Drawn from PW’s Spring Children’s Announcements Issue, here are our editors’ selections for 18 children’s and young adult books that can’t arrive soon enough. And check out our picks for this season’s most anticipated adult books as well.
Another by Christian Robinson (Atheneum, Mar.) – Many children have wondered whether there is another exactly like them somewhere out in the universe. Caldecott Honor artist Robinson’s wordless solo debut plays with this idea, following a girl and her cat to a place where children each have a double. He also creates a speculative world with its own logic, and an adventure that will both puzzle and amuse.
Because by Mo Willems, illus. by Amber Ren (Hyperion, Mar.) – This quiet, inclusive book by the three-time Caldecott Honor winner traces a child’s path to her musical vocation as the consequence of a string of events and contributions. Debut illustrator Ren adds a vision of the powerful emotions that music evokes. Together, the two build on the idea that it takes multiple players to create something wonderful.
Circle by Mac Barnett, illus. by Jon Klassen (Candlewick, Mar.) – Square and Triangle have had their turns. Now, in the final volume of Barnett and Klassen’s shapes trilogy, Circle’s the protagonist, and a game of hide-and-seek turns into an insightful meditation on assumptions and fear.
High Five by Adam Rubin, illus. by Daniel Salmieri (Dial, Apr.) – Rubin and Salmieri, the creative team behind readaloud favorite Dragons Love Tacos and its sequel, are back with an interactive picture book that invites readers to hone their hand-slapping skills.
Let ’Er Buck: George Fletcher, the People’s Champion by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson, illus. by Gordon C. James (Carolrhoda, Feb.) – Colloquial narration by Nelson pairs with striking oil-on-board paintings by Caldecott Honoree James to introduce African-American cowboy George Fletcher and his 1911 entry in the Northwest’s largest rodeo. A triumphant tale of fairness trumping prejudice for a wrangler extraordinaire.
The Undefeated by Kwame Alexander, illus. by Kadir Nelson (Versify, Apr.) –Performed first for ESPN’s show of the same name, this magnificent anthem to the courage and genius of black Americans has been turned into a picture book with stunning portraits by Nelson. “This is for the unforgettable,” Alexander opens. “The swift and sweet ones/ who hurdled history/ and opened a world/ of possible.”
New Kid by Jerry Craft (HarperCollins, Feb.) – Riverdale Academy Day School has a beautiful sprawling campus, a rigorous academic curriculum, and ample extracurricular activities. It’s also distinctly lacking in diversity. Craft’s graphic novel interweaves the story of African-American new kid Jordan Banks with Jordan’s sketchbook drawings to convey the tension he experiences existing in two different places.
The Next Great Paulie Fink by Ali Benjamin (Little, Brown, Apr.) – In her first novel since The Thing About Jellyfish, a National Book Award finalist, Benjamin introduces a class’s collective memory of wildly imaginative prankster Paulie Fink and details the reality TV-like competition they stage in his honor when he fails to show up for seventh grade.
Pay Attention, Carter Jones by Gary D. Schmidt (Clarion, Feb.) – Schmidt fuses pathos and humor in this adroitly layered novel that opens as Carter answers the doorbell to find a dapper British “gentleman’s gentleman,” a former employee of the boy’s grandfather, whose will bequeathed his service to Carter’s family. Highlights include ample cricket vocabulary, delightful verbal badinage, and an affecting bond between a hurting boy and a compassionate man.
Sal & Gabi Break the Universe by Carlos Hernandez (Disney-Hyperion/Riordan, Mar.) – In this charming middle grade romp, 13-year-old Sal Vidón is a type 1 diabetic and amateur magician with the inexplicable ability to open holes in the space-time continuum. When his friend Gabi’s hospitalized baby brother takes a turn for the worse, Sal’s power might just be the solution they need—unless it destroys the universe. Sal and Gabi are clearly a fictional team destined for greatness.
The Strangers (Greystone Secrets #1) by Margaret Peterson Haddix (HarperCollins/Tegen, Apr.) – In this secret-stacked, thrilling series opener, the Greystone siblings find their mother distraught over a news story about three kidnapped Arizona children who have the same birth dates and unusual names as the Greystone children. Then their mom disappears.
To Night Owl from Dogfish by Holly Goldberg Sloan and Meg Wolitzer (Dial, Feb) – Peeking at her father’s emails, Bett, 12, learns two pieces of upsetting information: her father has fallen in love with a man she’s never met, and the two of them are scheming to send her and the man’s daughter to summer camp together. This laugh-out-loud epistolary novel showcases the bestselling authors’ collaborative skills; it also affirms that families conventional and unconventional are families just the same.
Children of Virtue and Vengeance by Tomi Adeyemi (Holt, June) – In the high-stakes sequel to Adeyemi’s bestselling breakout debut, Children of Blood and Bone, Zélie must save Orïsha from a civil war of magical proportions.
Internment by Samira Ahmed. (Little, Brown, Mar.) – Ahmed sets her chilling and timely novel in the very near future: two and a half years after an election that brought about a Muslim ban, Exclusion laws, and the internment of Muslims, in a disturbing echo of the Japanese internments of the 1940s.
Kiss Number 8 by Colleen AF Venable, illus. by Ellen T. Crenshaw (First Second, Mar.) – Amanda’s life is full of comfortable constants until an overheard conversation and a mysterious letter set her on the path to uncovering a family secret. A queer coming-of-age graphic novel that earns its powerful emotional impact.
On the Come Up by Angie Thomas. (Harper/Balzer+Bray, Feb.) – Thomas’s highly anticipated sophomore novel returns to the fictional neighborhood of Garden Heights, but her new protagonist, 16-year-old Brianna Jackson, has been dealt a different hand than The Hate U Give’s Starr Carter. In a love letter to hip-hop that weaves in the history of the form, the novel uses Bri’s artful rhymes to detail her fears, frustrations, and her determination to overcome societal stereotypes.
Shout by Laurie Halse Anderson. (Viking, Mar.) – In this powerful memoir told in free verse that is alternately raw and lyrical, Anderson delves into her past, sharing experiences at the root of novels such as her National Book Award finalist Speak.
With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo (HarperTeen, Apr.) – In the follow-up to National Book Award winner Acevedo’s lyrical debut The Poet X, high school senior and aspiring chef Emoni faces difficult decisions regarding her future and that of her daughter.