Mac Barnett, author of the Caldecott Honor-winning picture book Extra Yarn, turns a popular children’s game into a high-wire act in his latest offering. In many picture books featuring people and animals, the animal world serves as the background. In Telephone, the opening spread features a wordless panorama in which children playing outside offer a clue of what’s to come for the many birds sitting on the telephone lines high above.
Hearing aids aren’t what they used to be. When author-illustrator Cece Bell was a child, it was the Phonic Ear, a bulky one partly strapped to her chest (not the smaller, unobtrusive ones of today), which served as the best option for amplifying her hearing and enabling her to better lip-read the world around her. In her new graphic novel memoir for children, Bell brings this childhood experience to life with humor and style.
Award-winning author Jacqueline Woodson was born in Columbus, Ohio, in 1963, in a “country caught between Black and White.” John F. Kennedy was president, Martin Luther King Jr. was planning the March on Washington, and Malcolm X talked of revolution. But, like her picture book Show Way (2005), Woodson’s new memoir-in-verse, Brown Girl Dreaming, is of the ages—an African-American family’s story traced across the generations to Thomas Jefferson Woodson, perhaps the first son of Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings, and William J. Woodson, who fought for the Union in the Civil War. Her story is “history coming down through time,” narrated as if she is standing right next to us, pointing out family pictures on the wall of her childhood home.
When I was younger, I was a huge fan of Frances Hodgson Burnett’s novels A Little Princess and The Secret Garden, in which a girl is whisked from darkest India to a very different environment in England, usually in the wake of a family tragedy. As captivating as those novels were to my preteen self, what was always missing was a real portrait, not just a glimpse, of what the heroine’s life was like in the exotic place from which she came. Katherine Rundell’s Cartwheeling in Thunderstorms does exactly that.
Lots of scientists—Newton, Salk, Galileo—changed the world. Now Ellie’s grandfather Melvin might be on the same track. But is that a good thing?
Eight-year-old Aref loves nature, making lists, his family, his grandfather Sidi and his home in Muscat, Oman. When his parents decide to finish their doctorates in Michigan, Aref refuses to embrace the move. The important things—school, friends, his grandfather, the sea turtle beach—do not fit in Aref’s suitcase, and he finds himself getting in his mother’s way while sinking into sadness. Underneath his sadness is fear: Will Sidi be here in three years when Aref returns? Will Aref remember Muscat?
Budding young naturalists will learn from—and love—Winter Is Coming by Tony Johnston. A quietly powerful picture book that explores the changing of the seasons and life in the woods, it’s also a story about the rewards that come from taking time to look closely at the world. The narrator is a resourceful young girl who visits her tree house each day, watching in solitude as the forest around her transitions from fall to winter. Armed with binoculars, sketchbook and pencils, she spies on animals as they hunt for food and prepare for the snowy season to come.
Most children’s stories that feature animals as main characters tend to be highly anthropomorphic. From “The Three Little Pigs” to The Incredible Journey, animals stand in for humans, right down to living in houses and sitting in chairs. Not so in Nuts to You, the latest from Newbery-winning author Lynne Rae Perkins. The squirrels in this story behave as squirrels, and their story is very interesting.
Being a small kid in a big world isn’t always easy. It’s sometimes hard to get noticed, let alone feel like anything is within your control. But three new picture books are guaranteed to encourage even the smallest children to stand up for themselves—and others.