Love in the Library, by Maggie Tokuda-Hall/Illustrated by Yas Imamura, (Feb. 2022, Candlewick Press), $18.99, ISBN: 9781536204308
Inspired by award-winning author Maggie Tokuda-Hall’s maternal grandparents, Love in the Library is a wrenching and inspirational story of finding love and hope in the darkest times. Tama is a librarian in the Minidoka internment camp during World War II, where she meets George, a patron who shows up every day to check out books and talk to Tama. Life in the camp is brutal, and Tama’s resilience is flagging, but George is always there to smile and support her. Maggie Tokuda-Hall’s language is powerful as she describes life in the camp and Tama’s depression: “The barbed wire fences and guard towers cast long shadows over her path”; “And though each camp was different, they were all the same. Uncomfortable and unjust”; “Tama kept her eyes down and tried not to think about the life she used to have”. Yas Imamura’s gouache and watercolor palette uses dull browns greens, setting the mood for life in Minodoka, but dresses Tama and George in bright colors; Imamura also gives the cramped conditions in the housing bright colors – a pretty pink quilt acts as a wall between rooms – to convey hope and the determination to carry on. When Tama loses herself in her books, she dreams of surreal knights and ships, young lovers and butterflies. An author’s note provides background to Tama’s and George’s story. Endpapers show a wall of barbed wire stretching endlessly across the covers. Love in the Library is a story of finding hope when there feels like there is none left, and joins the growing body of work that breaks the long-held silence about that period of American history.
Love in the Library has starred reviews from Publishers Weekly, School Library Journal, BookPage, Booklist, and the Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books. Download a teacher’s guide and the author’s note at Candlewick’s book detail page.
I’m a Neutrino: Tiny Particles in a Big Universe, by Dr. Eve M. Vavagiakis/Illustrated by Ilze Lemesis, (March 2022, MIT Kids Press), $18.99, ISBN: 9781536222074
If you enjoy Chris Ferrie’s Baby University books, and Ruth Spiro and Irene Chan’s Baby Loves Science board books, you’re going to flip for I’m a Neutrino, a rhyming science tale by a Cornell physicist and her illustrator mother. I’m a Neutrino introduces burgeoning young scientists to the neutrino: “I am a particle, like electrons and light / I can pass through you without stopping my flight!” The neutrinos, depicted as bright, colorful, spiky-headed little beings, adventure throughout the story, dancing and playing across the cosmos as a diverse group of kids and adults try to unlock their mysteries. The rhyming text informs with a playful tone, and the accompanying illustrations make science exciting and fun while adding new science terms to readers’ vocabularies. A “Know Your Neutrinos” section in the back matter identifies and gives a little more factual information about the neutrinos we encounter in the story.
There isn’t a glossary of new words in this volume, so consider making some flash cards to hand out, to help readers navigate these new words. You can find more about neutrinos at Kiddle and Academic Kids.
This is the first collaboration between Dr. Vavagiakis and MIT Kids and a natural progression for readers who started reading science board books like Chris Ferrie’s and Ruth Spiro and Irene Chan’s series as toddlers and preschoolers. Great for a science storytime, Junior Discovery Club, or STEM class.
Visit Eve Vavagiakis’s webpage for more about her research and mentoring.
Carrimebac: The Town That Walked, by David Barclay Moore/Illustrated by John Holyfield, (March 2022, Candlewick Press), $18.99, ISBN: 9781536213690
When old Rootilla Redgums and her young grandson, Julius Jefferson walk into the town of Walkerton, Georgia, everyone is suspicious. Dogs snargggled. Cats hisssked. But Rootilla, who was born almost 100 years before in 1776, and her 9-year-old grandson quickly win the town over with their kindness and Rootilla’s everyday magic: she teaches the townspeople to weave rugs that never wear down, and bake ceramic jugs that never empty. The whites in the area – known here as “the Fearful Folks” – are convinced the Black residents are up to no good, and show up in their bedsheets and wielding their torches, trying to scare everyone. Rootilla isn’t having it, and turns those torches to cornstalks. But time is running short, and Julius puts her last wish into action, renaming the town Carrimebac and literally moving the town away, pulled by his faithful goose, Woody. Carrimebac: The Town That Walked is a delightful tall tale; folklore told in a lively voice and brought to life with gorgeous acrylic illustrations. Set in 1876, the Ku Klux Klan are a menacing presence; readers will cheer to see them upended by the Rootilla and the townspeople, let by Rootilla’s young grandson, Julius. A wonderful addition to your collections. Visit Candlewick’s website for a free educator guide.
David Barclay Moore is a John Steptoe New Talent Award winner for his YA novel, The Stars Beneath Our Feet. Visit his website to learn more about his books and his films. Visit illustrator John Holyfield’s website to see more of his artwork.
Bake, Make & Learn to Cook, by David Atherton/Illustrated by Rachel Stubbs, (Dec. 2021, Candlewick Press), $17.99, ISBN: 9781536219364
I am SO excited for this book. David Atherton, 2019 winner of the Great British Baking Show, has a baking book for kids (and I mean that term loosely, as I plan to bake 90% of this book, whether or not my Kiddo wants to help me)! This is the coziest cookbook, with warm illustrations throughout. Each recipe is fully illustrated, step by step, and artwork with people coming together to prep, bake, and enjoy one another’s company together (plus an adorable taco-loving dog) make this an actual family cookbook that kids will love reading. Each recipe includes a list of ingredients, both written out and illustrated and numbered steps guide readers through each bake, also written out and illustrated. The recipe names are squeal-worthy, with Snaky Breadsticks, Happy Curry, and Easy Peasy Pot Pies making me happy just reading their names. Atherton includes recipes for every palate and every time of day; recipes are organized into breakfast (Starting the Day); meals (Lunches and Simple Suppers); snacks (Delicious Treats), and the big one, Cakes and Bakes. There’s an illustrated list of equipment bakers and makers will need to get started, and a glossary of cooking terms and measurements. He includes important tips, like having an adult present to help, and the importance of kitchen safety, and his overall tone is just wonderful. He’s a baker who can talk to children, not just write a cookbook that kids will happen to read. If you are a Great British Baking Show fan, you’ll clearly hear his voice as you read. There are vegetarian and vegan recipes as well as recipes with meat, and he gets creative and fun with many of them, including Banana Bear Pancakes and Hummus Lions, which kids may want to try and possibly contribute to holiday feasts. This book makes me so happy, and I know it will make you happy, too.
Follow David Atherton on Twitter and Instagram.
Time for Bed, Old House, by Janet Costa Bates/Illustrated by AG Ford, (Sept. 2021, Candlewick Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9781536209983
Isaac is looking forward to his sleepover at Grandpa’s house, but he’s a little nervous about being away from home. After and evening of games and snacks, Grandpa and his dog, Snuffles, teach Isaac how to put the house to bed. As they go through each room, turning off lights and pulling down shades, Isaac is initially frightened by the sounds the old house makes, but Grandpa wonderfully observes that “this old house makes sleepy sounds, just like you… you yawn. You stretch. I bet you even snore”. As they end up in Isaac’s room and settle down for the night, Isaac is content, saying good night to the house, and looking forward to the next day.
This is a wonderful and cozy story about a grandparent and grandchild. Janet Costa Bates’s quiet storytelling wraps readers up like a blanket, tucking them in with her words. AG Ford’s watercolors envelop readers in the welcoming setting, with warm golds leading Isaac and Grandpa through the house as they help ready it for the night, and cooler blues and purples to provide the cover of darkness. When Isaac goes to bed holding Bear, a smile on his face, readers won’t be able to help but smile themselves, having heard a wonderful story. Front endpapers show Snuffles heading toward Grandpa and Isaac, most likely; back endpapers show him sleeping in his dog bed. The opening spread begins the story as we see Grandpa and Isaac on Grandpa’s porch, waving goodbye to a car pulling away, presumably Isaac’s parents, with his mom waving out the window. Isaac and his family are people of color. A perfect bedtime story, grandparent story, and first sleepover story for all collections.
Time for Bed, Old House has starred reviews from Publishers Weekly, School Library Journal, and Kirkus and has also been named a Book of Distinction by the Bulletin for the Center for Children’s Books.
See the Dog: Three Stories About a Cat, by David LaRochelle/Illustrated by Mike Wohnoutka, (Sept. 2021, Candlewick Press), $8.99, ISBN: 9781536216295
The hilarious follow-up to last year’s Geisel Award-winning See the Cat has Cat taking center stage while Dog is out sick. Cat’s not thrilled with the bossy book, though, and the results are laugh-out-loud funny. In the first story, “See the Dog”, we get the scoop on Cat, who’s filling in for Dog, but isn’t really up for that whole “Dogs dig holes” sort of business. “See the Lake”, story number two, has the book trying to get Cat to jump in a cold lake and swim, and “See the Sheep” is all about how brave Cat will save a sheep… until Cat discovers that there’s a wolf on the way. A surprise cameo caps off this side-splitting story. Gouache artwork makes for warm, cartoony expressions and the back-and-forth dialogue between “Book” and “Cat” makes for a hilarious readaloud. Download the activity kit from Candlewick!
See the Dog has starred reviews from School Library Journal and Kirkus.
Prehistoric Pets, by Dr. Dean Lomax/Illustrated by Mike Love, (Sept. 2021, Templar), $17.99, ISBN: 9781536217148
Cat people all know that our little furballs think of themselves as savage, saber-toothed tigers on the hunt, whether they’re stalking a daydreaming dinosaur or a dust bunny. But did you ever imagine what your guinea pig’s ancestors may have looked like? Paleontologist Dr. Dean Lomax has you covered. Prehistoric Pets looks at the evolution of seven favorite kinds of pets: guinea pigs, parakeets, corn snakes, cats, goldfish, dogs, and horses. Using the fossil record to trace each pet’s lineage, Dr. Lomax goes back through the family trees of each of these popular pets to give us an idea of their prehistoric parentage. That chatty parrot likely descended from the Velociraptor; your corn snake can trace its heritage back to the giant Titanoboa. Each spread folds out into a pop-up gatefold, with the prehistoric beast rising up from the pages. Loaded with facts about both the modern animal and its primeval counterpart, and filled with colorful artwork, this is a home run for your prehistory collections. Display and talk up with one of my favorite read-alouds, Steve Jenkins’s Prehistoric Actual Size. The pop-ups are going to seal the deal for readers on this book – get a couple if your budget permits.
Oscar’s Tower of Flowers, by Lauren Tobia, (May 2021, Candlewick Press), $17.99, ISBN: 9781536217773
In this wordless book, a little boy named Oscar stays with his Nana when his mother goes away. He finds joy in planting with his grandmother, who takes him to the store to buy some seeds. Oscar’s green thumb proves to be pretty impressive, and Nana’s home quickly becomes covered in green! Oscar has an idea: share his love with others in Nana’s building! He loads up a red wagon with plants, and shares them with his grandmother’s neighbors throughout the building, spreading the joy he experienced while growing them all. When Mom returns, he happily sits on her lap, sharing some together time with Mom and Nana. Mixed media artwork beautifully tells this story, beginning with the endpapers: an apartment building bustles with people as Nana seems to wave to someone off in the distance; the back endpapers show a happier bunch of neighbors, with all of Oscar’s greenery decorating homes and the building’s roof, which appears to have added an apiary, too! The artwork is gentle, soft, loving.
As a mom of a certain age, I was relieved to see Nana looking so young! But don’t relegate yourself to the woman being Nana. There’s nowhere in the book that says so, and to be honest, until I read other reviews and the blurb text online, I thought the other woman was Mom’s partner. Flap copy says, “When someone Oscar loves has to go away on a trip, he tries to find ways to stay busy. With some grown-up help, a red wagon, and his favorite toy, Oscar plants all kinds of flowers and waits for them to grow”. You want Oscar to have two mommies? Oscar can have two mommies. The heart of the story is Oscar’s kind heart and his joy in cultivating plants to share. Keep a copy of this in your daycare/after school collections for littles who miss their parents when they go to work.
Oscar’s Tower of Flowers has a starred review from Kirkus. Visit Lauren Tobia’s website to see more of her work on Oscar’s Tower of Flowers and her work on one of my favorite chapter book series, Anna Hibiscus.
My Red Hat, by Rachel Stubbs, (Feb. 2021, Candlewick Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9781536212716
A grandparent passes on their red hat to their grandchild. More than a hat, it’s a connection between the two: a hat to keep the child warm or cool, to let them stand out… or not, to capture dreams and hide from fears. The two imagine all the places the hat will take them together, creating an enduring bond between them. This child will have a keepsake from their grandparent forever; the grandparent has given a piece of themselves. This story of love, memory, and generations is Rachel Stubbs’ debut, and it’s a quiet, lovely meditation. Spare text amid the blue and red-colored ink and graphite artwork gives depth and poetry to the story, and the artwork is dreamlike, evoking memory. A beautiful story.
My Red Hat has a starred review from Kirkus.
Nana Says I Will Be Famous One Day, by Ann Stot/Illustrated by Andrew Joyner, (Aug. 2020, Candlewick Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9780763695606
Who’s got a bigger fan than Nana? Not this little pup, whose Nana cheers him on at all his games, schedules her hair appointments around his swim meets, and buys up all his art at school auctions. Nana’s there to argue with the referees and dance in the aisles at recitals, but when she takes a spill and hurts her foot, Nana needs a fan to cheer her on, too: it’s not easy for someone to sit still when they’re used to being in constant motion! A cute little story about a grandmother who may be a little over-enthusiastic, judging by the expressions on folks when she’s pushing her way onto the swimming pool bench to nudge her grandson to the front of the line, or arguing a bad call with a referee during a softball game, Nana is relatable to a lot of us (some of my own loving, but not finest moments come to mind). What turns this around from being another “unconditional love from grandparent” story is how Nana is derailed by her injury – she’s super-competitive and an athlete, herself – and how her grandson has to use the motivation she always has ready for him to convince her that she can take it easy and take care of herself, with his help, just for a little while. Tender and funny, this is a good grandparent story for littles and the caregivers who love them.