Don’t Forget, by Jane Godwin/Illustrated by Anna Walker, (Aug. 2022, Kane Miller), $14.99, ISBN: 9781684644360
A diverse group of children move through the day together as the overall narrative gently reminds readers of important things, both practical and esoteric, to remember in order to live a happy, fulfilling life: “Don’t forget to make your bed, / and wear socks that fit your feet”; “Don’t forget to try new things, / to smell the flowers, / watch the ocean, / and listen to the music / of the trees”. The story is a reminder of the important things in life: taking time to play; to be mindful; to reflect. Soft watercolors add to this gently profound meditation on living a meaningful life. Soothing endpapers show a nature scene. Don’t Forget will soothe readers with its upbeat look at the day-to-day. A nice additional purchase for storytime collections.
A Penny’s Worth, by Kimberly Wilson/Illustrated by Mark Hoffman, (April 2022, Page Street Kids), $17.99, ISBN: 9781645674689
A penny emerges hot off the minting press and ready to take on the world… until she sees other coins and bills getting all the attention, while she sits alone. Penny candy? It’s a dime these days. Arcade game? No way, that’s for quarters. Penny is determined to find her purpose, and when all hope seems lost, she finds it in this sweetly comical story about money and worth. Loaded with money puns, A Penny’s Worth is a great way to start a discussion about money, the rising cost of living, and finding your way when everyone around you says “no”. Mixed media artwork is lively and colorful; the currency all have large, expressive eyes and little limbs, making them eye-catching to young readers. Kids will feel for the poor penny as she’s rejected from a video game and sits sadly in the return slot and receives a lesson in inflation from a dime, who sports a graduate-like mortarboard and black robe, and cheer when she finds her purposes in a child’s smile. Endpapers bookend the story. Back matter includes information about pennies and a bibliography. A nice addition to collections and a fun storytime readaloud.
Pair with books like Rosemary Well’s Bunny Money and Nancy Shaw’s Sheep in a Shop for a money-themed storytime. Print out some Crayola printable money for a fun post-storytime activity.
Listen Up, Louella, by Ashley Belote, (June 2022, Feiwel & Friends), $18.99, ISBN: 9781250812797
Louella is so excited about camp, but she doesn’t always listen very well. She charges into the cabin and barges her way through camp activities, never listening to her friends or noticing that they may not have the great time she’s having. But when Louella thinks she’s been left out of a group party, she learns that it’s important to take time and listen to others, and to play together so that everyone has a great time. Playful digital illustrations are loaded with fun little details that will clue sharp-eyed readers in to the very important message Louella’s missing. Animal characters are cartoony, with exaggerated expressions and body language that help deliver the point of the story; Louella, an elephant, uses her size to overpower the smaller campers and take over the show, from painting, to toilet paper forts, canoeing, and a talent show. Word bubbles add character reactions to the overall narration, and Belote uses fun animal turns-of-phrase like “tug-of-roar” and “slam trunk”. Endpapers lead into and out of the story, with Louella dragging her loaded red wagon into camp, and pulling her friends on a ride after shenanigans are done. A fun summertime story for sure, and a good reminder to remember how to be a good friend, as kids are getting ready to head back to school. A good purchase for picture book collections.
Find Your Happy, by Emily Coxhead, (June 2022, Kane Miller), $14.99, ISBN: 9781684644490
A sloth offers ways to “find your happy” whenever he’s feeling sad, angry, or scared. He takes deep breaths, he thinks of positive things, like friends and family who love and support him, or imagines himself as a brave superhero, and encourages readers to remember that, while “somedays are incredible, other are just OK, and some feel really bad”, there’s always a way to find your happy. Bright colors and expressive animals make this an eye-catching story about emotions, feelings, and positivity. Written by Emily Coxhead, creator of The Happy News – a newsletter that’s all about good news– Find Your Happy is a cheerfully positive readaloud that will work well with storytimes and with social-emotional collections that focus on working through tough emotions. Find more of Emily Coxhead’s uplifting illustrations at her website.
Want to have a sloth storytime? Add books from the Lento & Fox series by Ben Sanders, Eric Carle’s classic, Slowly, Slowly, Slowly, Said the Sloth, or Sloth at the Zoom by Helaine Becker and Orbie. There is a great list of books with sloth main characters at Bookroo. Don’t forget to print out some sloth coloring sheets for your storytime!
I Can Explain, by Shinsuke Yoshitake, (Aug. 2022, Chronicle Kids), $17.99, ISBN: 9781797216904
A young boy explains his bad habits in the most hilarious of ways in I Can Explain. His mom may think it’s bad manners, but when the boy picks his nose? It’s actually him pressing a button to release cheerful beams. And biting his nails? It releases a sound that makes crows fly away from the trash bags; adults just can’t hear it. For every behavior, there’s a completely valid reason: he can explain! An absolutely uproarious read-aloud that ends with Mom having to find an explanation of her own, too, I Can Explain is a conversation starter about manners that acknowledges a child’s imagination and doesn’t take itself so seriously. Pen and digital artwork create an unfussy story with bright pinks and yellows and over line art; other colors come into play for emphasis. Endpapers get into the act, with the front endpapers showing our narrator recreating some of his bad habits, and back endpapers showing readers that Mom isn’t always so blameless, either.
I Can Explain was originally published in Japan in 2015. Shinsuke Yoshitake is an award-winning author and illustrator.
Like, by Annie Barrows/Illustrated by Leo Espinosa, (Sept. 2022, Chronicle Books), $17.99, ISBN: 9781452163376
A young boy breaks down the differences between us in this amusing and giggle-worthy story. “We are people. Also known as humans”, he begins; “This makes us different from most of the things on Earth”. We are not, for instance, shaped like tin cans, but we are a little like swimming pools, because we have water and chemicals and dirt inside us”. The boy goes on to talk about things we are like, things that we have things in common with, but are not like (like an excavator, which can dig big piles of dirt and move them around, but cannot tell jokes or fry an egg), with laugh-out-loud observations that sound like they’ve come straight from a child’s mind. Ivy + Bean author Annie Barrows makes a strong point in the best of ways: “I am more like you than I am like most of the things on Earth. I’m glad. I’d rather be like you than a mushroom”. Like is a great story to start discussions of similarities and differences with young listeners. Pura Belpré Honor illustrator Leo Espinosa gives readers a visually exciting story with bright colors, diverse characters, and a biracial main character. Playful and funny, this will be popular at storytime.
Big Hedgehog and Little Hedgehog Take an Evening Stroll, by Britta Teckentrup, (May 2022, Prestel Junior), $14.95, ISBN: 9783791375199
Big Hedgehog and Little Hedgehog are on their way home after an evening stroll, but Little Hedgehog continues to stop along the way to enjoy all the sights, sounds, and scents that evening has to offer. Big Hedgehog pauses their return each time, but it’s getting late: what to do? Every parent and caregiver knows this routine, whether at bedtime – when a little one wants one more drink of water, one more hug, or one other moment to stave off bedtime – or whether it’s “just one more minute” while doing something fun, be it at the playground or at a friend’s home. Britta Teckentrup sweetly captures those “but wait!” moments and creates a story where Big Hedgehog discovers the magic waiting when one lets themselves be led by a child, even if just for a moment. Britta Teckentrup’s artwork imagines warm sunsets and silver moonrises, with dense brown and green forests teeming with colorful flora and fauna. A wonderful story about pausing to enjoy the moment, and great for storytimes.
Big Hedgehog and Little Hedgehog Take and Evening Stroll was originally published in Germany in 2022. There will be another Big Hedgehog and Little Hedgehog story coming in May 2023.
At the Pond, by David Elliott/Illustrated by Amy Schimler-Safford, (May 2022, Candlewick Press), $18.99, ISBN: 9781536205985
David Elliott adds to his poetry series with At the Pond, a meditation on a day in the life of all the animals who live in and around the pond. Red-winged blackbirds sing and a family of mallards have a morning swim; dragonflies buzz by and a water snake guards her nest. It’s a lovely glimpse at the natural world, alternating beautiful lyrics and amusing wordplay. One spread illustrating a frog’s lifecycle from tadpole to frog reads, “Polly! / Polly! / Pollywog! / Golly! / Golly! Golly! Frog!”; another, a reflection on a water strider: “…enigmatic / but prolific. / Each day / he writes / his story / in rippling / hieroglyphics”. Amy Schimler-Safford’s mixed media illustrations create spread after spread of alluring images with deep greens, blues, and browns setting the background for brilliant pops of color. A gorgeous book for nature lovers and a great accompaniment to discussions on ecosystems. Back matter includes more information about the flora and fauna that makes an appearance in the book.
Publisher Candlewick has a downloadable teacher’s guide for companion books in the poetry series. Education.com has coloring sheets and activity sheets to extend pond-related learning.
I’ll Go and Come Back, by Rajani LaRocca/Illustrated by Sara Palacios, (March 2022, Candlewick Press), $18.99, ISBN: 9781536207170
A young girl named Jyoti visits her family in India, where she experiences some culture shock: it’s so different from home! But she and her grandmother, her Sita Pati, spend time together making sand art, going to the market, and playing games. When she leaves, she doesn’t say goodbye; in India, they say “Poitu varen”: “I’ll go and come back”. When Sita Pati visits Jyoti, she experiences a similar culture shock, but Jyoti is there to play, create, and shop with her. Told in a repeat narrative from Indian and American experiences, I’ll Go and Come Back reminds me of Margaret Chiu Greanias’s Amah Faraway, which I also loved. I enjoy the reverse narrative, where each character swaps roles to become the caregiver and guide to a new culture. Rajani LaRocca creates warmth between Jyoti and Sita Pati, brought to life by Sara Palacios’s gouache and acrylic artwork. Sita Pati and Jyoti holds hands and lean toward each other when they’re together, and readers get a peek into Indian culture, with touchstones like food, public spaces, and clothing. Endpapers look like colorful sari prints. I’ll Go and Come Back is a sweet grandparent-grandchild story that celebrates culture and familial relationships.
I’ll Go and Come Back has a starred review from Publishers Weekly.
The Little House of Hope, by Terry Catasús Jennings/Illustrated by Raúl Colón, (June 2022, Neal Porter Books/Holiday House), $18.99, ISBN: 9780823447169
A family arrives from Cuba and finds a home to call their own as they build their new lives in America. In time, La Casita – the little house – welcomes other family members and later, a family who needs a place to call home; together, they all work toward making the casita and America their new home. Terry Catasús Jennings was inspired by anger to write this story, after a realtor claimed to never rent to “Hispanics because they lived four families to a house and always destroyed the properties where the lived”. She was also inspired by the memories of growing up in her own casita. Here, the Definitely Dominguita author tells the stories of families who come here to be safe. In quietly passionate storytelling, she tells readers about the fears that spurred these people to leave their homes and come to the States, and she tells readers how these families all worked together to turn the house into a warm, loving casita: adults and children coming together to paint and clean, to mow lawns and make artwork, and how the casita inspired them. A father starts their own landscaping business. A mom starts a daycare in the casita. Another mother secures a job as a high school Spanish teacher, and a father becomes an accountant. A daughter uses her passion for collage to welcome new families to the casita, and when they’re ready to move on, sends them off with artwork to display in their home.
Pura Belpré medalist (2006) and Eric Carle Honor (2021) illustrator Raúl Colón pencil and watercolor artwork uses perspective and soft color to create beautiful moments: a family, looking up at la casita; gathered around a table, smiling; confiding in one another; a father, looking through the window and seeing a full home ready to welcome him. The Little House of Hope reminds us all that this is what America should be when we’re at our best.