Board & Picture Books

Stories that stand up to repeat readalouds are a gift for adults, too.

Big Bear, Little Bear

Marine Schneider (Cameron Kids, up to age 3) $9.99

In this expertly crafted board book, readers can compare the personal effects of a brown, anthropomorphic Big Bear and child Little Bear. A gentle humor pervades the text: one red left-hand page reads “Big Bear’s car,” showing a reverse silhouette in white of the figure in an automobile; the facing page, washed in muted storm blue, reads “Little Bear’s car,” showing Big Bear hauling Little Bear in a red-and-white-checked baby sling. Progressive spreads take the bears from coffee to dinner to bed, providing a smooth, secure-feeling opportunity for human guardians to do the same. Ages up to 3.

Circle Under Berry

Carter Higgins (Chronicle, ages 2–4) $15.99

Using richly hued cut paper against a clean white backdrop, Higgins explores ways to observe color, shape, pattern, and position. Geometric shapes are suspended above or positioned beside one another, and later combine into simple figures—a green square, circles, and semicircles, for instance, become a frog. Developing the idea from the basic “circle under berry/ berry over square” to more complex, almost existential questions—“is this frog or square or green?”—turns this concept book into a conversation starter.

Dream Street

Tricia Elam Walker, illus. by Ekua Holmes (Random/Schwartz, ages 4–8) $17.99

This buoyant celebration of community depicts a warm, closely knit Black neighborhood much like the one Elam Walker and Holmes, who are cousins, grew up in. Layered, brilliant collage portraits of the multigenerational residents make this particularly
dazzling. Zion, who’s always reading, whispers to the librarian, “Can boys be librarians?” (“Of course they can!” she whispers back.) Such positive messages abound: “Don’t wait to have a great day,” says Mr. Sidney, the retired mail carrier—“Create one!”

Everybody in the Red Brick Building

Anne Wynter, illus. by Oge Mora (HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray, ages 4–8) $17.99

Lush collages illuminate the story of a restless night in a city apartment building. Following a “The House that Jack Built”–like chain of events, a baby’s loud cry wakes a neighbor, who checks on his parrot, whose “RraaK! WAKE UP!” rouses three kids in sleeping bags, and so on. When the climactic racket is finally stilled, the apartment dwellers settle down again, now lulled by the build of softer sounds. In this soothing story, readers watch a group of people confront the same common communal experience, and overcome it.

Have You Seen Gordon?

Adam Jay Epstein, illus. by Ruth Chan (Simon & Schuster, ages 4–8) $17.99

Turning seek-and-find conventions on their ear, this opens with elaborately detailed, laugh-out-loud spreads showing anthropomorphized animals in a variety of busy settings. A chirpy narrator encourages readers to spot a hidden purple tapir named Gordon, but Gordon doesn’t want to play along—he wants to stand out. The narrator’s next pick, a shy blue rhino named Jane, flees each spread. The energetic story line turns out to be a culturally relevant meta-spoof that raises big questions about authority and autonomy, allyship and consent. (Turns out, plenty of animals do want to be found—if asked first.)

The Little Wooden Robot and the Log Princess

Tom Gauld (Holiday House/Porter, ages 4–8) $18.99

The first children’s book from Eisner-winning cartoonist Gauld is an invented fairy tale about a pair of siblings: a robot made of wood and a princess charmed from a log by a witch. Each night when the princess falls asleep, she reverts to log form, and only a magic phrase can rouse her. A misunderstanding sends the princess-as-log shipped off with a boatload of lumber, her devoted brother giving chase. The rest of the story unfolds with amusing fairy tale inevitability, leading to a well-earned happily ever after.

Milo Imagines the World

Matt de la Peña, illus. by Christian Robinson (Putnam, ages 4–8) $18.99

The award-winning creators of Last Stop on Market Street offer a glimpse at a child’s experience with parental incarceration through the bespectacled eyes of a Black boy named Milo. Riding the subway across New York City, Milo invents and sketches scenarios for the many people he sees. A Black woman in a wedding dress is whisked off in a hot air balloon by her husband; a white boy in a jacket and tie lives in a castle, attended by servants. But when that boy gets out at the same station as Milo and his sister, waits on the same line, and passes through the metal detector, the moment transforms Milo’s view of the people whose lives he’s imagined, a realization wonderfully rendered through his revised sketches.

On the Day the Horse Got Out

Audrey Helen Weber (Little, Brown, ages 4–8) $18.99

“On the day the horse got out,// the bells all rang,/ the birds flew south.” So begins this story whose images and text mix the everyday (a missing dog) and the fanciful (a sleeping dragon) while building a chaotic tension that never lets go. The horse’s final act befits the surreal logic of nonsense verse and leaves behind a delicious sense of unsettling mystery. Creating a nursery rhyme that sounds suitably timeless is a challenge, but Weber’s verse passes the test, and so do her haunting spreads, reminiscent of folk art and medieval books of hours.

Sweater Weather

Matt Phelan (Greenwillow, ages 4–8) $17.99

Getting ready to go out is a major production for a bear parent overseeing seven cubs. “Sweaters on!” orders the adult, after viewing the glorious autumn day outside. If only it were that simple. In nearly wordless vignettes, gestures and facial expressions do the comedic work as Phelan imagines ever more hilarious ways for small cubs to don big sweaters. When the family finally makes it out the door, a slight disappointment, and a small miracle, await. Phelan’s story centers parenting seasoned enough to realize that setbacks are inevitable—and that makes space to enjoy the beauty of nature anyway.

We All Play

Julie Flett. (Greystone Kids, up to age 7) $17.95

Cree-Métis artist Flett starts with quiet, elegant portraits of animals at play accompanied by brief, motion-filled lines of text; the creatures “hide/ and hop,” “and sniff/ and sneak” “and peek/and peep.” Then a group of small children comes bounding in: “We play too! kimêtawânaw mîna,” they say, their romping mirroring that of the animals. The refrain repeats, highlighting the connection. As Flett explains in an author’s note: “Whether we are running and hopping through the grass or rolling along the street or pondering creatures in the creek, we are all connected, living in relationship and in care of one another, in kinship.” A glossary gives English and Cree names for the animals depicted.

Chapter Books

Stoke a beginner’s love of reading with generously illustrated storytelling and protagonists to root for.

J.D. and the Great Barber Battle (J.D. the Kid Barber #1)

J. Dillard, illus. by Akeem S. Roberts (Kokila, ages 6–8) $15.99

After J.D.’s mom botches his haircut the night before the start of third grade, he endures days of ribbing before taking matters into his own hands. J.D. turns out to have a way with clippers, and the other kids go from mocking him to asking for new ’dos—a development that catches unwelcome attention from the only barbershop in town. The story, full of humor and heart, buzzes along at a fast clip, through to an ending that teases more to come.

Jo Jo Makoons: The Used-to-Be Best Friend (Jo Jo #1)

Dawn Quigley, illus. by Tara Audibert (Heartdrum, ages 6–10) $15.99

In this buoyant series starter by Ojibwe author Quigley, an Indigenous first grader narrates her experiences of home and school on the fictional Pembina Ojibwe Reservation. With a winning, straightforward voice, Jo Jo introduces her growing concerns, among them the worry that her best friend at school may not want to eat lunch with her anymore. Quigley adeptly creates strong classroom scenes that convey an inclusive student body’s realistic dynamic and an endearing, assured seven-year-old protagonist who appreciates her cultural identity.

The Middle Kid

Steven Weinberg. (Chronicle, ages 6–9) $14.99

A loose diary structure and lively mix of design elements captures a day in the life of a middle child. Not tough enough for the older brother but too rambunctious for the younger sister, an unnamed and subtly ungendered diarist feels “attacked from both sides.” But with their abundant energy, love of drawing, and powers of creativity, they’re able to appreciate their place in their family—despite the hardships of noisy sibling roommates, unfair ice-pop distribution, and their younger sister’s limited tolerance for stuffed animal bungee jumping. Full of realistic sibling interactions, this is spirited and relatable.

Stuntboy, in the Meantime

Jason Reynolds, illus. by Raúl the Third (Atheneum/Dlouhy, ages 7–12) $13.99

Multi-award winners Reynolds and Raúl the Third team up to tell the tale of Stuntboy, aka Portico Reeves. He lives in a hundred-window castle (“OK, so some people call where Portico Reeves lives an apartment building—Skylight Gardens”) and is charged with protecting other superheroes—his family and his best friends—while battling bouts of anxiety, which he calls “the frets.” Energetic illustrations and golden age–style comics interludes keep things moving through a panoply of stories centered on Skylight Gardens. Portico is a charmer whose real-kid concerns—his parents arguing, a local mean kid’s bullying—add heft to the high-flying hijinks.

Too Small Tola

Atinuke, illus. by Onyinye Iwu (Candlewick, ages 7–9) $15.99

A trio of stories introduces readers to counting whiz Tola, who lives with her family in Lagos, Nigeria. Though “everybody calls her Too Small Tola, which makes her feel too-too small,” Tola is eager to prove herself, and the plotlines also affirm the value of community care: when a neighbor runs out of diapers, Tola brings back more from the market, despite her already heavy basket; when an injury jeopardizes the neighborhood tailor’s work during the Eid festival and Easter celebrations, Tola and her older brother, Dapo, travel through the city to collect measurements. Antinuke and Iwu celebrate the beauty of daily life through Tola’s joy, wonder, and perseverance.

Middle Grade

Stories of adventure, bravery, and ingenuity will captivate tweens.

The Beatryce Prophecy

Kate DiCamillo, illus. by Sophie Blackall (Candlewick, ages 8–12) $19.99

Newbery Medalist DiCamillo’s engrossing medieval fable verges on darkness while examining what changes a world. A mysterious child named Beatryce is found in the monastery barn holding the ear of a fierce goat. She holds a dangerous secret that prompts the monks to cast the girl back into the often-harrowing world, where she encounters idiosyncratic strangers who aid her in achieving her destiny. Illuminated by Caldecott Medalist Blackall’s atmospheric, fine-lined b&w art, this compassionate tale rejoices in “the wonder of being known” and the protective powers of understanding one’s identity.

Black Boy Joy

Edited by Kwame Mbalia (Delacorte, ages 9–12) $16.99

This luminous anthology, an instant bestseller upon its release, features 17 stories by as many Black male and nonbinary authors focusing on Black boys’ happiness. Filtering perennial subjects such as friendships, gender identity, and family through the lenses of magic, science, space travel, superheroes, and more, this is an exuberant celebration of carefree Black experiences; while it will especially resonate with Black readers, any reader will appreciate how this genre-bending collection expands the horizons of what joy for Black boys can be.

Cece Rios and the Desert of Souls

Kaela Rivera (HarperCollins, ages 8–12) $16.99

In Tierra del Sol, an isolated town plagued by magical criaturas that roam the surrounding desert, everyone believes that a childhood encounter with one such creature left 12-year-old Cece “the weakest person in the village,” while Juana, her older sister, wields fire opal in rituals to protect the town and burns “bright like the Sun.” But when a powerful criatura known as “El Sombrerón, the Bride Stealer” snatches Juana right before her eyes, Cece must tap into her inner strength and enter a world of battles and brujas to get her sister back.

The Cursed Carnival and Other Calamities

Edited by Rick Riordan (Disney/Riordan, ages 8–12) $17.99

Rick Riordan Presents serves up 10 new stories from the imprint’s
contributing authors. Riordan’s Celtic mythology–inspired piece joins those of Kwame Mbalia’s Gum Baby, battling a ghost capable of erasing Black history; Tehlor Kay Mejia’s Paola Santiago, who risks everything to help her ailing pet chupacabra; and Yoon Ha Lee’s space-faring fox spirit Min, who’s sent to spy school along with her ghost brother. The inclusive range of contributors draw upon their respective heritages and experiences to craft culturally specific, gratifyingly adventurous tales, offering a world tour of wonder and excitement.


Brian Selznick (Scholastic, ages 10–up) $19.99

Caldecott Medalist Selznick opens his latest with a 13-year-old narrator sailing “with my friend James past the pillars of Hercules” and into a storm that washes them up on the moon. Following 500 years of battle, James is crowned king, and the narrator returns to Earth alone. Subsequent narratives touch on the characters’ relationship via further adventures and frequent rendings that lend a lonely, elegiac feel to the text. Delicate pencil interstitials that resemble a kaleidoscope’s mirrored fractals connect the end of each chapter to an image at the beginning of the next.

The Last Cuentista

Donna Barba Higuera (Levine Querido, ages 10–14) $17.99

In the year 2061, a solar flare has altered the course of Halley’s Comet, putting Earth’s inhabitants right in its trajectory. Resourceful 12-year-old Petra Peña, who longs to follow in her cuentista grandmother’s footsteps and tell stories for a living, successfully boards one of the last ships off-world—as do members of a cultlike group called The Collective. When Petra awakens centuries later at the ship’s destination, she quickly realizes that The Collective has wiped the memories—or lives—of her fellow passengers, and she must use her wits and Mexican folklore to protect the remaining humans and avoid the same fate.

Maya and the Robot

Eve L. Ewing, illus. by Christine Almeda (Kokila, ages 8–12) $16.99

Fifth grader Maya is having a tough start to the school year: she’s separated into a different class from her two best friends, and having trouble befriending new classmates. While helping at Mr. Mac’s store, Maya unearths a robot named Ralph, and throws herself into figuring out how he works. Unfortunately, Ralph doesn’t always execute every command perfectly, spelling disaster when Maya brings the robot to the school science fair. Interspersed with charming, animation-style illustrations, this tenderhearted tale conveys the strength it takes to come out of one’s shell, the thrill of discovery and creation, and the power of pursuing wonder.

The Outlaws Scarlett and Browne

Jonathan Stroud (Knopf, ages 10–up) $17.99

The author of the Lockwood & Co. books kicks off a new adventure series, setting the action in a future, fragmented Britain populated by renegade gunslingers and monstrous beasts. Bankrobber Scarlett McCain, after her latest heist, collides with Albert Browne, a seemingly ordinary boy and the sole survivor of a horrific accident. Scarlett agrees to guide him to safety, a task that proves more explosive than either could have imagined.

The Raconteur’s Commonplace Book

Kate Milford, illus. by Nicole Wong (Clarion, ages 8–12) $17.99

In this standalone mystery set in the world of Milford’s Edgar Award–winning Greenglass House, 15 stranded guests and staff at the Blue Vein Tavern spin deliciously folkloric stories. Bearing repeating references and themes, the individual tales focus on “peddlers, tricksters, gamblers, and lovers”; keys, maps, and portals; and roads of ice and of old. Moments between the tellings highlight the tavern’s staff and the inclusive array of worldly and otherworldly guests. This elegant feat of telescopic storytelling will dazzle seasoned Milford fans and kindle new ones.

Sisters of the Neversea

Cynthia Leitich Smith. (Heartdrum, ages 8–12) $16.99

Twelve-year-old stepsisters Lily and Wendy have lived in Oklahoma since Lily’s mother, a Creek citizen, married Wendy’s British widower father. The once-close siblings, whose family also includes four-year-old Michael, are on the outs, as are their feuding parents, who are threatening to spend the summer apart. Enter Peter Pan, who has changed from a boy who didn’t want to grow up into a brutal monster—one who kidnaps children, slays animals and humans alike, and mistreats his fairy companion, Belle. In this sharp, contemporary retelling of a classic, Indigenous kids take center stage.


Recommendations for teens include reimagined classics and stories tinged with otherworldly magic.

All of Us Villains

Amanda Foody and Christine Lynn Herman (Tor Teen, ages 13–up) $18.99

Nuanced characters and a carefully considered mythology add dimension to a sturdy Hunger Games–meets–Harry Potter premise. Centuries ago, seven families battled one another for control over the city of Ilvernath’s secret wellspring of high magick. Their conflict ended in compromise: a curse stipulating that every 20 years, a teen from each clan must participate in a common-magick-only tournament to the death. The victor’s bloodline secures exclusive access to Ilvernath’s high magick for the next two decades. This year, one participant is determined to break the curse and save them all—provided she can survive long enough to figure out how.

A Complicated Love Story Set in Space

Shaun David Hutchinson (Simon & Schuster, ages 14–up) $19.99

This queer sci-fi romance finds three teens on a spaceship with no clue how they got there—Noa, who narrates; DJ; and Jenny. Their situation devolves into a string of increasingly bizarre, Black Mirror–like mysteries that Jenny determines to solve, and though sparks fly between DJ and Noa, inner demons and actual monsters threaten their shared future. Hutchinson skillfully balances high-stakes action and mind-bending plot twists with humor and profundity. The result is a wildly ambitious, wackily imaginative tale that will leave readers craving a sequel.

The Girls Are Never Gone

Sarah Glenn Marsh (Razorbill, ages 12–up) $17.99

Paranormal podcaster Dare volunteers to spend July on the Arrington estate in New Hope, Va., to investigate 17-year-old Atheleen Bell’s mysterious 1992 drowning. Acting as part of the estate’s renovation team, she makes fast friends with Quinn and Holly. By day, the teens work together on restoring the crumbling house; by night, they uncover its unnerving secrets, including a series of drownings in the estate’s vast lake that date to 1871. The more the trio uncovers, the more the house and the lake seem determined to claim them as its next victims.

The Heartbreak Bakery

A.R. Capetta (Candlewick, ages 14–up) $18.99

In the wake of being dumped, Syd, who is agender and who works at the Proud Muffin, South Austin’s best queer bakery, accidentally infuses a batch of brownies with heartbreak and confusion, causing every couple who tries them to break up soon after. Determined to fix the mistake, Syd teams up with Harley, a transmasculine, demisexual bike delivery person, to find the brownies’ victims and cure them with more baked goods. As Syd and Harley navigate the intricacies of Austin’s queer community in their quest to save relationships, they unexpectedly start one of their own. Includes interstitial recipes for treats such as Breakup Brownies and Very Sorry Cake.

How Moon Fuentez Fell in Love with the Universe

Raquel Vasquez Gilliland (Simon & Schuster, ages 14–up) $19.99

Moon Fuentez, 17, is “the unwanted, ugly sister” to her twin, Star, a popular social media influencer. Moon takes the photos that Star’s 900,000 Fotogram followers love, but her talents as an earth artist, tarot card reader, and designer don’t attract much notice. The summer before college, Moon takes a job as a merch girl on a tour bus full of beautiful influencers, and ends up bunking with hot but grumpy merch boy Santiago Philips. Moon’s strong voice shines amid magic and Indigenous knowledge, and readers will cheer as she learns to embrace her own beauty and power.

The Mary Shelley Club

Goldy Moldavsky (Holt, ages 14–up) $18.99

Following a home invasion that leaves Rachel Chavez and her mother feeling unsafe in the Long Island suburbs, they relocate to Brooklyn. Rachel’s teacher mother takes a job at a Manhattan prep school, and Rachel enrolls as a junior, spending her free time bingeing scary movies to work through her trauma. After witnessing a frightening party prank, Rachel tracks down Freddie Martinez, whom she believes to be responsible, and talks her way into joining the Mary Shelley Club, a secret society whose members share a passion for all things horror. Before long, things take a sinister turn in this twisty tour de force.

The Other Merlin

Robyn Schneider (Viking, ages 14–up) $18.99

A clever trilogy starter based in the King Arthur mythos changes most of the canonical facts but gets everything that matters right. In this telling, Merlin is a bisexual 18-year-old girl named Emry, Arthur is the kind of prince who’s easily mistaken for a librarian, and Arthur’s best friend, Lancelot, is gay and has been unfairly demoted to castle guard. The court politics feel high-stakes, the bawdy jokes land, the magic flies, and Emry and Arthur’s characters, including their mutual attraction and growing ability to fulfill their destined roles, are believable and fully drawn in this funny, romantic, magic-filled book.

Remixed Classics

(Feiwel and Friends, ages 13–up)

Two books so far are available in this new series, for which YA authors from diverse backgrounds reimagine familiar works of literature. In C.B. Lee’s A Clash of Steel: A Treasure Island Remix ($18.99), two queer girls chase adventure on the South China Sea in the 19th century. Bethany C. Morrow’s So Many Beginnings: A Little Women Remix ($17.99) centers the four March sisters, who in this telling are Black young women growing up in the freedpeople’s colony on Roanoke Island during the American Civil War.

Walking in Two Worlds

Wab Kinew. (Penguin Teen, ages 12–up) $17.99

In real life, Anishinaabe teen Bugz Holiday is shy and self-conscious, living on the reservation with her family. In the virtual Floraverse, a sophisticated near-future VR gaming world, Bugz is famous, earning micro- payments from fans and dominating against the misogynist, racist “alt-right” group Clan: LESS, who make it a goal to take Bugz out of the game entirely. When Feng, part of Clan: LESS, leaves his real-life home in China to escape political persecution, and joins forces with Bugz, she must face her fears about betrayal and loyalty, and Feng must decide where his loyalties lie.


Inclusive storytelling brings histories and biographies to vivid life.

African Icons

Tracey Baptiste, illus. by Hillary D. Wilson (Algonquin, ages 8–12) $19.95

In a narrative that progresses from ancient times through the 16th century, readers will meet such figures as Queen Merneith of ancient Egypt, “whose life was barely recorded but whose tomb reflected her status as regent and queen,” and Terentius Publius Afer, enslaved as a boy in North Africa and later a major literary figure of second-century BCE Rome. Through portraits, landscapes, maps, and graphics, this pictorial history paints a rich picture of pre-colonial times, profiling rulers, educators, inventors, scholars, and explorers who helped shape the African continent, even as, Baptiste writes, “we still know so little of its whole truth.”

Bodies Are Cool

Tyler Feder (Dial, ages 3–5) $17.99

This picture book focuses on body acceptance through inclusive illustrations and accessible, judgment-free language. Bouncy text, on each page ending with the refrain “bodies are cool,” attends people of varying abilities, ages, body shapes, religions, skin tones, and hair textures; a range of gender identities and sexual orientations are shown throughout. It’s hard to imagine a stronger statement of body affirmation and pride.

A Boy Named Isamu

James Yang (Viking, ages 3–7) $17.99

Miniature, toylike images by Printz Medalist Yang follow a solitary boy who’s drawn to nature’s elemental forms. He’s based on the sculptor Isamu Noguchi, but readers needn’t have that context to take pleasure in this story. Less a biography than an attentive, balanced study of an artist’s sensibility, this story ends with an author’s note about Noguchi, who believed that “when an artist stopped being a child, he would stop being an artist.”

Gone to the Woods

Gary Paulsen (FSG, ages 8–12) $17.99

In this third-person narrative, Newbery Medalist Paulsen, best known for his riveting survival stories, shares the turbulent early life experiences that led to his writing career. His story begins in 1944 Chicago, then transitions to an idyllic stay at his aunt and uncle’s Minnesota farm before Paulsen’s mother insists they join his father, stationed in Manila. Paulsen’s raw memoir is in a hopeful survival story about personal resilience amid trauma.

King of Ragtime

Stephen Costanza (Atheneum, ages 4–8) $17.99

A pitch-perfect picture book biography of ragtime composer Scott Joplin shows the musician’s first encounter with a piano—in the grand home where his mother works as a maid—and follows as he earns his living as a pianist in saloons and honky-tonks, eventually penning the “Maple Leaf Rag” and subsequently earning the title “the King of Ragtime Writers.” One particularly majestic spread features Joplin, eyes closed, superimposed over an intricate Ferris wheel against a dark sky. “The music went round and round in his head,” the next page reads, depicting a rotation of musicians, instruments, and circus fare.


Juliet Menéndez (Holt, ages 8–12) $18.99

Menéndez, a Guatemalan American teacher and illustrator, depicts 40 pioneering Latinx women through stylized watercolor portraits and mini biographies. Arranged chronologically, the vignettes begin with Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, a writer, philosopher, and nun in Mexico in the 17th century, and progress across borders, centuries, and disciplines: Policarpa Salavarrieta, a heroine of the Colombian independence movement in the early 19th century; and Puerto Rico–born EGOT winner Rita Moreno.

Nina: A Story of Nina Simone

Traci N. Todd, illus. by Christian Robinson (Putnam, ages 4–8) $18.99

This skillfully paced portrait details the life of the performer, protest song pioneer, and civil rights activist. In an elegantly told story enhanced by Robinson’s distinctive illustrations, Todd interweaves Simone’s encounters with racism throughout, drawing connections between Simone’s experiences and concurrent events during the civil rights movement: “But while Nina sang of love, something else stirred in the streets of Philadelphia. A low rumble of anger and fear—the sound of Black people rising, rising, unwilling to accept being treated as less than human.”

Revolution in Our Time

Kekla Magoon (Candlewick, ages 12–up) $24.99

Detailed, accessible text includes ample context around the Black Panther Party’s rise and fall, starting with a history of slavery, emancipation, and segregation before diving into the civil rights and Black Power movements and ending with Black Lives Matter. While offering nuanced information about the group’s self-defense stance, Magoon also describes the community programs that the party created for Black people, its dedication to ensuring all of its actions were legal, and the lengths to which the U.S. government and local law officials went to destroy the party. Photographs, newspaper clippings, and Black Panther art are featured throughout.

She Persisted: Maria Tallchief

Christine Day and Chelsea Clinton, illus. by Alexandra Boiger and Gillian Flint (Philomel, ages 6–9) $14.99

Day, who is Upper Skagit, deftly parallels the struggles of the Osage Nation with those of Elizabeth Marie Tall Chief, one of the first American ballet stars. Born in Oklahoma in 1925 to an Osage father and white mother, Tallchief faced a variety of hurdles after starting to dance at three years old, but nevertheless rose to dance solos with the Ballet de Monte Carlos, the New York City Ballet, and American Ballet Theatre, becoming a major star with George Balanchine’s Firebird. The book is part of the She Persisted series of picture and chapter books on women trailblazers.

The Woman All Spies Fear

Amy Butler Greenfield (Random House Studio, ages 12–up) $18.99

Like the women profiled in Hidden Figures, only recently has Elizebeth Smith Friedman been recognized for her contributions to codebreaking in WWI and WWII. This comprehensive biography ably chronicles how Friedman’s skills developed and how she and her husband, also a code breaker, played an integral role in winning the wars. A recurring offset feature delves into the mechanics of her cryptography, as in “Rail Fence Love Letter,” a coded love note; “Solving in Depth,” which highlights her work on the famous Nazi Enigma code; and “The Last Word,” which shows how Friedman included a code on her husband’s tombstone.


Picture books depict the spirit of the December holidays.

Carla and the Christmas Cornbread

Carla Hall with Kristen Hartke, illus. by Cherise Harris (S&S/Millner, ages 4–8) $17.99

Top Chef contestant and culinary personality Hall relays a sweetly nostalgic, family-focused tale. Young Carla’s favorite tradition is her grandma’s cast-iron skillet corn bread; after enjoying the treat, spending time with her grandparents, and donning her Christmas jammies, Carla finds a cookie laying out—only to discover, after she chomps into it, that it’s for Santa. Carla fears she’s ruined Christmas, but Granny helps her bake a fitting substitute. Back matter includes a recipe for Carla’s Christmas Cornbread and Cinnamon Butter.

Christina’s Carol

Christina Rossetti, illus. by Tomie dePaola (Simon & Schuster, ages 4–8) $17.99

Based on the 1872 Christmas carol “In the Bleak Midwinter” by poet Rossetti, this edition combines previously published artwork and unseen art from the late dePaola’s personal collection. In one memorable spread, the Virgin Mary and Jesus are shown in four different styles surrounded by the text, “But only His mother/ In her maiden bliss// Worshipped the Beloved/ With a kiss.” DePaola fans will rejoice in having this lush, multilayered illustration of a classic hymn for their collection.

Jan Brett’s The Nutcracker

Jan Brett (Putnam, ages 4–8) $18.99

E.T.A. Hoffmann’s famous Christmas story of the girl and the wooden nutcracker receives Brett’s signature treatment in this rendition, which features elaborate period costumes, rich embellishments, intricate movement and detail, and vignettes around many spreads’ borders. Instead of human characters, animals are cast in the traditional second act: Bears dance the Russian Trepak, Arctic foxes perform the Danse Arabe, and reindeer with candles on their antlers accompany Marie to a gingerbread house.

The People Remember

Ibi Zoboi, illus. by Loveis Wise (HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray, ages 4–8) $19.99

Zoboi describes the course of history as experienced by members of the African diaspora and enslaved African peoples. Simultaneously, the title demonstrates the seven principles of Kwanzaa through historical moments and movements and great Black literary voices. Zoboi’s powerful, lyrical verse is further strengthened by Wise’s eye-catching digital illustrations, composed of lushly colored images realistic and fantastical, historical and contemporary, and painted with spectacular vibrance to portray the experience of African and African American people throughout time.

Red and Green and Blue and White

Lee Wind, illus. by Paul O. Zelinsky (Levine Querido, ages 4–7) $17.99

Isaac and his best friend and neighbor Teresa have a lot in common: “They both loved playing in the snow,/ counting down to the holidays,// and thought you couldn’t have too many sprinkles on a cookie.” But Isaac is a member of the town’s Jewish minority, and his family’s menorah window display becomes the target of a hate crime. Wind’s lightly fictionalized version of the 1993 incident wherein a community stood up to bigotry, taping pictures of menorahs to their own windows in solidarity, is conveyed with lyrical simplicity and enhanced by Caldecott Medalist Zelinsky’s striking digital art.

The Three Latkes

Eric A. Kimmel, illus. by Feronia Parker-Thomas (Kar-Ben, ages 4–8) $17.99

It’s the first night of Hanukkah in this rhythmic fable, and three anthropomorphic latkes are arguing over which of them tastes best. Each one claims that it is the most delicious based upon the type of potato it’s made of and what it’s fried in. An impartial judge is needed, and the latkes choose “the clever cat,” who resolves the argument by eating all three, leaving the question unanswered. Straightforward visuals keep the mood light; back matter features a recipe for the “Very Best Latkes.”

Novelties & Classics

Some of the giftiest books are peppy and interactive, while others give vibrant new life to old favorites.

Doodling 101: A Silly Symposium

Mo Willems (Hyperion, ages 5–8) $19.99

This 144-page activity book builds on the 15-episode web series Lunch Doodles with Mo Willems!, which the illustrator produced with the Kennedy Center beginning in March 2020 as a way of entertaining children during the pandemic’s early days. Features include perforated gatefold game boards, pop-out finger puppets, and how-to-draw instructions for popular Willems characters.

Here We Are: Book of Animals and Book of Numbers

Oliver Jeffers (Philomel, ages 2–5) $9.99

A pair of concept board books act as companions to Jeffers’s contemplative 2017 picture book, Here We Are: Notes for Living on Planet Earth (288,000 print copies sold). Book of Animals is an A-to-Z bestiary, and Book of Num-bers introduces counting.

Poems from When We Were Very Young

A.A. Milne, compiled by Rosemary Wells (Norton, ages 6–8) $19.95

Max & Ruby creator Wells selected and illustrated a dozen poems from Milne’s 1924 collection, written, as Winnie-the-Pooh would be two years later, for his son, Christopher Robin.

The Provensen Book of Fairy Tales

Alice and Martin Provensen (NYR Children’s Collection, ages 8–12) $24.95

First published in 1971 and long out-of-print, this volume includes 12 tales chosen and illustrated by the Caldecott-winning couple, including Arthur Rackham’s “Beauty and the Beast” and Elinor Mordaunt’s feminist retelling of “The Prince and the Goose Girl.”

Unconventional Vehicles

Michael Hearst, illus. by Hans Jenssen (Chronicle, ages 8–12) $19.99

Hearst, whose previous books include Curious Constructions and Unusual Creatures, here ranges over 45 unlikely conveyances, all of which are or were at one time real. Illustrations by Jenssen and exuberant fun facts are complemented by snarky commentary about, for instance, an underwater battery-powered scooter (“Although the Scubadoo website says ‘No swimming experience required,’ I might suggest otherwise... just to be safe”).

Owl Be Home for Christmas

The true story of the tiny saw-whet owl discovered in the 2020 Rockefeller Center tree inspired these sweet tales.

The Christmas Owl

Ellen Kalish and Gideon Sterer, illus. by Ramona Kaulitzki (Little, Brown, ages 4–8) $17.99

In this anthropomorphic retelling, when snow begins to fall and the town near Little Owl’s tree fills with lights, she wonders why. “Christmas!” Moose explains. She’s still baffled, as are the other animals. Then her home is cut down, and Little Owl is transported to New York City within the tree’s trussed branches. Captured in a box and delivered to Ellen—coauthor Kalish, founder of the Ravensbeard Wildlife Center in Saugerties, who rehabbed the owl in real life—Little Owl is cared for until she’s released.

The Little Owl & the Big Tree

Jonah Winter, illus. by Jeanette Winter. (Beach Lane, up to age 8) $17.99

With minimum sentimentality, the mother-son col-
laborators offer an effectively quiet celebration of a wild creature who encounters human civilization. Beginning by describing her at home in the forest—“The owl didn’t have a name—/ and of course she didn’t:/ She was a wild animal.”—they follow her journey on a flatbed truck to New York City, her rescue and convalescence, and her restoration to her rightful home in nature, “somewhere out there under the stars.”

Museum Meet-Up

Middle graders can wander freely through the galleries, no bag-checking or mask required.

The Met: Lost in the Museum

Will Mabbitt, illus. by Aaron Cushley
(DK, ages 7–9) $14.99

In this seek-and-find adventure, seven-year-old Stevie is lost in the Metropolitan Museum of Art and follows a series of clues to find her way back to her family. The wanderings lead her through various galleries and introduce several of the museum’s iconic works, among them William, the 4,000-year-old blue ceramic hippo, and Manuel Osorio Manrique de Zuñiga, commonly known as Francisco Goya’s “Red Boy.”

The Ultimate Art Museum

Ferren Gipson (Phaidon, ages 8–12) $39.95

The wings and rooms depicted here gather
artwork from institutions around the world, spanning from the Stone Age to contemporary times and including discussions of feminist and decolonizing art. Galleries are helpfully color-coded, and questions throughout offer thought-provoking prompts. Inset boxes titled Art Detective reveal fun tidbits, such as the fact that Pipilotti Rist’s video art inspired a Beyoncé music video. This is a solidly enjoyable foundation for anyone interested in art history.

Pop Art

With its bright colors and readily digestible messages, pop art can be an ideal picture book subject.

Art Is Everywhere

Jeff Mack (Holt, ages 4–8) $19.99

This archly appreciative picture book biography channels Andy Warhol’s aggressively vapid, relentlessly enthusiastic voice: “Oh, hello. I’m Andy. This is the story of my art. I hope you like it.” Brushy artwork, benday-dot texture, and bright blotched color offer an age-appropriate taste of the Factory.

Make Meatballs Sing

Matthew Burgess, illus. by Kara Kramer (Enchanted Lion, ages 7–up) $18.95

The illustration style shifts throughout this captivating bio, subtly mirroring Sister Corita Kent’s evolution as an artist by layering in signature motifs from her art—block-print letters, collage-like composition, screen print textures, and bright color—that reveal Kent’s awareness of the world around her.

Sister Corita’s Words and Shapes

Jeanette Winter (Beach Lane, ages 3–8) $17.99

In a second title about the Roman Catholic nun, artist, and designer, digital illustrations offer a loose, stylized version of Kent’s artwork in fresh hues, including some of the source material that inspired her.

Back to Main Guide