New Release Spotlight: June 2, 2020 (Picture Books)

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We have only six picture books this week, but three of them received two or more starred reviews! My favorite on this list would have to be runaway signs. I would use this with older students to talk about thankless jobs that are super-essential. I see lots of comparisons to the essential grocery workers and delivery drivers that have really kept our economy going throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. As a teacher, I never pass up an opportunity to remind my students to appreciate school custodians and cafeteria workers, and Runaway Signs seems like a great springboard for that as well.

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 titles have been added to The Ginormous book list.

*I’m Trying to Love Rocks by Bethany Barton

Think rocks are boring? Hard to like? Kinda just sit there, doing nothing? Why even write a whole book about them??

Bethany Barton will tell you why…because we wouldn’t be here if there were no rocks!

From the Grand Canyon to volcanoes to diamonds and fossils, geology–the study of rocks–shows us where we’ve been and where we’re going. With humor and fascinating facts, Bethany Barton introduces younger readers to geology and why rocks matter…enough to write a whole book about them!

Kirkus and SLJ starred.

  • Genre(s): picture book nonfiction
  • Recommended for: Grades K-4
  • Themes: rocks, geology, volcanoes, science, narrator talking directly to reader

Mad About Plaid by Jill McElmurry

Madison Pratt is delighted to find a lonely plaid purse in the park one afternoon. Then the purse’s mad curse causes Madison–and her whole neighborhood–to turn plaid! Will Madison’s spunk and optimism help to reverse the curse before it’s too late?

I’m mad about plaid, too! I even onThis is a humorous spin-off of the story of King Midas.

  • Genre(s): picture book, humor
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 2
  • Themes: curses, King Midas, plaid, purses

*Petra by Marianna Coppo

Petra is a little rock who believes she is a mighty mountain…until a dog fetches her for its owner, and she is tossed into a bird’s nest. A mountain? No, Petra is now an egg! An egg of the world in a world of possibility. Until she’s flung into a pond, and becomes an amazing island…and, eventually, a little girl’s pet rock. What will she be tomorrow? Who knows? But she’s a rock, and this is how she rolls!

Three starred reviews!

  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 3
  • Themes: flexibility, rocks, identity, optimism

The World Needs More Purple People by Kristen Bell (Author), Benjamin Hart (Author), and Daniel Wiseman (Illustrator)

What is a purple person? Great question. I mean, really great! Because purple people always ask really great questions. They bring their family, friends, and communities together, and they speak up for what’s right. They are kind and hardworking, and they love to laugh (especially at Grandpa’s funny noises)! A purple person is an everyday superhero! How do you become one? That’s the fun part! Penny Purple will lead you through the steps. Get ready to be silly, exercise your curiosity, use your voice, and be inspired.

Yes, this is written by Kristen Bell, the actress. The political message–that purple is the color of red and blue working together–will be clear to adults but not to students.

  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 1
  • Themes: purple, working together, community, kindness, curiosity, political messages, speaking up

*You Matter by Christian Robinson

This picture book explores many different perspectives around the world—from a pair of bird-watchers to the pigeons they’re feeding. Young readers will be drawn into the luminous illustrations inviting them to engage with the world in a new way and see how everyone is connected, and that everyone matters.

Kirkus and SLJ starred.

  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 3
  • Themes: perspective, different voices, community, connectivity, microorganisms

Runaway Signs by Joan Holub (Author) and Alison Farrell (Illustrator)

School is ending for the summer, and the stick figures on the school crossing sign are jealous of all the vacation plans they hear the students making. The stick figures work hard–maybe they deserve a vacation, too! So they abandon their signpost and set off on an adventure, inviting along all the other underappreciated road signs they meet on the way.

It’s all fun and games for a while, especially when they stumble upon a fantastic amusement park. But the people they’ve left behind are feeling their absence, and soon there are traffic tangles and lost pedestrians everywhere. The signs are more important than they realized, and now it’s time for them to save the day!

What a great opportunity to talk to students about the unnoticed workers around us who are so essential to our everyday lives. A great springboard to talk about the importance of school custodians, cafeteria workers, and grocery store workers during COVID-19 lockdowns.

  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 3
  • Themes: summer, last day of school, jealousy, vacation, cause and effect, road signs, appreciation of jobs



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  • I love reading anything that comes to my email from you! Thank you for sharing!
    Would you consider breaking your book categories down a little further? Books appropriate for Middle school are quite different than those for 3rd-5th grade. The content is important because of the maturity level differences between students at these ages. Is this something you would be willing to do? Thank you for your consideration!

    • Hi, Dia,
      Thank you for your suggestion. Can you say more about breaking the categories down further? Do you mean the recommended grade levels? If so, I actually get those from professional review sources like SLJ and Booklist. It’s the range that the professional reviewers recommend them for. I haven’t read the vast majority of the Spotlight books and am not able to recommend a more specific grade level.


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