New Release Spotlight: March 3, 2020 (Picture Books)

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This week’s picture books rival the YA list as the best of the week. We have two gorgeous wordless picture books, a title with four starred reviews, and a reboot from Margaret Wise Brown.

As always, titles with a * by them received two or more starred professional reviews. This week’s YA and middle grade Spotlights are linked at the bottom of this post. Don’t forget The Ginormous book list, which is now closing in on 500 titles!

*Nesting by Henry Cole

In this black-and-white picture book highlighted with robin’s egg blue, the reader will follow two robins as they build a nest with twigs and grass. Then mother robin lays four beautiful blue eggs and will keep the eggs warm in the nest until they hatch into four baby robins.

The father robin protects the babies until they can fly on their own. The perils the babies encounter are many, including snakes and storms. The nest is always their safe place.

This looks like a beautiful picture book to help celebrate spring. Four starred reviews!

  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 3
  • Themes: birds, robins, science, animals, safety, good parents, eggs, spring, nature, home, predators

*All the Dear Little Animals by Ulf Nilsson (Author) and Eva Eriksson (Illustrator)

This is a Swedish import. Two boys and a girl decide to start a funeral business for dead animals. They baptize the animals and give them names before saying a few words and burying them.

I love this concept because it would appeal to my animal-loving son. We have literally had funerals for dead worms on the street. He names wild animals we do not know–a large house gecko in Bali was Roderick, a Daddy Longlegs in his room just yesterday was Peter Parker, and countless stray cats around our apartment in China he called Tazerface, Rocket, Starlord, Gamora, etc. (see the pattern there?).

Kirkus and Publishers Weekly starred.

  • Genre(s): picture book (small-format)
  • Recommended for: Grades 2-7
  • Themes: siblings, funerals, animals, caring, kindness, mercy, kid businesses, roadkill, picture books for older readers

My Ocean Is Blue by Darren Lebeuf (Author) and Ashley Barron (Illustrator)

A girl with a disability explores every facet of the ocean during a day at the beach. A girl spends an entire day exploring the seaside with her mom. A keen observer, she sees the ocean as both “big” and “small” and both “sparkly” and “dull. It’s also “dotted and spiraled and wavy and straight.” Her ocean is full of sounds–it “splashes and crashes” and “laughs and hums.” But, at times, it’s silent. She is inspired to examine and celebrate every part of her ocean and doesn’t let anything hold her back.

SLJ starred.

  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 3
  • Themes: disabilities, ocean, nature, color adjectives, sound, beach, observation

*I Go Quiet by David Ouimet

Debut author! A young girl struggles to make herself heard, believing she is too insignificant and misunderstood to communicate with the people in her life. Anxious about how she thinks she should look and speak, the girl stays silent, turning to books to transport her to a place where she is connected to the world, and where her words hold power. As she soon discovers, her imagination is not far from reality, and the girl realizes that when she is ready to be heard, her voice will ring loud and true.

I love the front cover illustration and can see many “bookish” students identifying with the girl in the story. Booklist and SLJ starred.

  • Genre(s): picture books
  • Recommended for: Grades 1-6
  • Themes: introversion, bookish, imagination, voice, speaking up, picture books for older readers

*Two Little Trains by Margaret Wise Brown (Author) and Greg Pizzoli (Illustrator)

The classic picture book from Margaret Wise Brown about two trains and their cross-country journey from east to west, with a bold new look from Geisel Award-winning artist Greg Pizzoli.

A streamlined train and a little old train journey through hills and over mountains, crossing rivers and plains, in this treasured story from Margaret Wise Brown, author of Goodnight Moon. Reimagined with bold and vibrant art by Geisel Award-winning artist Greg Pizzoli, this updated edition is perfect for fans of things that go.

Kirkus and SLJ starred.

  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 2
  • Themes: trains, old, new, countryside, journeys, rhythm, onomatopoeia

Be You! by Peter Reynolds

Peter H. Reynolds creates a joyful celebration of individuality–and staying true to Y-O-U!

Be curious…
Be adventurous…
Be brave…
BE YOU!

Discover a joyful reminder of the ways that every child is unique and special, from the beloved creator of The Dot, Happy Dreamer, and New York Times bestseller, The Word Collector. Here, Reynolds reminds readers to “be your own work of art.” To be patient, persistent, and true. Because there is one, and only one, YOU.

  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 3
  • Themes: identity, individuality, conformity, persistence, self-esteem, confidence, encouragement, graduation gifts

No Steps Behind: Beate Sirota Gordon’s Battle for Women’s Rights in Japan by Jeff Gottesfeld (Author) and Shiella Witanto (Illustrator)

Discover the unlikely story of Beate Sirota Gordon, a young woman who grew up in Japan and returned as a translator working for the American military after WWII. Fluent in Japanese language and culture, she was assigned to work with the delegation writing the new post-war constitution. Thanks to her bravery in speaking up for the women of Japan, the new constitution ended up including equal rights for all women.

No starred reviews for this title, but professional reviewers are generally positive. This book is great for older readers looking at irony and western imposition of culture in the east. Kirkus mentions a “white savior” spin on the story. For older students, the white savior narrative would serve as an excellent discussion of whitewashing history and the ethics of importing western values on other cultures. Not to mention the irony of an American woman imposing these values in the 1950s, a time when women’s rights in America also had a long way to go.

  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Recommended for: Grades 2-7
  • Themes: Japan, women’s rights, WWII, discrimination, equal rights, irony

*The Three Billy Goats Buenos by Susan Middleton Elya (Author) and Miguel Ordóñez (Illustrator)

Three little cabritos have a clever plan to get past the grumpiest troll in the land. But then one of the billy goats wonders: Why is that gigante so grumpy, anyway?

This thoughtful question sends their plan in a new direction, and the results are better than they ever imagined.

Text is mainly in English, with Spanish sprinkled throughout. Includes glossary of Spanish terms and pronunciation guide. Publishers Weekly and SLJ starred.

  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 2
  • Themes: retelling, Three Billy Goats Gruff, trolls, Spanish, kindness, bridges, folklore, shapes, appearances, first impressions

At the Pond by Geraldo Valério

On a dull gray day, a boy puts his dog on a leash and they walk to a shimmering pond where snowy white swans swim freely. One of the swans invites the boy and dog for a ride. They climb on its back and sail into a stunningly beautiful landscape, dotted with wildflowers, spoonbills and ibises. Foxes, rabbits and deer appear in this paradise, then butterflies and even bigger, more beautiful flowers. The boy unleashes his dog on shore, and the dog bounds off to play.

Now the boy wraps his arms around the swan’s neck — he has a new friend. But when he puts the leash on the swan, the sky turns stormy gray, the water becomes turbulent, and the other swans fly away. Both the boy and swan are miserable, until the boy realizes he must free his friend. When he drops the leash into the pond, warm color fills their world and they return to where the boy’s dog happily awaits him.

Kirkus starred.

  • Genre(s): wordless picture book
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 2
  • Themes: pets, nature, dogs, friendship

Window by Marion Arbona

A young girl is walking home from school in a big city. As she gazes up at window after window in the buildings on her route – all different shapes and sizes – she imagines the most fantastic goings-on behind each one, which we can see by opening the gatefold. A tropical jungle. A whale in a bathtub. Vampires playing badminton. Her fantasies know no bounds. Until, behind the very last window, we discover the girl back home in her own room, where the toys surrounding her look strangely familiar.

This highly original wordless picture book by Marion Arbona is a celebration of curiosity and imagination that is sure to inspire a sense of wonder in readers of all ages. There are thirteen windows to open in all, and each scene is intricately drawn in black and white and packed with level upon level of extraordinary details to explore: a gathering of gnomes, a deep-sea diver under water, a collection of masks, small cars that drive up the walls. In a special touch, each window contains a clue to what’s behind it – for example, a plant on the ledge of the window that opens to the jungle, and a window shaped like a porthole that reveals the whale in a bathtub.

Kirkus starred.

  • Genre(s): wordless picture book
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 2
  • Themes: windows, imagination, observation, toys

When My Brother Gets Home by Tom Lichtenheld

A younger sister impatiently awaits her older brother’s return from school. As his bus draws closer, she imagines all the fantastical adventures that await them. From climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro in the playground to building a cardboard castle, every adventure, large or small, is more fun…when my brother gets home.

Kirkus starred.

  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 2
  • Themes: siblings, brothers and sisters, adventures, imagination

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