Today, I’m catching up on picture books that I missed and sharing amazing new releases.
Yetis Are the Worst! by Alex Willan
FUNNY / MYTHICAL CREATURES
Goblin tries to convince you that for sure, yetis are THE WORST. And he’ll prove that they’re not cool by finding them and showing you. He searches everywhere and never notices the hiding yetis (you will, though!) — until he falls into their home. That’s when he admits that yetis actually aren’t the worst. You’ll love this third hilarious story from Alex Willan’s The Worst series!
Dark on Light by Dianne White, illustrated by Felicita Sala
Loveliness on loveliness is what you’ll find in this beautiful picture book with precise, lyrical language and gorgeous, evocative illustrations. The children the house at night to search for their dog, through lavender blooms, under an orange moon, and within the forest burrow. “Gray the trees, noble and bright. / Leaves and moss and dark on light.” This rhythmic, magnificent writing begs to be read aloud again and again; it’s mesmerizing and creates a peaceful lullaby of sorts.
Beatrice Likes the Dark by April Genevieve Tucholke, illustrated by Khoa Le
SISTERS / DIFFERENCES
Gorgeous writing and illustrations tell the story of two sisters — one, Beatrice, who prefers the dark dark dark and likes the night night night and spiders and having picnics in the grassy graveyards, and the other, Roo, who likes the light light light and sunshine and birthday parties and red balloons. The sisters find a creative way to connect. Beatrice makes a Roo Potion for her sister to help Roo like the dark more and Roo teaches Beatrice a song to help her like the light. You’ll be enchanted by this story about sisters, being your unique self, and finding a way to connect with a loved one.
Remembering Mom’s Kubbat Halab by Medeia Sharif, illustrated by Paran Kim
A little girl named Bushra misses her mom, who has died. One of the things she misses most is her mom’s special recipe for kubbat halab, a potato-rice patty. Bushra searches for the same recipe, even making it herself, but it’s not ever the same. Her journey leads the family into cooking together and remembering Mom as they cook. Sharif’s story is a heart-tugging, honest story of grief, healing, and living with loss. I love how she frames Bushra’s grief around a special memory, the Iraqi food of kubbat halab, and includes a vegan version of the recipe in the back matter.
The Christmas Book Flood by Emily Kilgore, illustrated by Kitty Moss
My favorite line in this book is, “Reading is magic–when you have the right book.” But I actually love the whole book and its celebration of the Icelandic tradition of giving books to each other on December 24. Kilgore describes the magic of shopping for books with excitement and giggles, then wrapping them up to give to loved ones for the “book flood” tradition. “With blankets and pillows, loved ones and warmth, they sip their hot chocolate and read, read, read, read…” I think we all should adopt this tradition, too!
Whose Tracks in the Snow? by Alexandra Milton
Look at the tracks in the snow. Find out who they belong to and learn more information about that animal. Kids will love noticing the shapes of the tracks and guessing the animals, then reading more about each creature. For example, whose tracks are like hearts? A shy red deer!
Hanukkah in Little Havana by Julie Anna Blank, illustrated by Carlos Velez Aguilera
A little girl’s parents surprise her brother and her with a road trip from Virginia to Miami, where her Nonno and Nonna live. They celebrate Hanukkah, pick and eat grapefruit, visit the beach, dance salsa, and make yummy foods like latkes and applesauce. It’s a joyful time of family and celebration.
Unicorn Christmas by Diana Murray, illustrated by Luke Flowers
The unicorns get ready for Christmas with colorful, playful cards, decorations, and songs — but they stop everything to help exhausted Santa and his reindeer deliver gifts. Rhyming and festive.
Cat Family Christmas by Lucy Brownridge, illustrated by Eunyoung Seo
As you read the enchanting story of the Cat Family’s 12 days before Christmas, discover what’s under the over 140 lift-the-flaps. The Cat Family decorates the house, bakes, writes cards, and does other festive activities, including making homemade gifts until it’s finally…Christmas Eve.
Forever Cousins by Laurel Goodluck, illustrated by Jonathan Nelson
MODERN DAY INDIGENOUS LIFE
When one cousin moves away from the rez, when they reunite, the girls wonder if they’ll still be as close. They are happy to discover that they’ll always be connected, even if they don’t see each other every day. Very sweet.
Home for A While by Lauren H. Kerstein, illustrated by Natalia Moore
FOSTER CARE / CHARACTER ARC
Sensitively and beautifully written, this is a story of a boy who gets a new foster care home and feels many feelings, including mistrust of his foster mom and the situation. His foster mom, Maggie, is a caring, gentle presence who accepts Calvin with so much love. Every bedtime, she asks if she may hug Calvin goodnight (consent!), to which Calvin answers, “Nah.” But he asks Maggie why she would want to hug him. Maggie shares Calvin’s character traits, like persistence like a beaver, that make him huggable. As she consistently sees him and shows him love and kindness, Calvin starts to believe he has a new home with Maggie. It’s a powerful story!
When the Sky Glows by Nell Cross Beckerman, illustrated by David Litchfield
Cross Beckerman describes the beauty and circumstances of a glowing sky, and Litchfield captures it in exquisite artwork– whether it’s lightning or an eclipse, or the golden hour or fireflies. Lyrical text pairs with informational text in perfect harmony. “Around a beach bonfire, when stars shimmer…//the sky glows. A meteor shower is made of debris from a passing comet traveling through Earth’s atmosphere. The speed of the leftover pieces of comet causes friction with the air, leaving glowing streaks also known as “shooting stars” or “meteoroids.””
My Beautiful Voice by Joseph Coelho and Allison Colpoys
EXPRESSING YOURSELF THROUGH POETRY
A girl narrates in lyrical and sensory language about her emotional journey at school and how her wonderful teacher inspires her to feel safe enough to write a poem that she later shares with her classmates. “When my voice first arrives, I’m not expecting it. It comes out in a breath-of-a-whisper, straight into Miss Flotsam’s ear and Miss Flotsam just whispers back. Like my whisper is a language that only we speak and she smiles when she speaks it, and her hoops and bracelets tinkle and jangle like a poem.” Use this in your poetry unit and use this as a mentor text for first-person personal narration.
A Poem Grows Inside You by Katey Howes, illustrations by Heather Brockman Lee
FINDING IDEAS / WRITING POETRY
Teachers, you will want to use this book as a read aloud or mentor text when teaching students about finding ideas and writing poetry because it’s a true inspirational gem. The rhyming verse affirms us that we have a seed inside just waiting to awaken, grow, and bloom into something true; into a verse of poetry that nurtures us and reflects who we are.
Wally the World’s Greatest Piano-Playing Wombat by Ratha Tep, illustrated by Camilla Pintonato
FUNNY / PERFECTIONISM
Each time Wally thinks he’s the greatest piano-playing wombat, he learns that he isn’t! So he adds more to his piano-playing act. Like tap dancing and ball-twirling. Eventually, he was so discouraged that he wasn’t the best that he quit. But he misses it. And his competition asks him to come back, too — because he likes that they push each other to be good. They become the best blindfolded, unicycling, flamethrowing, hula-hooping, piano-playing wombats. Until they aren’t. Funny with a serious message.
Bubbie & Rivka’s Best-Ever Challah (So Far!) by Sarah Lynne Reul
JEWISH HERITAGE / GROWTH MINDSET
Rivka and Bubbie want to make challah bread so they try and fail but continue to persevere — enjoying their time together and the process of figuring out how to make the bread come out even tastier than before. I love this wonderful story of family, culture, and growth mindset.
Holding On by Sophia N. Lee, illustrated by Isabel Roxas
AGING / GRANDPARENT
A little girl loves that her Lola cherishes memories and music. And Lola loves music –fills her days and nights. So when Lola sometime forgets things, the little girl plays Lola’s favorite music and remembers for her. They dance and sing. I love the exuberant collage illustrations and beautiful message of family and compassion.
I Am Okay to Feel by Karamo Brown with Jason “Rachel” Brown, illustrated by Diobelle Cerna
On a walk, a son shares his feelings with his dad — from happy to scared. His dad listens and reassures his son that all his feelings are okay. He shares helpful strategies like breathing and moving to feel safe or express the feeling in the body. I like how the dad affirms his son’s feelings in a gentle, loving way.
Olivia Wrapped in Vines by Maude Nepveu-Villeneuve, illustrated by Sandra Dumais
Olivia’s fears and worries wrap around her like vines, preventing her from doing things she’d like to do. Her kind, quirky teacher suggests that Olivia imagines cutting down the vines. Doing that helps Olivia learn to live with her vines.
Penny the Engineering Tail of the Fourth Little Pig by Kimberly Derting and Shelli R Johannes, illustrated by Hannah Marks
Penny, the fourth pig who is an engineer, saves the day for her wolf-harrassed brothers by using her engineering skills to make wolf traps! Punny and playful, we can’t help but crack up at the antics of the pigs and the wolf and cheer for our hero, Penny!
The Coquies Still Sings: A Story of Home, Hope and Rebuilding by Karina Nicole Gonzalez, illustrations by Krystal Quiles
PUERTO RICAN HURRICANE / WEATHER
A singing frog lives in their mango tree. But when a hurricane destroys Elana’s home and many other homes, the frog is gone, and so are a lot of other things. Elana helps her family and friends rebuild. Months later, her home looks different, green buds sprout on the mango tree, and she hears a frog’s song CO-QUI, CO-QUI. The song brings joy and a feeling of home.
Leila, the Perfect Witch by Flavia Z. Drago
Leila wins trophies for everything she does. Now, she wants a trophy for baking. But she’s terrible at it! Her sisters give her lots of help and teach her all their tricks, even deep breathing. Leila doesn’t win a trophy but realizes that when she has fun, she feels like a winner so it’s okay. Plus, there’s yummy cake to eat, which she’s also quite good at. I love this story!
Theo Thesaurus The Dinosaur Who Loved by Big Words by Shelli R. Johannes, illustrated by Mike Moran
You don’t have to be a word-loving dinosaur to love this darling word-loving dinosaur’s story about trying to fit in. Theo eagerly shares his favorite words with his classmates, who seem more confused than accepting. Theo feels lonely and misunderstood. Especially when it seems like no one is coming to his birthday party. When they do, his new friends show Theo that they accept who he is.
Kunoichi Bunny by Sara Cassidy, illustrated by Brayden Sato
I love the art and the story in this charming and relatable wordless picture book. Follow along as a little girl, and her beloved stuffed animal bunny go on an adventure. Her Kunoichi Bunny gets dropped and found all over the city, including on the sidewalk, at the park, and on the bus. Then, finally, back at home, her dad washes the bunny.
Rosie the Dragon and Charlie Say Good Night by Lauren H. Kerstein, illustrated by Nate Wragg
BEDTIME / DRAGONS
In this delightful story, Charlie helps get his dragon Rosie ready for bed. But it’s not easy. Because Rosie doesn’t want to go to bed yet, plus she can’t find her favorite stuffed animal. Luckily, Charlie is prepared for the many challenges of bedtime with a dragon. He even has a schedule! After gathering supplies is bath time, pajamas, brushing teeth, reading, and lights out. From too many bubbles to overheating in her footie pajamas to a loud thunderstorm, Charlie solves all the bedtime issues for his dragon so that they can stay on schedule and get to sleep.
How to Catch a Reindeer by Alice Walstead, illustrated by Andy Elkerton
Comet the reindeer shares the reindeer traps that kids invent to trap her. Carrots won’t work. But an igloo won’t either. How about a candy cane maze? Funny and rhyming.
The Penguin Who Was Cold by Philip Giordano
Unlike the other penguins, Milo feels cold. A whale offers to take Milo to a warmer place. On his journey, he meets many kind animals. A friendly parrot makes Milo a scarf out of her feathers so he can stay warm when he returns home to the cold. I really love the cool geometric illustrations with large colorful images.
Little Red Sleigh by Erin Guendelsberger, illustrated by Elizaveta Tretyakova
Little Red Sleigh dreams of being Santa’s big red sleigh but everyone tells her it’s impossible. One day, with the help of Yellow Truck, she sets off for the North Pole to try to do the impossible. Unfortunately, a snowstorm stops their progress. She’s found by a little girl who loves sledding down a snowy hill again and again. Little Red Sleigh has fun but feels sad she didn’t achieve her dream until she gets a special letter from Santa who thanks her for making Christmas special for the little girl and invites her to the North Pole next year.