By David Soman
Little Brown, 2023, $18.99
Perfect for Father’s Day on June 18, this tender story explores a key developmental issue: trust that a beloved caregiver will return and that all will be well in his absence. During a day spent together, a cub shares concerns with Papa bear about the father’s brief impending absence and Aunt Jessie as a fill-in. The hirsute single father responds to every worry with patient reassurance, and the illustrations beautifully convey the cub’s changing expressions and Papa’s openness and kindness. Youngsters are sure to empathize with this small, furry embodiment of their own separation anxieties and find comfort in both the exchange and Papa’s eventual return.
ages 4 – 8
By Ginger Park and Frances Park
Illustrated by Kim Dong Hoon
Albert Whitman, 2023, $17.99
Lily lives in a row house in Washington, D.C., and Grandpa resides in a village in Korea, but these two pen pals write frequently about shared interests. Lily paints him a picture on her computer screen and Grandpa creates a special scroll for her. When Grandpa dies before a much-anticipated visit, Lily travels to Korea with her parents to mourn – and to put the final touch on Grandpa’s unfinished scroll. The soothing colors and delicately rendered scenes of Grandpa’s “quiet countryside” are the perfect complement to a lyrical, emotionally resonant text that honors a child’s grief and her embrace of family and heritage. Father’s Day is a great time to celebrate the grandfather/child bond.
By Lesa Cline-Ransome
Illustrated by Benham-Yazdani
Holiday House, 2022, $18.99
In the 1840s, two men approached Walden Pond in Massachusetts, very differently. Acclaimed nonfiction author Lesa Cline-Ransome limns this historic time in vivid free verse that charts the pond and the evolving lives of this pair across the seasons. The philosopher Henry David Thoreau lived alone for two years in the woods close to Walden Pond, writing and observing Nature. The businessman Frederic Tudor harvested the pond’s ice to ship to India. Cline-Ransome deftly touches on a tension that still informs Americans’ stance toward the environment: Are natural resources to be taken freely by humans, as they wish, or is the natural world to be appreciated and protected, a reminder that we are all part of a larger, living whole?
ages 9 – 12
By Michael Leali
HarperCollins, 2022, $16.99
Winner of this year’s Golden Kite Award and a superb pick for LGBTQ+ Pride Month, this novel explores timely topics through the eyes of an engaging first-person narrator and highlights historic figures frequently ignored in textbooks and mainstream narratives. Amos, who is out and proud as a gay middle schooler, wonders whether people like him and his closeted crush, Ben, were ever part of events showcased at his parents’ historic theme park in Illinois. When he delves deeper into the past, he discovers not just Albert D.J. Cashier, who fought in the Civil War, but other important queer contributors to 19th-century American history. Amos is determined to publicly acknowledge them, though many in his small town strive to keep them hidden.
By Megan Madison and Jessica Ralli
Illustrated by Anne/Andy Passchier
Kids have lots of questions about love. In the book, “TOGETHER: A First Conversation About Love,” authors Madison and Ralli approach everything from explaining what love can and should feel like to defining types of romantic love to discussing different types of family structures. The authors believe “There are many different ways that people love one another, but that’s not always what we see represented in books or media. There are so many kinds of loving relationships we can nurture, and now is the time to start laying the foundation.” Available at penguinrandomhouse.com/books.