The Best Family in the World, written by Susana López and illustrated by Ulises Wensell, is such a book. Young Carlota anxiously awaits the arrival of her new family, and in her sleep imagines the possibilities. What will they be like? Will they be pirates, or tiger tamers, or pastry chefs? None of the above, as it turns out. But her new, ordinary family, while not as fascinating and adventurous as any she imagined, is in many ways even better.
The Best Family in the World is what a picture book is meant to be. It first of all is slightly oversized, just begging to be shared aloud. Its saturated illustrations fill the pages, to the very edges in most cases, with purposeful blank spaces playing their roles in others. And its theme of possibilities is fully realized by the illustrator's generous use of whole page spreads. Reading this book on an electronic reader would be akin to viewing the Mona Lisa on a postage stamp, and arguing that the latter experience was equally satisfying and edifying.
But it doesn't stop there. Like all excellent picture books, this one works on a number of levels. As Carlota imagines each possible family, author Susana López describes that family in a lyrical paragraph, the language pattern of which is repeated throughout the book. When considering her future pirate parents, for example, Carlota imagines that
She'd live on a pirate ship! She'd sail the seven seas, decorate flags with skulls and crossbones and look for treasure troves of gold doubloons. She'd carry a monkey on her right shoulder and a parrot on her left. She'd have a patch over her eye and a wooden leg. Yes, a family of pirates would be the best family in the world!Not only would this picture book be a great tie-in to topics such as possibilities and families, but it would also be a great read-aloud for career days. And as far as I'm concerned, it's another book in a library of thousands that attests to the fact that picture books are here to stay.