What will you read in these newly published picture books? Read about grandparents, culture, food, feelings, silliness, and more!
As usual, I read almost 100 books — maybe more than that. Then, I chose to review the top 20 books. These titles are all excellent, but I starred the ones that are contenders for the best picture books of 2023 and I don’t want you to miss them.
New Picture Books for April 2023
Spicy Spicy Hot! by Lenny Wen
FOOD / AAPI CULTURE
If you love charming and heartwarming stories about culture and family, you’ll love SPICY SPICY HOT with all your heart. When Lintang’s nenek visits for the first time, nenek cooks sambal. And it’s spicy, spicy, hot to Lintag’s mouth! (The illustrations hilariously capture the agony.) Lintang wants to enjoy her nenek’s cooking, so she keeps trying different recipes– but they’re mouth on fire, lips burning too hot. Soon, she’s ready to give up, but her nenek figures out the perfect recipe that balances sweet and spicy.
Pocket Full of Sads by Brad Davidson, illustrated by Rachel Mas Davidson
I love this book because it shows that feelings like sadness are OKAY and don’t need to be FIXED. In this tender story of friendship and feelings, Bear feels sad, a heavy kind of sad. Rabbit tries to fix Bear with jokes, happy thoughts, and five steps from an internet article. It doesn’t work, and they don’t go fishing. But they do sit together quietly. And THAT is what makes Bear feel better. Having his friend close without trying to fix him!!! YESSSSS!
How Dinosaurs Went Extinct A Safety Guide by Ame Dyckman, illustrated by Jennifer Harney
DINOSAURS / FUNNY
Ready for the cautionary tale of all cautionary tales? At the science museum, the child’s dad explains that the dinosaurs went extinct because they behaved badly –they ran with scissors, jumped on the bed, scratched their bug bites, didn’t wear a helmet, pick their nose…you get the idea. The text is hilarious. The illustrations are, too. Read this uproarious new theory of dinosaur extinction — and see if it makes your wild children behave perfectly, just like the little girl in the book!
B is For Bananas by Carrie Tillotson, illustrated by Estrela Lourenco
A silly stories that make you giggle, this alphabet book is really a story about Banana who does not want to go to sleep! He interrupts the narrator and showing his wide-awakeness, creativity, and energy! Also, he doesn’t need a bath– he wants to jump and be wild. Will Banana ever zonk out?
Cloud Babies: Sometimes All We Need to Do Is Look Up by Eoin Colfer, illustrated by Chris Judge
LONG TERM ILLNESS / IMAGINATION
Erin’s favorite game is spotting the animals in the clouds, which helps when she gets a long-term illness and spends lots of time at the hospital. She struggles to integrate her hospital world and her school world, missing each group when she’s with the other. But her mom, dad, and teacher help her bridge the gap by urging Erin to share about her Cloud Babies with her classmates. She shares how sometimes, when you’re down, all you need to do is look up–which is a good message for us all. This is a sensitive story about coping with a childhood illness with imagination and support.
A Unicorn, a Dinosaur, and a Shark Walk into a Book by Jonathan Fenske
FUNNY, 4TH WALL
Get ready for a hilarious discussion between the narrator and his characters (the unicorn, the shark, and the dinosaur)–who are NOT impressed with the story nor the narrator’s ideas. The narrator is irritated that his charcters don’t even try to act sharky or unicorny. So, the narrator adds a kitten in a t-shirt because no reader can resist a cute kitten…and neither can the other characters! (mwhahahaha) Silly illustrations and dialogue bubbles show the personalities of the three main characters.
100 Mighty Dragons All Named Broccoli by David LaRochelle, illustrated by Lian Cho
FUNNY, ADDITION & SUBTRACTION
In this quirky, silly book of subtraction and fantasy, 100 mighty dragons named Broccoli live on a high mountain. Until the wind blows away 50. And 10 become professional surfers in Hawaii. 2 take a train to New York City. One by one, the dragons move on through magic or trips or more crazy adventures. Finally, it’s only one mighty dragon named Broccoli is left alone in the cave. Time passes. What happens next brings this delightful adventure to a full-circle ending! And you’ll love it.
Quacks Like a Duck by Stephanie Campisi, illustrated by Maria Lebedeva
BEING YOURSELF / AUSTRALIAN ANIMALS
Petunia discovers she’s arrived at a costume party without a costume. But, since she’s a platypus from Australia, everyone thinks she is in a costume. They think she’s a duck, beaver, or an otter. And it makes her feel different and sad. That changes when a duck dressed up as a platypus arrives and defends the platypus as a marvel of nature. A darling story about being yourself!
Plátanos Are Love by Alyssa Reynoso-Morris, illustrated by Mariyah Rahman
When Esme goes to the market with Abuela, she picks out plátanos. When they return home to cook, Abeula cooks a receta for breakfast of plátanos verdes and slices and fries tostones. Abuela shares how plátanos are important to their family heritage, that plátanos are love and to share. Esme tells her little sister how they need to ripen to black to be sweeter and ready to share in more recipes. Written in a mix of English and Spanish, this is a beautiful celebration of family, culture, and food!
Sari-Sari Summers by Lynnor Bontigao
GRANDPARENT / PHILIPPINES
Nora spends summers with Lola in the Philippines. This is the first year Nora is big enough to work at the sari-sari store. She cleans, measures, and sorts. But, the customers aren’t coming to the store. What can Nora do to help Lola? She suggests they make ice candy with the ripe mangoes from their tree. And the customers love them! A sweet story of culture, family, and food.
Last Flight by Kristen Mai Gian, illustrated by Dow Phumiruk
IMMIGRATION / VIETNAM
Life in Saigon became different with the war. The girl’s family wants to leave, but they don’t have papers. So her dad’s boss at Pan Am Airlines adopted 300 individuals, giving them papers. They escape the war on the last flight out before Saigon surrendered to the North Vietnamese Army. Based on the author’s life, this is the true story of a flight that carried over 400 people to the United States.
My Grandpa, My Tree, and Me by Roxanne Troup, illustrated by Kendra Binney
GRANDPARENT / FARMING
The girl’s grandpa plants a pecan tree for her on the day she is born. Grandpa helps his granddaughter care for the tree which is in their yard, separate from the pecan tree orchard. She shares how they harvest the orchard’s trees and the differences in caring for her special tree. Back matter shares more about pecans and pecan trees.
A Bed of Stars by Jessica Love
FEAR OF THE DARK, GOOD FATHERS
Narrated in first person, the boy explains that at night, he’s scared of how vast the universe is. His dad drives them to the mountains, where they jump in the sand dunes, look for birds, build a fire, and watch the sun set. When it’s time to sleep in the truck under the stars, the boy’s dad wonders if naming the stars would help them not feel like strangers. And it does help when the boy names them after people and animals he’s met. The next morning, they arrive home to a surprise — his mom has decorated his room with millions of stars. Affirming and comforting.
Manolo and the Unicorn by Jackie Azua Kramer and Jonah Kramer, illustrated by Zach Manbeck
Manolo’s classmates tease him about his favorite animal, the unicorn, which he wants to be for the Wild Animal Parade. But he’s worried that unicorns aren’t real, so a unicorn takes him on a magical forest adventure. He makes a costume with a silky mane, a shimmery tail, and a shining horn. At school, he shares about unicorns with his classmates, who become enthusiastic believers.
The Day the River Caught Fire: How the Cuyahoga River Exploded and Ignited the Earth Day Movement by Barry Whittenstein, illustrated by Jessie Hartland
In 1969 when the Cuyahoga River caught fire again because of pollution in the water, the mayor of Cleveland, Carl Stokes, took action. His anti-pollution efforts helped pass new national laws like the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts and, eventually, Earth Day. Earth Day helps remind us to take care of our planet and stop polluting. With compelling artwork, this story feels narrative while still being informational and interesting. A must-read!
Peng’s Vase A Chinese Folktale by Paolo Proietti
Classic folktales teach a valuable lesson– and this teaches the value of honesty. When the Chinese emperor needs an heir, he gives children a seed to plant in a pot. He tells them to take care of it and return in one year. Little Peng plants the seed, waters it, and gives it sunlight, but his seed doesn’t grow. He sees that the other children’s plants have grown big plants with colorful flowers and feels like a failure. At the urging of his parents, he shows the emperor his empty pot anyway. The emperor explains that he gave the children seeds that would never grow. But since only Peng was honest and courageous, he makes Peng the new emperor.
My Dog is Not a Scientist by Betsy Ellor, illustrated by Luisa Vera
Yara is determined to prove she’s the greatest scientist and win the science fair. She starts with a question. And makes observations and hypotheses. But her dog Renzo always messes up her process, and her rude science-fair-winning neighbor Eddie says she’s not a real scientist. After failing because of Renzo, Yara realizes that actually Renzo the dog is the best scientist of all — he follows his curiosity, asks questions, observes, forms a hypothesis, and tests it! With charming illustrations, this is a funny read aloud that celebrates the scientific method!
You Rule by Rilla Alexander
How strong are you? How fast are you? How happy are you? The narrator shows a girl and her dog and an abundance of adjectives from one opposite to the other to answer the questions! How kind are you? Are you compassionate, generous, as comforting as a story shared, understanding, considerate, obliging, well-meaning, thoughtless, as rude as a honking horn, or mean?
Windrush Child: A Tale of a Caribbean Child Who Faced a New Horizon by John Agard, illustrated by Sophie Bass
Gorgeous illustrations pop off the page with bursts of colors showing a child leaving the Caribbean island on a ship across the ocean for England. The child brings his culture, his Grandmother’s words, and his dreams to his new home.
Apple Pie Picnic by Alicia Duran, illustrated by Brian Fitzgerald
Meet the apple tree near the house where Rosa lives, and meet Rosa, her family, and her pets. Rosa and her family pick the apples in the spring, and her grandfather makes apple pie. Then Rosa packs the picnic basket for their family picnic under the tree’s shade. As you read the story, learn Spanish words written in context for important nouns such as apples and cat. The back matter defines the Spanish words with illustrations and gives directions for apple sauce.
Yellow Butterfly by Oleksandr Shatokhin
If you’re looking for a picture book that teaches symbolism and allegory, read this. What is the butterfly in the story? Is it hope? In this wordless book, black and white illustrations of a girl and barbwire with a yellow butterfly show the effects of war — and the hope for the future.