Something Had to Be Done: Spotlight on Ryan T. Higgins
Bestselling author and illustrator Ryan T. Higgins is going to have a busy September. As summer turns to fall, Higgins will be publishing two picture books with Disney Hyperion: Norman Didn’t Do It!: (Yes, He Did) and Thanks for Nothing: A Little Bruce Book.
Norman Didn’t Do tells the story of two great friends, a porcupine named Norman and a tree named Mildred, whose lives are upended by a surprising development. "Learning to share your friends and accept change is an important part of life,” says Higgins, whose catalog also includes the New York Times–bestselling Mother Bruce series, the first volume of which received the E. B. White Read Aloud Award and the Ezra Jack Keats New Illustrator Honor, as well as the #1 New York Times–bestselling We Don’t Eat Our Classmates, We Will Rock Our Classmates, and Wilfred. “However, I didn’t mean to write a book about all that. I just wanted to make a book about a porcupine who was friends with a tree. Then this other tree butted into my story and changed the whole thing! So something had to be done.”
Part of the Mother Bruce series, Thanks for Nothing celebrates the Thanksgiving season. As autumn comes to Soggy Hollow, the mice have a lot to be thankful for. But Bruce the bear is not so thankful for all the thanking.
Higgins’s books are known for their wit, whimsy, and humor. When asked in 2018 how he understands what kids will find funny, the author told PW, “I put things in books that entertain me. I’m basically just a 34-year-old fourth grader. The jokes that entertain me are the ones that kids like the most.”
Stronger Than You Think: Spotlight on Pat Zietlow Miller
Pat Zietlow Miller wants readers to know their own strengths. That was the idea behind her latest picture book, Be Strong, the sequel to 2018’s New York Times–bestselling Be Kind, in which a child named Tanisha contemplates the nature and meaning of kindness.
“Lots of people—whether they’re kids or grown-ups—don’t know their own strength,” says Miller, whose previous work has won numerous awards, including an Ezra Jack Keats Honor Award and a Charlotte Zolotow Award. “They don’t recognize the strong things they already do. Or the strong things they could do with a little more confidence.”
Miller, who got started as a newspaper reporter and works full-time for an insurance company, told PW in 2015 that she was in seventh grade when she first began to think about being a writer. “I was given an assignment to write an essay about my favorite place,” she said. “My teacher said that it was the first time a student’s writing had given her the chills—and that was one of the first times I remember a teacher saying that I was a good writer. And that definitely stayed with me.”
In Be Strong—out in August from Roaring Brook Press and illustrated by Jen Hill, who also worked with Miller on Be Kind—Tanisha is discouraged when faced with a rock-climbing wall in gym class. She feels weak and fears she’ll never reach the top like her stronger classmates. But with some help from her family, Tanisha learns that strength is measured in many ways, and comes to understand how perseverance, courage, resilience, collaboration, and trust can make people truly strong.
“When I wrote Be Strong, I wanted to highlight all the ways people are strong every day that have nothing to do with physical strength,” says Miller, who published her first picture book, Sophie’s Squash, in 2013. “The quiet, often overlooked, things people do to lift up each other and their communities using strength that was in them all along.”
Loving Yourself Just as You Are: Spotlight on Nabela Noor
The message behind YouTube and Instagram sensation and body positivity activist Nabela Noor’s debut picture book, Beautifully Me, is as simple as it is powerful: love yourself the way you are. Nonetheless, it’s a message that many readers—and readers of all ages—still need to hear.
“It is one of my most meaningful achievements to know that I authored a book that champions redefining beauty standards, celebrating your body at all sizes, and discovering what makes you beautifully you,” Noor says. “I hope that this book serves as a reminder to all to be kind to yourself and to your body—not only for yourself but because you never know who is watching and learning. As a plus-size, first-generation Bangladeshi American woman, creating a world through this book that resembled my own was a dream come true. I grew up reading books with illustrations of kids and families that didn’t look like mine, bodies that didn’t resemble mine.”
In Beautifully Me, which is illustrated by Nabi H. Ali and publishes in September from Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, a little Bangladeshi girl named Zubi is excited about the first day of school. But when she sees her mother being critical of her own body, Zubi begins to worry about her body and appearance. Throughout the day, Zubi’s worry grows as more people are critical of their own and other people’s bodies. But, after an outburst at dinner, Zubi’s family begins to understand what they’ve been doing wrong—and how they can help Zubi see that loving ourselves as we are makes the world a more beautiful place.
And that’s a message that Noor, as a creator, activist, and entrepreneur, delivers across all her platforms. In 2018, she told PopSugar that people have a social responsibility to think about “the girl that’s living day-to-day, working super hard, can’t go and buy the perfect face. So how can I let her know that she’s beautiful? How can I remind her that she’s gorgeous? It’s not to shame anybody in that regard. It’s to uplift those that do not fit that.”
Celebrating Black and Brown Babies: Spotlight on Andrea Davis Pinkney an Brian Pinkney
New York Times–bestselling author Andrea Davis Pinkney and Caldecott Honor and Coretta Scott King Award– winning illustrator Brian Pinkney know a little something about kids. The husband-and-wife collaborators have published more than 70 children’s books, and their latest, the picture book Bright Brown Baby: A Treasury, is a celebration of Black and brown babies and the love shared between young children and their parents.
Bright Brown Baby, out in October from Orchard Books, features five poems, including “Count to Love,” “Hey, Baby Girl!,” and “Baby Boy, You Are a Star,” that celebrate early childhood and the joys of parenting with rhythmic text from Andrea Davis Pinkney and warm illustrations from Brian Pinkney.
“We’re delighted to celebrate the joy and power of reading from the moment babies are born,” says Andrea Davis Pinkney, whose other books include The Red Pencil, A Poem for Peter, Martin Rising: Requiem for a King, and Hand in Hand: Ten Black Men Who Changed America. “The Bright Brown Baby publishing program rejoices in families of color. The program kicks off with a hardcover treasury
edition, as well as a series of sturdy spin-off board books. Bright Brown Baby is our gift to everyone who wants to show Black and brown children how truly extraordinary they are, right from the start!”
Brian Pinkney, who illustrated the 1999 Caldecott Honor book Duke Ellington: The Piano Prince and His Orchestra, emphasized the importance of sharing loving images and stories with babies. “Self-love begins with the images babies see and the stories we share with them,” he says. “As the parents of two children, we’ve created Bright Brown Baby to say to newborns and toddlers of color: Hello, preciousness personified! Your eyes are filled with tomorrow’s promise.”