2018 Year in Review: ABC’s & 123’s

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It’s been a busy year for concept books! I was pleasantly surprised by the alphabet book come back. Less than impressed by most of the math in this batch.

By the way, here’s the first batch of concept books from 2018.

Did I miss a great book this year? Have you tried one of these titles yet? Was it a smashing success or a flop? Please share!

⭐️= favorite

👎= nope

Language Concepts (Rhyming, Opposites, ABC’s, etc.)

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⭐️Animalphabet by Julia Donaldson

Every time I complain about boring alphabet books, I swear someone comes along and writes a new fresh ABC book just to prove me wrong. Not that I’m complaining! This GORGEOUS book is sure to delight preschool readers with its riddles and beautiful illustrations.

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⭐️Owls Are Good at Keeping Secrets by Sara O’Leary

An absolutely delightful, quirky animal alphabet. Illustrated by the amazing Jacob Grant! I love the inclusion of upper and lowercase letters, and also the interpersonal angle. The endpapers are brilliant as well.

Not Yet, Zebra! by Lou Kuenzler

Reminds me of Z is for Moose! Annie lines up the animals in order to paint the alphabet, but one animal just can’t wait for his turn. Zebra resorts to a variety of sneaky costumes to try and cut in line. A rhyming romping alphabet exploration with super fun illustrations and a good message about waiting your turn. Perfect for preschoolers!

Boing! A Very Noisy ABC by Tim McCanna

This is the story of a ball that was blown by a sneeze and proceeded to wreak havoc all through the ABC’s. No, the book doesn’t rhyme, but it is full of fun onomatopoeias!


⭐️I Do Not Like Books Anymore! by Daisy Hirst

Like I always tell my grown-ups, learning to read is hard work! Natalie used to love books, but that all changes when she goes to school. Letters and words look like squiggles, and, when you sound them out, they don’t even make a good story. Natalie still loves telling stories… can her family use this to help build a bridge to reading? This book is everything I try to tell caregivers about learning to read and write. Would be perfect for reading/writing workshop in the early primary grades!

A Very Late Story by Marianna Coppo

When several animals find themselves in the blank pages of a book, they know just what to do – wait for words and the story… and wait… and wait. When one bored bunny has had enough, it sets off to create its own. What a quirky fun picture book! Love the message…. Don’t waste time sitting around waiting for your story to happen – pick up the pencil and write it yourself!

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⭐️Stop, Go, Yes, No! by Mark Twohy

Follow an adorable, energetic dog as he tries to engage his less than enthusiastic playmate: cat. Love the vocabulary! What a great book to learn about opposites and also use visual literacy/narrative skills to help tell the story.

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⭐️Can I Be Your Dog? by Troy Cummings

Speaking of furry friends…  Arfy is a lonely dog looking for a family to love. What will happen when he keeps getting rejection letters? Has the perfect owner been nearby all along? This would be an amazing addition to a letter composition unit in writer’s workshop!

A Parade of Elephants by Kevin Henkes

Another charming toddler storytime title from Henkes. Follow a parade of darling pastel elephants as they march up and down hills, in and out of caves, all throughout the day. Where are they going? Read to find out!


⭐️We Love Dinosaurs by Lucy Volpin

A big, bright, rhyming celebration of dinosaurs from tall to small! Big storytime hit with the toddler crowd. Great book for building vocabulary!

Math (Counting, Comparing, Measuring, etc.)

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⭐️Two Problems for Sophia by Jim Averbeck

Sophia finally has the gigantic pet she’s always dreamed of… but Noodles the Giraffe also comes with a gigantic snore! Sophia will stop at nothing to make sure Noodles fits in with her family for good. After consulting an acoustic engineer, she gets inventing! LOVE the rich vocabulary and strong narrative structure in this story. What a fantastic demonstration of problem-solving and other math skills in action! Just look at that math writing and visual representation of data. What a beautiful STEAM story!

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⭐️Crash! Boom! A Math Tale by Robie Harris

Speaking of problem-solving and resilience… What do you do when your blocks fall down? Do you give up and cry and fall to the ground? Not this little elephant, or at least, not for long! Elephant is determined to build a tower just the same height and is willing to count, measure, estimate and experiment to get there… no matter how many times it crashes down! Great STEAM book to add to your construction or play-themed storytime, or a preschool block center. The repetition and big, bold text also lends itself well to a print awareness literacy message.

Just the Right Size by Bonnie Grubman

I never noticed before this year how many concept-centric books involve elephants. Anyways, this is a charmingly illustrated exploration of animals big and small.

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👎How Big is an Elephant? by Rossanu Bossu

In contrast, this is a really poor exploration of animal sizes. The math concepts aren’t correctly illustrated at all.

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👎Counting Dinos by Eric Pinder

Dinosaurs and math? Count me in! Except wait… there’s more than 5 dinosaurs on this page… I’m so confused…

Bigger Than You by Hyewon Kyung

A bunch of dinosaurs take turns playing on the teeter-totter… until tyrannosaurus rex finds out he’s not the biggest dinosaur of all, and throws a temper tantrum! Can they find a way to play nicely together at the prehistoric playground? The teeter-totter is perhaps the perfect introduction to the concept of balance.

Balance the Birds by Susie Ghahremani

Speaking of balance, Ghahremani is back with another math book! Love the bright colors in this exploration of balance and harmony. Balance can be hard concept to convey just right, but this book does the math admirable justice. Better one-on-one than in storytime, I think.


⭐️Big Box, Little Box by Caryl Hart

Is there anything better than a box? Not to this curious cat! A delightfully illustrated exploration of boxes from big to little, snazzy to plain, empty and occupied… by a new squeaky friend! Love all the descriptive vocabulary in this book. Recognizing and describing attributes is a math skill, too!

10 Blue Butterflies: A Counting Book by Sam Williams

This counting/seek & find book is big, bold and bright! Definitely better one-on-one, but what a great way to build visual discrimination skills.

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⭐️100 Bugs: A Counting Book by Kate Narita

Bugs soar and creep and crawl across every page! Great introduction to composition/decomposition and making ten. Love the rhyming, repetition and everyday diversity. This would be a great read aloud for math workshop!

1 2 3 Gulls by Beth Rand

Follow an intrepid group of seagulls as they slide and skate through a winter wonderland! I like the inclusion of bigger numbers, such as 50 and 100. The illustrations are perhaps a bit too busy/small for storytime kids to catch onto the math concepts, though. And it’s not much of a story…

Which brings me to my complaint about most math books this year: where’s the story? Good math books don’t sacrifice the story for the sake of the concept. And at the very least, the illustrations should correctly convey the math content. Geeze.

Anyways, here’s a super helpful, parent-friendly resource from the Development and Research in Early Math Education (DREME) on how to evaluate the math in picture books:


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