know? And I love the quality of the colours.  And how they kind of move into each other I think, was it you that was telling me it was a special…

57:06 K: It’s a special very old hand dying technique that the illustrations are actually made of I’ve never seen anything like it. So I think that people might look at this and wonder why we put it in this category but the way the image is composed and crafted is incredible, it’s not a normal process that people can do.  So it’s a very beautiful book it’s hilarious, we read it at bed time, everyone likes buts.  So I love basically all of these, like I really really really love all of these.  “Freedom We Sing” was a book that I opened up the first time and I was like uuUUHHHH it just took all of the wind…

A: I remember, you gushed a lot.

K: I did! I just couldn’t believe it and I got the book before it was released and I was sent a recording of the author reading it and that was stunning enough but the illustrations and combinations it became like visual poetry I just really think it’s a stunning book.  The other one that I think is really interesting and notable that it ended up in this category is “Ways to Say I Love You” which if you look at only the text I was a little concerned that it might be a little heteronormative, but the illustrator kind of took the s tory to another level in every single way and made it a lot more inclusive and it is so beautifully illustrated.

58:32 A: ANd it has the foil on the front which you know I’m a sucker for ahaha.

K: Hahah she scored everything with foil on the front higher. Ahahaha.

A: You know for me, you talked about how you were blown away the first time you saw “Freedom We Sing” for me that was “Julian at the Wedding” for me that one was, woowww.  There’s not a lot of writing in that one but every single page is like going to an art gallery and having this overwhelming experience of having the colours and the texture of the image just kind of wash over you? I would have it framed.  So yeah for me I think that “Julian at the Wedding” has to be a favourite for this whole category.

59:24 K: I have to mention the “It’s a Great Big Colourful World” which is wild, but every single time I mention this book, Ale gets like a giant smile on her face.

A: Ahaha I just really like this book, what am I even saying, how could I not just be talking about this book it is so good. It is like an artist, if you just cut open their head, scooped it out and threw it at a page it would be this book.

59:50 Kelly: That’s a weird sales pitch but I like it.

Corrie: I love that description absolutely, yeah it’s a wild ride, things are crammed in like all sorts of nooks and crannies of this.  And little bits of writing underneath every little picture and each page is a colour right? And it changes to the colour but it explores the different tones and hues of each colour, and the things that can be that colour, it’s just, it’s like a colour book? But it takes it to the next level of just like being this wild wild ride, wild.

1:00:26 C: Adventure, it’s like a colour book adventure and of course we have to mention Gustavo!  Ahh

K: Gustavo I love Gustavo.

C: Gustavo is so sweet the art is absolutely beautiful. Kelly tells everybody that you can watch a video online about the process.

K: You took the words right out of my mouth, yeah it’s amazing the way she works in layers, Candlewick has a video on their youtube channel you have to watch it, just do it, 

A: We’ll put it in the show notes.

1:01:00 Corrie: Our last, and perhaps most anticipated category is Best Read Aloud. Which has some amazing winners of course, because anybody who has tried to read a book to children know, that you really need to have an engaging way to like, get the info out there you don’t always have to do funny voices, although I do like to do funny voices.

Kelly: I like funny voices too but sometimes I don’t have the energy I want the book to do the work for me.  But I think this is a category that is super important in the medium of picture books because they are MADE to be read aloud. Some books are beautiful but don’t have the read aloud narrative voice, or the rhythm and storytelling that a REALLY good read aloud has. Re-readability is one of the key factors of this category a HUGE aspect of this category. The books kids keep asking for over and over again. 

1:02:03 Ale: Absolutely and also the quality of being able to pull readers in so you know it’s a good read aloud when all of the kids stop rustling around on their bums and they’re just totally spell bound that’s the mark of a good read aloud. And I know I’ve said it like twice already but THIS is my category. Actually we were talking about this our feeds reflect each category, Coco has all the biographies she loves it, Kelly loves the meaningful loves of future classics wonderful future classics, for me I like the funny books I like the read alouds this is what I gravitate the most to. So I’m very excited about the winners who are… : “Going Up!”, “Unstoppable,” “Red Shoe”, “Izzy Gizmo and The Invention Convention”, “Our Favorite Day of the Year”, “Cannonball”, “The Whatifs,” “Everyone’s Awake”, “Aaalligator!”, and “Fussy Flamingo.”

Corrie: Oh man this is such a good category, “Unstoppable” I’ll be real when I got it and when I looked at it I was like, I don’t know if I’m going to like this.

Kelly: Same

1:03: 12 C: It is, such a wild ride.  It’s hilarious, it’s perfect for a read aloud, I was reading it being like, I wish I could read this to a classroom of students, they would be losing their minds right now. 

Kelly: It just snowballs and gets like nuttier and nuttier.

C: Gosh absolutely hilarious.

A: The whole time I was reading that I was thinking, who came up with this?

C: What’s in their brain?

A: What’s going on in there? It’s wonderful, very unexpected you like, okay I kind of thing I know what’s going to happen, but then you don’t, I’m not spoiling this for anyone you gotta go and buy it.

C: Or at least g et the E-bookfrom the library or something.

A: Cuz you’re not going to see it coming, it was great.

C:Red shoes also great, super cute in like I’m obsessed with Ebony Glenn in a totally not creepy way, she’s ridiculously talented and I love her illustrations, and, they were perfect for this book.

A: Yeah, my kids, my daughters they just love “Red Shoes” They both have a thing for shoes so they were like, they really like the part where she’s choosing the shoes at the store  and that there’s two sisters, this was one they just adored and I like that it kind of twisted into a story about like, the, Life of the shoe?  Extended beyond the original protagonists, going on, I didn’t see it coming, it was very good.

1:04:53 K: It was like a hidden storyline about sustainability and taking care of your belongings, yeah it was, “Red Shoes” was like a major stand out. And I think for me what every one of these books has in common is that the first time I opened them up I was like “this is an amazing book” no question, I was three pages into every single one and I was enraptured.  “There “Fussy Flamingo” and “Canonnball” And those are both Source Books Jabberwocky book and my kids just love them they’re both hilarious, but also really really relatable.  So “Fussy Flamingo” it’s great it’s about a Flamingo who won’t eat shrimps so she turns all these weird colours and eats all this weird stuff, so it’s great if you have a picky eater or just a kid-cuz it’s great. And my daughter River she loves this book so much she memorized it word for word and will occasionally run through the house screaming “Sweet Pepino Melons” because it’s in the book. And what’s cool about this is at the back of the book it has like facts about flamingos, so it’s like well this wasn’t a real possible story because ___ I love that they did that that was a good choice.  The other one Canonnball that a Whatifs” I got that book, I didn’t know it was coming it just showed up at my house and I read it and I was like oh my god I feel so seen! It’s about anxiety and I think it’s just a really beautiful way, the way it’s illustrated with these anxiety bugs, I think it’s a beautiful way of talking to kids about anxiety, similarly about our favourite day of the years, different cultures in the classroom setting, the way that that story is told makes it so readable and engaging for smaller children where as a lot of the non-fiction books might be harder to get a four year old interested in.  but “Our Favourite Day of the Year” Four, five, six year olds can really learn about other people outside their selves, or see themselves reflected. It’s like the only book I’ve read that represents an atheist family which I think is quite incredible, but there is a lot of funny books in this category that blew me away.

1:06:18 A: For us two that we’ve had for a little while that have the staying power, again River basically memorized the whole thing it’s about this Kid, it represents the Maori people, yeah, so they kid, and he’s got this wonderful relationship with his grandma and he wants to do a cannonball off a big high dive but he gets up there and he’s ready to do this thing and he’s got these smooth rhymes and everybody kind of laughs at him and this whole book goes through it with him but it’s very very funny it really explores all the characters in such a cute and unusual way and again River she like like repeats the little phrase that the kids when she’s like doing she’ll be like “see my moves…”whatever I don’t have it memorized she does. So good, Highly recommend highly recommend highly recommend….

1:08:18 K: Both of those books that have gone on the shelf for bedtime but never left, so I’ve been meaning to review Cannonball but my kid won’t give it up. So it’s a bit of a problem. “AAaaligator” I got that book and a sat down to do judging one day and I was like ‘this is the best book!’ So good, so I absolutely love that one and it’s like a big tall skinny book and the other one that’s a tall skinny book that we also sat down for the first time and read it in the spring is “Going Up” which I absolutely adore and we read it all of the time it is one of our more frequent bedtime reads which is about a girl who lives in an apartment building and they’re going up in the elevator floor by floor and their neighbours keep joining and they’re all these different people and different sized families and combinations of humans and pets and they’re all going upstairs for a dog’s birthday party which you’re not really expecting.  I really enjoyed that book it’s a great read aloud, it’s super fun, the pages open up on the elevator when they all spill out.

A: It does have an element of tension too because they keep jamming people on the elevator, it stresses River out, she’s like ‘this cannot be this cannot be.” But the other one you mentioned I should have, “Aaaligator” oh my gosh that one is just fantastic, and my husband jokes because of course he’s read all the book he said of course you love that one, because someone may or may not get eaten by an animal and that’s like one of your favourite things to happen in a book. And I was like you’re right I do enjoy a bit of that.

K:That’s your fairy tale love coming through.

C: Everyone’s away is so cute too, first of all I love the art style. I think it’s super funky and the colours are not quite true to life but they’re not, not true to life? You know? Like everything’s just a little bit more neon?  Yeah, it’s just so good.

1:10:31 A: It’s bizarre in like a great way but also I would have expected that from the lead singer of the Decemberists for everything to be a little bit bizarre but also what I love about it is everything is so singable, the rhyming in the book in the book is flawless, if it’s just a little bit forced, not for me. This one, hundo P.

K: You can definitely tell it’s written by a lyricist, which it is. But it’s a little bit like Unstoppable where it just keeps getting more wild as the pages go on, which I super duper appreciate.  I think we all super agree with every book in this category. Every single one of them they’re all super fun, they’re all super engaging they all have just really great star characters that kids will latch on to right away.

C: Definitely.

K: Great Read Alouds.

1:11:36 C: Ok I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news but I’m just swimming in a pool of amazing books, so maybe we could just start summing things up.

K: Uhh


K: how would you sum up this year Ale? Our fearless leader.

1:11:59 A: How would I sum up this year? Oh man it’s been a whirlwind right? I dunno we got so many good books and the thing you gotta remember is the books we mentioned here are the books that averaged out to have the highest scores but a lot of our personal favourites might not have made it on the list, there were so many good books so you got to watch out for all of our individual Instagrams because you’ll see so many more of the wonderful books that people have sent us.  But, this year was really strong, we got some great funny books, we had a lot of beautiful stuff happening and some great diverse representation, overall, good year everybody, good year.

C: It was an excellent year we got all sorts of good books and I’m so excited to share them on both the Tiny Activists and the @pintsizeprofessor  we got some great STEM books that were so good and some that were for little bit older kids like maybe eight years old, that are still picture books but pretty science heavy which was cool.

1:13:02 K: Yeah, yeah, we got some amazing non-fiction this year, I’m very thankful for that. You know I think for me when I sum up this year, we do work all year towards this, but because of the  events of 2020 which have been absolutely wild, between one of the most significant uprisings of any of our life time and the pandemic, and a huge spotlight on the structure of the publishing industry, what publishers chose to send us was quite remarkable I think, and it made it really easy to choose some incredibly beautiful books that represent a lot of different people I’m really excited to keep sharing a lot more of these books including ones that didn’t make the top 70 in this pile.  Which is… yeah I know.  Ahahah I’m really excited to keep sharing them on @inclusivestorytime  there’s so many more stories to be told. I’m really, I was very heartened by the entire experience of this year because I think it’s just very representative of what publishers are going to start changing about themselves based on what they submitted to us this year because I think that’s how they wanted to be seen.  So I hope they start making those actual changes now so this becomes the standard that this representation happens.

1:14:28 A: I think that they were definitely very intentional with the choices that they sent us, definitely for next year, I mean every year we seem to be getting bigger and bigger, so I don’t know how we’re gonna get through them all next year but if you’re a publisher who’s interested in submitting next year and you want to get in touch you’ll be able to do so through my website, and we do have some publishers who submit to us early like Kids Can Press and we actually really appreciate that because it gives us more time to be with the books and for them to become part of our home you know?

K: Mmhm, absolutely.

1:15:09 K: I think that when we build relationships with some of these books like “Going Up” I’ve built a relationship with that book since the spring so I have even more warm and tingly feelings about it so when we have publishers working with us throughout the year and not just sending a pile right at the end we have more time to build a meaningful relationship with it.

A: Yeah for me, Cannonball and Fussy Flamingo, I got those months ago so like they really stand out for me because we’ve read them over several months, several hundred times, so you know, so contact us, we’ll work it out. Ahahaha

1:15:50 K: I’m excited for next year. I’m literally sitting right now in a giant mountain of books but in all seriousness all three of us are going to be making some big book donations this year to helping people in our community. Because we do have too many books we can’t possibly keep all these books. I’m just looking forward to sharing the love of all these wonderful picture books.

C: I’m so excited just about everything 2020 was, wild, like have you seen that gif of a dumpster on fire floating…

K: Down a river?

C: Yeah down like a flooded street? All of us at one point have been inside that flaming dumpster but this is really a bright spot.

K: This was the bright spot.

A: Yeah highlights of 2020 doing this together with all of you guys and I love that as a group the bookstagang gets all of the same books for this so we can actually talk about them and work together when we’re featuring them I think sometimes during the rest of the year when we’re like, lets just find books about X theme, if we haven’t read it all together it’s like hard to have a discussion.  So that’s one of my favourite parts of all this, getting to talk about it with everybody.

K: Yeah and we all have different opinions, we’ve all made each other see books in different lights while talking about it through the judging process. And I have to break some other news at the end of this episode.

C: Bury the lead.

1:17:29 K: This episode is also our season finale, we have one more PB&J episode coming out next week and then we’re on break until some time in 2021 and we’re working on changing stuff up a little bit and we’re excited to share the new season with you when it’s ready.

C:It’s truly mind blowing to think of all that has happened this season, we did 12 regular episodes, 11 episodes of PB&J we’ve been working really really hard and we’re so thankful for everyone who has joined us this year especially on the wild ride that 2020 has been, it has been a super super fun undertaking doing all of this and I’m like sad that this is our season finale but I’m excited because I know all the things that we’re doing during the break and that makes me really happy ane excited.

1:18:26 K: I’m really happy an excited about all those things but also amazed we’re still standing, we learned to do this from the ground up, we’re not using a studio or outside editors, we’ve learned to do every aspect of this all by ourselves, I’m just really proud of us the three of us we record from three different locations in two different countries once a week, it’s a lot of work, and I’m just really proud of us, so I’m amazed we’re still standing I’m excited for next season but also really excited for a break.

1:19:01 A: But we’re all just going to keep on talking we just won’t be recording it.

C: Literally all the time.

K: Literally.

A: I basically I wake up, and I say oh look everybody’s awake already, and then that’s what I fall asleep to.

K: hahah a yes.

C: Yeah we all say good morning and goodnight to each other.

K: Unless we fall asleep holding our phones then we forget to say goodnight, it’s a really healthy relationship, I swear.  Okay, so what we really want to do is thank all of you for listening for hanging with us, for being nerdy about picture books with us and joining us on this ride and we can’t wait to share more with you, so thank you so much for listening to our antics and supporting the podcast. And with that this has been our Best Picture Books of 2020 episode, keep an eye on our Instagram @picturebookstagang for updates and be sure to subscribe to the Picture Bookstagang Podcast on Apple, Google, Spotify or wherever you listen to podcasts. Drop us a line on Instagram and let us know what are you reading. Doo dooo doooooo do dooo doo dooo. 

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