My office is filled with piles of new picture books — it’s gotten a little out of control. Today, I’ll share with you some of my favorites from those piles. Or at least the piles I’ve read so far… I did pull out the nature books which I’ll share closer to Earth Day and the new funny picture books which you can read about here. That left me with this list, a kind of a hodge-podge of themes and topics, but newly published picture books that I think you might want to read.
*These are books published around March 2019.*
New Picture Books (March 2019)
Cavekid Birthday by Cathy Breisacher, illustrated by Roland Garrigue
GENEROSITY / KINDNESS
Best friends Caveboy and Cavegirl each decide to sacrifice something special in order to be able to buy a birthday gift for the other one. Their gifts to each other are thoughtful yet surprising for reasons which you’ll see. Then they use their imagination to play with their surprising gifts and find a clever solution to getting back their special somethings they had traded in at the local store. The characters speak “caveman” which will charm young readers. I like. Added to: Picture Books About Kindness.
Another by Christian Robinson
WORDLESS / IMAGINATION
In this exuberant celebration of imagination, a little girl is asleep in her bed when an oval door opens into the wall. She follows her black cat and the new cat into what seems to be another world of topsy-turvy colorful dots and rectangles, more oval doors, many diverse kids, and another girl and her cat that look exactly like them. The white space and repetition of shapes feel playful and fresh. A feast for the eyes and mind! You might like: Meaningful Activities with Wordless Picture Books.
The Piñata That the Farm Maiden Hung by Samantha R. Vamos, illustrated by Sebastia Serra
LATIN AMERICAN CULTURE / CUMULATIVE STORY
You’ll have a blast reading this cheerful, lyrical bilingual story! The farm maiden hangs the piñata. Who is it for? How did it get to be ready? You will see in this clever cumulative tale how the farmer, his family, and the animals helped to prepare the piñata and the birthday party festivities. Spanish words are in bolded capital letters and supported with lively illustrations so readers can infer what each word means. The repetition will help reinforce each new word.
This is the farmer
who carved figures from wood
while minding the OVEJA
that braided the CUERDA
then wrapped the PAPEL
torn by the GATO
and soaked in the PASTA
stirred by the GAñSO
with flour and AGUA
hauled by the CABALLO
that carried the NIñO
who shaped the BARRO
to make the PIñATA that the farm maiden hung.
You’ll learn the piñata song at the end of this story, too — in English and in Spanish and directions to make your own piñata. A glossary of Spanish words at the ending should also help for any clarification. I love this sparkling celebration of culture and family! Also read: The Best Cumulative Picture Books.
B is for Baby by Atinuke, illustrated by Angela Brooksbank
THE LETTER B, AFRICA
Dear Atinuke, can you make every letter of the alphabet into a book like this? Because this idea is genius! I love that it celebrates the culture and people of West Africa, too. Baby is going to take a basket of bananas to baba’s bungalow. (See all those “b” words?!) Big Brother doesn’t notice that he has a little stowaway in the basket — but we do. Readers will delight at seeing Baby’s little face peeking out of the basket while Brother rides his bike, passing a baobab, baboon, bus, and other words that start with the letter b before arriving at Baba’s. When Baba looks in the basket, out pops Baby! I’m in love with this book’s concept and the gorgeous illustrations.
The Neighbors by Einat Tsarfati
IMAGINATION / INFERENCE
This is an exciting story that shows the magic of imagination! What is happening in the apartments of this little girl’s neighbors? Detailed illustrations of the front doors on a white background give the girl clues to the fascinating happenings in the apartments. She uses these clues to make deductions. For example, what’s the apartment like behind the door surrounded by plants and muddy footprints? The girl imagines it’s the home of an old explorer and his pet tiger. (Of course.) Readers will delight in examining the detailed and colorful illustrations of each apartment. I know I want to visit the family of acrobats — their apartment looks just like a circus with elephants and a carousel and a monkey on a unicycle. (Among other things.) And get ready for a surprise ending! Because she might think her parents are boring but they are NOT. She just doesn’t know it. 🙂
Under My Hijab by Hena Khan, illustrated by Aaliya Jaleel
A little girl shares her life with us starting with her grandma baking bread. We meet her mama working as a doctor and her auntie creating art in her studio. The significant women in this girl’s life wear hijabs and also, sometimes don’t. They inspire her with all that they do and who they are. It’s an important slice-of-life story featuring strong, inspiring Muslim women not to mention, an area of diversity that doesn’t have much representation in children’s literature. This is a strong choice to add to your bookshelves.
The Bell Rang by James E. Ransome
What do I love about this book? Everything. Opening the book, I’m immediately drawn to the vibrant illustrations. The short, poignant phrases set the tone for a bittersweet, emotional story. The repeated text helps kids can put themselves in the shoes of the child narrator who is a slave on a plantation whose older brother runs away. Every day is the same — the bell rings, then her parents and her brother Ben go to the field and she goes to Miss Sarah Mae’s to play with the other children. “The bell rings. / Daddy gathers wood. / Mama cooks. … Mama kisses me. / Daddy touches my neck / with rough hands.” Atmospheric and important.
Mango Moon by Diane de Anda, illustrated by Sue Cornelison
When the girl’s dad gets deported, she leaves behind her soccer team her dad coached, her house with the swingset her dad built, and moves in with her tios and cousins. She gets to write letters but her stomach hurts from missing her dad. Mama tells the daughter that love is like the orange moon that Papi and she can see no matter where they are. The story feels authentic and heartbreaking but also empathy building.
Gondra’s Treasure by Linda Sue Park, illustrated by Jennifer Black Reinhardt
This dragon family shows that even with differences (one parent is from the East and one is from the West), they love each other and their greatest treasure is their child. Whimsical illustrations with plenty of clever details like the dragon’s stuffed cow. Both parents want Gondra to have their traits (magic vs. wings, scale color, fire vs. mist). Their discussions (aka. mild bickering) introduces readers to the differences between eastern and western dragons. ADDED TO: Children’s Books About Dragons.
Georgia’s Terrific, Colorific Experiment by Zoe Persico
Georgia’s family loves art but she loves science. In fact, she thinks the two do not mix. That is until she gets stuck on her experiment. Suddenly, she realizes that the creativity of art belongs with science. “Science can be a work of art, too.” You’ll love the gorgeous illustrations that capture Georgia’s full STEAM adventure.
Noah’s Noisy Night by Maria Correa, illustrated by Sebastien Braun
Not only do I love the animal’s silly antics and Noah’s patient problem solving, but I love the onomatopoeia of sounds and the ultimate bedtime solution to everyone’s bedtime woes. Noah’s night gets interrupted again and again by the animals on the ark. The bears are scared of the dark so Noah gives them a hug and a nightlight. The crocodiles are arguing about the top bunk. Noah solves that by making a second makeshift top bunk. And that’s only the beginning — the penguins are too hot, the rhinos don’t like the noisy rain, and the giraffes are too excited to sleep. Can Mrs. Noah help everyone go to sleep? Maybe a story will help. Adorable & fun!
Pencil: A Story with a Point by Ann Ingalls, illustrated by Dean Griffiths
TECHNOLOGY VS. REAL LIFE
What a great story that shows not only that technology isn’t everything but also incorporates punny humor and the success of collaboration. Pencil and Jackson used to have a lot of fun together until Tablet came along. Pencil show Jackson all the other cool things he can do –but none of his ideas work. Not until the other office supplies help and find a clever way to get Jackson’s attention. Added to: Picture Books that Encourage Cooperation.
Diggersaurs by Michael Whaite
Finally, a newly published rhyming book that actually has a meter and rhyme that WORKS. Thank you. (I can’t even tell you how many rhyming books I do not review because of problematic rhyming or meter.) Anyway, this is a fun-filled book perfect for kids who love big vehicles and dinosaurs. “Diggersaurs dig with bites so BIG, each scoop creates a crater. They’re tough and strong with necks so long– they’re super excavators!”
The Rabbit, The Dark, and the Cookie Tin by Nicola O’Byrne
This irresistible character’s experience with the Dark will help kids see the importance of nighttime. Rabbit believes this: he won’t have to go to sleep IF it never gets dark. Therefore, he entices the Dark into a cookie tin and snaps it closed, trapping the Dark inside. Rabbit ignores the nocturnal animals who need the Dark. He argues with the Dark that he is not getting grumpy. (He is.) And it is so hot! Rabbit finally notices that his carrots are wilting. Dark explains to Rabbit that the carrots need him, too. Finally, Rabbit opens up the tin and Dark emergest to show Rabbit his beauty and read him a bedtime story. Rabbit falls fast asleep. Snuggly and enchanting.
Charlotte the Scientist Finds a Cure by Camille Andros, illustrated by Brianne Farley
SCIENTIFIC METHOD / MAKING A DIFFERENCE
Grandps and other animals are feeling sick so Charlotte uses scientific reasoning to get to the bottom of the problem. (Even if the adult doctors tell her she’s too little.) Charlotte forms a hypothesis, makes a second hypothesis, and conducts clinical trials. Turns out she is on the right track… the carrots are infected. Not only is the scientific method demonstrated, but also this book is full of rich vocabulary words and sends the message that you don’t have to be oldest, biggest, or be the smartest to make a difference. Added to: The Scientific Method in Picture Books.
When Spring Comes to the DMZ by Uk-Bae Lee
NORTH AND SOUTH KOREA
This beautiful story gently introduces kids to the Korean peninsula’s political situation and environment. Soft watercolors show the scenes of the DMZ which is the river and area between North Korea and South Korea. People are not allowed to cross over between north and south but the seals can come and go freely. In spring, see the soldiers fix the fences and the birds build nests. In summer, see the soldiers march and the otters play. In autumn, you’ll read how the soldiers practice with tanks and the baby mountain goat jumps up the mountainside. The book contrasts the harshness of the soldiers with the beauty of the natural world. It reveals how Grandfather wants to cross the fence to his beloved home country but can’t.
You Are New by Lucy Knisley
I love this sweet book that welcomes a new baby to the world. What can you do? Synonyms capture the many things you can do–“You can doze and nap and snooze.” So many things like looking, touching, getting carried around. And you’ll grow and meet new friends and have new adventures. The bold, graphic style illustrations and capital letter words are perfect, energetically capturing the joy of growing up.
I Do Not Like Books Anymore by Daisy Hirst
GROWTH MINDSET / READING
Natalie and Alphonse are siblings who love books… until Natalie gets her first reading-by-herself book which is boring. Her frustration is relatable — both with the often boring easy readers (gak!) as well as the patience and practice required for improving. Natalie makes up her own story which her dad scribes. “And Natalie found that, mostly, she could read the book they’d written.” I love the themes of persistence and problem solving, the relatable story of developing as a reader, and the charming monster characters.
Inside Outside by Anne-Margot Ramstein and Matthias Aregui
WORDLESS / OPPOSITES
Use this to teach perspective, inference, and prediction. Gorgeous, oversized illustrations with no text are meant to show readers the inside and outside of something — things like inside an anthill (ants) and outside the anthill (anteater waiting.) Inside an apple is a worm on one page. The next page is a bigger perspective showing a lady about to take a bite out of the apple. Some of the illustrations aren’t perfectly clear so this book begs thoughtful inference and discussion. It’s quite profound, reminding me a bit of David Wiesner’s wordless books. GO TO: Meaningful Activities with Wordless Picture Books.
Tomorrow by Nadine Kaadan
COUNTRY AT WAR
The reality for Yazan, a boy living in Syria, is that because his country is at war, he can’t go outside, he can’t see his friends, and he can’t go to school. He is bored. But he leaves his home without permission anyway. That’s when he sees for himself that everything is different. There are no kids anywhere and many frightening sounds. When his father finds Yazan, they return home to his mother painting again — on the walls for him. “… let’s paint a park in your bedroom… And soon, you’ll be able to go outside again and play.” Her painting makes the inside of their home magical so he won’t be as bored. I’m can imagine there are many parents in these dangerous situations in the world who are doing their best to make life not-so-scary for their children.
Pirate Chicken All Hens on Deck by Brian Yanish, illustrated by Jess Pauwels
Use this fun story to teach character growth. Lily is an unusual chicken. When she meets a band of pirates, she seizes her moment to be a pirate. Soon, she’s taken over the ship, kicked off the pirates, and is living the pirate life. (That’s pillage and plundering for you landlubbers.) She becomes quite demanding and egocentric so the other chickens make her walk the plank. It’s a moment of clarity. Lily realizes she’s a chicken not a pirate. She decides to stop pirating and helps her chicken friends find a good island to call home.
Ruby’s Sword by Jacqueline Veissid, illustrated by Paola Zakimi
Ruby’s brothers don’t want to play with her so she explores and plays using a stick and her own imagination fighting dragons and building a castle. Eventually, her brothers ask to join in the castle building, too. This story shows how patience and imagination are everything in childhood.
Noah NOasaurus by Elaine Kiely Kearns, illustrated by Colin Jack
FRIENDSHIP / EMOTIONS
Noah is grumpy. His persistent friends hang in there with him until he sees the fun in their muddy march, changing his emotional state to happy. Cute!
Polonius the Pit Pony by Richard O’Neill, illustrated by Feronia Parker Thomas
A great story for animal lovers, this story is about a rescued horse who has always worked in a coal mine. Lucretia is from a family of Travelers and convinces her family to keep Polonius. Polonius loves the open air and finds a special way to repay his new family by leading their cart in the fog.
Max Explains Everything Soccer Expert by Stacy McAnulty, illustrated by Deborah Hocking
What a funny and playful kids-eye view of the game of soccer. I really like that it doesn’t focus on winning but the fun of playing and of course, the snacks. Max explains everything from warming up to what to bring “The game starts when the ref blows the whistle. He’s the guy in yellow, and he has a whistle. (You should not bring your own whistle.) Other stuff you should not bring to a soccer game: crayons. A blanket (even if you just want to wear it as a cape).”
The Real Boat by Marina Aromshtam, illustrated by Victoria Semykina
A lovely fable about finding your heart’s wish. It’s the story of a small paper boat who wants to be a real boat. He tries to find the ocean by asking many different kinds of boats along the way. After a long search, the paper boat arrives in the ocean but big waves sink him. In an unexpected ending, a diver rescues the little boat. On board the big ship, the captain exclaims that the boat is a true seafarer, a real boat.
Evie and the Strawberry Patch Rescue by Stefanie Dahle
Perfect for kids who love fairies, they will enjoy this sweet story about a strawberry fairy who protects her crop from too much rain.
Hoo Hoo Who? by Mary Maier with Lauren Horton
Owl’s glasses are broken so he can’t see who is visiting. Who are the guests for Mouse’s surprise party? We’re given clues about sounds and descriptions and get to guess who the friends are — duck, snake, and sheep. Playful, colorful illustrations match this exuberant text asking kids to use deductive reasoning.
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