These are must-read, must-own picture books for June 2023. I cried reading CAPE. I laughed reading HOW TO COUNT TO 1. I was charmed with THE SEARCH FOR THE GIANT ARCTIC JELLYFISH. I could go on and on… Needless to say, all of these picture books will leave you feeling — and that makes them exceptional.
New Picture Books, June 2023
A Delicious Story by Barney Salzberg
Where did the story go? Well, the big mouse reluctantly admits he was hungry, and so he ATE the story!! (And it was delicious!) So the little mouse asks the big mouse to make up another story. But, the big mouse struggles to think of a story. Will he think of one? A surprising ending and an exciting new character make this a clever and fun metafiction new favorite read-aloud.
Salat In Secret by Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow, illustrated by Hatem Aly
Two of my favorite kidlit creators teamed up for this important story about bravery, faith, and family. After his dad gives him a prayer rug of his own, a Muslim boy named Muhammad searches for a place to pray at school, but he’s nervous to ask his teacher, and he hides his prayers from his classmates. After school, he sees his dad praying outside his ice cream truck with police standing over him. Muhammad bravely leaves the truck to join his father. And even though they’re both trembling a little bit, they finish their prayers, and the police leave. The next day, Muhammad feels the courage to approach his teacher and ask for a place where he can pray.
Cape by Kevin Johnson, illustrated by Kitt Thomas
A little boy puts on his bright red cape and follows the crowd where they gather at the gravesite, then back to the house with no smiles. The boy doesn’t want to listen or to remember, but suddenly, the memories explode, and he remembers… He remembers his dad. He remembers his dad’s laugh and the fun they had. And the boy tells his dad that he will never forget him. This sweet boy’s grief journey is exceptionally told with a brilliant arc showing how he feels both heartbreak and joy. I cried every time I read this story! CAPE is one of the most beautifully written and illustrated picture books I’ve ever read.
This Is Not My Story by Ryan Uytdewilligen, illustrated by David Huyck
METAFICTION / STORYTELLING
In this cute fourth wall book, the story’s narrator and the main character discuss (er, argue) about why the narrator is getting the boy’s story wrong. The boy insists that it is NOT the boy’s story! Even though the author disagrees. So together, they look for the boy’s story. It’s not the cowboy story, or the dragon slayer story, or the detective story… Eventually, the narrator asks the boy questions to understand who he is, and it turns out that the boy’s story is his SEARCH for the story. How meta!
Bear With Me by Kerascoet
SEPARATION ANXIETY BACK TO SCHOOL / MOSTLY WORDLESS
Beautiful illustrations show a little girl growing up and doing everything with her beloved stuffed bear. The minimal text of “Bear with me” shows the girl wanting her Bear and waiting for her beloved Bear to get washed. When Bear is clean, “Bear with me” has another meaning — Bear is back with her! Then, the girl gets bigger, and it’s time for her to go to school. Sadly, she can’t bring Bear along. So, at school, she paints a picture of Bear that she brings home to show her parents–and it’s a new understanding of “Bear with me!”
The Search for the Giant Arctic Jellyfish: What Magic Lies Beneath? by Chloe Savage
SCIENTIFIC EXPLORATION / ARCTIC ANIMALS
Informative and funny, this picture book belongs on your bookshelves because your readers will love every bit of it. Dr. Morley and her crew search for the elusive Arctic Jellyfish. As they do, they encounter many other arctic creatures, which helps readers learn about those creatures — belugas, narwhals, and orcas. But the crew never sees the Jellyfish. The fun part is that WE SEE THE JELLYFISH! The illustrator shows the jellyfish in scenes where the scientist and her crew are searching. This is a delightful hide-and-seek romp in the Arctic with a playful jellyfish as the special star.
How to Count to 1 by Casper Salmon, illustrated by Matt Hunt
Can you count to 1? And no higher? Silly illustrations and humorous writing will surprise and engage growing mathematicians as they follow the directions and count to ONE. One worm in disguise, one giraffe (among other African animals,) one duck rollerblading, and well, you get the idea– ONE! What’s even better is that the illustrations often mislead you to think you might be counting higher. Except– you are not. Brilliant!
Luis de Torres Sails to Freedom by Tami Lehman-Wilzig, illustrated y Oliver Averill
In Spain, the rulers made a law that Jewish people must convert to Catholicism or leave the country. Yosef (now called Luis) and his family convert, but they still believe in their Jewish faith. To get out of Spain, Luis hires on as a translator for Christopher Columbus’ ship. But he’s worried. The ship is meant to sail on the Jewish day of mourning which is bad luck. Can Luis convince his captain to postpone their trip? And how will the Jewish sailors stay safe when the deadline passes for them to leave the country? I love how this well-written historical story shares the story of one real person trying to survive, yet it illuminates the plight of all Jews in 1942 Spain. The textured illustrations are dynamic and emotional. What’s more, readers can learn more about Tisha B’Av, hamsas, and the history in the back matter. Exceptional — a must-read!
Lupe Lopez Reading Rock Star by e.E. Charlton-Trujillo and Pat Zietlow Miller, illustrated by Joe Cepeda
LEARNING TO READ
Lupe is in the “bad” reading group. So she fake reads or makes excuses. She even quits her band. But one day after school, she notices the musicality of the sounds of words, in particular, their beats. Before long, she finds the beats of each sound and can sound out the words! Soon she’s reading words and sentences. Lupe rejoins the band and remembers to ask for help when she needs it.
Bitsy Bat School Star by Kaz Windness
NEURODIVERSITY / CELEBRATING INDIVIDUALITY
Bitsy Bat is excited about school…but once she’s there, her differences (sitting upside down, painting with her feet, eating different foods) feel overwhelming, and she has a meltdown. Her parents remind her that it’s okay to be different than her classmates. The next day, Bitsy adds sunglasses and headphones and shares an idea with her teacher. Soon all the children are making stars describing what makes them special. This is a joyful celebration of being yourself, starring a neurodivergent (autistic) bat who helps her classmates see what makes them special, too. The artwork is ADORABLE and so visually appealing!
Does a Bear Poo in the Woods? by Jonny Leighton, illustrated by Mike Byrne
Barry, the bear, has to poo. But he can not find a place to poo with privacy. Instead, he finds a flock of pooing birds, a couple of bottom-burping skunks, and a moose with a giant pooey pile. His bear friend tells him about a spot up the stream…and Barry discovers she’s right. The cabin has a poo throne! Barry is thrilled. But what will happen when the woodsman returns? Hilarious!
We Are Going to Be Pals! by Mark Teague
FRIENDSHIP / FUNNY
In the African savanna, a talkative (dare I say know-it-all) egret (bird) tells the rhino that they have a symbiotic relationship AND that they are meant to be best friends. And the bird explains everything there is to know about friendship and life. But when the bird gets stuck in quicksand, will her quiet, new best friend help get Egret unstuck?
This Is Not a Unicorn by Barry Timms, illustrated by Ged Adamson
Playful rhyming wordplay describes a not-a-unicorn who is the perfect friend to the girl. In fact this creature is a “blow-up-your-balloon-icorn” “tickle-everywhere-icorn” and “make-your-garden-bloom-icorn” unicorn best friend. I love the bright pops of neon colors in the illustrations.