Holy moly, this list is huge. (And I still have a box yet to be reviewed!) To make it easier, I’ll give you some categories that may help you find just what you’re wanting to read or use in the classroom next. This list of picture books is primarily from September and October of 2020.
46 New Picture Books, Fall 2020
For Beautiful Black Boys Who Believe In a Better World by Michael W. Waters, illustrated by Keisha Morris
RACISM / GUN-VIOLENCE / CURRENT EVENTS
Jeremiah’s dad explains about Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, a rally and march for Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, gun violence, and blue ribbons. Each time his dad explains another racially-related or gun-related incident, Jeremiah gets quiet and doesn’t feel like talking anymore. When Jeremiah does feel like talking, his dad explains that they also hope for change and that’s why they vote, march, pray, organize, and speak out. Jeremiah connects social change to growing locs — you need patience, time, and belief to grow locs and to see positive changes in the world. Understandable and relatable, this timely book shows social justice issues and gives readers action steps and hope. A helpful discussion guide at the back will allow you to unpack the big issues covered in this book.
On Account of the Gum by Adam Rex
A hilarious story of cause and effect with one unfortunate event after the other…all because a girl (you– this is written in the second person) gets gum stuck in her hair. First, the girl’s family tries scissors to cut out the gum. But those get stuck, too! Next, they use two sticks of butter. When that gets stuck, more relatives help out and before long the girl has a head full of gum, butter, scissors, grass, noodles, a pet rabbit, the cat, the vacuum, and a birthday cake! She screams for the fireman to stop when they want to add chili. After her aunt gets stuck up there, it’s time for the girl to go to school. Because guess what?! It’s picture day!
Mr. Brown’s Bad Day by Lou Peacock, illustrated by Alison Fried
Frustrated, a serious-looking tiger businessman named Mr. Brown chases after his VERY IMPORTANT briefcase that was taken by a curious baby elephant. But, in a series of unexpected events, Mr. Brown is thwarted every time he gets close. First, it gets hooked on an ice cream cart, then taken on a Ferris wheel, and finally, put on a school bus. Mr. Brown is having a very bad day. Finally, Mr. Brown catches up to his very important briefcase. When he returns home, he opens it up — I wonder if the contents surprise you?
Poesy the Monster Slayer by Cory Doctorow, illustrated by Matt Rockefeller
MONSTERS / BEDTIME / HUMOR
Posey can’t wait for bedtime because she’s read a monster book to prepare for dealing with all the night’s monsters. She combats the werewolf with her wand and Princess Frillypatns tiara making Daddy quite cross that she’s playing with toys. She defeats one monster after the other, every time making her parents quite frustrated. And it’s pretty hilarious when Posey thinks her sleep-deprived parents look like zombies in the morning.
Keep an Eye on Ivy by Barroux
If you like funny, slightly subversive books, read this book next. The little boy gets a plant for a gift and when he’s gone he asks his family members to watch it. But, he notices that his family members are all disappearing. It turns out that as Ivy grows, it’s for a very good reason — she’s eating the people!
The Polar Bear in the Snow by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Shawn Harris
Gorgeous three-dimensional torn-paper artwork subtly shows the hues of white and blue contrasted with the dark eyes of the polar bear. This simple but engaging story asks readers to predict where the polar bear will go as he walks through the snowy Arctic. As he walks, readers learn about both the environment and the activities of polar bears. Lovely.
When the Shadbush Blooms by Carla Messinger with Susan Katz, illustrated by David Kanietakeron Fadden
SEASONS / INDIGENOUS LIFE
Compare and contrast past and present cultural traditions and values of the Lenni Lenape. See both past and present-day families planting corn, playing games, harvesting crops, telling stories, and more. Learn the Lenape words for different seasons and moon cycles for significant aspects of nature. Several pages of back matter explain the words and their meanings.
When Winter Comes: Discovering Wildlife in Our Snowy Woods by Aimee M. Bissonette, illustrated Erin Hourigan
A beautiful story that shows the animals and winter in harmony. The family also enjoys the winter weather, skiing, bird watching, ice fishing, and sledding, all the while knowing they share the world with all the animals.
If Winter Comes, Tell It I’m Not Here by Simona Ciraolo
The boy loves summer and his older sister warns him that winter will be cold and dull so he dreads it. Then, when winter arrives, the boy notices the days grow shorter, the trees lose their leaves, and it is more chilly. But, the boy loves winter and finds many ways to have fun.
I Love My Fangs! by Kelly Leigh Miller
LOSING A TOOTH
Explore the process of losing a tooth with a vampire who loses a fang. He experiences many emotions — it’s embarrassing and worrisome– and he certainly doesn’t want to give it to the tooth fairy. But eventually gives it to her and overnight grows a new fang!
Violet Shrink by Christine Baldacchino, illustrated by Carmen Mok
Violet reminds me so much of my oldest daughter who not only is an introvert but has sensory processing disorder so lots of noises and people are very uncomfortable for her. Violet prefers to be quiet and alone — which is hard for others to understand, including her dad who is always trying to get her to enjoy parties. Finally, Violet sits down with her dad and explains how her stomach hurts and her palms sweat. Together, they come up with an idea that will work for her dad to go to the parties and Violet to go but not participate in the chaos…she wears her purple headphones and brings a book. LOVE!!
All Because You Matter by Tami Charles, illustrated by Bryan Collier
EMPOWERMENT LETTER / BLACK BOY AND GIRL JOY
A beautiful love letter to black and brown children…The author acknowledges that they will face challenges but reassures readers that they matter and were dreamed of long before they were both. “Did you know that you are the sun rays, calm, like the ocean waves, thought, like montañas, magic like stars in space?” Calming, reassuring, beautiful.
Best Day Ever by Michael J. Armstrong, illustrated by Eglantine Ceulemans
PRETEND PLAY / IMAGINATION
A serious boy intends to have the most fun ever and he ignores his neighbor’s ideas at first. When he eventually listens, he learns that silly pretend play is the best fun EVER!
Can Bears Ski? by Raymond Antrobus, illustrated by Polly Dunbar
HEARING IMPAIRMENT / LOSS
An excellent story about a bear who mishears (or can’t hear) when people speak to him. He thinks people ask him, “Can bears ski?” It’s very confusing to him as he misses what people are really saying. Eventually, his father takes him to an audiologist who tests him then helps him hear better with special aids. The author beautifully illuminates the process of testing and getting hearing aids in kid-friendly language. Endorsed by The American Society for Deaf Children because “it stresses the importance of full language and communication access for children” and shows deaf children represented.
My Hair Is Magic! by M.L. Marroquin, illustrated by Tonya Engel
A little girl shares her confidence and wisdom about her hair in similes and metaphors. It’s an empowerment for children with textured hair plus an educational experience for those who don’t. “My hair is gentle, my hair is fierce. Calm as a summer breeze, powerful as ferocious bears.” When people ask why her hair is one way or another, she replies, “My hair is natural. My hair is beautiful. My hair is free…My hair is me.”
When My Brother Gets Home by Tom Lichtenheld
Don’t you love stories showing siblings who love to do things together?! Little sister is so excited for her brother to get home from school, she has lots of playful ideas of what they’ll do like jump into a waterfall, wrestle an alligator, explore the rainforest, and more. Darling.
Why Are You So Quiet? by Jaclyn Desforges, illustrated by Risa Hugo
Myra Louise is a quiet girl who loves to listen to the world around her. She learns to appreciate her quiet nature and invents a listening machine and wishes someone else will listen, too. And one day, someone joins her to listen.
Big Wishes for Little Feat by Cheryl Olsten, illustrated by Paolo d’ Altan
HORSES / DREAMING BIG
This is a longer picture book but it’s worth it for the heart-warming story of a lonely little girl and a smaller horse who wanted his person. Ella moves to Belgium with her Aunt Anastasia. She misses her parents and her Aunt thinks the best gift would be a horse of her own, a horse named Lafitte. He’s a gentle soul and she calls him Little Feat because even though he’s little, he can do big things. The girl and horse are inseparable and in her dreams, they fly through the night sky, metaphorically following their dreams.
Heidi by Johanna Spyri, retold by Jeanne Willis, illustrated by Briony May Smith
I’d forgotten how much I loved this story until I read this retelling! Heidi’s a sweet, resilient girl who makes everyone around her feel happy, even her grumpy grandpa. She finds a true home with her grandpa in the Swiss Alps but just as she’s settled in, her aunt sends her to live with a sickly little girl named Clara in a big city. Heidi desperately misses her Swiss Alps home; she misses her grandpa and Peter and the goats and flowers. Luckily, Clara’s family eventually sends her back to the Alps after Heidi learns to read and write. Soon, Clara joins Heidi in the mountains– and miracles ensue. Full-colored, beautiful illustrations.
Every Child a Song: A Celebration of Children’s Rights by Nicola Davies, illustrated by Marc Martin
In lyrical text and illustrations, Davies explores the metaphor of each child as their own song –unique in many ways. She argues that no song should be worn away or drowned out. The back matter lists the Rights of the UNCRC which are the rights children should have under the United Nations Convention on the Right of the Child.
The Perfect Shelter by Clare Helen Welsh, illustrated by Asa Gilland
Absolutely beautiful artwork! The story begins with two sisters having fun building a stick shelter outside. Then little sister gets very sick. It brings up a lot of feelings — fear, sadness, confusion — for the big sister. When the little sister comes home from the hospital, they build another fort inside — and make plans to go outside one day. Realistic, beautiful, and poignant.
Luna Loves Art by Joseph Coelho, illustrated by Fiona Lumbers
ART / KINDNESS
A field trip to the art museum shows how Luna’s mother encourages Luna to be nice to a lonely and sometimes unkind boy named Finn. Her kindness helps them become friends. The story shows real art and even explains it as well as showcases the artwork in the end pages. It also brings up what families can look like — and the many ways that families can be. There’s so much richness in this story.
The Most Beautiful Thing by Kao Kalia Yang, illustrated by Khoa Ld
#OWNVOICES / INTERGENERATIONAL RELATIONSHIPS / HMONG CULTURE
Kalia’s Hmong family doesn’t have much money but they do have, her grandma helps her see, is beauty, heritage, and love.
Robobaby by David Weisner
Watch the robot family struggle to put together their new baby. The grown-ups ignore Cathode’s offer to help, struggling with one emergency after another. Luckily, Cathode takes it upon herself to build her little baby brother. A great kid power book!
A Doll For Grandma: A Story About Alzheimer’s Disease by Paulette Bochnig Sharkey, illustrated by Samantha Woo
The little girl has a special relationship with her grandmother. When her grandma’s memory changes, one day her grandma calls her granddaughter the name of a childhood friend. That’s when the little girl gets the idea to buy her grandmother a doll. As they play with their dolls together, they continue their special relationship in a different way. It’s such a sweet story that shows a way to love the adults in our lives with memory issues.
Crying is Like the Rain: A Story of Mindfulness and Feelings by Heather Hawk Feinberg, illustrated by Chamisa Kellogg
YES! This book is spot-on for emotional intelligence — it encourages children to feel all the feelings and shares that crying is temporary just like the rain…It also explains that crying is healing just like the rain that nourishes the earth. “When it’s needed, the rain always comes. And after the rain pours down, the earth feels fresh and new.” “Tears help your mind, your heart, and your body feel new, clear, and calm after the storm. / We need our tears, just as the earth needs rain.” This is an essential mindfulness book for any social-emotional curriculum and a very helpful, accurate way for every child to understand sadness and tears.
Saturdays Are for Stella by Candy Wellins, illustrated by Charlie Eve Ryan
DEATH OF A GRANDPARENT / BIRTH OF A SIBLING
George spends Saturdays with Stella. The days are filled with exciting adventures like frozen yogurt trips, rides on the carousel, ninja tournaments, and reading favorite books. Until Stella dies and Saturdays aren’t any fun at all. Now all the fun things he used to do with Stella make him sad and queasy. Just when George thinks he can’t do another Saturday, baby Stella arrives. Now George isn’t sad on Saturdays because he’s busy with Stella having exciting adventures. A story of death and life, grief, and joy.
Already a Butterfly: A Meditation Story by Julia Alvarez, illustrated by Raul Colon
A lovely story about slowing down and connecting to yourself. Read how Mari, a busy and sad butterfly, learns from a young bud to stop, use her imagination, breathe, and connect to herself. When she does this, Mari feels happy for the first time.
The Boy and the Gorilla by Jackie Azua Kramer, illustrated y Candy Derby
A secular, peaceful story of grief…a very large gorilla is present with the boy as he grieves for his mom and wonders where his mom is; he looks for her everywhere and feels so sad. The gorilla leaves when the boy reconnects to the dad and doesn’t need him anymore. Muted colors and soft watercolors.
A Crowded Farmhouse Folktale by Karen Rostoker-Gruber, illustrated by Kristina Swarner
PERSPECTIVE / FOLK TALE
A farmer complains to a wise woman about his small house. She tells him to put all his animals inside. After a while, she tells him to put the animals back outside. When he does that, the farmer feels like his house is spacious and perfect for his family.
The Poisoned Apple Fractured Fairy Tale by Anne Lambelet
If you like subversively funny stories, you will love this updated fairy tale! When the witch tries to poison the princess with an apple, the apple meant for the princess unexpectedly makes its way from one person to the next with NO one eating it! Because the princess gives the apple to a dwarf who shares it with a deer who get interrupted by the squirrels…Meanwhile, the witch, who has been following the apple’s trail, falls off a tree and bumps her head, losing her memory. When she comes to, she’s hungry so she decides to eat a tasty apple. And everyone ELSE lives happily ever after.
Fern and Otto: A Story About Two Best Friends by Stephanie Graegin
FRIENDSHIP / FAIRY TALES
Fern and Otto walk through the forest looking for an exciting adventure for ern’s story. They meet families from fairy tales like the Three Little Pigs and Red Riding Hood. The friends even have porridge with honey at a little cottage. The forest is filled with characters and action but Otto isn’t convinced that the ideas are exciting enough despite his adventure-loving friend’s enthusiasm. In fact, Otto tries to hurry them along. The friends return safely home and Fern decides to write a story about two friends who live in a cozy house on a hill. I’m in love with every aspect of this story — dialogue bubbles conversation, detailed, lush illustrations, a loving friendship, and the inspiration to write your own story.
The Legend of the First Unicorn by Lari Don, illustrated by Natasa Ilincic
This is the story of a prince who lost his smile and the girl who created the world’s first unicorn to help the prince smile again. Not only is this a Scottish legend that includes a griffon but it shows a female heroine with magic who saves the prince’s smile, a ferocious battle between the griffon and unicorn, and a happy ending.
David Roberts’ Delightfully Different Fairy Tales by Lynn Roberts Maloney
Playful retellings of fairy tales set in different decades showcase the decades in the styles of fashion and furniture. Cinderella’s setting is art deco, Rapunzel’s is the groovy 1970s, and Sleeping Beauty is mid-century modern. As you might imagine, the illustrations are everything.
Northbound: A Train Ride Out of Segregation by Michael S. Bandy and Eric Stein, illustrated by James E. Ransome
HISTORICAL FICTION / SEGREGATION
A beautifully done story of a black boy’s experience with segregation and a first train ride! Michael boards a train heading north and sits in the colored section. We feel his excitement to be riding a train for the first time — the sights and sounds are all very exciting. “Then we sped through tunnels. We practically flew over bridges…It was like I was seeing a movie, but it was real.” Just after the train leaves Atlanta, the conductor takes down the “Colored Only” sign. With that freedom, Michael befriends a boy named Bobby Ray in the White section. Together they explore the entire train and play with Michael’s toys. When they are separated again by the “Whites Only” sign, Bobby Ray gives Michael a meaningful drawing showing white folks and black folks sitting together in the same train car.
Calvin Gets the Last Word by Margo Sorenson, illustrated by Mike Deas
The DICTIONARY (!) narrator is very proud of Calvin, a boy who loves words. In this story, Calvin is looking for the right word to describe his older brother. From the breakfast table to the classroom and back home again, Calvin encounters new words like subterfuge, mayhem, and revenge but none adequately works for his brother. It’s quite a full day and the dictionary narrator is exhausted by the time Calvin goes to bed — until Calvin gets inspired by PRANK and the bond of FAMILY. A sweet sibling and word-lovers story.
Construction Site Mission: Demolition! by Sherri Duskey Rinker, illustrated by AG Ford
CONSTRUCTION / TEAMWORK
Get ready for lots of smashing because it’s demolition time for the team! Smashing a building then sorting rubble, hauling loads, with everyone doing their share. At the end of the day, they work hard to learn the space and prepare it for something new. But first, it’s time for bed and dreaming. Goodnight. Another stellar story from this kid-favorite book series!
Do Not Go in There by Ariel Horn, illustrated by Izzy Burton
A story all about imagination — two friends imagine what’s behind the mysterious door. One friend imagines all sorts of terrible things like a scary wolf. The other friend imagines wonderful things like fireworks and party balloons and a robot band. They open the door at the end but we don’t get to see what really is behind the door…we’ll have to use our imaginations, too.
Pen Pals Forever by CK Smouha and J Lindenberger
LETTER WRITING / FRIENDSHIP
I love this darling story of unexpected pen pals — an elephant and a mouse — who become good friends through their letter writing. They even travel to visit each other in real life — and help each other with the difficulties they are having. Cartoon, pastel illustrations.
The Haunted Lake by P.J. Lynch
A combination love story and ghost story! (That isn’t too scary.) After fisherman Jacob disappears into the ghostly sunken village under the lake, his father and his love, Ellen, wait for him for years, hoping for a miracle. One day, Jacob, who is trapped below the lake by the ghosts, hears the bell his love rings. It startles him to his senses and he rises to the surface where he sees Ellen. It breaking Jacob free from the ghostly mind-control and he gets a happy ending!
El Chupacabras by Adam Rubin, illustrated by Chas McCreery
LATIN AMERICAN CULTURE / MONSTERS
Wacky and fun, written in sentences that mix English and Spanish and Spanish and English, this modern folk story explores the chupacabra in a way that isn’t scary but more light-hearted. A farmer and daughter discover the goatsucker (chupacabra) has sucked one of their precious goats. So, the father asks the flower seller for help. She gives him magic powder which, when overused, makes a herd of gigantic goats! Now, they need the chupacabra’s help to suck out some of the air! Beautiful, earthy illustrations. “Hector had to fix everything, pero la dama de las floras lo ayudo.“
The Mess That We Made by Michelle Lord, illustrated by Julia Blattman
A cumulative story about ocean pollution, this begins by first showing us all the problems we’ve made with pollution in the ocean, then focuses on how we can clean up the mess. Lyrical and rhythmic with vibrant, painty blue-hued illustrations, this will be a helpful addition to classrooms and home studies of the ocean and pollution. “But…we are the one who can save the day, reduce our waste at work and at play, recycle the plastic thrown away, to shrink the landfill without delay,…“
A Tiny Brown Monkey on the Big Blue Earth by Tory Christie, illustrated by Luciana Navarro Powell
What a cool book about perspective showing small to big starting with a tiny brown monkey swinging from a branch in the jungle and moving to a crowded bus to a busy town on an ocean into outer space. Talk about a global perspective! Incredible artwork!
The House of Madame M by Clotilde Perrin
Enter this house at your own risk. Lift the flaps and explore the creepy skeletons and monsters and other ghoulish and sinister things. Sorry to say but I don’t think you’ll be leaving. Ever.
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