Drawn from PW's forthcoming Spring Children's Announcements Issue, here are our editors' selections for 21 children's and young adult books that can't arrive soon enough.
Big Feelings by Alexandra Penfold, illus. by Suzanne Kaufman (Knopf, Mar.) –
In this energetic picture book by the creators of the 2018 bestseller All Are Welcome, an inclusive group of child collaborators navigate emotional responses while converting a trash-filled lot into a playground: “I have big feelings./ You have them, too./ How can I help?/ What can we do?”
Itty-Bitty Kitty-Corn by Shannon Hale, illus. by LeUyen Pham (Abrams, Mar.) –
Following a pink puffball kitten who feels “so perfectly unicorn-y,” this picture book by the frequent collaborators transforms from an almost criminally cute tale of pretend play into a celebration of affirming one’s identity.
Keeping the City Going by Brian Floca (Atheneum/Dlouhy, Apr.) –
Caldecott Medalist Floca pays detailed tribute to the frontline workers keeping New York City going, and to the equipment that helps them do it, in this book inspired by the pandemic’s early days.
Milo Imagines the World by Matt de la Peña, illus. by Christian Robinson (Putnam, Feb.) –
In a rich, multilayered journey that centers a Black child’s keen imaginings during a long subway ride, the creators of Last Stop on Market Street celebrate a city’s kaleidoscope of scenes and offer a glimpse at a child’s experience with parental incarceration.
The Rock from the Sky by Jon Klassen (Candlewick,
Three animal characters consider everyday matters while facing inexorably advancing events in Caldecott Medalist Klassen’s pleasurably deadpan five-episode volume, which is just right for uncertain times.
The Tale of the Mandarin Duck: A Modern Fable by Bette Midler, photos by Michiko Kakutani, illus. by Joana Avillez (Random House, Feb.) –
Inspired by the mysterious 2018 appearance of an exquisite Mandarin duck in Manhattan’s Central Park, actor Midler, critic Kakutani, and artist Avillez create a slightly surreal fable about splendor and connectedness.
Watercress by Andrea Wang, illus. by Jason Chin (Holiday House/Porter) –
This multilayered autobiographical narrative illuminates Wang’s experience as a child of Chinese immigrants in Ohio, while Caldecott Honoree Chin uses both Chinese and Western brushes to convey memory and heritage.
Amber & Clay by Laura Amy Schlitz, illus. by Julia Iredale (Candlewick, Mar.) –
In a lyrical verse novel packed with myths and well-defined characters, Schlitz takes readers to ancient Greece to tell the contemporary-feeling saga of two children who form a bond extending beyond life.
Ancestor Approved: Intertribal Stories for Kids, edited by Cynthia Leitich Smith (Heartdrum, Feb.) –
Using the framework of an intertribal powwow and detailing aspects of Native culture alongside universal themes, 17 Indigenous authors craft stories that editor Smith describes, in a letter to reviewers, as a “sampling of the many rising Indigenous voices who are changing children’s literature for the better.”
Last Gate of the Emperor by Kwame Mbalia, Prince Joel Makonnen (Scholastic Press, May) –
In this Afrofuturist, genre-bending adventure informed by Ethiopian history and mythology, the creators follow Yared Heywat, star player of a secretive augmented reality game, as a shift in the game’s rules triggers an attack on Yared’s city and a search for his place in the galaxy.
Maybe Maybe Marisol Rainey by Erin Entrada Kelly (Greenwillow, May) –
Featuring illustrations by the Newbery Medalist author, this contemporary novel for younger readers stars fearful Marisol Rainey, eight, who, with a Filipina mother and a father who works away from home, stands out in her small Louisiana town.
Merci Suárez Can't Dance by Meg Medina (Candlewick, Apr.) –
This sequel to 2019’s Newbery Medal-winning Merci Suárez Changes Gears finds self-assured Cuban American Merci Suárez entering seventh grade, where she faces academic pressure, dancing, family changes, and love.
Ophie’s Ghosts by Justina Ireland (HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray, May) –
In this paranormal middle grade debut, Ireland centers Ophelia “Ophie” Harrison, a girl living in the 1920s who must adjust to working as a maid in an old manor after experiencing tragedy and realizing a newfound skill: seeing ghosts.
Too Bright to See by Kyle Lukoff (Dial, Apr.) –
In Stonewall Award winner Lukoff’s middle grade debut, Bug, 11, navigates losing a family member, shifting gender identity and friendships, and experiencing a haunting during the summer before middle school.
Ace of Spades by Faridah Abike-Iyimide (Macmillan/Feiwel and Friends, June) –
Debut author Àbíké-Íyímídé pens a contemporary thriller following two queer Black students at Niveus Private Academy as their senior year brings both esteemed prefect status and threats from a dangerous anonymous texter called Aces.
Blackout by Dhonielle Clayton, Tiffany D. Jackson, Nic Stone, et al. (Quill Tree, May) –
Six Black stars of the YA world join forces in this interwoven contemporary novel, which features six Black teen couples amid a summer blackout in New York City.
Firekeeper’s Daughter by Angeline Boulley (Holt, Mar.) –
With sharp turns and memorable characters, this debut thriller by Annishinabe author Boulley centers 18-year-old Daunis Fontaine, who uses her knowledge of chemistry as well as traditional plants and medicine to look into mounting local meth overdoses.
Instructions for Dancing by Nicola Yoon (Delacorte,
In Yoon’s latest contemporary romance, a teen who sees how couples’ romances begin and end, must balance her burgeoning visions with feelings for her adventurous partner in a ballroom dance competition.
A Sitting in St. James by Rita Williams-Garcia (Quill Tree, May) –
Three-time National Book Award Finalist Williams-Garcia explores the legacy of slavery in this generation-spanning epic set on a plantation in antebellum America, featuring the entangled lives of its inhabitants.
Victories Greater Than Death (Unstoppable #1) by Charlie Jane Anders (Tor Teen, Apr.) –
In this fast-paced intergalactic YA debut from novelist and commentator Anders, seemingly human teen Tina Mains is actually the clone of a decorated alien captain, who, aboard the ship that her clone once commanded, finds herself completely unprepared to step into the captain’s shoes.
Yolk by Mary H.K. Choi (Simon & Schuster, Mar.) –
Emergency Contact and Permanent Record author Choi examines the relationship between two formerly estranged Korean American sisters via a personal-feeling narrative about cultural identity, mental and physical health, and siblinghood's complications.