The first is Pat Zietlow Miller's Sophie's Squash (illus by Anne Wilsdorf).
Pat's a dear friend, and I first saw this funny, sweet story in manuscript form. Reading it, make that savoring it, literally gave me goosebumps. I couldn't stop thinking, "Oh, man, this is so GOOD." I told Pat that, of course, adding, "This will sell." Happily, an editor soon snapped it up. Once published, Sophie quickly garnered 4 starred reviews. Woot! School Library Journal said: "With lessons on life, love, and vegetable gardening, this tale will be cherished by children, and their parents will be happy to read it to them often."
Cherished, people. Gotta love that.
Three more of Pat's picture books are in the publishing pipeline (so far). And, even knowing how she loathes arbitrary capitalizations, I'm going to say that she's definitely Someone to Watch. ;)
Another favorite this year is from Australian author/illustrator Gus Gordon.
I could wax poetic about this story of how two lonely, quirky souls come together in New York City, but NYPL librarian and blogger extraordinaire Betsy Bird does it so much better. Read what she had to say about this gem here.
Gus burst onto my radar when he was tagged to illustrate my I Am Cow, Hear Me Moo! (Dial, May 2014). His illustration style is part collage, part plain old amazing. Kids will love searching for subtle details sprinkled through Herman and Rosie. It is one special book.
The third book I think deserves special mention is a TERRIFIC craft book from prolific and uber-talented picture book author Linda Ashman. Her The Nuts and Bolts Guide to Writing Picture Books is a comprehensive how-to, packed with clear, well-organized information that examines every element of picture book writing.
Whether you write in rhyme or prose, everything you need to know is here. And Ms. Ashman doesn't just tell you how to master something, she includes examples from already-published picture books so you can see for yourself. As I read Nuts and Bolts, I couldn't help wishing I'd had it back when I was starting out. Talk about shortening a person's learning curve! Truly, this is the best book I've ever read on writing picture books, and I know I'll be returning to it again and again. Your copy is waiting here.