The purple star shows books I’m considering for my best of 2019 list. (I may or may not add more stars to books on this list– it’s hard to decide because there are so many good titles.)
Enjoy these new books!
P.S. I have more than these books on my review piles. Coming soon: new picture books about friendship and new picture books about imagination!
27 Amazing New Picture Books, October 2019
Here and Now by Julia Denos, illustrated by E.B. Goodale
A favorite of 2019! I love this book so much! It’s a guided meditation in a picture book! Readers learn about both being present and aware of the world around. “The book is in your lap, or in your hands, or in someone else’s.” Notice your bottom, and your feet on the floor. Then consider the world… “Right here, right now, while you are reading this book, many, many things are happening: Rain is forming in the belly of a cloud. An ant has finished its home on the other side of the planet.” Gorgeous artwork. Important concepts. I’m going to be gifting this book a lot this year!
The Proudest Blue A Story of Hijab and Family by Ibtihaj Muhammad with S.K. Ali, illustrated by Hatem Aly
Home In the Woods by Eliza Wheeler
GREAT DEPRESSION / FAMILY LIFE
Captivating illustrations and an inspiring historical story based on the author’s grandmother’s childhood show joy, resilience, and family unity despite difficult circumstances. It’s organized by season; a year in the life of a single-parent family with eight children during the great depression. Though in each season, the family bands together to face financial challenges and lack of food. Their love shines through the work they do — doing chores, making jam, telling stories, or pretend playing. Beautifully written and memorable.
The Many Colors of Harpreet Singh by Supriya Kelkar, illustrated by Alea Marley
FEELINGS / SIKH RELIGION / MOVING HOMES
I love this relatable story about feelings, moving homes, and finding a friend plus it has much-needed Sikh representation. Harpreet loves colors and expresses his feelings with the colors of his patkas which are a kind of turban that he wears each day. When his family moves to a new home, he wears blue for feeling nervous, gray for feeling sad, and white for feeling shy. Harpreet picks white when he’s at his new school. Then one day, he finds a lost hat and when he returns it, he makes a new friend. A friend makes a big difference and Harpreet beings wearing colors again– red, pink, and yellow. In fact, now he wears different colors for different occasions, including white for hanging out with a new friend.
Unicorns 101 by Cale Atkinson
If you like goofy humor and mythical creatures, you’ll adore this new picture book! Four unicorn scientists share with you all the facts you need to know about unicorns. You’ll learn their scientific name: Betterthan horsicus, their life span: Super long, their colors: All of them, and the many uses of the horns: doughnut holder, tent pole, marshmallow stick, and pinata smasher. If you’re wondering what unicorns eat, it’s 24-carat cake and peanut butter and pixie dust sandwiches. Plus, now it’s finally confirmed — unicorns do poop cupcakes. This hilarious book is packed with tidbits and info on the majestic, magical, better-than-horses UNICORNS!
One Dark Bird by Liz Garton Scanlon, illustrated by Frann Preston-Gannon
COUNTING / BIRDS / NATURE
As the town wakes up for the day, more birds soar in the sky above from one to ten and then many more. Then a hawk appears and the starlings become a large flock, moving in unison like waves, dancing together in a noisy clutch. When it’s over, the birds float back down and settle in the tree for nighttime, counting from ten back to one. A beautiful pairing of evocative images and lyrical text!
Vole and Troll by Iza Trapani
I’m such a big fan of Iza Trapani anyway that I already knew I’d like this book. Turns out, I loved it. This book is perfect for reading aloud to children with lots of repetitions and songs. A clever Vole uses familiar preschool songs to trick the Troll into singing and getting distracted that the Vole can get across the bridge safely. The Troll gets so angry when he realizes and repeats this familiar refrain: “Troll-dee-roll. I’m a troll, And my favorite food is Vole. With a knick-knack, paddywhack, Better pay the toll, Or you’ll end up in my bowl.” How will this charming story end? With the Vole and Troll singing together in harmony!
Reading Beauty by Deborah Underwood, illustrated by Meg Hunt
FRACTURED FAIRY TALE
Book-lovers will love this unique, delightful sci-fi fractured Sleeping Beautify fairy tale. Lex loves books but her parents take them all away worried about the potential for a cursed paper cut. But Lex is no simpering, helpless damsel in distress. No. She’s strong and smart! She and her dog Prince solve her curse problem herself. And they all read happily ever after.
Birdsong by Julie Flett
SEASONS OF LIFE
Cree words interspersed throughout and earthy-toned collage illustrations give this book so much richness. Readers will understand that just like the season of nature, our human lives have seasons, too. With her classic simplicity filled with meaning, Flett tells the story of a girl through the seasons of a year. Moving to a new home is hard but its made easier when the girl, Katherena, befriends her older neighbor, Agnes. They spend time together, becoming good friends. Throughout, Katherena notices the seasons, the moon and the geese, the birds and the snow. One day, it’s time to say good-bye to Agnus whose life is at its end. The girl’s heart is sad and full. Powerful.
The Cutest Thing Ever by Amy Ignatow, illustrated by Hsinping Pan
An enthusiastic narrator speaks to readers directly in hopes that we will agree that everything in this book (two kittens wearing hats, inside another hat that a cute monster is wearing all riding a unicorn up a rainbow road…) is the cutest thing ever! (Also, there are bunnies and koalas.) I think you’ll agree about all the cuteness! Especially when you see the grand finale cutest thing ever!!
Three Cheers for Kid McGear! by Sherri Duskey Rinker and AG Ford
TEAMWORK / BIG TRUCKS
What a great addition to the wonderful Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site series! This story about a little Skid Steer machine shows that with teamwork, even the smallest truck can make a difference.
Why? by Adam Rex, illustrated by Claire Keane
Hilarious, slightly annoying, and deeply meaningful, this gorgeously illustrated picture book is about a little girl who only asks the question, “WHY?”. And it won’t be at all what you expect. When the evil supervillain Doctor X-Ray attacks the mall, the little girl’s repeated questions of “WHY?” gets him to explain his every motivation down to his failed knitting store and demanding dad who wanted him to be a doctor. Eventually, as he continues his introspection (I’m getting a distinct therapy vibe here), the supervillain considers his need to take over the world and seems to think twice about it. My daughter and I loved it. My husband didn’t. What will you think?
Sulwe by Lupita Nyongo, illustrated by Vashti Harrison
BEAUTY / SELF-ACCEPTANCE
Sulwe doesn’t like that her skin is the color of midnight and that she doesn’t look like her mother or sister. After trying to erase her color, eating only light-colored foods, and praying for lighter skin, she tells her mother her deepest desire for lighter skin. Her mother shares that the name Sulwe means star and not only is Sulwe beautiful just as she is but her beauty comes from within, just like a star’s. That night, a shooting star takes Sulwe to the sky to share the story of the sisters Night and Day. Sulwe learns that you need both kinds of beauty in the world, the sunniest day and the darkest night because together they make the world strong and beautiful. What an important message!
Small in the City by Sydney Smith
CITY LIFE / PERSPECTIVE / INFERENCE
With a strong sense of place, see a big city from a child’s point of view, a city that can be both scary and wonderful. “Taxis honk their horns. Sirens come and go in every direction. Construction sites pound and drill and yell and dig.” The child shares tips about the city places but who is he talking to? It’s not us… Can you make an inference who or what it is? “There is a dryer vent that breathes out hot steam that smells like summer. You could curl up below it and have a nap.” Evocative, emotional visuals with dark, black lines will make you feel so connected to this child — especially at the end. “But home is safe and quiet. Your food dish is full and your blanket is warm. If you want, you could just come back.“
Bob Ross and Peapod Squirrel by Robb Pearlman, illustrated by Bob Ross with Jason Kayser
FRIENDSHIP / ART / SEQUENCING
Bob thinks through how to paint Peapod Squirrel a good home. With Peapod on his shoulder, Bob deliberately yet playfully leads readers step by step through his process, just like his videos do. First, he starts with the sky. Bob Ross fans will know that the sky needs happy little clouds “that just float around and have fun all day.” When Bob pains mountains, Peapod eagerly scampers over them. But he also needs grass, a pond, and a forest. I love this introduction to Bob Ross but also the story of friendship and step-by-step sequencing.
The Hike by Alison Farrell
NATURE / FRIENDSHIP
I adore this DARLING nature story and so will you! Three friends and one dog leave for a mountain hike. Handwriting labels flora and fauna around them — Steller’s Jay, a porcupine quill, a chipmunk nest. The girls are happy to run, stop to eat thimbleberries, make leaf baskets, rest, get lost, write in their sketchbook, and notice the animals around them. They make it to the top then return home. Use this to get inspired for your own nature hike.
I Like the Me I See! by Culture Queen, illustrated by Solomia Kovalchuk
With simple text, this empowering message of self-acceptance resonates as an important mantra for life. I like all parts of myself — eyes, tummy, nose, skin — proclaims the author. “I am who I’m supposed to be.” YES!
The Voyage by Robert Vescio
One word one each page combines with detailed illustrations narrate the journey of a family fleeing from “Chaos” in their home country on a small boat with “Memories” and “Wild” and “Fear” eventually to “Safe” and “New” in a new home and new country. It’s hard to determine the culture or time in history but that’s okay. Use the details to make inferences if you want to explore that further. Ultimately, the importance of this book is that this story shows the big concepts involved with escaping a country at war and immigrating to a new country.
Pokko And the Drum by Matthew Forsythe
The patterned colors and artistry within each illustration are immensely pleasing to the eye. This is the delightful story of an enthusiastic drumming frog whose parents regret giving her a drum in the first place. (Who else can relate?) They send Pokko outside to drum. She walks and drums, attracting other musicians and listeners. Soon, she’s got an entire band behind! And not only is she good, even her parents admit it but you’ll want to be in her band, too.
The Word Pirates by Susan Cooper, illustrated by Steven Kellogg
Captain Rottingbone’s pirates eat words for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Words they steal. Which ruins all stories for children. But when he goes after the Word Wizard, he’s picked the wrong lady to mess with. He pulls out his sword, she pulls out her word-spinning pen. And guess which one is mightier? The words win! Turns out, the pirates didn’t know about stories. They change professions and become farmers. And the Word Wizard sails in their ship to spread the news about the pirates’ defeat.
Bears Make the Best Math Buddies by Carmen Oliver, illustrated by Jean Claude
REAL WORLD MATH
Example after example of how bears use math shows that you use math every day in the real world — from measuring to telling time to adding and subtracting, bears know how to help kids with math. Now I want a bear buddy of my own!
Around the Table That Grandad Built by Melanie Heuiser Hill, illustrated by Jaime Kim
This Thanksgiving story based on “This is the house that Jack built” poem shows a multigenerational, multicultural close-knit family. “These are the sunflowers picked by my cousins / Set on the table that Grandad built.” It’s a sweet story showing a group effort to get ready for Thanksgiving.
Amy Wu and the Perfect Bao by Kat Zhang, illustrated by Charlene Chua
ASIAN CULTURE / ACHIEVING GOALS
Amy can do a lot of things but she can’t make bao very well. Amy watches the dough rise, her dad rolls the dough while Amy’s dad makes the filling. Amy tries to make her own bao but she tries and tries and she just can’t. Then Amy has a great idea — to make Amy-sized pieces. Perfect! They get boiled and taste delicious. Want to make your own bao? There’s a family recipe in the back. A yummy introduction to Chinese dumplings and that with a little creative problem solving, you can achieve your goals.
Astro Girl by Ken Wilson-Max
FATHER-DAUGHTER / STEM
Father and daughter talk about the daughter’s plan to be an astronaut. Their playful relationship showcases the things that you must do as an astronaut — go around and around, eat food out of tubes, get used to zero gravity, and so forth. And the ending reveals that the girl wants to be just like her astronaut mom who has just returned from space.
Happy Right Now by Julie Berry, illustrated by Holly Hatam
In a culture that thinks we can only be happy if we achieve certain goals or get certain things, this book affirms that we can choose to be happy right here and right now in whatever the circumstances. It’s a good introduction to the concept. However, my adult self wishes the book used the word joyful as well as AND instead of OR. “I’ll be happy when the clock clicks the last second of the school day, on the last Friday before vacation. Or, I can be happy right now.” So, I’d rather they said AND because why not be happy the last day of school and right now? Picky, I know. My daughter told me I was overthinking it. I’m a both/and kind of person, not an either/or thinker.