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Our top 10 new picture books 2023

So many great picturebooks have been published in 2023.
Here’s our selection of some of the best.

We hope hope you and your children will enjoy sharing these books again and again and enjoy conversations, creative activities, finding out more or imaginative story play.

The Artist
Ed Vere, Random House
Age 3-7

A brave and passionate young artist, full of ideas, hatches a plan to share the joy and beauty she sees in the world. She sets off for the big city and in no time her creations adorn the walls of the tallest buildings and people come from far and wide to see her work. But one day she makes a mistake. Embarrassed and discouraged, she stops painting; will anyone be able to persuade her to continue?

With a warm and encouraging message for young artists everywhere, this is a delightful picturebook celebrating the messy beauty of our world and what it means to be an artist. This is a story which may inspire children to experiment with paints and crayons perhaps decorating (with permission!) the sides of a cardboard box or the cover of a plain notebook to create their own art works.

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Lo Cole, Rocket Bird Books  
Age 3-5

Doris is an elephant who hates everyone looking at her. The trouble is she stands out because she is red – ALL over. She hides amongst a flock of highly colourful birds which leads her to wonder whether she is actually an ele-finch rather than an ele-phant? Doris seeks out more hiding places and feels increasingly lost and alone until she meets a blue rhinoceros with similar problem

This is a lovely picture book with a very appealing story about a shy elephant having an identity crisis. The illustrations are bold, colourful and full of humour. There is a playful approach to language and to the book format itself as Doris stomps off ‘to the next page.’ The repeated refrain ‘Stop looking at me!’  will encourage children to join in. There are other interactive elements too; young readers are directly invited to find the elephant hidden in the sea of birds, flowers or fish. Children might like to try posing like Doris in the end papers or drawing their own elephants. See our activity page for Elmer another colourful elephant who just wants to blend in.

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Mariajo Illustraio, Frances Lincoln
Age 5-7+

When everyone woke up one summer’s day in the city everything was different, everything was wet. At first the inhabitants didn’t mind and got on with their busy lives. In fact, for many it was fun, but the water level continued to rise until it threatened priceless works of art and endangered smaller individuals. One inhabitant had seen what the problem was, but no one would listen to him. When the flooding could no longer be ignored, they did listen and solved the problem together.

This is a sophisticated picturebook about cooperation and teamwork. The illustrations are stylish with a striking greyscale and aquamarine palette and interesting in content with lots to spot and touches of humour – the city dwellers are animals with ingenious responses to the increasing water levels.  

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Rob Biddulph, Harper Collins
Age 3-7

Gigantic is a young whale who is, despite his name very tiny. His big brother Titan makes fun of him and says Gigantic should play with the smaller sea creatures. Gigantic does just that; having exuberant fun with his new friend Myrtle the Turtle. One day Titan’s friends Hulk and Colossus are very impressed when they spot Gigantic practising his tail spins. Titan is jealous and determined to show that anything his brother can do he can do better. Despite warnings that the water is too shallow he goes ahead and quickly becomes grounded. It is up to Gigantic and his team of small sea creatures to try and save the day.

This is a delightful story about sibling rivalry and love. It shows that it is possible to make a difference even if you are small and it is the size of your heart that is most important.

Stunningly illustrated and designed with rich colour there is lots to spot in the detailed undersea world. The rhyming text invites children to join in once familiar with the story.

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Grandpa and the Kingfisher
Anna Wilson, illus. Sarah Massini, Nosy Crow
Age 5-7

Grandpa spends time with his granddaughter on and by the river teaching her about the natural world. Throughout the year they watch a kingfisher as he dives for food, finds a mate and builds a nest. As the seasons change and young chicks leave the nest Grandpa gently hints that their time together will also come to an end. Grandpa is absent in the last few pages of the book, and we watch as the young child remembers their time together and continues to enjoy the river and watch the kingfishers.

This is a beautifully written tale about nature and the cycle of life with a lyrical text and beautiful imagery which bring the riverbank to life. The illustrations provide colour, movement, and added detail to describe the natural world through the seasons.

Full of warmth, this story also celebrates the special nature of the relationship between a child and a grandparent, and gently prepares young children for the inevitability of death.

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Mama’s Sleeping Scarf
Chimamande Ngozi, illus. Joelle Avelino. Harper CollinsPuffin
Age 3-5

Chino loves tracing her fingers over the circles on Mama’s beautiful scarf. Mama wears it at night to keep her hair nice and soft. Chino is anxious when Mama leaves to go to work and so Mama gives her the scarf to play with until she returns. Chino has great fun throughout the day with the scarf, her special toy Bunny and her papa and grandparents until Mama comes home.

This is an appealing story about family love and reassurance. It is full of warmth in the text and the colourful illustrations. After sharing the story children may enjoy looking for the many circles in the book and in the world around them or playing and imagining with a colourful scarf themselves.

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Mollie, Olive and Dexter
Catherine Raynor
Walker Books
Age 0-5

Molly, Olive and Dexter are friends who live in an old oak tree at the bottom of the garden. One day, Molly thinks a game of hide and seek would be fun. However, it takes quite a while before Olive and Dexter get the hang of it. When they do Molly gets very worried that she has lost her friends forever. A gentle appealing story about friendship likely to prompt lots of games of hide and seek. This is the first of a new series about the group of friends.

See our activity page for Iris and Isaac, another delightful story by Catherine Raynor about friends.

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Speak Up
Nathan Bryon, ill. Dapo Adeola, Otter Barry books

Age 5-7

Rocket loves books and is a regular visitor to her local library. When she finds out her library is facing closure, she decides to speak up about it. Inspired by reading about Rosa Parks, she organises a peaceful protest.

Speak Up! is the latest in the series from the creators of the award-winning Look Up! And Clean Up! Rocket is a wonderful character and her enthusiasm is infectious.  This story may inspire visits to your own local library and research into Rosa Parks. It also provides an introduction to activism and ways we all might speak up about the things that matter to us.

Visit our activity pages for Look Up! and Clean Up!

See our activity pages for two more books about libraries Luna Loves Library Day by Joseph Coelho and The Dragon in the Library by Louie Stowell.

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This Rock is Mine         
Kate Umansky, illus Alice McKinley, Alison Green Books
Age 3-5

Two frogs argue about a rock which they both lay claim to wanting exclusive rights. They stake their claims with towels, chairs and grumpy signs. Their feud continues until a large, predatory heron swoops in and they have to rapidly vacate the rock. Adversity leads them to decide sharing a safer spot is a much better idea and they quickly become friends.

A very funny rhyming story which is likely to become a family favourite. Children will enjoy joining in with the arguments when familiar with the story.

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Tiny Owl’s Scary Day
Petr Horácek
, Walker
Age 3-5

Tiny Owl is curious about daytime, she doesn’t want to wait in her nest until night falls. She decides to go out exploring despite Mummy’s warnings of danger. However, she finds daytime is pretty scary for baby owls and she has several near misses. Luckily, she gets home unscathed and unaware that Mummy has been following closely behind to make sure she is safe. A beautifully illustrated picturebook with a simple but satisfying story. It may spark conversation about owls and nocturnal animals.

See our activity page for Owl Babies by Martin Waddell and Patrick Benson where it is Mummy that leaves the nest.

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