New Release Spotlight: April 14, 2020 (Picture Books)

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The picture book list is the longest of the three lists this week! Every title on this list received at least one starred review from a professional publication, and some received two or more. Middle school American history teachers will want to take note of BOX, a great picture book for older readers about an African slave who mails himself to freedom. And be sure to pass The Boy Who Dreamed of Infinity: A Tale of the Genius Ramanujan to your upper-elementary and middle school math and science teachers!

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. All the titles below have been added to The Ginormous book list, which surpassed 600 titles this week.

*BOX: Henry Brown Mails Himself to Freedom by Carole Boston Weatherford (Author) and Michele Wood (Illustrator)

What have I to fear?
My master broke every promise to me.
I lost my beloved wife and our dear children.
All, sold South. Neither my time nor my body is mine.
The breath of life is all I have to lose.
And bondage is suffocating me.

Henry Brown wrote that long before he came to be known as Box, he “entered the world a slave.” He was put to work as a child and passed down from one generation to the next–as property. When he was an adult, his wife and children were sold away from him out of spite. Henry Brown watched as his family left bound in chains, headed to the deeper South. What more could be taken from him? But then hop–and help–came in the form of the Underground Railroad. Escape!

In stanzas of six lines each, each line representing one side of a box, celebrated poet Carole Boston Weatherford powerfully narrates Henry Brown’s story of how he came to send himself in a box from slavery to freedom.

FOUR starred reviews! Middle school American history teachers, this one is for you!

  • Genre(s): picture book for older readers, poetry
  • Recommended for: Grades 3+
  • Themes: slavery, Underground Railroad, boxes, Henry Brown, freedom, family, courage, art

*The Boy Who Dreamed of Infinity: A Tale of the Genius Ramanujan by Amy Alznauer (Author) and Daniel Miyares (Illustrator)

A mango…is just one thing. But if I chop it in two, then chop the half in two, and keep on chopping, I get more and more bits, on and on, endlessly, to an infinity I could never ever reach.

In 1887 in India, a boy named Ramanujan is born with a passion for numbers. He sees numbers in the squares of light pricking his thatched roof and in the beasts dancing on the temple tower. He writes mathematics with his finger in the sand, across the pages of his notebooks, and with chalk on the temple floor. “What is small?” he wonders. “What is big?” Head in the clouds, Ramanujan struggles in school, but his mother knows that her son and his ideas have a purpose. As he grows up, Ramanujan reinvents much of modern mathematics, but where in the world could he find someone to understand what he has conceived?

THREE starred reviews!

  • Genre(s): picture book biography
  • Recommended for: Grades K-6
  • Themes: wonder, math, numbers, STEAM, India, genius, problems with rote learning, dreams, feeling misunderstood, picture book for older readers

A Last Goodbye by Elin Kelsey (Author), Soyeon Kim (Illustrator)

How do we say goodbye to a loved one after they die? This book broaches a difficult topic in a heartfelt way by exploring the beauty in how animals mourn. From elephants to whales, parrots to bonobos, and lemurs to humans, we all have rituals to commemorate our loved ones and to lift each other up in difficult times.

This book gently recognizes death as a natural part of life for humans and all animals. It draws out our similarities with other animals as it honors the universal experience of mourning. The touching and uplifting book ends on a hopeful note, showing how we live on both in memories and on the planet, our bodies nourishing new life in the Earth and the oceans.

Kirkus starred.

  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 4
  • Themes: grief, death, love, nature, animals, circle of life

*Outside In by Deborah Underwood (Author) and Cindy Derby (Illustrator)


Outside is waiting, the most patient playmate of all. The most generous friend. The most miraculous inventor. This thought-provoking picture book poetically underscores our powerful and enduring connection with nature, not so easily obscured by lives spent indoors.

Rhythmic, powerful language shows us how our world is made and the many ways Outside comes in to help and heal us, and reminds us that we are all part of a much greater universe. Emotive illustrations evoke the beauty, simplicity, and wonder that await us all…outside.

 

THREE starred reviews!

  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 4
  • Themes: nature, outdoors, play, Earth Day, beauty, simplicity

*Golden Threads by Suzanne Del Rizzo

When a storm sweeps Emi’s beloved stuffed fox away from their mountain home, he ends up tattered and alone on a distant shore. A kind old man finds the fox and gives it to his granddaughter, Kiko. As she recovers from an injury of her own, Kiko mends the fox lovingly with golden thread.

As the seasons pass, Kiko cares for the fox as her own. But after discovering his origins, she sets out, with her grandfather’s help, to bring the fox back to its original home. Once together, Emi and Kiko piece together the fox’s journey and find delight in their newly forged connections.

Golden Threads is inspired by the Japanese art form of kintsugi, or golden joinery, where broken pottery is repaired with resin painted gold. Kintsugi values repairing, rather than replacing, believing that the cracks give the broken item its story.

Booklist and SLJ starred. This would make a great read-aloud to introduce Dicamillo’s The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane.

  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 2
  • Themes: stuffed animals, journeys, experiences, storytelling, Japanese art

Seagulls Soar by April Pulley Sayre (Author) and Kasia Bogdanska (Illustrator)

Award-winning author April Pulley Sayre explores everyone’s favorite impertinent birds–seagulls–examining their intelligence, behavior, and surprisingly widespread habitat in this STEAM nonfiction picture book.

Did you know that seagulls sometimes live far from the sea–near a lake or farm, or even in a desert? Or that they are omnivores, eating everything from fish and clams, to grasshoppers and mice, and even to blueberries? Or that they dance? These birds are full of surprises! Join April Pulley Sayre as she poetically describes the curious behaviors and wide-ranging habitats of one of the most graceful birds to soar in the sky.

Kirkus starred.

  • Genre(s): nonfiction picture book
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 2
  • Themes: animals, seagulls, birds, STEAM, habitats, animal behavior

The Walrus and the Caribou by Maika Harper (Author) and Marcus Cutler (Illustrator)

When the earth was new, words had the power to breathe life into the world. But when creating animals from breath, sometimes one does not get everything right on the first try! Based on a traditional Inuit story passed forward orally for generations in the South Baffin region of Nunavut, this book shares with young readers the origin of the caribou and the walrus—and tells of how very different these animals looked when they were first conceived.

Booklist starred.

  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 2
  • Themes: indigenous peoples, Inuit, animals, walrus, caribou, origin stories, trial and error, Arctic, #ownvoices

*The Cat Man of Aleppo by Karim Shamsi-Basha (Author), Irene Latham (Author), and Yuko Shimizu (Illustrator)

The courageous and true story of Mohammad Alaa Aljaleel, who in the midst of the Syrian Civil War offered safe haven to Aleppo’s abandoned cats. Aleppo’s city center no longer echoes with the rich, exciting sounds of copper-pot pounding and traditional sword sharpening.

His neighborhood is empty–except for the many cats left behind. Alaa loves Aleppo, but when war comes his neighbors flee to safety, leaving their many pets behind. Alaa decides to stay–he can make a difference by driving an ambulance, carrying the sick and wounded to safety.

One day he hears hungry cats calling out to him on his way home. They are lonely and scared, just like him. He feeds and pets them to let them know they are loved. The next day more cats come, and then even more! There are too many for Alaa to take care of on his own. Alaa has a big heart, but he will need help from others if he wants to keep all of his new friends safe.

THREE starred reviews! Pair this with Wanda Gag’s classic picture book Millions of Cats. The recommended grade levels only go up to Grade 4, but I would personally read this to my middle school English classes.

  • Genre(s): picture book biography
  • Recommended for: Grades K-4
  • Themes: Syria, war, Aleppo, cats, pets, picture books for older readers

A New Green Day by Antoinette Portis

If you listen, nature speaks. Explore nature through evocative riddles and bold imagery that take the reader from day to night and back again in this perfect read aloud.

From the author of the Sibert Honor-winning title Hey, Water! comes a book of poetic riddles that encourage young readers to explore the natural world. Who scribbles on the sidewalk with glistening ink? Snail! Who’s a comma in a long, long sentence of a stream? Tadpole!

On each spread, children will solve riddles about the familiar animals, plants and the weather that one child encounters outdoors throughout a whole day.

Publishers Weekly starred.

  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Recommended for: PreS-4
  • Themes: nature, Earth Day, riddles, poetry, weather, climate, imagery

MORE LISTS FOR APRIL 14, 2020

      

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