New Release Spotlight: April 7, 2020 (Picture Books)

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As you look through this week’s picture book Spotlight, keep in mind that I found many more excellent picture books than I have spotlighted. These are what I consider the best of the best, but I did not spotlight all the great ones I found. With the exception of only two titles, every book on this list received at least two starred professional reviews.

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. And don’t forget The Ginormous book list, which is now up to well over 300 titles!

*In the Woods by David Elliott (Author) and Rob Dunlavey (Illustrator)

A New York Times best-selling author shares his love for northern woodland animals in a revealing, beautifully illustrated collection of verse for poetry lovers and budding naturalists. The animals in the dark woods are secretive, their inner lives a mystery. The stealthy bobcat, the inquisitive raccoon, and the dignified bear waking up from his winter nap are just a few of the glorious animals featured in this clever collection of poems and woodland scenes.

Companion to: In the Sea, In the Wild, and On the Farm. Features 15 woodland animals.

Three starred reviews!

  • Genre(s): poetry
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 3
  • Themes: nature, woodland animals, raccoons, moose, deer, bears, skunks, opossums, bobcats, porcupines, hibernation

*Madame Badobedah by Sophie Dahl (Author) and Lauren O’Hara (Illustrator)

There’s a strange new guest at the Mermaid Hotel–a very old lady with a growly voice, bags stuffed with jewelry and coins and curiosities, and a beady-eyed pet tortoise. Mabel, whose parents run the hotel, is suspicious. Who is this “Madame Badobedah” (it rhymes with “Oo la la”) who has come to stay indefinitely and never has any visitors?

To find out, Mabel puts on her spy costume and observes the new guest. Conclusion? She must be a secret supervillain hiding out from the law. The grown-ups think Madame Badobedah is a bit rude–and sad–but when she invites “dahlink” Mabel for a cup of forbidden tea and a game of pirates, the two begin a series of imaginary adventures together, and Mabel realizes that first impressions can sometimes be very wrong.

I had to do a double-take to make sure this is actually a picture book. It is! It’s about twice as long as your average picture book, which gives plenty of room for plot and character development. Great for young readers who are looking for something a bit longer, but who are not yet ready for chapter books.

Three starred reviews!

  • Genre(s): picture book (but longer)
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 4
  • Themes: strangers, hotels, mysterious people, spying, imagination, inter-generational friendship

*One Little Bag: An Amazing Journey by Henry Cole

From a tall tree growing in the forest–
to the checkout counter at the grocery store–
one little bag finds its way into the hands of a young boy on the eve of his first day of school.

And so begins an incredible journey of one little bag that is used
and reused
and reused again.

In a three-generation family, the bag is transporter of objects and keeper of memories. And when Grandfather comes to the end of his life, the family finds a meaningful new way for the battered, but much-loved little bag to continue its journey in the circle of life.

Another titles with three starred reviews! Earth Day is probably my favorite celebration in the library–there is just so much you can do with it! This book is great to start discussions about plastic trash and how people can reuse instead of discarding their trash.

  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 3
  • Themes: recycling, plastic, Earth Day, sustainability, circle of life, trash, life cycle, conservation

Exquisite: The Poetry and Life of Gwendolyn Brooks by Suzanne Slade

A picture-book biography of celebrated poet Gwendolyn Brooks, the first Black person to win the Pulitzer Prize Gwendolyn Brooks (1917-2000) is known for her poems about “real life.” She wrote about love, loneliness, family, and poverty–showing readers how just about anything could become a beautiful poem. Exquisite follows Gwendolyn from early girlhood into her adult life, showcasing her desire to write poetry from a very young age.

This picture-book biography explores the intersections of race, gender, and the ubiquitous poverty of the Great Depression-all with a lyrical touch worthy of the subject. Gwendolyn Brooks was the first Black person to win the Pulitzer Prize, receiving the award for poetry in 1950. And in 1958, she was named the poet laureate of Illinois. A bold artist who from a very young age dared to dream, Brooks will inspire young readers to create poetry from their own lives.

SLJ starred.

  • Genre(s): picture book biography
  • Recommended for: Grades K-6
  • Themes: poets, African-Americans, Pulitzer Prize winners, racism, gender discrimination, poverty, Great Depression

Roy Digs Dirt by David Shannon

Woof! Meet Roy, an adorable white dog who is wild about digging, digging, digging in the dirt!

Although it’s a smelly task for those who have to constantly bathe him, Roy’s happiness centers on his very favorite thing-dirt-and from sunrise to sunset, he burrows in it, rolls in it, and digs up buried treasures. There’s terror in every terrier, and when Roy runs into the house after being sprayed by a skunk, he faces the dreaded bathtub. Readers will see themselves in Roy’s childlike delight each time he makes the biggest mess ever.

No starred reviews, but who cares? It’s a David Shannon dog story! Good Boy, Fergus! was one of my boys’ favorite books when they were little, so I have a huge soft spot for David Shannon’s dog stories! Roy also reminds me of Harry the Dirty Dog, one of my favorite stories as a kid. Just look at that happy puppy face on the cover!

  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Recommended for: PreK-Grade 2 (and dog lovers!)
  • Themes: dogs, baths, dirt, storytime

*Why Do We Cry? by Fran Pintadera (Author) and Ana Sender (Illustrator)

In a soft voice, Mario asks, “Mother, why do we cry?” His mother thinks for a moment, and then begins to tell him about the many reasons for our tears. We cry because our sadness is so huge it must escape from our bodies. Because we don’t understand the world, and our tears go in search of an answer. Because we can’t find the right words, and our tears speak a universal language. Most important, she tells him, we cry because we feel like crying. And, as she shows him then, sometimes we feel like crying for joy.

Booklist and SLJ starred.

  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 3
  • Themes: crying, sadness, joy, emotions, expression, moods

*You’re Invited to a Moth Ball by Loree Griffin Burns

RSVP and have a ball–a moth ball–while studying moths in your own backyard!

Kids are usually asleep when moths come out at night. But discovering the diverse moth population is simple–stay up late and set up a party for moths! Nature centers and museums host events called moth balls each summer, but kids can create their own right at home. Captivating photographs show how to lure in moths to study them. Direct address to the reader shows kids the magic of science found at home.

Booklist and Kirkus starred.

  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Recommended for: Grades 2-5
  • Themes: parties, moths, insects, nocturnal animals, nature, entomology

*In My Anaana’s Amautik by Nadia Sammurtok (Author) and Lenny Lishchenko (Illustrator)

Nadia Sammurtok lovingly invites the reader into the amautik–the pouch in the back of a mother’s parka used to carry a child–to experience everything through the eyes of the baby nestled inside, from the cloudlike softness of the pouch to the glistening sound of Anaana’s laughter.

Kirkus and SLJ starred.

  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Recommended for: toddler-PreS
  • Themes: mothers, babies, comfort, snuggles, safety

*How to Solve a Problem by Ashima Shiraishi

To a rock climber, a boulder is called a “problem,” and you solve it by climbing to the top. There are twists and turns, falls and scrapes, and obstacles that seem insurmountable until you learn to see the possibilities within them. And then there is the moment of triumph, when there’s nothing above you but sky and nothing below but a goal achieved.

Ashima Shiraishi draws on her experience as a world-class climber in this story that challenges readers to tackle the problems in their own lives and rise to greater heights than they would have ever thought possible.

Publishers Weekly and Kirkus starred.

  • Genre(s): informational picture book
  • Recommended for: Grades K-3
  • Themes: rock climbing, problem solving, goals, perseverance, failure




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