As I review these new books, I want to make sure I’m highlighting the best of the bunch. I like them all but there are some stand-outs that I don’t want you to miss. So I’m taking a page from the bigger review sites and including a star beside the most exceptional books.
Stars are NEW starting from today. I hope they’re helpful.
What’s New in Picture Books, August 2019
How to Read a Book by Kwame Alexander, illustrated by Melissa Sweet
A luminous, whimsical celebration of the reader’s life with lyrical text, evocative images, and captivating typography. “Squeeze every morsel of each plump line until the last drop of magic/drips from the infinite sky.” Sweet’s layered collages pop with neon color and vibrant images while Alexander’s prose creates rich mental images. This is a dazzling book you’ll want to savor again and again.
A Stone Sat Still by Brendan Wenzel
PERSPECTIVE / NATURE
Wow. Just wow. The author of They All Saw a Cat brings us another incredible, thought-provoking, philosophical book about perception and perspective! It’s about both/and thinking instead of either/or thinking. And the lyrical writing is captivating. (Not to mention, this is a perfect picture book with its interdependence of text and illustrations required to create meaning.)
The stone is a stone. AND it’s also a pebble (to a moose) and a hill (to a bug) and a feel (to a raccoon) and a smell (to a wolf). The essential illustrations elaborate on the text’s assertions. The stone is a stone. AND it’s dark and bright and an island and a wave.
“…and it sat where it sat
with the water, grass, and dirt
and it was as it was
where it was in the world.”
This book helps us expand our thinking beyond a first impression, beyond one possibility. As we consider this stone, we learn how looking at something from other perspectives is a guiding metaphor for how to see the world, too –a multi-layered, multi-dimensional, and rich with possibilities way of seeing the world.
Simple and complex and wise and engrossing, this is a must-own, must-give-to-everyone-you-know book. I know will be gifting this book to all my friends this year!
Not Quite Snow White by Ashley Franklin, illustrated by Ebony Glenn
DIVERSITY / BEING YOURSELF
Tameika feels sad when the other kids at school say she is too chubby, tall, and brown to be Snow White. Her dad and mom remind her that she not a pretend princess but a real princess and who she is is enough.
We Are the Gardeners by Joanna Gains and Kids
This is a must-read book, especially when planning and planting your own garden. The story celebrates family, hard work, and persistence as well as actual gardening. Whimsical illustrations throughout perfectly complement this charming story of planting, experiencing challenges, building a fence, and harvesting.
Mr. Gibson’s Garden by Patricia Long, illustrated by Betony Coons
SHARING / GARDENING
I adore the illustrations and this lovely story about a crusty old gardener whose unneighborly attitude is transformed by a sweet little girl. Mr. Gibson is a skilled gardener with a glorious garden complete with a warning sign, ”Don’t pick my vegetables”. At each day’s end, he clips a head of cabbage or cuts some kale for a salad and trudges back to his cottage. Yet when he returns to his beloved garden every morning, four carrots are always missing. He tries bigger and bigger fences until one day, he waits. And he waits. Finally, he sees his neighbor girl, Josie Joon singing and picking carrots in front of the sign with the “don’t” covered up. She gives Mr. Gibson a basket of flowers. He reconsiders his attitude, smiles, and invites her to garden, too. Long knows what goes into a good book — good writing with just the right amount of text alongside impressive illustrations.
Just Ask! Be Different, Be Brave, Be You by Sonia Sotomayor, illustrated by Rafael Lopez
NEURO- AND PHYSICAL DIVERSITY
A must-own lavishly-illustrated book that is both eye-opening and empathy-building as it increases a reader’s understanding of others; in particular, other people with physical and neurological differences. It’s set up so each two-page spread features a different kid who introduces themselves and then asks a question of the readers. For example, Rafael has asthma and sometimes has trouble breathing. He asks, “Do you use a tool to help your body?” Madison uses a guide dog to get places safely because she’s blind. She explains this and asks, “How do you use your senses?” The book features kids with autism, a wheelchair, dyslexia, Tourette’s syndrome, ADHD, food allergies, Down syndrome, and more. It shows all these kids working together to plant a garden, showing that just like the variety of plants in the garden, our differences make the world more interesting and richer.
Added to: Books with Characters Who Have Physical Differences & Books With Characters Who Have Learning Differences
Nya’s Long Walk A Step at a Time by Linda Sue Park, illustrated by Brian Pinkney
This important story highlights a very real (and solvable) plight of families around the world…
In dusty south Sudan, a little girl named Nya is getting water for their family when her little sister Akeer becomes very ill, too ill to walk. Nya struggles to carry both the water and her sister on the long walk home. She sets short goals for herself — walk to the bushes. Then make it to the stump. She walks home step by step by step. Then has to keep going with her mother to the clinic which is a 3-day-walk. Akeer gets better but her illness from water contamination is the leading cause of death worldwide for children under the age of five. Pinkney’s illustrations with bold lines and splashes of color skillfully capture the barren desert setting where the girls live.
Idriss and His Marble by Rene Gouichoux, illustrated by Zau
Evocative, dramatic images add texture to this story about a boy escaping from a country at war. He carries his special marble with him until he reaches a new country where his marble builds bridges in making a new friend. It’s a simple story told as a relatable, young child-appropriate introduction to the concept of refugees.
Added to: Children’s Books about Migration, Refugees, and Immigration
Get Up, Stand Up by Bob Marley & Cedella Marley, illustrated by John Jay Cabuay
ACTIVISM / KINDNESS
Using the lyrics of Bob Marley’s famous song, this picture book shows a brave girl who stands up for what’s right. As the song says, “Be a good neighbor and cherish your sisters and brothers. Practice being kind to yourself and one another.” Bold, colorful illustrations illuminate the song’s message in a compelling, kid-friendly way showing a little girl being kind to kids who have been teased or getting a ball back from someone who took it.
Added to: Picture Books About Kindness
Red House, Tree House, Little Bitty Brown Mouse by Jane Goodwin, illustrated by Blanca Gomez
Lyrical, rhythmic text just perfect for young readers focuses on the colors of a little girl’s world around her. Its simplicity makes it absolutely perfect– a must-read for ages 2 – 4. I love this book!
See the trains sparkle in the sun and in the rain.”
Bold graphic illustrations help kids follow a little brown mouse through the pages of the story.
What Should Danny Do? School Day by Ganit and Adir Levy, illustrated by Mat Sadler
SCHOOL / BEHAVIOR
Following the phenomenal success of the first book, What Should Danny Do?, this second book helps kids think through all the decisions of Danny’s day starting when his mom tells him to get ready for school and ending with… well, the ending is up to you but something to do with finishing the schoolday. First, you get to decide what Danny will do about getting ready for school. Like all the choices in the book, you can pick from two options and turn to the appropriate pages. Pick continue playing or stop playing and get ready. You’ll have to help Danny decide what to do at school, too. For example, at recess when the teams seem unfair, will he walk away or keep playing? Or after his tarantula gets loose and scares a classmate, will he apologize to her or get revenge?
Can you imagine the discussions this interactive book will prompt? Reading this will help you talk about values, behavior, choices, and responsibility with your children and/or students.
Squeak! by Laura McGee Kvasnosky, illustrated by Kate Harvey McGee
MORNING IN THE WOODS
Not only is this book rich with onomatopoeia but it’s also rich with a sense of place, in this case, an ecosystem of the woods. It’s a delightful story of one morning in the life of the animals. Early, a little mouse wakes up and squeaks. His squeak sets off a chain reaction of animals waking up –like the chipmunk chittering, a trout splashing, a mouse waking, an eagle launching, a mama bear growling, a wolf pup howling, and all the noises the animals make. In a circular, very sweet ending, we return to the mouse who can’t figure out why everyone is awake and snuggles back to sleep.
Our Favorite Day by Joowon Oh
There’s a beauty in the predictability and minimal description of Papa’s daily routine. He gets up, drinks tea, waters the plants, and eventually goes into town. He gets his favorite lunch–dumplings. But on Thursday, it’s slightly different. In town, he buys craft supplies and gets two orders of dumplings to go. Then, he spends the afternoon with his granddaughter who is just as happy to see him as he is to see her. I love the joy in this relationship! And, I adore the exquisite paper-cut illustrations.
Added to: Books About About Loving Grandparent-Grandchild Relationships
Listen by Holly M. McGhee, illustrated by Pascal Lemaitre
NATURE / SENSES
Listen. Taste. Breathe. Dig. Not only does this book command readers to engage in all their senses but it emphasizes the interconnectedness of us with others while having our own selves as well.
they are for you
and all of us.
They are for me.”
I think adults will enjoy this book more than children. For me, the illustrations are the best part about this book.
Lola Goes to School by Anna McQuinn, illustrated by Rosalind Beardshaw
GOING TO SCHOOL
Our favorite lovable Lola gets to go to preschool which is just like story time but by herself. She’s already visited before so she knows what to expect. Travel with her as she prepares then arrives at school and has a fun day with new friends.
Mighty Reader and the Big Freeze by Will Hillenbrand
Hugo’s alter-ego is the Mighty Reader superhero. He quickly changes into the superhero when he sees his friend Barkley in distress. As Mighty Reader, he reminds Barkley to look for words he knows and use the picture clues. Cute and playful.
The Buddy Bench by Patty Brozo, illustrated by Mike Deas
At recess, some students in Miss Mellon’s class don’t have anyone to play with. Soon, other kids notice and invite those lonely kids to play with them. After recess, the class wonders if there’s a better way. That’s when Miss Bellon suggests a Buddy Bench where anyone can go to wait for a friend to play with. Read this with your class and see if they can come up with their own ideas for a Buddy Bench — then actually use it. (My kids have told me that teachers often sat and talked on the Buddy Bench meant for kids at their old school.)
Added to: Essential Back-to-School Picture Books
Grandpa’s Top Threes by Wendy Meddour, illustrated by Daniel Egnues
This grief story is wonderful. A sweet little boy helps his grandpa out of his grief by asking his grandpa’s opinion on his top three things — in random categories –and together they make lots of top three lists. Like the top three jellyfish. Or the top three animals at the zoo and eventually, the top three memories of granny. This gives them both a way to remember Granny.
Added to: Helpful Children Books About Grief and Death
Once Upon a Goat by Dan Richards, illustrated by Eric Barclay
HUMOR / FAMILY
Kids will love this cute, unexpected family. When a king and queen wish for a kid — they get the wrong kind of kid…the goat kind. Whoops! But they learn to love this darling kid who even sleeps in their bed. Awwww… Then, the fairy godmother realizes her mistake. But how can they give up their kid for their other kid? They’ll find a solution that works for everyone — and it’s perfect.
As Warm As the Sun by Kate McMullan, illustrated by Jim McMullan
Toby feels threatened by the new dog at first but then he learns that life is not a competition, it’s about friendship.
Scout Moore Junior Ranger Yellowstone by Theresa Howell, illustrated by Jeffrey Ebbeler
A playful look at Yellowstone National Park with whimsical illustrations and a relatable story! When a family of four with a dragon-loving brother and adventurous junior ranger sister take a trip to Yellowstone National Park, their experience highlights the many incredible features of the park — nature, geyser, and animals. Highly recommended — I love this book!
Hats Are Not For Cats by Jacqueline K. Rayner
The dog tries to convince the cat that serious hats are only for dogs. Readers will enjoy the playful parade of silly hats with a variety of descriptions from frilly to silly — all on cats — to prove the dog wrong. Your only question will be: which one is your favorite?
Swan Lake illustrated by Valeria Docampo
Filled with lush illustrations and a clear, captivating storyline, this is a lovely retelling of the famous Swan Lake ballet story.
Ruby Finds a Worry by Tom Percival
Ruby loves swinging and exploring. One day, she discovers a yellow blob-like Worry who grows and grows and won’t leave her alone even brushing her teeth and at school. The Worry stops Ruby from doing things she loves, becoming enormous and all-consuming. When she sees a boy with his own blue Worry, she realizes that other people have Worries, too. Ruby and the boy talk about their Worries and they become smaller, even going away. Add this to your emotional bookshelf to support kids with sharing their own worries.
Added to: Best Picture Books about Feelings
Snack Attack! by Terry Border
If your kids like silly fun, they’ll want to read this story about three snack food friends (cheese doodle, pretzel, & cookie) ignoring the dangers outside of their packages– aka. the dangerous Monster Kid. Great for making predictions…How do you think this story will end?
The Pawed Piper by Michelle Robinson, illustrated by Chinlun Lee
A cute pet story about a girl who wants a cat. She uses catnip and accidentally attracts ALL the cats in the neighborhood. Which she has to give back…Don’t worry — there’s a happy ending when one of the cats has kittens.
Uh-Oh, Rollo by Reed Duncan, illustrated by Keith Frawley
HUMOR / DOGS
Use this as an easy reader for dog lovers or a fun read-aloud. The boy’s dog Rollo is a good dog mostly…but sometimes he gets into mischief. Like when he digs too much. (The illustration shows a huge hole in the yard.) Or when he gets muddy paw prints all over the house.