Best of 2020: Picture Books

As 2020 comes to a close, we asked our World Kid Lit champions to tell us their favourite discoveries from the last 12 months. Over a series of posts, we’ll be featuring their recommendations for picture books, chapter books for emerging readers, middle grade and young adult. Today, we’re talking about picture books…

Nanette McGuinness recommends… Lindbergh: The Tale of a Flying Mouse; Armstrong: The Adventurous Journey of a Mouse to the Moon; and Edison: The Mystery of the Missing Mouse Treasure.

by Torben Kuhlmann, translated from German by Suzanne Levesque (NorthSouth Books)


Fabulous, detailed illustrations accompany fascinating “mousteries” and adventures in these imaginative historical picture story books for ages 4-8.

Find out more from Nanette on the GLLI blog.

Lawrence Schimel recommends… I Wish

by Toon Tellegen, illustrated by Ingrid Godon, translated from Dutch by David Colmer (Elsewhere Editions)

I first read some of these poems in the special MODERN POETRY IN TRANSLATION issue edited by Sasha Dugdale devoted to children’s poetry in translation and just loved them. I had been looking forward to having the opportunity to read more, and this year I finally could! The whole collection lives up to that initial snippet.


Anne Thompson – A Library Lady – recommends… Felix After the Rain

written and illustrated by Dunja Jogan, translated from Slovenian by Olivia Hellewell (Tiny Owl)

Felix After the Rain is a beautiful book. Wonderful illustrations which encourage the reader to linger combined with a rich text to create something that will comfort and reassure. The translated text by Olivia Hellewell is rich and almost lyrical and this would be lovely to read aloud as the vocabulary works so well with the illustrations. I would highly recommend this for children of all ages and quite probably adults too.

For more on Felix, see the review at GLLI, too

Ruth Ahmedzai Kemp recommends… Daniel and Ismail

by Juan Pablo Iglesias, illustrated by Alex Peris. Cleverly published as a trilingual text: English translation by Ilan Stavans, Hebrew by Eliezer Nowodworski and Frieda Press-Danieli, Arabic by Randa Sayegh (Yonder/Restless Books)

A bold picture book about friendship overcoming mistrust. It’s trilingual, placing Arabic, Hebrew and English equally on the page, and it even reads from right to left like Arabic and Hebrew books. The whole story is a colourful and physical expression of perceived difference and the universality that over-arches those differences. (Full review here)

Margot Lindgren recommends … The Day Saida Arrived

by Susana Gomez Redondo, illustrated by Sonja Wimmer, translated from Spanish by Lawrence Schimel (Blue Dot Kids)

This is a book I would share with children aged 7+ but you could also use it with an older group. This text quote would make a terrific starting point for a discussion about words and communication and the power of language.

(See Margot’s blog, Momo Time to Read, for her longer book review)

Jo Bowers recommends … The House of Madame M.

by Clotilde Perrin, translated from French by Daniel Hann (Gecko Press)

Having been completely blown away by the ingenuity of The Villians by Clothilde Perrin, in particular the brilliant reveals under each flap that are multi-layered, I just had to have this book. I was not disappointed. It’s the ultimate haunted house tour in a book, with each double page spread offering multiple flap-lifting opportunities. I found myself tentatively lifting each flap as each darkened room revealed ghosts, monsters, ghouls and bottles of poisonous mixtures with messages for the reader both on the page and beneath the flap. Every time I’ve revisited this book I see something different. This is one of the best haunted house books ever!

Ben Harris recommends … Encyclopedia of Grannies

by Eric Veillé, translated by Daniel Hahn (Gecko Press)

Zany, funny, frankly superb. Guaranteed to engage every reader, young and the young at heart.

Laura Taylor of Planet Picture Book recommends… The Visitor 

written and illustrated by Antje Damm, translated from German by Sally-Ann Spencer (Gecko Press, 2018)

A simple yet brilliant exploration of the importance of company and connection. This book really resonated with me this year, when so many people have experienced lockdown and separation from loved ones.

(See GLLI for Laura’s full review)

Laura also recommends…. Angryman 

written by Gro Dahle, illustrated by Svein Nyhus, translated from Norwegian by Tara Chace (NorthSouth Books, 2019)

This big, brave picture book, told from the perspective of a young boy, reveals the unique, hidden and complex nature of domestic violence and offers hope to its victims and perpetrators. Raw, powerful and confronting. 

(See GLLI for an interview about Angry Man with translator Tara Chace)

Claire Storey recommends… The Bicki-Books

by various, published by The Emma Press

I love these little postcard-sized books. Each little book contains a poem, translated from Latvian accompanied by its own unique illustrations. There’s such a variety of styles and designs – just beautiful! Read more about The Emma Press here.

Mia Spangenberg recommends … Are You an Echo? The Lost Poetry of Misuzu Kaneko

by Misuzu Kaneko, translated from Japanese by Sally Ito, David Jacobson and Michiko Tsuboi (Chin Music)

This picture book introduces the story and poetry of one of Japan’s most famous poets to English-language readers. While Misuzu Kaneko’s life was tragic – she committed suicide at the age of 26 – her suffering speaks to our common humanity and makes her poems all the more poignant. Her poems evoke empathy and call for mutual respect. They resonate with readers of all ages.

(This one was also reviewed at GLLI, by by Jenny Zbrizher)

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Please share your recommendations on Twitter (#worldkidlit): what are your favourite picture books in translation that you read this year?

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Go to Best of 2020 Chapter Books for Emerging Readers
Go to Best of 2020 Middle Grade
Go to Best of 2020 Young Adult

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