Picture books harness a child’s imagination, sweep them up and carry them to a make-believe place where anything can happen. They teach our children values and principles, better than we can, sometimes. They tell histories, visit the past, and jettison us into the future, cultivating the kind of creativity and innovation our world needs.

Here Motherhood Matters contributor Catherine Arveseth shares eight of her favorite children's books released in 2012.

"Hello! Hello!" by Matthew Cordell

Poor Lydia can’t get anyone’s attention. All her family members are zoned out with their handhelds or laphelds, so she ventures outside alone. There she finds a colorful, interactive world with improbable friends, ready to play with her. Determined to share this exciting place with her family, she returns home to swap out their devices for a sprig of nature.

"The Fantastic Flying Books of Morris Lessmore" by William Joyce

Meet Morris. He loves words. He loves stories. He loves books. But every story has its upsets.

One day, everything in Morris’ life, including his own story, is scattered by a tremendous storm. Eventually, Morris finds himself in an abandoned library where the books are alive and beat their covers like the wings of birds. The books flutter around him protectively and watch as he begins to write again.

He cares for them, and they for him, as he works to complete his story.

Underneath this book-about-books, lies a deeper story about loss, love and healing.

"Unspoken: A story from the underground railroad" by Henry Cole

When a farm girl discovers a runaway slave hiding in the barn, she is startled and frightened. But her conscience weighs on her and she must decide if she will have the courage to help him.

Unspoken gifts of humanity unite this girl and the runaway as they each face a journey — one following the North Star, the other following her heart. This book speaks quietly to our deepest senses and yields a wonderful opportunity to teach history and compassion to our children.

"King Arthur's Very Great Grandson" by Kenneth Kraegel

Henry Alfred Grummorson is the great-great-great-great-great-great-grandson of Arthur, King of Britain. On his sixth birthday, armed with sword and helmet, he sets off for a duel.

Ready to fight the meanest monster in the land, he is disappointed when a fire-breathing dragon only wants to blow smoke rings. A cyclops only wants to have a staring contest. The griffin only wants to play chess.

Frustrated, Henry moves on, searching for real battle, until he comes face to face with the most dreaded of beasts. The leviathin.

Has he met his match? What will be his fate?

All children will relate to Henry’s quest. And they will be surprised by its unintended consequences. Kraegel’s book teaches the importance of friendship, which can be found in the most unlikely places.

"Brother's at Bat" by Audrey Vernick

This is the true story of an amazing all-brother baseball team. The 12 Acerra brothers were the longest-playing all-brother team in baseball history. They loved the game, but more importantly, they supported and cared for each other — sticking together no matter what kind of curve ball life threw at them.

The setting is New Jersey, 1938. This never-before-told story comes vividly to life with Vernick’s words and Steven Salerno’s vintage-style illustrations.

"Helen's Big World: The Life of Helen Keller" by Doreen Rappaport

This picture book biography is an accessible introduction to one of history’s most influential women.

Illustrator, Matt Tavares, worked with great effort to depict Helen’s life in a way that demonstrated what she could “see,” not what she couldn’t.

Each page is punctuated with a quote from Helen, weaving her own words into the text. This book is a wonderful portrait of a remarkable lady whose vision and strength inspired America and whose innovation and progress changed the course of history.

"Outside Your Window: A First Book of Nature" by Nicola Davies

This large, brightly illustrated book is a lovely introduction to nature and the four seasons. In it, you will hear the sound of bullfrogs and the crunch of leaves in the fall, see the tracks of animals in the snow, and taste fresh fruit and vegetables harvested at the end of summer.

It captures all the sights and sounds of a child’s interaction with nature and does so with original poetry.

"Duckling Gets a Cookie" by Mo Willems

This book is about Pigeon, who feels put-upon because Duckling got a cookie, just by asking. (Politely, I might add.) Pigeon goes through his usual hilarious rant, while Duckling looks calmly on. The sweet twist at the end will leave you smiling.