Book List

30 Most Anticipated Picture Books for Fall

A gleeful, tender celebration of self-expression through movement, destined to become a favorite read-aloud.

HOW DO YOU DANCE?

A simple question—“How do you dance?”—meets resistance from one bespectacled youngster, who’s surrounded by a diverse, exuberant cast of characters displaying their signature moves in a range of settings and scenarios.

Heder perfectly captures the joy each figure finds in dance with muted watercolor-and-pencil illustrations against a white background. The serif typeface lends an authoritative air to the narrative voice’s descriptions of movement while playful hand-lettered text is sprinkled throughout to indicate characters’ responses to the “official” text. The typography also works with the book’s landscape format to emphasize the ways in which one might move—“FAST FAST FAST” in blurred italics and a drawn-out “sloooo o o o w w w w”—across a horizontal axis. The text’s organic, encouraging flow pauses at an official-looking chart that demonstrates such moves as “the swivel,” “the toodle,” and “the scoot” before taking an unexpected and delightful pirouette into the surreal: A full-bleed spread shows humans, including a dancer in a wheelchair, sharing a dimly lit dance floor (complete with disco ball) with dinosaurs, a robot, and horses. The reluctant dancer, who is not named or gendered by the text, has short dark brown hair and peachy tan skin and wears a green pullover with purple shorts and sneakers.

A gleeful, tender celebration of self-expression through movement, destined to become a favorite read-aloud. (Picture book. 3-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 6, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4197-3418-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Abrams

Review Posted Online: May 12, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2019

This deeply important story will foster further discussion around racism, sexual abuse, and courage.

RISE!

FROM CAGED BIRD TO POET OF THE PEOPLE, MAYA ANGELOU

Maya Angelou: writer, performer, activist.

In a foreword, Angelou’s grandson, Colin Johnson, prepares readers for a story that is not at all a fairy tale and will inevitably prompt conversations. Hegedus’ poem starts with young Maya and older brother Bailey heading to Stamps, Arkansas, where they will live with their paternal grandmother, Momma Henderson, owner of the local general store. Illustrating Henderson’s stoicism in the face of racism, Engel uses the symbolism of a scale with Henderson as its fulcrum, Maya weighing down the pan on one side as jeering white girls are lifted on the other. The children’s brief sojourn with their mother and her boyfriend is marred by his sexual abuse—the text alludes to “a visit to the hospital”—of young Maya; his shadow on the wall as Maya huddles on her bed will haunt readers. Back in Stamps Maya discovers her love of reading, powerfully depicted in an image that shows words swirling above her head. The narrative continues, Hegedus’ spare words finding symbolic representation in Engel’s oil paintings, as Maya moves through her difficult childhood  to emerge as a rare talent with a young son to support, later to turn her talents to activism. The final page shows an African American girl reading and reflecting on Angelou’s words; they swirl about her, closing the circle.

This deeply important story will foster further discussion around racism, sexual abuse, and courage. (timeline) (Picture book/biography. 7-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 6, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-62014-587-6

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Lee & Low Books

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2019

This joyful book celebrates the importance of language and taking it as your own, from early.

A LIKKLE MISS LOU

HOW JAMAICAN POET LOUISE BENNETT COVERLEY FOUND HER VOICE

The beauty of Jamaican patois jumps off the page in this tale of one of its most acclaimed wielders, poet Louise Bennett Coverley.

As dressmaker’s daughter Louise becomes enamored with language, readers see the nascent poet even as the young girl deals with the conflicts of balancing what feels like two worlds. This struggle will be familiar to children who speak multiple languages. In school, Louise is taught standard English, as it is the official language of her country, Jamaica, but at home and on the streets of Kingston, she is wrapped in the more jovial and just as significant Jamaican Creole. The juxtaposition of the King’s English and Jamaican patois will make for an early, fun lesson in code-switching. “I must say I love the silhouette,” one of Louise’s mother’s customers says; “Naw, miss, de frock fit you nice,” Louise’s mother replies. Vibrant, playful, sunny-hued illustrations depict the people, places, animals, and food that are characteristic of Jamaica. English and patois ornamentally splashed on a couple of pages serve to give even more life to the story and will enable readers to get a glimpse of the world through young Louise’s eyes.

This joyful book celebrates the importance of language and taking it as your own, from early. (author’s note) (Picture book/biography. 4-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-77147-350-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Owlkids Books

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2019

Thoroughly engaging and filled with intriguing facts.

GLACIER ON THE MOVE

Flo, a talking glacier, narrates its journey to the ocean in this picture book.

Flo, whose voice is sociable and chirpy, is the perfect vehicle to inform readers about the hows and whys of glacial formation and movement in an accessible, often amusing way. The book’s ingenuity doesn’t stop there. Inhabiting the margins of the pages, as it would inhabit the interior of a glacier, the flat black silhouette of a knowledgeable ice worm gives succinct, clear facts about glaciers: “As snow piles on a glacier, the weight presses air out, compacting the snow into dense ice.” The ice worm’s facts are printed in a much smaller font than Flo’s narration and seem designed for adults to interpret to young readers. The ice worm’s facts are just enough to intrigue but not overwhelm readers, just as anthropomorphizing Flo connects readers empathetically. Illustrator Brereton’s flat, stylized illustrations—some approaching abstract design—may not reinforce this connection, but what they do achieve is to give an impression of hardness and solidity (as befits a glacier); warm and cool colors are used to advantage to create the effect of changing seasons. Backmatter offers additional facts about glaciers, discusses climate change (a little proselytizing here about how readers can help), and, finally, since readers will be itching to know, explains what’s the deal with ice worms (yes, they are real).

Thoroughly engaging and filled with intriguing facts. (further reading) (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Aug. 27, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5132-6230-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: West Margin Press

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2019

Gives readers a fresh and thrilling sense of what it took to make history.

A PLACE TO LAND

The backstory of a renowned address is revealed.

Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream Speech” is one of the most famous ever given, yet with this book, Wittenstein and Pinkney give young readers new insights into both the speech and the man behind it. When Dr. King arrived in Washington, D.C., for the 1963 March on Washington, the speech was not yet finished. He turned to his fellow civil rights leaders for advice, and after hours of listening, he returned to his room to compose, fine-tuning even the day of the march. He went on to deliver a powerful speech, but as he closed, he moved away from the prepared text and into a stirring sermon. “Martin was done circling. / The lecture was over. / He was going to church, / his place to land, / and taking a congregation / of two hundred and fifty thousand / along for the ride.” Although much hard work still lay ahead, the impact of Dr. King’s dramatic words and delivery elevated that important moment in the struggle for equal rights. Wittenstein’s free-verse narrative perfectly captures the tension leading up to the speech as each adviser urged his own ideas while remaining a supportive community. Pinkney’s trademark illustrations dramatize this and the speech, adding power and further illuminating the sense of historical importance.

Gives readers a fresh and thrilling sense of what it took to make history. (author’s note, lists of advisers and speakers, bibliography, source notes) (Informational picture book. 7-10)

Pub Date: Aug. 27, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-8234-4331-4

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Neal Porter/Holiday House

Review Posted Online: June 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

Both a meaningful effort toward inclusion and a solid conversation starter about bullying

MY FOOTPRINTS

Thuy wants to overcome the bullies that taunt her.

Graphite-and–digital color illustrations show Thuy sadly walking home from menacing bullies at school. Thuy is Asian and wears an adorable cat hat over her straight, shoulder-length black hair. Tran’s bubbly cartoon style excels at Thuy’s many facial expressions. In “the crisp, white blanket of new snow,” Thuy’s footprints begin to embody animals that she admires: “V” shapes for a cardinal that can fly from danger, deep stomps for a towering grizzly bear, and others. When her two loving parents, Momma Ngoc and Momma Arti (the former likely Vietnamese, like Thuy, and the latter South Asian), join her in this therapeutic imaginary play, together all three become a phoenix, then the Hindu Sarabha, and then a whole new creature—complete with heart-shaped footprints. By including colorful double-page spreads of the phoenix and Sarabha and further information about these ancient creatures in the backmatter, the book sends a powerful message about the strength children can draw from their own cultural heritage. With this story about two moms joining their daughter through child-centered play to face adversity as one, Phi explains in his author’s note, he hopes to nurture the marginalized and challenge “systems of harm.” Even though Thuy’s repetition of the titular phrase stilts the story’s rhythm at times, this doesn’t overshadow the underlying message: It’s good to open up to the people who love you.

Both a meaningful effort toward inclusion and a solid conversation starter about bullying . (Picture book. 5-9)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-68446-000-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Capstone Editions

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2019

A refreshingly original exploration of a physical process both common and important in the natural world.

WAIT, REST, PAUSE

DORMANCY IN NATURE

Plants and animals have many different ways to enter dormancy, using minimal energy when weather extremes or seasonal changes require a pause.

Many books for young children address the concept of hibernation, but Atkins develops the concept further, introducing the many different forms dormancy takes. Her simple, second-person text asks readers to imagine being a tree, ladybug, Arctic ground squirrel, chickadee, or alligator in cold weather or an earthworm in a drought. She describes the situation that leads to a timeout, repeating the line, “You would pause,” then tells what happens next: Leaves unfurl, ladybugs “wiggle awake,” ground squirrels’ heartbeats “quicken,” chickadees fly, alligators come out to sun themselves, and earthworms “moisten [their] skin…and squirm.” She makes clear that this resting state may last anywhere from a few hours to a season. Large, close-up photographs from various sources show the trees and animals and the weather conditions that prompt these activities. Helpful backmatter explains the different forms of dormancy, including diapause, hibernation, torpor, brumation, and estivation, for older readers. Here, the author gives further detail about dormancy in volcanoes as well as seeds and deciduous trees, and she mentions that, contrary to popular knowledge, some scientists use the word “torpor” to describe bears in winter. The attractive design uses display type to highlight the action words.

A refreshingly original exploration of a physical process both common and important in the natural world. (further reading, photo acknowledgments) (Informational picture book. 4-9)

Pub Date: Sept. 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5415-6192-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Millbrook/Lerner

Review Posted Online: May 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2019

A breath of warmth from the far north.

THE PENCIL

When their mother leaves to help a neighbor, siblings Susan, Rebecca, and Peter are surprised when their father opens his wife’s wooden box of special things.

With Anaana gone from their iglu, the children play all their usual games: a jumping contest, blindfolded hide-and-seek, drawing on the ice window, and playing with the dolls their grandmother has made for them, but soon all three become bored. However, Ataata surprises them by opening Anaana’s wooden box and taking out her pencil! He hands it and a piece of paper to Susan, the oldest and narrator, so she can draw. Soon, the other children each have a turn with the pencil, but with the paper full, they draw on the back of an empty tea box. Ataata must sharpen the pencil with his knife, making the pencil much smaller; Susan wonders what will happen when Anaana returns. Authors Avingaq and Vsetula understand life in Nunavut, Canada, and embed in the story the importance of being responsible for belongings and caring for them wisely. A helpful glossary of the Inuktitut words (italicized on first reference within the story) is included in the backmatter. Chua depicts a close, loving Inuit family dressed in furs; a traditional ulu and seal-oil lamp can be seen along with a European kettle in the cozy interior.

A breath of warmth from the far north. (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-77227-216-1

Page Count: 36

Publisher: Inhabit Media

Review Posted Online: June 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

This distinctive biography brims with artistic vision as it informs about a signature sculptor.

A LIFE MADE BY HAND

THE STORY OF RUTH ASAWA

The simplest objects can turn into art when you draw from life, nature, and personal passion.

Fascinated by a snail’s shell, gossamer dragonfly wings, and a spider’s complex web, Ruth Asawa carefully observed tiny details around her family farm, her hands constantly busy with found objects such as wire and paper. Simple, straightforward text tells how she drew inspiration from Japanese calligraphy, dancers who bent their bodies into shapes, and craftsmen in Mexico who twisted wire baskets. With this last, Ruth had found her medium and her lifelong obsession. Her own wire structures became graceful, weightless works of art, looped structures that invited others to look closely and imagine what they see, providing inspiration to future young artists. Charcoal-and–colored-pencil drawings combine with hand-painted and monoprinted paper in a striking collage representation of Asawa’s work. D’Aquino provides close-ups of the snail and dragonfly, a landscape layout of basket craftsmen, and a geometric kaleidoscope of squares layered upon squares, offering a variety of perspectives and media. An author’s note explains her inspiration for the book and offers sobering facts about the Asawa family’s internment in various camps—facts that are omitted from the story proper. Additional resources enable young artists to discover this artist’s work for themselves and offer step-by-step instructions to create a folded paper dragonfly.

This distinctive biography brims with artistic vision as it informs about a signature sculptor. (Picture book/biography. 5-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-61689-836-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Princeton Architectual Press

Review Posted Online: June 10, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2019

This simple yet sensitive story about a child coming to terms with things beyond his control will resonate across cultures....

THE MANY COLORS OF HARPREET SINGH

Indian American Harpreet Singh is a practicing Sikh and has a different color patka, or head covering, for every occasion.

He wears yellow when he feels sunny and cheerful, pink when he feels like celebrating, and red when he wants to feel brave. When his mother gets a job in a small snowy town across the country, Harpreet is apprehensive about the move despite his parents’ assurance that it will be an adventure. Harpreet begins to wear colors for not-so-happy occasions: He wears blue to the airport because he’s nervous and gray when he’s sad. Most often of all, however, Harpreet wears white, as he feels shy and doesn’t want to be seen. Will Harpreet ever feel like his cheerful self in his new home? Kelkar’s telling of Harpreet’s story is crisp and straightforward, and Marley’s bright illustrations tactfully and subtly convey cultural differences that make Harpreet feel different from and invisible to his peers. In the lunchroom scene with all the other children, for example, Harpreet has in front of him a large plate of traditional Indian chapati (bread) and dal (lentils), whereas his peers are shown munching on more “American” dishes (like cake). An afterword by Simran Jeet Singh, a scholar and professor of Sikhism, helps contextualize this story for readers who are not familiar with the religion.

This simple yet sensitive story about a child coming to terms with things beyond his control will resonate across cultures. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4549-3184-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Sterling

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2019

Color and composition combine to beautifully express friendship and the wonders of the world.

OSCAR SEEKS A FRIEND

“It’s hard for a small, ugly skeleton to make friends.”

Skeleton Oscar is sad when he loses a tooth—he looks “so dreadful” without it—but at least he has his skeleton dog, Tag, to play with. One day, he sees a little girl burying a tooth; she seems to be a possible friend. When she sees Oscar’s missing tooth, she laughs out loud and offers him the tooth she is about to bury. A moment later, she takes him by the hand, and their adventure begins. The minimal text lets the collaged pictures tell the story. Oscar and the girl look at a rainbow and smell the scent of wet grass and visit her house, where they meet her ma. They also frolic at the seaside and share their biggest secrets. Oscar takes her by the hand to return the favor. He takes her to his favorite places: the park and the library and up a tree to look for sleeping butterflies. Readers will note that the backgrounds of her world are vivid and bright while his are black with hints of brown and warm reds. Both are richly textured and fanciful, the gutter serving as permeable demarcation between worlds. At day’s end, Oscar gives her back the tooth; what he’s found is much more valuable.

Color and composition combine to beautifully express friendship and the wonders of the world. (Picture book. 3-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-911373-79-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Lantana

Review Posted Online: June 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

A beautiful tale of the value of friendship against unconquerable odds.

STRANGE BIRDS

A FIELD GUIDE TO RUFFLING FEATHERS

A quartet of mismatched girls find themselves united for unforgettable summer adventures.

Lane DiSanti wants to avoid boredom during her summer at Sabal Palms. Her grandmother, Mrs. DiSanti, wants her to join the Floras, a beauty pageant/girls club Mrs. DiSanti’s family helped found. Instead, Lane forms the Ostentation of Others and Outsiders, her own version of the Floras, by leaving secret messages for potential friends to find. At first, rebel/artist Lane, foodie Aster Douglas, aspiring-journalist Ofelia Castillo, and bird-watcher Cat Garcia cannot seem to find common ground. However, Cat, a Floras defector, informs them the ancient hat used to crown the Miss Floras is made of real bird feathers. Finally united, the quartet of strange birds begins campaigning to get the Floras’ leader to stop using the hat. Their plans backfire one after the other as the Miss Floras pageant grows closer. Soon, the Ostentation must choose to either give up the fight or escalate their efforts. Shifting perspective girl by girl and writing with wry restraint that’s reminiscent of Kate DiCamillo, Pérez doesn’t shy away from acknowledging that the consequences might not be equal for each girl, as they differ in background—Lane presents white, Aster is Bahamian, and Ofelia and Cat are both Cuban—and socio-economic status. As their friendship develops, the secrets they hide from their families and each other might grow large enough to tear them apart.

A beautiful tale of the value of friendship against unconquerable odds. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-425-29043-9

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Kokila

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2019

An affirmative, delightfully diverse overview of disabilities.

JUST ASK!

BE DIFFERENT, BE BRAVE, BE YOU

Drawing on her experiences as a child with juvenile diabetes, the Supreme Court justice addresses kids’ curiosity about disability and illness.

“Each of us grows in our own way,” says Sonia, a Latina child based on the author, as she and her friends plant a garden. Just as each plant has a “different color, different shape, and different purpose,” kids are “all different too.” Encouraging curious readers to “JUST ASK,” Sonia and 11 friends introduce their respective disabilities and chronic illnesses—ranging from blindness to nut allergies—by asking such questions as “How do you use your senses?” and “Are you really good at something?” The kids’ matter-of-fact explanations blend strengths and difficulties. Bianca, who has dyslexia, “love[s] learning by doing things”; Manuel, who has ADHD, “can get frustrated when [they] really feel the need to move around even though [they’re] supposed to sit still.” Though the number of conditions may tax younger readers’ attention spans, kids with those conditions who “don’t feel ready to explain” will appreciate the text’s inclusiveness; as Sonia acknowledges, “Not everyone is comfortable answering questions about themselves.” Enlivening the familiar theme, López’s bold figures, vibrant colors, and close perspective welcome readers into a garden bursting with assorted blossoms, insects, and birds. Refreshingly, most characters present as kids of color of various heritages, ranging from black and Latinx to South and Southeast Asian. One presents white.

An affirmative, delightfully diverse overview of disabilities. (Informational picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-51412-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

Charming, playful, and extraordinary imaginings will galvanize young minds to find inspired answers to their own questions.

JUST BECAUSE

A child sits under the covers in the dark, calling out questions to a patient and inventive parent.

“Why is the ocean blue?” “What is the rain?” “Why do the leaves change color?” Caregivers and children can both identify with this familiar evening exchange. Never resorting to the titular phrase, the dad in this impressive picture book supplies incredibly imaginative, improvisational answers. The ocean’s blue because at night, “the fish take out guitars…[and] sing sad songs and cry blue tears.” Rain is actually the “tears of flying fish.” Leaves change color because “in autumn, when the world gets colder, the trees keep warm by setting quiet little fires in their leaves. / By winter, their branches have all burned up.” The exacting, exquisite phrasing electrifies readers, and full-bleed illustrations pull them into an extraordinary alternate universe. The child’s big questions hover in enormous, colored bubbles atop a black background with the cozy bedtime scene. Answers appear on a double-page spread that follows, the father’s words floating inside smaller white bubbles set on the fantastical rendering. Matte paper, flat colors, conventional type, and a mid-20th-century look to the light-skinned people conjure a retro feel, allowing the unexpected, original answers to stand out even more.

Charming, playful, and extraordinary imaginings will galvanize young minds to find inspired answers to their own questions. (Picture book. 6-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-7636-9680-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: June 10, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2019

A coming-out story radiating warmth and joy.

SAM!

A 9-year-old trans boy comes out to his family members, who show their love and support for him.

Sam, a boy “filled with dreams and spirit and laughter,” isn’t sure how he feels about his older sister, Maggie. She bosses him around a lot, but sometimes they have fun together riding their bikes. No one but Sam knows that he is a boy called Sam, including his sister. Everyone treats him like a girl, which makes him feel sad. When one of the kids at school upsets Sam, he confides in Maggie about who he is. With her help, he tells his family and finds happiness. Palely hued illustrations with the look of watercolor depict Sam and his family as people of color, and the characters who appear in the background at Sam’s school reflect a racially and culturally diverse world. Gabriel consistently places Sam’s feelings at the center and emphasizes that his boyhood isn’t determined by how he dresses or plays. While Gabriel acknowledges that Sam’s parents, teachers, and classmates take time to feel comfortable with Sam’s identity, the story concentrates on Sam’s emotional journey through sadness and anger to, ultimately, happiness that he can be himself rather than on the learning process of those around him. Even though Sam and his sister don’t always get along, her support for her brother is unflinching and heartening, and their relationship becomes closer because of it.

A coming-out story radiating warmth and joy. (author’s note) (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-9996584-3-7

Page Count: 52

Publisher: Penny Candy

Review Posted Online: June 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

Part cookbook, part picture book, 100% delicious.

WHAT'S COOKING AT 10 GARDEN STREET?

RECIPES FOR KIDS FROM AROUND THE WORLD

A compendium for curious budding cooks of every stripe.

Multicultural residents living in an apartment block on Garden Street are cooking up a global smorgasbord. Mr. Ping (who appears Asian) stir-fries some broccoli, or “little trees” as his nephew Benjamin calls them. “Across the hall, Maria mashes avocados with a fork.” Maria and her mother (they have olive skin, black hair, dark eyes and appear to be Latinx) are making guacamole. Mr. Melville (who appears to be white) raises his knife to fillet a fish for sole meunière. Elsewhere in the building, Josef (a white boy with light brown hair) and Rafik (who presents black) together prepare meatballs with turkey, zucchini, and feta. Other neighbors are making coconut dal, miniquiches, and baba ganouj. For each spread, author/illustrator Sala renders delightful full-bleed pictures that showcase residents in action on the left and a visual recipe on the right. Each of these has detailed drawings of ingredients followed by easy-to-follow written instruction. With no more than six main ingredients each, the simple recipes feature global culinary traditions and fresh flavors. From kid favorites such as spaghetti al pomodoro and peanut-butter–and–chocolate-chip cookies to dishes with ingredients not as common in many North American kitchens (think tahini and fresh ginger), there are recipes for every palate. Finally, “everything is ready. It’s time to go downstairs.” In the final spread, the diverse community—of families, single parents, elderly folks, millennials, etc.—all gather in the garden for delicious food and fun company.

Part cookbook, part picture book, 100% delicious. (Cook/picture book. 5-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 2019

ISBN: 978-3-7913-7397-3

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Prestel

Review Posted Online: June 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

A touching tale about the strong emotional connection between dog and human.

STORMY

A STORY ABOUT FINDING A FOREVER HOME

This wordless story details the developing friendship between a homeless dog and a kind, patient young woman.

The scruffy dog has floppy ears and long, reddish hair, and the light-skinned woman has long hair of the same auburn shade. The story is set in a modern city and a nearby park with a huge tree and a wooden bench that serves as the only shelter for the dog at night. When the woman comes to read on the bench, she spots the shy dog, gradually befriending the appealing canine over several visits by playing with a tennis ball. One night the dog follows the woman to her apartment building, waiting outside in the rain for her to reappear even as the woman goes back to the park in the pelting rain to search for the dog. In an emotionally satisfying reunion they find each other outside the apartment, and the woman takes the dog into her home. The heartwarming conclusion shows the dog sleeping on the end of the woman’s bed as morning sunlight streams in the windows. Skillfully composed illustrations in a muted palette alternate between small panels in rows and full-page spreads with dramatic effects in mood and lighting. The narrative is conveyed so capably through the compelling illustrations that not a word is needed.

A touching tale about the strong emotional connection between dog and human. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 17, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5247-7176-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Schwartz & Wade/Random

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2019

THE NIGHT OF HIS BIRTH

A lyrical, moving account of Jesus’ birth, from his mother’s perspective.

In text adapted from a story that first appeared in The Presbyterian Survey (1985), Paterson channels the voice of the Virgin Mary, who marvels at the birth of her son after the shepherds have departed and while Joseph sleeps: “Can you believe it? God’s anointed one upon my breast, with milk, just there, at the corner of his tiny mouth.” These down-to-earth, oh-so-human words are accompanied by a picture of the Madonna and Child, her face turned away as she sits, barefoot, cradling him, while he faces readers. Both have dark hair and olive complexions, as do others depicted in the stunning, full-color illustrations. Prominent, aquiline noses define many profiles, and the characters’ brown eyes radiate wonder and reverence throughout the book. Nowhere is this more apparent than in a spread with an extreme close-up of Mary’s eyes gazing at readers from a full-bleed double-page spread with text that wonders about what the future holds for her baby and herself. Earlier, her parents gazed outward, too, as Mary recalled their worry about her pregnancy before also addressing Joseph’s concerns. But “tonight, I saw the gentle way he washed the son God gave into his care,” Mary later reflects in another moment emphasizing the humanity of this holy night.

Divine. (Picture book. 6-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 17, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-947888-12-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Flyaway Books

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2019

A beautifully rendered tale of loss, love, grief, and gentle healing.

THE PHONE BOOTH IN MR. HIROTA'S GARDEN

When tragedy strikes a Japanese fishing community, a young boy navigates grief with the help of a neighbor.

Every day, Makio and his elderly neighbor, Mr. Hirota, play a game spotting family members working on the shore cleaning the catch of the day. Suddenly an earthquake strikes, and the two watch in horror as their loved ones are caught in the ensuing tsunami. “Everyone lost someone the day the big wave came. / Silence hung over the village like a dark, heavy cloud.” Makio has not spoken since but curiously watches as Mr. Hirota builds a telephone booth in his garden to talk to his lost daughter, Fumika. Soon other members of the community use the booth to talk to their lost ones: “Hello, cousin. Today I fixed the boat. I will fish again soon.” Intrigued, Makio sneaks into the booth, finding a disconnected phone and the courage to finally say aloud, “I miss you, Dad.” Basing her story on the tsunami that struck Otsuchi, Japan, in 2011, Smith uses a reverent, poetic tone that is heightened by Wada’s mixed media illustrations. Wada uses a hybrid of Japanese art styles to mirror the grieving process, with the tragedy expressed in a dark gray palette, gradually underlined by pops of color and eventually giving way to a warmly colored pastel spread.

A beautifully rendered tale of loss, love, grief, and gentle healing. (author’s note) (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 17, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4598-2103-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Orca

Review Posted Online: May 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2019

As comforting as a home-cooked meal.

THE RETURN

A young adult comes home in Chernysheva’s uplifting wordless picture book.

A lone house stands beside an outstretched tree in a vast, empty field. The light-skinned traveler boards a yellow bus, its driver just a mere shadow. The yellow bus makes its way through the crowded streets of Moscow as buildings and churches loom overhead in a mishmash of lines and blank spaces. On and on the bus goes until it deposits the traveler onto that vast, empty field to make the way to the house, where a small figure tends the garden. The gardener—a parent or grandparent, perhaps—looks up. The giant traveler towers over the minuscule gardener in a series of double-page spreads that play with space and perspective in unusual ways. Chernysheva’s plain, mostly colorless artwork maintains a focus on the long journey and eventual reunion thanks to the book’s languid pace. Color (primarily red and yellow) emerges during seemingly minor yet significant moments, drawing attention to each character’s love for the other. A deep embrace and a sweet kiss to the cheek cement the relationship between the two adults. The old gardener stirs up a pot of warm stew, and the traveler (now the size of a child) sits down amid the garden.

As comforting as a home-cooked meal. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-77306-209-9

Page Count: 36

Publisher: Groundwood

Review Posted Online: June 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

Expansive content impressively and beautifully presented.

RIVER

A woman travels the length of the Hudson River by canoe in Cooper’s (Train, 2013) latest, a 12-inch-square picture book.

“Morning, a mountain lake. A traveler, a canoe.” Cooper’s text is spare in style yet detailed and lengthy: Paragraphs on each spread compete with pencil-and-watercolor illustrations that alternate among double-page panoramic landscapes of impressive views, smaller scenes against white space, and miniature vignettes of the faceless traveler in motion. The 300-mile solo journey itself begins with a question: “Can she do this?” A rock rises out of the water—no, “a moose.” There are rapids to brave, thunder, cold, a bear cub to avoid, a dam around which to portage (such vocabulary is made clear in context), and many more challenges to face. There are also the peaceful joys of “paddling, sketching, eating, camping, paddling again,” friendly faces at stops along the way, and the assurance that “she is strong, and she knows what she’s doing.” The myriad details about the journey will interest slightly older, outdoorsy children interested in adventure and travel. At the conclusion of this beautiful book, when the water-weary traveler ends her journey in the arms of her loved ones, ready to turn her sketches and words into paintings and a story, readers will feel they have traveled a journey themselves, and they just may wonder if they would ever have the strength, endurance, bravery and know-how to undertake such an endeavor themselves.

Expansive content impressively and beautifully presented. (author’s note, note on the Hudson River, sources, further reading, map) (Picture book. 6-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-338-31226-3

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Orchard/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

An abecedarian catalog of delights.

ROAR LIKE A DANDELION

Who says unpublished Sendaks get to have all the fun?

This unpublished manuscript from the creator of A Hole Is To Dig (which was illustrated by said Sendak in 1952) follows in very much the same vein as that classic. It’s ostensibly an alphabet book, and each letter is represented by a clear-cut command to child readers. They are urged in no uncertain terms to attempt short, simple acts (“Nod YES”), to make grand declarations (“Yell, ‘Good morning, big fat world!’ ”), and to attain moments of distilled poetry (“Open your eyes, see the sea / Shut them fast, lock it in”). Ruzzier’s ink-and-watercolor illustrations meet, with great command, the challenge of making sense of Krauss’ more esoteric urgings. Thus, “Go like a road” is illustrated with a (possibly) benign python a trail of mice walk along, and “Eat all the locks off the doors” features a pig, with a door stretched before it, screwdriver and wrench gripped like a fork and knife. Where Krauss rejoiced in children’s irrepressible sense of self, Ruzzier’s art recapitulates that feeling, and, with his cast of cats, rats, bugs, and birds, he is unafraid to bring a little surrealism into the mix. Ultimately, this work adroitly bridges the more-than–half-century gap between two accomplished artists.

An abecedarian catalog of delights. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-268007-5

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: June 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

A classic scenario flips the script in this engrossing adventure.

ONE FOX

A COUNTING BOOK THRILLER

A hungry, sneaky fox silently approaches a henhouse and gets the surprise of its life.

A farmyard serves as the setting for a counting book, with each number—one per double-page spread—depicting how a ruddy, crimson fox with a long, flowing tail closes in on its prey. “1 / One famished fox.” The fox curls on recto, pupils directed at the page turn. “2 / Two sly eyes.” The fox’s face dominates the verso, eyes focused on a single feather on recto. “3 / Three plump hens.” The fearsome action builds and darkens as the fox’s proximity increases until it is inside. “8 / Eight beady eyes” presents the shadowy outlines of three large hens with white worrying eyes looking at the fox’s head, also shadowed, with white menacing eyes and sharp fangs. “9 / Nine flying feathers // 10 / Ten sharp teeth” gives the impression of a fatal conclusion. But turn the page, and amid the scurry and scuffle of feathers flying and hens running, strength in numbers prevails. “100 / One hundred angry hens” startle and chase away “1…one frightened fox.” In a manner reminiscent of Pat Hutchins’ Rosie’s Walk (1967), the intrigue and story arc are communicated visually while the counting progresses. Lovely, potent, brightly colored illustrations in a combination of textured collage and paint against white space transition to a dark, moonlit backdrop. Little ones will eagerly count in subsequent readings as they also learn new descriptive vocabulary and cheer for the brave hens.

A classic scenario flips the script in this engrossing adventure. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-68263-131-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Peachtree

Review Posted Online: June 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

One unique picture book with much to say equals quite a lot.

ONE IS A LOT (EXCEPT WHEN IT'S NOT)

This Canadian import creatively explores concepts of a lot and a little, enough and not enough, through a seemingly simple story set in a lush, green park in summertime.

Each page or spread of the story includes a brief, declarative sentence beginning with a numeral: 0, 1, or 2. For example, “1 sun is a lot.” A frisky squirrel finds that one huge oak tree or one acorn is a lot. But two acorns can be too much to hold onto. For two children walking their dogs in the park, two leashes are too much when those leashes become tangled. This pair of children meet and become friends, sharing one umbrella and playing with a ball. One has brown skin and black, curly hair; the other has light skin and brown hair swept back in an unusual style. One acorn falls into a puddle as the children play, and over the concluding pages, that acorn sprouts and grows into an oak tree. In the final spread, the two children are now a grown-up couple with a child and dog of their own, having a family picnic under the tree that grew from just one acorn. Other people in the park include children and adults of different races. The thoughtful, minimalist text offers subtle insights into perceptions from different viewpoints as well as opportunities for discussion and interpretation. Appealing illustrations with the look of watercolors capture the humor of the situations in the park and smoothly convey multiple secondary plotlines.

One unique picture book with much to say equals quite a lot. (Picture book. 4-9)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5253-0013-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Kids Can

Review Posted Online: June 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

An extra-tasty book for bao lovers everywhere.

AMY WU AND THE PERFECT BAO

A little girl wants to make perfect bao, just like the ones her mom, dad, and grandma make.

Making bao is a multigenerational affair in the Wu family. Amy’s mom, dad, and grandma make perfect bao that come out “soft and fluffy, and so, so delicious.” Amy “could eat them all day.” However, the bao that Amy makes are always too small or too big, and sometimes they “fall apart before they reach her mouth.” One day, Amy is determined “to make the world’s most perfect bao.” (The typeface is determined too.) First, Amy’s dad mixes flour, water, and yeast to make dough for the bread (yay for dads in the kitchen!). Then “Amy’s mom seasons meat for the filling.” Finally, everyone gathers around the table to work. Everyone makes perfect bao…everyone except Amy. Amy is about to give up when she thinks of the perfect “Amy-size” plan and gets to work! Zhang’s buoyant, bubbly text is complemented by Chua’s charming, animated characters, who include an equally expressive kitty as sidekick. In one scene, Amy slumps on the floor with flour-covered face and clothes, cradling a misshapen bao. Her forlorn face exemplifies despair, while kitty mirrors her. Step-by-step illustrations, combined with the author’s family recipe, provide readers with a guide to making bao. The Wus all appear to be East Asian.

An extra-tasty book for bao lovers everywhere. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5344-1133-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Aladdin

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2019

An ambiguous ending makes this book truly haunting—and vital.

CHARCOAL BOYS

The lives of a hornet and a boy unexpectedly intertwine in this vividly illustrated, unusual glimpse of child labor at a coal yard.

Translated into English from its original Portuguese by Hahn, Brazilian Hans Christian Andersen Award–winning author/illustrator Mello’s enigmatic text addresses the humanitarian and environmental stakes of charcoal production. A primarily black-and-white color palette sets a somber tone, while die-cut pages shaped to resemble tongues of orange, pink, and red flame echo the collaged endpapers evoking clusters of embers and ashes. Told in distinct, titled fragments from the hornet’s perspective, the sometimes frustratingly abstruse text offers readers just enough visual and verbal information to construct meaning. The hornet, who guards a larva in its mud nest on a charcoal mound, addresses readers in deceptively plain language peppered with descriptive words and repeated phrases. Skin color is mentioned only in reference to an albino boy, depicted with bright white skin, who struggles to hide from the labor inspectors among the charcoal while the first boy, depicted with dark skin does not. The only named character is the albino boy, whom the hornet christens, unoriginally and somewhat insensitively, “Albi.” The book’s format and Mello’s professional background suggest children are its intended audience, but it’s difficult to envision any child engaging with this book without adult scaffolding. The text is more poetic than informational, and it does not include references for further reading. Still, for those readers who wrestle with it, it’s an unforgettable experience.

An ambiguous ending makes this book truly haunting—and vital. (Picture book. 8-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-939810-19-9

Page Count: 46

Publisher: Elsewhere Editions

Review Posted Online: June 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

A tender tribute to families who have loved ones suffering from dementia.

MY SINGING NANA

Mora pens a story about a boy concerned about Nana’s memory loss.

After dinner, Billy, his two young siblings, mom, dad, and grandmother make the final preparations on their patio for their annual neighborhood show, which will be staged the following evening. “Tomorrow will be our best show ever, right Nana?” asks Billy. But Nana, uncertain, says: “Remind me Billy, what are we doing this year?” After Billy and his siblings, Becky and Chris, remind Nana, they rehearse. Later, Nana tells him, “Billy, sometimes your Nana forgets things, but we help each other, don’t we?” That evening, Billy confides in his mom that he’s worried about Nana. The next morning, Becky, the singer in the show, wakes with a sore throat and cough, and Billy worries—but all goes well when Nana joins Billy for the grand finale. Set against a desertlike landscape, Bermudez’s colorful, vibrant scenes offer a window and a mirror to culture and custom, as when the brown-skinned Latinx family bow heads and hold hands around the table; cherry empanadas rest on decorated plates. After dinner, guests arrive, and the show commences. In Billy’s narration, simple Spanish phrases appear unapologetically and without translation. An author’s note delves into her grandparents’ experience with dementia and offers useful tips in talking to young children about Alzheimer’s.

A tender tribute to families who have loved ones suffering from dementia. (recipe) (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4338-3021-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Magination/American Psychological Association

Review Posted Online: June 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

A thoughtfully layered text and powerful illustrations address this sensitive topic in a uniquely nurturing way.

SULWE

With the help of a legend about Day and Night, a dark-skinned black child learns that she is beautiful inside and out.

Sulwe is “the color of midnight,” the darkest in her multihued family, and is teased in school. She tries everything to lighten her skin: an eraser, makeup, eating light foods, prayer. Her mother tells her she is beautiful and that her name, Sulwe, or “star,” refers to an inner brightness, but she can’t see it in herself. Then a shooting star comes to her window, sent by the night, and brings Sulwe out to tell her about Night and Day, two sisters who loved each other but were treated differently. When Night left after people called her names like “scary,” “bad,” and “ugly,” the people realized that they needed her. The stars added that “some light can only be seen in the dark.” After learning how Night and Day are both needed, Sulwe knows that she is “dark and beautiful, bright and strong.” Harrison’s glossy illustrations faithfully render the features of black people, allowing the beauty of different skin tones to shine, with deep purple tones in the darkness, reinforcing the story’s message. In an author’s note, Nyong’o shares her own past struggles with her complexion.

A thoughtfully layered text and powerful illustrations address this sensitive topic in a uniquely nurturing way. (Picture book. 4-9)

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5344-2536-1

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Aug. 4, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

Special and splendid.

SATURDAY

Caldecott Honoree Mora (Thank You, Omu!, 2018) returns in this sophomore offering about a mother and daughter’s special Saturday.

Young protagonist Ava and her mother love their Saturdays together. Ava’s mother works, “Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday,” so Saturday is their special day. The pairs’ smiles and Ava’s outflung hands convey excitement, while realistic details such as Ava’s mother’s sleep scarf add authenticity. In vignettes, Mora’s collage art chronicles some of their past adventures and shows them performing various actions in a circle of repeated figures (clearly intended to convey the passage of time), preparing for their day. Discerning readers may spy something left behind as they head out. Things start to go awry almost immediately, but Ava’s mother is full of reassurances, and they have a strategy for dealing with disappointment: pause, close their eyes, breathe deep, and move on. But after the biggest disappointment comes at the end of a daylong string of them, it’s Ava who brings comfort to her mother in a touching moment that may bring tears to readers’ eyes. Though not a preachy book, it offers lessons that are both beautiful and useful. Ava and her mother are black, with skin of different hues of browns, while other characters are an array of skin tones. How wonderful: a book with both racial diversity and class diversity that feels authentic.

Special and splendid. (Picture book. 4-9)

Pub Date: Oct. 22, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-316-43127-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 20, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

There’s more to storytime between a parent and child than book selection. Closeness and comfort certainly count.

THE PERFECT SEAT

Reading aloud is a wonderful shared activity for a father and child. But what or where is the best chair?

Dapper papa moose, dressed in a fedora and sweater, agrees to read a story to his young one. But then the quest begins for the best setting. Size, condition, texture, type, and location all present problems. They are about to give up when a picture-perfect location is found under a tree in an urban park. Lê’s little story, a sort of metafictive prequel to the act children and caregivers are engaging in in reading this very book, is delightfully presented. Gordon’s watercolor, pencil, crayon, and collage illustrations in soft shades of greens, browns, and grays illustrate each of the possibilities with gentle humor. Each opposing possibility is presented on a page or sometimes two, subtly controlling the pacing: “Too Funky. / Too Fancy” or “Too Old. / Too New.” Readers will find themselves lingering over the choices. Some of the options are familiar: “Too Big. / Too Small” (an imposing and far-from-cozy sofa; a fire hydrant). Some are less so: “Too Rough. // Too Slippery” (a bumpy bicycle ride; a slide in the park). A street map of the town on the endpapers, including its trees and lakes, along with a music-loving squirrel add to the fun.

There’s more to storytime between a parent and child than book selection. Closeness and comfort certainly count. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-368-02004-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: June 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

More Book Lists

The Magazine: Kirkus Reviews

Jenn Shapland reclaims a queer icon in My Autobiography of Carson McCullers.

subscribe
  • The Kirkus Star

    One of the most coveted designations in the book industry, the Kirkus Star marks books of exceptional merit.

  • The Kirkus Prize

    The Kirkus Prize is among the richest literary awards in America, awarding $50,000 in three categories annually.

    See the 2019 winners.

Great Books & News Curated For You

Be the first to read books news and see reviews, news and features in Kirkus Reviews. Get awesome content delivered to your inbox every week.

Thank you!

Looks good !! Please provide a valid email.