35 Exceptional New Picture Books, May 2023
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Do you remember me saying I would be writing fewer picture book reviews? HAHA! I tried. But this month, there were TOO MANY good picture books! So, here are my top 35 picture books for this month.
New Picture Books, May 2023
Tap! Tap! Tap! Dance! Dance! Dance! by Hervé Tullet
In this oversized, interactive book, kids use their hands and fingers to circle, tap, and leap around the dots and lines of primary colors. Readers are asked to open and close their hands, make loops, draw spirals, and freeze. Another exciting, fun-filled, color-fest from the amazing Tullet!
Here I Can Be Mindful by Ally Condie, illustrated by Jaime Kim
100% perfect book about feeling many feelings at once, being mindful, and staying present to what’s happening HERE. Especially with anxiety. When the feelings get stuck, Here reminds us all to be grounded in the present moment…to feel (feet on the ground) to taste (a crisp apple, a warm cookie) to look (close…so close) to hear (the wind, a breath) to smell (the rain, the air) to run and jump and draw and write… and “to know that I am here.” It’s a brilliant picture book that reminds us to ground ourselves in our bodies…with specific, practical mindfulness practices that work, starting with our senses. I LOVE this book more than I can say…
As Brave as a Lion by Erika Meza
I love how the girl personifies (animalifies?) bravery as a lion. Her brave lion goes with her everywhere and helps her to find her voice, feel safe in the dark, and go up a high slide. Sometimes the girl helps her Lion to be brave, too. They help each other be as brave as lions. This story brilliantly captures the truth that we have feelings inside of us with us all the time.
How to Get Your Octopus to School by Becky Scharnhorst, illustrated by Jaclyn Sinquett
BACK TO SCHOOL / FUNNY
It’s going to be tricky getting your octopus to school because they’re very good at hiding, and their suction cups are powerful when they don’t let you go. So you’ll need this book of advice to help him get ready and dressed. Watch out for when he gets nervous, he might have an ink accident. In the end, it might be you who has a hard time letting him go to school.
The Lion’s Whisker by Rebecca Sheir, illustrated by Nikita Abuya
Brother and sister always argue, so Grandmother tells them she can help with a magical potion. But the potion needs a lion’s whisker the siblings must get. So the siblings leave steaks for the lion and bravely ask him for help. When they return to the Grandmother, she explains that there is no potion…and that they figured out how to get along as they problem-solved with courage and patience.
Once There Was by Corinne Demas, illustrated by Gemma Capdevila
Once there was a little girl who dreamed she was a princess, a princess who dreamed she was a horse, a horse who dreamed she was a tree, a tree who dreamed she was a mountain, and so it continues until the sea who dreams she was a little girl. Lyrical writing and evocative illustrations take us on a circular journey of imagination!
Get ready for a new read aloud favorite about the many wonders of the stinkbird! The hoatzin papa narrates about his amazing superpower while his baby bird interrupts. Their dialogue is hilarious, and we learn factual information about their clever nests, avoiding predators by swimming and climbing! Oh, also–their poop STINKS!
When a fire comes to the animal’s home, they escape across the river to watch. Except for the hummingbird. She doesn’t want to watch, she wants to help. Despite her friends telling her it’s not going to help, she carries one drop of water at a time to the fire, hoping to put it out. Her actions inspire the others and they all begin to fight the fire. It’s a powerful message about making a difference and working together.
In a metafiction story, the narrator welcomes us to a book without any unicorns…all about cowboys. But the unicorn and the pug are not happy with the narrator’s decisions. In fact, the unicorn cries and cries. So the narrator gives them both a small part — but the unicorn isn’t happy with his disguise. Surprise, surprise, it turns out to be a unicorn story after all. Kids will love this silly unicorn’s antics!
Dakota’s cousin asks her to find a rare book. Dakota starts with a clue and finds one clue after another — will you be able to spot the answers along with our brave detective mouse? Eventually, the treasure hunt leads her to a surprise birthday party! Look back through the book to find the objects located on the last pages, making this an interactive adventure two times through. Brilliant!
This charming opposites concept book tells the story in opposite words and illustrations of an old, grumpy cat and his interactions with the young, energetic kitten. In a sweet character arc, the old cat begins to care for the young kitty…playing, eating, and sleeping together. Darling!
Reminiscent of Maurice Sendeck’s Where the Wild Things Are, this beautifully illustrated bedtime story is about Watson, a boy who worries about monsters in the closet. When he sees a light under his covers, he discovers a beautiful night sky with twinkling stars…UNDER HIS COVERS! He wanders down a path and through the forest. He plays with the forest creatures and rides a trolley to a tall tower which he climbs. When he crawls back out from under the covers, he’s so sleepy that he falls fast asleep without any worries about monsters. Enchanting and atmospheric!
Oh, No, the Aunts are Here by Adam Rex, illustrated by Lian Cho
FAMILY / FUNNY
The aunts arrive with exuberance and questions. They fill the house, sleep in your room, and talk and hug and take you to the quilt museum. When they’re gone, and it’s finally quiet, the family hears a sound — oh, no, it’s the uncles! Hilarious and probably very relatable to many families.
The Liebrary by Amanda Pearlstein and Howard Pearlstein, illustrated by Maren Amini
FUNNY / BOOKS
I love this funny satirical story about not believing everything you read…Because when this family starts believing all the lies from the lie-brary book, things get completely wild and crazy. Imagine candy for breakfast, driving at age six, insulting your neighbors, and ignoring alligator signs…well, after a day of misadventures, the children learn a valuable lesson. What will it teach you?
Wombat by Philip Bunting
WORDPLAY / ANIMALS
Preschoolers will adore this silly story filled with word play fun and wombats!
From Here to There: A First Book of Maps by Vivian French, illustrated by Ya-Ling Huang
Zane sends his friend Anna an invitation to his house and a map showing where it is. Anna draws her own map…and uses a lot of paper. Dad explains about a different kind of map as the bird flies. The two work on different kinds of maps, including a map from the cat’s perspective and a family tree map. Backmatter and sidebars share factual information and ideas for drawing your own maps. Educational while being relatable and engaging.
My Dog Just Speaks Spanish by Andrea Caceres
In her new home in the United States, Aurora learns English, but her dog Nena continues to speak Spanish. It’s a darling story that will teach readers commands like sit, wait, fetch, kiss, and treat in Spanish. Nena is Aurora’s best friend, and they speak Spanish together at home.
When You Can Swim by Jack Wong
Learning to swim brings promises of splashing in the ocean, floating on your back, watching the world float by, finding rushing waterfalls to explore, and slipping into the pond at dusk along with the fish and twilight bugs. Swimming brings many opportunities in different kinds of waters, lakes, canals, ocean, rivers, and finding wonderful adventures of diving, and floating, and listening. Lyrical writing with gorgeous illustrations of diverse people will appeal to swimmers and learning-to-swimmers alike.
Take a Chance by Sujean Rim
Now that Bob can fly, he loves visiting his bird friends. But when they invite him to join them in their perching, eating, and splashing, Bob feels afraid and makes excuses to not join in. But when an eagle encourages him to spread his wings and take a chance, Bob decides to take mini chances. He learns that Eagle was right — it’s worth it to take chances. That’s when Bob backtracks to his bird friends and joins them in their activities. Clever illustrations and dialogue make this gem of a picture book shine with personality.
Bug Sandwich by Brady Smith
FUNNY / BUGS
This kid is sick of all the bugs biting him, so he decides to retaliate –and bite the bugs back. He searches for the best bugs to make a bug sandwich and is impressed with their amazing weaving, super strength, and house-building. Just as the boy is about to eat the sandwich, the bugs plead with him and explain that he’s been hitting them first. The boy is convinced and leaves his sandwich without eating it…just in time for his dad to eat it!
Have You Seen My Invisible Dinosaur by Helen Yoon
FUNNY / PETS
The little girl has lost her best friend — a dinosaur. She just gave him a bath and now he’s invisible! She shares with us all the ways she’s tried to find her lost dino– luring him with snacks, putting up posters, until…he finds her! Comedic and darling, this engaging story with adorable illustrations is sure to delight readers.
A Dupatta Is… by Marzieh Abbas, illustrated by Anu Chouhan
SOUTH ASIAN CULTURE
Lyrical, sensory writing shows the multipurpose of a dupatta and the faith, fun, and beauty of these shawls from South Asian cultures.
Sometimes Shy by Julie Bliven, illustrated by Dang Khoa Tran
A boy notices how the world can be shy like him, but no one calls those things shy. Like the sun in the morning, the small smooth waves that go unnoticed in the sea, or the last pieces of cereal in a bowl of milk. Sometimes the boy is called shy. Maybe he is. But after school, he joins his family at the beach and talks and talks. Use this to discuss labels of shyness and why it’s okay to be quiet.
The Nature Journal A Backpack Adventure by Savannah Allen
Tim finds his dad’s nature journals. He falls asleep and dreams he’s inside the worlds within the journals — jungle, desert, and sea while waiting for his dad to spend time with him. The next day, he gets to go with his dad to collect, observe, and record what he notices in nature.
The Dreams We Made by Lisa Bentley
In a story about a father’s death, the little girl always wants to go with her daddy to work. When he comes home, they work together on a cool, creative project. But one day, he dies, and the little girl feels too sad to continue their project. She misses her daddy. Then, when the moon is full, she starts their rocket on her own and remembers that her daddy is always with her.
Looking for Happy by Ty Chapman, illustrated by Keenon Ferrell
The boy feels like he has rocks in his chest — and his usual ways of moving through his feelings don’t work. So Grandma takes him out of the house. When they hear music, it suddenly brightens the boy’s emotions, and he dances and sings. This picture book models the importance of being okay with sadness and remembering that it will eventually pass.
All in a Day by Chihiro Takeuchi
DAY IN THE LIFE
In the building, see what the people do from morning until night. Every two-page spread shows the building with people inside doing different things. The opposite page shows more details, shares their stories, and asks you to search for things in the illustrations. From waking up and going to school to the artist starting to sketch and grandma doing yoga, you’ll also look for pizza boxes, bakery treats, and birds. Notice the clock’s time on the building and learn about telling time. It’s a dynamic picture book filled with fun.
Nana the Great Goes Camping by Lisa Tawn Bergren, illustrated by David Hohn
The girl’s Nana takes her brother and her camping in the Great Outdoors. They hike, river raft, cook s’mores, potluck with other campers, and tell stories. Nana shares her wisdom with the girl, too–how new adventures are around every corner and that God loves her more than Nana does. You’ll love Nana’s adventurous spirit and how she encourages kids to explore and try new things.
Becoming Charley by Kelly DiPucchio, illustrated by Loveis Wise
In an unscientific story about individualism, this curious caterpillar doesn’t eat the milkweed like the others. Instead, he looks up and admires the waterfall, the fawn, and the stars. So when it’s time to become a butterfly, instead of thinking black and orange, Charley thinks of all his favorite colors in nature. When he emerges, his colors and designs show everything that he loves — stars and clouds and greens and purples.
One Small Thing by Marsha Diane Arnold, illustrated by Laura Watkins
When Raccoon’s home burns down, his friends try not to think about it. Then, they realize they can each do something kind, even small, to help their friend. Beaver helps build Raccoon a new home, Squirrel gathers herbs for Raccoon’s feet. Rabbit shares honey so Raccoon can eat. You will love this book’s message of community and helping someone when they need it.
Monsters in Trucks by Laura Baker, illustrated by Nina Dzyvulska
Toddlers and preschoolers will love the exuberant explosion of colors, monsters, and trucks filling every page. The rhyming text shows monsters building, drilling, and working very hard, whether they’re cleaning the street or eating everything they can. 100% adorable.
Friends Beyond Measure: A Story Told with Infographics by Lalena Fisher
FRIENDSHIP / MATH
Ana and Harwin are the best of friends. They have adventures, disagreements, agreements, and silly fun. But when one friend is moving away, the other friend feels lots of feelings. They plan this year and the next year to stay friends and be in touch. The warm-hearted story is illustrated with amazing infographics, including a line graph, charts, maps, a Venn diagram, and other infographics that add so much extra playfulness and learning to the story. I love it.
Rainbow Shopping by Qing Zhuang
NEW HOME / CHINESE FOODS
The girl lies in bed feeling gray in her new home in New York City, where her family is working hard and always busy. But then her mom takes the girl to Chinatown, and they shop for food. The bamboo, bitter melons, persimmons, candy, fish, and more. After the long day, the ride the subway home. Dad makes a stir fry with their ingredients. The evening ends with sharing her new drawing and Grandma’s stories and a cozy feeling while the rain pours outside.
Egyptian Lullaby by Zeena M. Pliska, illustrated by Hatem Aly
When the girl’s Auntie Fatma visits from Egypt, she brings reminders of Cairo. Language, food, and best of all, the sounds of Egypt in a lullaby. Swish, swoosh, swish go the boats gliding down the Nile. A donkey clip, clop, clips. The muezzin calls “Allah u Akbar.” The little girl loves all the sounds of the city in the song her auntie sings. Aly’s illustrations beautifully capture the vibrant life in Cairo and in the home of the girl.
Real to Me by Minh Lê, illustrated by Raissa Figueroa
The story talks about an imaginary friend that is real to the narrator. And when the friend disappears, we realize the monster is talking about her imaginary girl. She remembers the way the girl laughed and feels sad. In time, the monster makes new friends but always thinks of that first special friend. Gorgeous illustrations!