Best New Picture Books Out in February 2023

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We are well into February, the month of Valentine’s Day, President’s Day, and Black History Month. Yesterday, I spent most of the day reading many of the picture books published this month and found 14 picture book titles that you’ll want to read aloud to the children in your lives.

Best New Picture Books Out in February 2023

Once Upon a Book by Kate Messner, illustrated by Grace Lin
Wildly imaginative, this engaging meta adventure follows a girl bored at home in the cold and gray winter as she reads and ventures into the pages of a book. There she finds wondrous spaces of jungle flowers and colorful birds, camels on hot sands under blazing suns, gentle waters of a coral reef, billowing clouds, and even space. After visiting each place, she wishes for something different, and the characters in the book invite her to turn to another page to visit them. As she turns the page, so do we. Eventually, the girl feels lonely and wishes for the warmth of her kitchen that smells like dumplings, and her mom says, “Turn the page…and come in.” So she does. Just in time for dinner. I absolutely adore Grace Lin’s illustrations — her character is so charming and I love the rabbit on every page. A FAVORITE PICTURE BOOK OF 2023!

Cinderella With Dogs! by Linda Bailey, illustrated by Freya Hartas
I love this unexpected Cinderella remix with a Fairy Dogmother who is ready to give Cinderella a dog-ish makeover! In this story, Cinderella gets a gown made of an old dog blanket, hair like a poodle, and booties on her feet. She runs to the ball, howling all the way, and meets the prince and his dog-loving family. After the dance, she declines the prince’s marriage proposal and suggests they chase squirrels together.

Mama Shamsi at the Bazaar by Mojdeh Hassani and Samira Iravani, illustrated by Maya Fidawi
A little girl worries about getting lost at the bazaar and asks her Mama Shamsi if she can hide under her big black chador. Each time, Mama Shamsi tells the girl what creature her chador would look like if the girl hid underneath. For example, if the girl climbed on Mama Shamsi’s back, it would look like she was a turtle! If the girl were in the front, Mama Shamsi would look like a kangaroo. Eventually, the girl understands and bravely hold hands with Mama Shamsi, feeling safe. This beautifully illustrated story captures Iranian culture and a warmhearted family relationship.

One Tiny Treefrog: A Countdown to Survival by Tony Piedra and Mackenzie Joy 
Count backward from ten to one as you watch a Costa Rican red-eyed treefrog grow from an egg into a tadpole and, later, into a frog. Gorgeous yellow-green illustrations will captivate readers. Back matter shares about the treefrog, other Costa Rican animals, and other scientific facts.

Wild Blue by Dashka Slater, illustrated by Laura Hughes
When the little girl outgrows her pink bike, her dad takes her to the store for a new stead. But her new wild mount bucks her off. Over and over again! Her dad tells Kayla that she has to tame her new horse. So they go to the park and she talks to her wild pony until she feels ready to try again. It’s a darling relatable bravery story with a fun horse-riding theme. Love it.

Groundhog Gets it Wrong by Jess Townes, illustrated by Nicole Miles
It’s Groundhog’s first year predicting the weather and he confidently predicts the end of winter. But he is wrong. And the townspeople are angry. (They’d been planning a spring festival!) Groundhog tries to get rid of the snow but his plans don’t work. So he leaves and tries different jobs, eventually taking a meteorology class to learn more so he can return to his old job as an expert. This a funny yet meaningful story about finding your path!

Countdown to Easter by Greg Paprocki
Get ready for Easter with this counting backward and search and find book. Each day includes an Easter activity like a spoon race and something to find, like 6 red flowers. Greg Paprocki always has the most enchanting illustrations in his sturdy board books, don’t you think?

Oona in the Arctic by Kelly DiPucchio, illustrated by Raissa Figueroa
Stunning illustrations capture the beautiful colors of Oona’s watery world. When the lost baby beluga calf appears one day, Oona knows she and her friend Otto must take the calf north to the arctic, where beluga whales live. But she loses her map and compass in a terrible storm. She keeps swimming and meets new friends who help them find the beluga’s home, including another mermaid, a narwhal, and polar bears. Oona’s kindness is repaid with new friends that feel like family. I can’t believe I missed the other books in this series –Oona is darling. I’m off to read more at the library!

Rabbit, Duck, and Big Bear by Nadine Brun-Cosme, illustrated by Olivier Tallec
Three best friends do everything together — except go down the long winding path. When Duck’s fast ice skating leads her off the lake and down the path, she discovers a gigantic tree. When her friends catch up, they admit to knowing about the tree because it’s their quiet thinking place. After Duck understands, each of the three friends spends time at the tree by themselves even though they do everything else together. It’s a sweet, well-written book about the importance of alone time and friend time.

Night Frolic by Julie Berry, illustrated by Jaime Zollars
When it’s nighttime, the children sail in silver ships toward the moon and the Night Elephant at the circus tent. When they arrive, the Night Frolic begins! Playing music and marching and twirling, when they wake the World’s Old Serpent, the children ride dolphins back to their home shores, and the nighttime breezes tuck them into their soft beds. Dream-like, this is an imaginative, fantastical bedtime adventure.

A Good Deed Can Grow by Jennifer Chambliss Bertman, illustrated by Holly Hatam
Like a seed that sprouts into a dandelion and travels from yard to yard or a drop that ripples into a ring across the lake, a good deed also can grow into more kind actions that transform the world. The illustrations show diverse characters doing kind actions such as picking up trash, sharing lemonade, drawing chalk messages, and visiting a sick friend. Won’t this be an inspiring message of kindness for readers?

Together with You  by Patricia Toht, illustrated by Jarvis
Narrated in first person written to you, the grandma, this is a story organized by the seasons. The boy shares his weather-appropriate attire and the activities he does with his grandmother. In autumn, “I zip up my fleece to the tip of my chin. You pull on a sweater instead. I cover my ears as the wind whistles by. YOu huddle a hat on your head.” Sweet with strong sensory memories, I love this atmospheric story.

Never Forget Eleanor by Jason June, illustrated by Loren Long
Grandma Eleanor has a great memory for words, stories, and people. But one day, she starts forgetting what she used to remember. Elijah is worried when he can’t find her one day — so he draws and writes their favorite story to direct her back home. Then, Grandma’s story comes to an end and Elijah takes down the signs and he tells stories like his grandma. It’s sad but also gives readers a warmhearted ending of honoring the memory of a loved one.

Chicken Dance by Tammi Sauer, illustrated by Dan Santat
I missed this book from 2022 — and had to share it because kids are going to love it! The ducks always win the Barnyard Talent show but this year, the chickens really want the big prize — to see Elvis Poultry in concert. The chickens search for a talent, like flying or swimming…which don’t work out. At the show, the cows jump over the moon, and the ducks surf. What will the chickens do? Dance! And even though they don’t win, they get a spot performing with Elvis Poultry, the coolest chicken of all. Funny and fun!

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