Flights of fancy keep the pages turning at storytime, bedtime, and beyond
Zo-O, trans. from the Korean by Ellen Jang (Owlkids, ages 3–7) $19.95
This mostly wordless book opens to a bird contemplating an empty corner, which gradually becomes filled with the bird’s belongings and another living creature, a plant. Soon enough, the bird is making a mural, requiring the use of an increasingly tall ladder—a match for the book’s tall trim size. This cleverly wrought tale of growth and inventiveness teaches children to make the most of what’s at hand.
Matthew Cordell (Macmillan/Feiwel and Friends, ages 2–5) $18.99
This action-packed marathon reads like a “Little Red Riding Hood” remix, starring Evergreen, a squirrel who dreads so many things that “it would take far too long to list them.” Journeying through Buckthorn Forest to visit Granny Oak, Evergreen frees a rabbit, is carried off by a hawk, and hinders would-be soup thieves. Caldecott Medalist Cordell deploys ink hatching and watercolor washes to portray animalian feathers and fur alongside soft, earthen growing things, and conveys the contrast between Evergreen’s self-doubt and her capability with humor and skill.
I Can Open It for You
Shinsuke Yoshitake, trans. from the Japanese by Lisa Wilcut (Chronicle, ages 3–5) $15.99
Yoshitake’s latest considers the power to open things—an act that’s often, due to packaging or supervision, denied to young children. The overall-clad narrator wrestles with a candy wrapper, promising that “When I get a little bit bigger... I’ll be able to open anything.” Then the adventure begins, with the now-powerful child dispatching bottles, tins, packages, a bank safe, an entire house, and more, accompanied by expressive onomatopoeia: “phssst,” “shwoop,” “shwifft.” The diagrammatic clarity of Yoshitake’s line drawings is a distinctive pleasure.
If I Was a Horse
Sophie Blackall (Little, Brown, ages 4–8) $18.99
In Caldecott Medalist Blackall’s amusing tale of self-determination, a young narrator imagines freedom from the limitations of childhood, by way of becoming a horse. “If I was a horse, I would gallop all day.// I could go anywhere I want,// and I’d come home when I was hungry.” The horse grazes in a kitchen, bypasses a bath, and gives a sibling a ride to school, all in Blackall’s signature-style illustrations.
I’m Going to Build a Snowman
Jashar Awan (Simon & Schuster, ages 4–8) $18.99
A child awakens to snow falling: time to build “THE BEST SNOWMAN EVER!” With a hat tip to Ezra Jack Keats’s simple forms, Awan renders comic strip–like action as the child bundles up and heads into an instructional interlude, a dream sequence, and finally the real building process, yielding a snowperson that’s very different from the ideal, but is the “BEST SNOWMAN YET.” The sunny protagonist accepts the surprises of creation, so readers can, too.
The Little Books of the Little Brontës
Sara O’Leary, illus. by Briony May Smith (Tundra, ages 5–9) $18.99
This heartfelt account of a difficult childhood brightened by a love of literature is based on the real lives of the Brontë siblings. With only each other and their toys for company, the Brontë children made up their own tales, and O’Leary offers engaging instructions for doing the same, as well as an overview of the siblings’ lives, of interest to both Brontë fans and newcomers to their story.
Mama’s Sleeping Scarf
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, writing as Nwa Grace-James, illus. by Joelle Avelino (Knopf, ages 3–7) $18.99
A mother’s scarf nurtures a child’s autonomy and a Black family’s bond in the first children’s book from Americanah author Adichie. Mama’s silky sleeping scarf helps “keep her hair all soft and nice” and doubles as a plaything for a child when Mama goes out. Bright, pattern-forward spreads depict Chino using the scarf to wrap up stuffed companion Bunny and play peekaboo with Papa.
Very Good Hats
Emma Straub, illus. by Blanca Gómez (Rocky Pond, ages 2–5) $18.99
Novelist and bookseller Straub, making her picture book debut, issues a gently comedic call to the imagination: “Anything can be a hat if you believe.” Examples include the finger hat—“raspberries, chewed-up gum, tortellini,” each stuck on the end of a digit—and object toppers—“the roof is the house’s hat, and a lid is a pot’s hat.” Bubbles, cats, clouds, and leaves make the list, as does a bowl, though readers are cautioned to check inside first, “otherwise you might have a soup hat.”
Voice from the Hollow
Will Hillenbrand (Holiday House, ages 4–8) $18
When a blizzard closes Hubert Cumberbun’s beloved library, the young story-loving mouse takes a shortcut home through the forbidding Hollow, led by a mysterious adult mouse dressed in a pink coat. Hillenbrand renders the daring thrill of adventure in sumptuous images, depicting craggy shapes that seem spine-chillingly alive, hinting to readers that great stories tend to involve an element of risk.
What You Need to Be Warm
Neil Gaiman, illus. by Yuliya Gwilym et al. (Quill Tree, ages 4–8) $18.99
To raise money for refugees, Newbery Medalist Gaiman crowdsourced memories of warmth online, weaving them into an evocative poem. Illustrated by 13 collaborators, some émigrés themselves, the spreads share a grayscale palette accented with fiery orange, depicting cozy clothes, a mound of sleeping creatures encircled by a slumbering dragon, and a family huddled by a fire in a desert. The contemplative free verse builds to a powerful final expression: “You have the right to be here.”
The Case of the Missing Tarts
Christee Curran-Bauer (Union Square Kids, ages 6–9) $13.99
The Pigeon Private Detectives—Martin P. Sweets, Felix Danish, and Ralph Custard—set out to recover Mama Pigeon’s stolen jam tarts before they’re eaten, or worse, go stale. Suspects fail to confess, even when tempted by Mama Pigeon’s cookies, but eventually the dessert-napper reveals himself and is offered a second chance. Playful images of mouthwatering treats and avian protagonists sporting deerstalker caps complement this lighthearted mystery.
Cat on the Run in Cat of Death!
Aaron Blabey (Scholastic, ages 7–10) $7.99 paper
The bestselling author of the Bad Guys books launches a series about social media megastar Princess Beautiful, a fluffy, anthropomorphic cat with 2.2 billion fans and a date with handsome feline and billionaire heir Catrick Cash. When her computer gets hacked and she accidentally arms nuclear missiles, Beautiful goes from a beloved media figure to a wanted global villain and sets out to find the real culprit.
The Story of Gumluck the Wizard
Adam Rex (Chronicle, ages 6–9) $14.99
A wise, sarcastic raven named Helvetica narrates the tale of wee wizard Gumluck, who does the bidding of rude, ungrateful characters, becomes haunted by a ghost in his hair, and is ridiculed by the townspeople, all in pursuit of being crowned the Harvest Hero in this year’s annual festival. Some tough love from Helvetica and a revelatory nighttime visit from the Truth Fairy spark self-reflection in this absurdly silly and heartfelt series launch.
Domestic drama, historical escapades, and fanciful adventures entrance tween bibliophiles.
Donna Barba Higuera, illus. by David Álvarez (Levine Querido, ages 10–14) $18.99
In Newbery Medalist Higuera’s deeply humane postapocalyptic novel, Leandro Rivera and his nine-year-old sister, Gabi, endure a life of arduous physical labor in a walled city. When Gabi is caught stealing a strawberry just before a planned escape, Leandro sacrifices himself in her place. He’s offered a reprieve in the form of a task: occupy the body of an ancient hummingbird drone and find a missing person beyond the city’s borders.
Arthur, the Always King
Kevin Crossley-Holland, illus. by Chris Riddell (Candlewick Studio, ages 10–up) $29.99
Crossley-Holland recounts the Arthurian legend cycle in this evocative, episodic telling. Intricately detailed full-page artwork accompanies succinct text narrating King Arthur’s enchanted birth, the retrieval of the sword Excalibur, and the story of the Green Knight, among other tales of adventure, magic, and intrigue, presenting strong evidence that the Always King’s legend endures because it’s “about human beings, not about gods or supermen and superwomen.”
Brian Selznick (Scholastic Press, ages 7–up) $32.99
Two sycamore seeds, drawn as diminutive figures with shocks of delicate fuzz, search for a place to take root after a forest fire’s fallout propels them away from home. Caldecott Medalist Selznick depicts the journey through silvery, deeply textural drawings that move elegantly between planet-scale drama, microscopic life, and the seeds’ shifting surroundings, ending in a contemporary city where a child encounters a sidewalk-crack seedling. The story is based on a concept by Steven Spielberg.
The Demon Sword Asperides
Sarah Jean Horwitz (Algonquin, ages 9–12) $16.99
A 13-year-old disgraced knight-in-training named Nack Furnival seeks a heroic quest that will redeem him to his family of accomplished swordfighters and instead draws out Asperides, a sentient demon sword, from his physical resting place. Asperides tricks Nack into forming an unlikely partnership and the two embark on an adventure that is at once humorous, thrilling, and touching.
The Improbable Tales of Baskerville Hall
Ali Standish (HarperCollins, ages 8–12) $19.99
Standish imagines Sherlock Holmes author Arthur Conan Doyle as the hero of his own childhood capers, leading a perilous investigation at Britain’s prestigious Baskerville Hall. Melding wry humor with convincing period detail, the story includes a mix of canonical characters and fresh faces and is situated against the vivid backdrop of Victorian society on the cusp of great cultural and scientific change.
The Lost Library
Rebecca Stead and Wendy Mass (Macmillan/Feiwel and Friends, ages 8–12) $17.99
On the last Monday of fifth grade, Evan McClelland takes two books from a mysterious little free library. The circulation cards tie them to the Martinville Library, which burned down years ago, and one card suggests that Evan’s father repeatedly checked out that book. With help from best friend Rafe, Evan seeks to unravel his family’s possible connection to the town’s history while navigating his anxiety about the looming adjustment to middle school.
Nothing Else but Miracles
Kate Albus (Holiday House/Ferguson, ages 9–12) $17.99
Three close-knit siblings rely on each other and their supportive Lower East Side community after their widowed father is called up for service during WWII in this suspenseful family novel rich in New York City period detail. Dory, Fish, and Pike are managing thanks to the neighborhood’s generosity, but when their new landlord threatens to report the underage trio to city authorities, their situation grows precarious. Then, Dory’s canny observations land them a perfect hideaway.
The Puppets of Spelhorst
Kate DiCamillo, illus. by Julie Morstad (Candlewick, ages 7–10) $17.99
Two sisters liberate from an old trunk a quintet of puppets—“the king and the wolf and the girl/ and the boy and the owl”—and each undergoes a brief adventure that speaks to his or her nature: the king longs to rule, the wolf is preoccupied with her sharp teeth, and so on. Newbery Medalist DiCamillo applies spare prose and witty conversation in fleshing out
the puppets’ desires in this quietly entrancing novella.
Shira & Esther’s Double Dream Debut
Anna E. Jordan (Chronicle, ages 8–12) $17.99
This sprightly tale of found family and effort rewarded unfolds in the fictional town of Idylldale, an amalgam of Manhattan’s Lower East Side and a Catskills-like resort of yore. Esther longs to learn Hebrew and study the Torah and Shira was born for the stage, but their respective parents want the opposite for their daughters. After a chance encounter, the girls—realizing their uncanny resemblance—trade places to chase their dreams.
Nisi Shawl (Tu, ages 8–12) $19.95
When 10-year-old Winna’s mother is hospitalized, she and little sister Tupelo stay with their grandparents in Vandalia, a town that once served as a stop on the Underground Railroad. Grandpa Carl gives Winna a pair of spectacles that once belonged to her great-aunt Estelle—and allows Winna to communicate with Estelle’s ghost. This sets her on a path toward lifting a family curse in a novel that combines the historical and the magical.
The Sun and the Star
Rick Riordan and Mark Oshiro (Disney Hyperion, ages 10–14) $19.99
In this thrilling standalone set in Riordan’s Percy Jackson universe, two demigods in love—Nico di Angelo, teenage son of Hades, and Nico’s boyfriend, Will Solace, son of Apollo—journey to Tartarus, the Underworld’s deepest abyss. Reprising the Percy books’ goofy humor, high-stakes action, and whimsical worldbuilding, Riordan and Oshiro weave in tender romance and emotionally complex ruminations on change, self-identity, and mental health, balancing adventure with heart and heft.
Give a teen a novel or story collection she’ll find worthy of sharing on BookTok.
Adi Alsaid (Knopf, ages 12–up) $18.99
In this bittersweet, existential read, 18-year-old Isabel travels from Detroit to Tokyo in hopes of renewing her faith in humanity. She’s seeking a man named Hatori, who “goes around different train stations in Tokyo saving people who need him.” A year after Isabel’s departure, her two best friends arrive in Mexico to meet up with her. When she doesn’t show, they retrace her steps hoping to find her.
Champion of Fate
Kendare Blake (Quill Tree, ages 14–up) $19.99
At age 16, Reed is beginning her Hero’s Trial to join the Order of the Aristene, a society of seemingly omniscient, immortal female warriors. She’s tasked with helping Prince Hestion, whose country is on the brink of war, defeat the rumored prophet-killing king; if he fails, she’ll be forced to leave the Citadel. Curiosity-stoking worldbuilding makes for an electric fantasy duology opener.
Edited by A.S. King (Dutton, ages 14–up) $19.99
King collaborates with nine other writers—including M.T. Anderson, Anna-Marie McLemore, and Randy Ribay—to ruminate on collections, collectors, and storytelling conventions in this quirky anthology. A nonbinary teen amasses items stolen from other people; an aging elder with Alzheimer’s gathers wigs and names that begin with C. The moody stories prove King’s assertion that “there is currency in weirdness.”
Flower and Thorn
Rati Mehrotra (Wednesday, ages 14–up) $21
Set in an alternate 16th-century Gujarat, this romance-tinged fantasy follows Irinya, whose knowledge of magical flowers is key for her nomadic desert community’s survival. When an attractive imposter dupes her out of the priceless silver spider lily that her childhood friend and flower hunting partner finds, Irinya sets out on a dangerous trek to recover the flower and make things right.
Shade Lapite (Walker, ages 13–17) $18.99
This Afrofantasy centers on Kalothia, who knows little of the world beyond her forested refuge. Raised by guardians on the outskirts of the kingdom of Galla after her parents were deemed enemies of the king, Kalothia flees to the royal court after assassins attack her home on her 16th birthday. Guided by the Goddess herself, Kalothia must navigate an unfamiliar realm of danger, subterfuge, and romance.
Ode to My First Car
Robin Gow (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, ages 14–up) $20.99
After crashing her car, 17-year-old Claire, who is bisexual, begins work at a nursing home to pay off her fines. There, she meets 85-year-old lesbian Lena, who helps Claire feel more confident in her queerness. Claire begins dating a classmate to get over her feelings for her transgender best friend, Sophia, but Sophia’s new relationship causes their friendship to fray. Gow thoughtfully unpacks a variety of issues in this sweet, encouraging story with a big heart.
Phoebe Wahl (Little, Brown, ages 14–up) $19.99
Wahl revisits her high school diaries to deliver a fictionalized account of her adolescence. Descriptions of her experiences performing in school plays, making new friends, and enduring awkward family vacations give way to complex musings about art, crushes, and her identity as a fat Jewish girl. Each entry, marked with chapter headers signifying the date and time, is rendered in candid, first-person narration that will surely resonate.
Secret of the Moon Conch
David Bowles and Guadalupe García McCall (Bloomsbury, ages 13–up) $19.99
In 1521 Tenochtitlan, Calizto, chased by Spanish colonizers, throws a sacred shell tied to the moon goddess into the ocean; it washes ashore in 2019, where it’s found by Sitali, who is desperate to leave Mexico for the U.S. Communicating through the moon conch, Sitali tells Calizto of the fallout of colonization; the teens comfort each other through their struggles and eventually fall in love in this sweeping fantasy.
Nina Kenwood (Flatiron, ages 13–up) $23.99
Three Australian college roommates populate this sunny rom-com: type A Brooke; Harper, whose family owns their share house; and Jesse, Brooke’s former high school friend who broke her heart when she was 14. Brooke and Jesse’s history puts Harper’s “no drama” and “no romance between housemates” rules to the test, making for believable and hilarious goings-on.
Wrath Becomes Her
Aden Polydoros (Inkyard, ages 13–up) $19.99
This alluring fantasy horror novel set in 1943 Lithuania implements frequently explored Jewish lore surrounding golems with a fresh and inventive angle. Grieving father Ezra uses forbidden magic to construct a golem from the corpse of his teenage daughter, Chaya, a resistance fighter killed by Nazis. The avenging golem, Vera, falls in with the resistance and hatches a plan to intercept a dangerous weapon and turn the tide of the war.
STEM-powered books mingle with autobiographical accounts in our true-to-life recommendations.
Various contributors (Rebel Girls, ages 8–12) $27.99
In this offering from the multiplatform brand Rebel Girls, more than 100 women of all ages offer advice and insights from their own lives, in the form of essays, letters, and poems. Contributors include Carla Pérez, a mountaineer who has summited Mount Everest; businesswomen and philanthropists such as Melinda French Gates and Laurene Powell Jobs; and Ms. Marvel actor Iman Vellani.
Thien Pham (First Second, ages 14–up) $25.99
Pham chronicles his and his family’s treacherous experience as Vietnamese refugees in this arresting graphic novel memoir, ably conveying the push-pull of assimilation and cultural loss. Throughout, food serves as a vehicle: when the evacuee boat on which his family is traveling is beset by pirates, Pham’s parents instruct him to close his eyes; after the siege, he’s given a rice ball, which he can taste “to this day.”
Dan Nott (Random House Graphic, ages 12–up) $23.99
An unnamed narrator marvels at “how little I know about everyday things” at the start of this illuminating graphic novel. Nott breaks down the origins, basic functioning, and cultural impacts of water and electricity systems and the internet, using digestible graphs and panels to interrogate the biases and inequalities embedded within these systems, as with the potential of hydropower
to cause “drastic disruption to the environment, local and Indigenous communities, and wildlife.”
Soledad Romero Mariño, illus. by Sonia Pulido (Phaidon, ages 7–11) $19.95
Spanish National Illustration Award winner Pulido contributes charming images to this compendium of facts about 22 animals. Recurring icons show readers at a glance which creatures, for instance, share a talent for mimicry (the common octopus and the superb lyrebird, to name two), and which possess super strength—African elephants and polar bears, sure, but also bull-headed dung beetles and exploding ants.
What a Map Can Do
Gabrielle Balkan, illus. by Alberto Lot (Rise x Penguin Workshop, ages 3–5), $18.99
Balkan uses a dozen bright maps in this clever instructional volume to help young readers learn the art of map reading. A baseball-capped, backpack-wearing raccoon demonstrates how a map “can show us a bird’s-eye view of a place,” whether that’s a bedroom or house, or a museum or city. Maps with specific purposes, such as a road map showing slower and faster routes, help round out this useful and playful basic-skills book.
What It’s Like to Be a Bird
David Allen Sibley (Delacorte, ages 10–up) $19.99
This young reader’s adaptation of ornithologist Sibley’s bestselling 2020 work for adults conveys a contagious enthusiasm for birds. The author, a recipient of a lifetime achievement award from the American Birding Association, poses and answers myriad questions: Why do birds have feathers? How do they fly? Why does birdsong sound musical? Young birdwatchers will have a field day.
Where Are the Aliens?
Stacy McAnulty, illus. by Nicole Miles (Little, Brown, ages 10–up) $16.99
Combining abundant research with lighthearted jokes, McAnulty and Miles discuss scientific investigations into the possibility of life beyond Earth. They begin with an explanation of the Fermi paradox (the “where is everyone?” quandary) and go on to cover a galaxy of subjects—astronomers Nicolaus Copernicus and Galileo Galilei, the Sputnik and Apollo launches, listening devices seeking alien transmissions, rumored UFO sightings, and insights into projected space missions as far into the future as 2040.
You and the Bowerbird
Maria Gianferrari, illus. by Maris Wicks (Roaring Brook) $19.99
Playful and informative, this graphic narrative combines sketches from a child’s field journal with slapstick incidents in the life of an Australian bowerbird. Satin, as the child names him, builds an elaborate twig bower and collects blue objects to attract his prospective mate, green-feathered Pea, with some assistance from the child naturalist. Comical cartoons and enthusiasticdocumentary-style narration make for a splendid readaloud.
Epic quests and realistic, affecting stories come to life through sequential art.
Zach Weinersmith, illus. by Boulet (First Second, ages 8–12) $19.99
This lovingly crafted retelling sets Beowulf among bold suburban children for whom mischief and misbehavior are all. Kid-lord Roger creates the magnificent tree house Treeheart, and attracts the wrath of joyless adult Mr. Grindle, whose touch ages kids out of childhood. When Grindle wreaks havoc on Treeheart and turns its inhabitants into adults, mighty five-year-old Bea Wolf comes to aid Roger and “banish the hall-beast.” Weinersmith’s alliteration, wordplay, and imagery-rich kennings honor the original’s intricate linguistic constructions.
Jessixa Bagley, illus. by Aaron Bagley (Simon & Schuster, ages 8–12) $24.99
Sisters Lucy and GiGi have only one thing in common—fencing. Never the best of friends, they’ve been fighting nonstop since their father died. When GiGi humiliates Lucy in the cafeteria on Lucy’s first day of middle school, Lucy challenges her older sister to a duel. As the school begins to take sides in their bout, the sisters must decide if their rivalry is worth it.
Link + Hud: Heroes by a Hair
Jarrett and Jerome Pumphrey (Norton Young Readers, ages 8–12) $16.95
The antics of brothers Lincoln and Hudson Dupré have outmatched every babysitter in the neighborhood, much to the frustration of their parents, who rely on outside childcare to balance family matters with their careers. When the Duprés dismiss elderly, no-nonsense Ms. Joyce after a water balloon incident, the siblings see the impact their behavior has on their parents’ struggling businesses and determine to bring her back.
Blexbolex, trans. from the French by Karin Snelson (Enchanted Lion, ages 9–up) $34.95 paper
Three shape-shifting magicians—an elephant, a blackbird, and a human girl—each set off from an abandoned house. The Huntress and her mechanical lion-dragon give chase, aiming to defeat the magicians once and for all. Heavy cardstock binding, French flaps, and bronze metallic endpapers accent Blexbolex’s signature vintage color palette.
Pedro Martín (Dial, ages 10–14) $24.99
U.S.-born tween Martín is having a tough time overcoming his insecurities surrounding his Mexican heritage, which are exacerbated by his Mexico-born siblings. When he learns that he and his family are traveling from California to Mexico to help their abuelito move in with them, he revels in the opportunity to connect with his culture. This artistically inventive graphic novel is equal parts hilarious and tear-jerking.
Chelsey Furedi (Clarion, ages 13–up) $24.99
In this speculative take on exchange student programs, teenagers Ren and Phoebe awaken in 2122 as part of corporate conglomerate Chronotech’s Time Travel Exchange Program. There, they meet Mars and Jia, who are skeptical of the program’s true purpose after Chronotech covered up the mysterious death of Jia’s previous time-travel partner. The group endeavors to uncover the corporation’s secrets while figuring out their developing romantic entanglements.
Dragon’s First Taco
Adam Rubin, illus. by Daniel Salmieri (Dial, ages 1–3) $8.99
Having irrefutably established that Dragons Love Tacos, Rubin and Salmieri invite the youngest gourmands to partake. An unseen narrator addresses a winsomely googly-eyed, horned critter: “Hey, little dragon. Do you know what this is? It’s called a taco. You are gonna love it,” and the pair get to work making their own handheld meal. The taco-shaped board book is a tacit acknowledgment of its likely destination: a toddler’s mouth.
A Place Where Stars Rest
Katsumi Komagata (Tra, ages 1–4) $24.99
Komagata’s creation is as much visual spectacle as it is literary work. Each line of his quiet, airy poem about the stars appears on a single page in Japanese, French, and English. Foil and varnish enhancements, embossing, and die-cut plant and animal shapes depict the contemplative text, which extols the beauty of the stars and traces their movement until night gives way to dawn.
Construction Site Board Books Boxed Set
Sherri Duskey Rinker, illus. by Tom Lichtenheld and A.G. Ford (Chronicle, ages 2–4) $24
This collects three installments of Rinker’s popular builder books: the bedtime readaloud Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site and its sequel, the revved-up Mighty, Mighty Construction Site, both illustrated by Lichtenheld, and Three Cheers for Kid McGear!, illustrated by Ford, featuring the first female character to join the crew.
The Catwings Complete Collection
Ursula K. Le Guin, illus. by S.D. Schindler (Atheneum, ages 5–9) $71.99 hardcover, $27.99 paper
A quartet of stories takes flight when Mrs. Jane Tabby gives birth to four winged kittens. The books, gracefully written by the legendary Le Guin and sweetly illuminated by Schindler, follow the litter as they leave the city for a new home in the country, return to visit their mother, and have other adventures.
Heartstopper Four-Book Collection
Alice Oseman (Graphix, ages 14–up) $59.96 paper
Originally a webcomic and now a Netflix show, the winning Heartstopper series follows Charlie and Nick, who meet at their English all-boys school and form an unlikely friendship that blossoms into something more. Oseman allows the characters’ relationship to develop in a natural, relatable way, delivering a warm, comfortable story of fledgling love starring two shippable leads. A fifth volume is due out in December.
Holiday-themed books get the littlest revelers, along with older kids and teens, into the spirit.
Decorate the Tree!
Amanda Jane Jones (Cameron Kids, ages 3–5) $15.99
Jones invites readers to trim a tree in this interactive offering. A friendly narrator encourages readers to “tap,” “clap,” “blink,” “knock,” and more to decorate a conifer rendered in layered green triangles. When the tree is fully covered in simple and shapely decor—lights, ornaments, garland, candy canes, and a star—a final nighttime display makes for an ideal cue to “snuggle in tight.”
Eight Nights of Lights
Leslie Kimmelman, illus. by Hilli Kushnir (HarperCollins, ages 4–8) $19.99
Format takes center stage in this novelty picture book, whose covers open to reveal a large menorah with nine pouches (including one for the shamash), each containing a slender volume designed to mimic a candle’s dimensions. Lena, of Cuban heritage, and her parents and family cat celebrate with food and fun, family and friends, and teachable moments that address religious freedom, diversity, and Jewish pride.
Finding My Elf
David Valdes (HarperTeen, ages 13–up) $19.99
Unhappily single college student Cam heads home for winter break and takes a job as a mall elf to help pay for his theater studies at NYU. He’s sure he’ll win Santaland’s $5,000 best elf competition but finds himself up against gorgeous fellow employee Marco. The boys’ gently blossoming romance incites warmth and cheer in this holly-jolly rom-com.
Hanukkah Upside Down
Elissa Brent Weissman, illus. by Omer Hoffmann (Abrams, ages 4–8) $18.99
Noah, living in New York City, and his cousin Nora, living in New Zealand, compare seasonal differences between their respective hemispheres during frequent phone calls. Hanukkah ups the ante on their friendly rivalry: is the holiday better in the winter or the summer? As they engage in activities (hot chocolate and snowballs vs. hot chips and cannonballs) and post photos to a shared album, they come to realize how much they share.
Is This... Winter?
Helen Yoon (Candlewick, ages 3–7) $10.99
Yoon presents an amusing dog’s-eye view of Christmas season novelties—yard ornaments. After a catastrophic collision with a snowperson, a small brown pooch in a yellow scarf encounters a light-up Rudolph, a blow-up Santa, and more, much to its confusion. Yoon’s confident sketches depict the wide-eyed pup’s rambunctious personality and outsize holiday energy.
Eoin Colfer, illus. by Chaaya Prabhat (Roaring Brook, ages 8–12) $22.99
In this warmhearted novel from Artemis Fowl author Colfer, Santa’s retirement eight years earlier has left a generation without faith in Mr. Claus. Eleven-year-old Juniper hopes to continue the tradition that her late father started: holding an annual Santa Vigil in a London park. When her mother vanishes before the event, Juniper seeks help from reclusive handyman Niko—previously Santa—and the two find themselves in a race to find Juniper’s mother and save Christmas.
The Last Slice
Melissa Seron Richardson, illus. by Monica Arnaldo (Little, Brown, ages 4–8) $18.99
Young Marta, finally old enough to have her own slice of la Rosca de Reyes, is worried about swallowing the baby Jesus figurine inside. She tries her best to dodge the dessert, but as other slices disappear and the figurine isn’t revealed, Marta decides “she would have to be valiente”—and is. Over-the-top scenarios and dynamic facial expressions depict the child’s laugh-out-loud internality in this sweetly comic portrait of a Three Kings Day celebration.
Red & Green
Lois Ehlert (Beach Lane, ages up to 8) $18.99
This memorable update of “A Visit from St. Nicholas” begins, “It was a cold, wintry night,/ and all through the house,// not a creature was stirring...// except a small mouse!” After taking a judicious taste of the holiday treats on offer, the critter settles in—only to be interrupted by a familiar-looking set of boots. High-vis elements and a seek-and-find sensibility lend visual zip to this winning variation on a classic.
Mike Lowery (Orchard, ages 3–6) $14.99
A shark named Edgar and crab bestie Lotta prepare for Santa Shark’s arrival in this goofy, pun-packed comic: the duo write “Christmas cods,” sing “corals,” and hang a starfish atop a kelp-stalk tree. When Edgar worries that a lack of snow will keep Santa Shark from visiting, Lotta imaginatively saves the day with help from some aquatic friends, making for a conclusion that emphasizes camaraderie as the key component of a happy holiday.
The Twelve Hours of Christmas
Jenn Bailey, illus. by Bea Jackson (Little, Brown, ages 4–8) $18.99
The narrator of this charming variation on “The 12 Days of Christmas” counts up 12 hours of family-focused Christmas shenanigans—three French toasts, five Nana hugs, six older cousins, and more. Jackson’s light-dappled watercolors contribute a seek-and-find element via a kitten, first seen in hour one, hiding across the spreads, while Bailey’s rhyming lines highlight the holiday’s cozy ups and downs in a warmhearted depiction of a bustling family celebration.