New Release Spotlight: March 10, 2020 (Picture Books)

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So many picture books this week! Most of them received one starred review, too. I’m most excited about the first one: The Fabled Life of Aesop. Fables are so easy and fun to teach in middle school, and I love that they are accessible for my ELLs. The author lineup for Woke also looks pretty amazing.

As always, titles with a * by them received two or more starred professional reviews (none of those on this week’s picture book list). This week’s YA and middle grade Spotlights are linked at the bottom of this post. And don’t forget The Ginormous book list, now over 500 titles!

The Fabled Life of Aesop by Ian Lendler (Author) and Pamela Zagarenski (Illustrator)

Honoring the path of a slave, this picture book biography and concise anthology of Aesop’s most child-friendly fables tells how a child born into slavery in ancient Greece found a way to speak out against injustice by using the skill and wit of his storytelling–storytelling that has survived for 2,500 years. Each of Aesop’s stories has a lesson to tell, but Aesop’s life story is perhaps the most inspiring tale of them all.

Gracefully revealing the genesis of his tales, this story of Aesop shows how fables not only liberated him from captivity but spread wisdom over a millennium. Includes thirteen illustrated fables.

Kirkus starred.

  • Genre(s): picture book biography
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 5
  • Themes: fables, Aesop, slavery, storytelling, Ancient Greece, morals

Woke: A Young Poet’s Call to Justice by Mahogany L. Browne (Author), Elizabeth Acevedo (Author), Olivia Gatwood (Author), et. al.

Historically poets have been on the forefront of social movements. Woke is a collection of poems by women that reflects the joy and passion in the fight for social justice, tackling topics from discrimination to empathy, and acceptance to speaking out.

With Theodore Taylor’s bright, emotional art, and writing from Mahogany L. Browne, Elizabeth Acevedo and Olivia Gatwood, kids will be inspired to create their own art and poems to express how they see justice and injustice.

With a foreword by best-selling author Jason Reynolds. Kirkus starred.

  • Genre(s): poetry, picture book
  • Recommended for: Grades 2-7
  • Themes: social reform, discrimination, justice, albeism, body positivity, disability, gender roles

Superluminous by Ian De Haes

Nour loves the luminous glow she was born with, but it’s only when it starts to dim that she discovers the true power of her brilliant light.

Nour has a superpower: she glows. Her light shines so bright, she feels like a star in the night sky. But when kids at school notice her glow, they’re not impressed. If she had a real superpower, they say, she could fly or turn invisible. So Nour stops feeling special. And as her light dims, her world darkens…until a nighttime cry from her baby sister shows her how powerful her glow can be.

Kirkus starred.

  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 4
  • Themes: imagination, self-reliance, superpowers, sisters

Only a Tree Knows How to Be a Tree by Mary Murphy

Only I know how to be me.
Only you know how to be you.

Trees have leaves that turn sunshine into food. Amazing! Birds build nests, sing songs, hatch eggs, and fly. Dogs are our friends and can move their ears to tell us how they feel, while fish live in water, flashing like jewels. As for people, every person on Earth is different, each with their own thoughts and feelings. With a simple narrative and joyful, welcoming illustrations celebrating a world full of remarkable creatures, Mary Murphy reminds little ones that we are all unique, and that we are the only ones who know how to be us.

Publishers Weekly starred.

  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 2
  • Themes: individuality, identity, diversity

The Nest That Wren Built by Randi Sonenshine (Author) and Anne Hunter

In the rhyming style of “The House That Jack Built,” this poem about the care and specificity that wrens put into building a nest is at once tender and true to life. Papa and Mama Wren gather treasures of the forest, from soft moss for a lining to snakeskin for warding off predators. Randi Sonenshine’s lilting stanzas, woven with accurate and unexpected details about Carolina wrens, and Anne Hunter’s gentle, inviting illustrations reveal the mysterious lives of these birds and impart an appreciation for the wonder of the life cycles around us. Back matter includes a glossary and additional interesting facts about wrens.

Kirkus starred.

  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 2
  • Themes: birds, wrens, cumulative stories, “The House That Jack Built,” nests, rhyming books

The Moon Keeper by Zosienka

Debut author! Emile, a very responsible polar bear, has a new job as moon keeper. He spends his evenings making sure the moon has everything it needs to shine its light over the night creatures.

Night after night he keeps watch over the moon–clearing away the clouds and telling the fruit bats to move along when they play too close.

Emile finds the moon nice to talk to in the stillness of the night. But what happens when the moon starts to change and slowly disappears? In a lovely and touching series of small investigations, consultations with neighbors, and a fair amount of worry, he learns that in life, things come and go–and it’s okay.

Publishers Weekly starred.

  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 2
  • Themes: moon phases, polar bears, responsibility, moon, nature, night

Like the Moon Loves the Sky by Hena Khan (Author) and Saffa Khan (Illustrator)

In this picture book, author Hena Khan shares her wishes for her children: “Inshallah you find wonder in birds as they fly. Inshallah you are loved, like the moon loves the sky.” With vibrant illustrations and prose inspired by the Quran, this charming picture book is a heartfelt and universal celebration of a parent’s unconditional love.

Publishers Weekly starred.

  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 2
  • Themes: Islam, bedtime stories, mothers, wishes, diversity, unconditional love

Goodnight, Veggies by Diana Murray (Author) and Zachariah OHora (Illustrator)

Every veggie needs their shut-eye in this restful, charming story set in the community garden.

As the sun begins to set, the tomatoes are tuckered out, the cucumbers are calm, and the beets are simply beat.

But what’s got them all so exhausted?

Celebrate the turning of day to night in this perfect bedtime ritual for plants–and humans–everywhere!

Horn Book starred.

  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 2
  • Themes: day, night, bedtime, routines, vegetables, gardens, gardening, plants

Salma the Syrian Chef by Danny Ramadan (Author) and Anna Bron (Illustrator)

All Salma wants is to make her mama smile again. Between English classes, job interviews, and missing Papa back in Syria, Mama always seems busy or sad. A homemade Syrian meal might cheer her up, but Salma doesn’t know the recipe, or what to call the vegetables in English, or where to find the right spices! Luckily, the staff and other newcomers at the Welcome Center are happy to lend a hand–and a sprinkle of sumac.

With creativity, determination, and charm, Salma brings her new friends together to show Mama that even though things aren’t perfect, there is cause for hope and celebration. Syrian culture is beautifully represented through the meal Salma prepares and Anna Bron’s vibrant illustrations, while the diverse cast of characters speaks to the power of cultivating community in challenging circumstances.

Kirkus starred.

  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 3
  • Themes: family, Syria, refugees, cooking, tradition, moving, home, mothers, displacement

Follow Me, Flo! by Jarvis

When Flo and her daddy go to visit a relative’s new nest, Daddy Duck says Flo must follow him or she’ll get lost. Together, they sing a song with all the directions for the journey — up, down, in, and out. But Flo starts to make up her own words, and soon she gets so carried away that she wanders off. Oh, no–now a fox is following Flo! Where is Daddy Duck? What are the words to his song again?

SLJ starred.

  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 2
  • Themes: exploring, fathers, safety, directions, songs, listening, following instructions, independence

All the Way to the Top: How One Girl’s Fight for Americans with Disabilities Changed Everything by Annette Bay Pimentel (Author) and Nabi Ali (Illustrator)

Jennifer Keelan was determined to make a change–even if she was just a kid. She never thought her wheelchair could slow her down, but the way the world around her was built made it hard to do even simple things…Jennifer knew that everyone deserves a voice! Then the Americans with Disabilities Act, a law that would make public spaces much more accessible to people with disabilities, was proposed to Congress. And to make sure it passed, Jennifer went to the steps of the Capitol building in Washington DC to convince them. And, without her wheelchair, she climbed. All the way to the top!

  • Genre(s): picture book biography
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 5
  • Themes: Americans With Disabilities Act, wheelchairs, human rights, social reform, accessibility, activism




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