By Hayley Barrett
Illustrated by Juana Martinez-Neal
Candlewick, 2019, $16.99
A couple cozy up with their newborn in this rhyming picture book. The illustrations – all soothing curves and soft colors – depict the family delighting in the gentle rhythms that help infants adjust to the big, bright world they have just entered. The hushed house, dim lights and frequent naps all speak to the threesome’s experience of their shared “babymoon” period of adjustment. My favorite spread reveals the puzzled parents trying to figure out why baby is wailing, as the text describes: “Here together. So much to learn. We muddle through each new concern.” This book encapsulates the joy of welcoming a new life.
ages 3 – 8
By Catherine Bailey
Illustrated by Ellen Shi
Disney Hyperion, 2019, $16.99
Rhyming verse chronicles an adventurous day on “rolling seas,” with child and father seeing ocean liner and cargo ships, helping a drifting dinghy and braving a sudden storm. The port they steer to, at the end of the day, is awash in the brilliant colors of sunset. The two cover their tugboat, bid goodnight to gulls and head for home in this jaunty paean to boats and the ocean.
Magnolia’s Magnificent Map
By Lauren Bradshaw
Illustrated by Wednesday Kirwan
Cameron Kids, 2019, $16.95
Magnolia, a rabbit, is gathering with her woodland friends to share their recent projects, from tea cakes to new inventions. The problem: Magnolia has been working on a map and it isn’t yet finished. With the help of several animal buddies, she figures out how to climb a steep, unexplored hill – and to map the “glorious waterfall” she finds at the top. Readers will cheer Magnolia, who decides to name the mountain after her enterprising self.
What Does It Mean to Be an American?
By Rana DiOrio and Elad Yoran
Illustrated by Nina Mata
Little Pickle Press, 2019, $17.99
In this thought-provoking read for the Fourth of July, a curious biracial child travels the United States with her parents, exploring the question in the title. Being American has nothing to do with “liking apple pie and fireworks,” but instead calls for “believing all people are equal,” “cherishing our abundant natural resources” and “having the right to become your best self, and the obligation to help others do so too.” The cheery, child-centered artwork renders these rather abstract ideas concrete and accessible. Back matter activities encourage continued learning about the points raised.
The Moon’s First Friend
By Susanna Leonard Hill
Illustrated by Elisa Paganelli
Sourcebooks/Jabberwocky, 2019, $17.99
This playful book helps youngsters connect with the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 launch this month. In the tale, the anthropomorphized moon watches humans from afar and eagerly notes as they invent the first airplane, build rockets and prepare to take the first tentative steps on her surface. Through text and informative back matter, young readers learn fascinating facts about the moon, astronauts and the space program.
Operation Rescue Dog
By Maria Gianferrari
Illustrated by Luisa Uribe
Little Bee, 2018, $17.99
In this lyrical dual narrative, acclaimed local author Maria Gianferrari explores the perspectives of a lonely girl named Alma and a stray dog, Lulu. Point of view alternates with each page turn, with the reader learning that Alma misses her military mother, far away in Iraq, and that Lulu, dumped near a highway, is eating acorns to survive. Both Alma and Lulu journey long distances to connect, Alma with Abuela by car, and Lulu with other crated pooches in the Operation Rescue Dog truck. When the two finally meet, “Alma smells like … home. So does Lulu.” Luisa Uribe’s expressive art perfectly complements this tender story, and youngsters will love searching out all the different dogs and their new human friends in the illustrations and end pages. An author’s note describes the important, humane work of rescue operations.
Truth or Lie: Sharks!
By Erica Perl
Illustrated by Michael Slack
Random House, 2019, $4.99
In a new nonfiction series, award-winning Washington author Erica Perl introduces intriguing facts in a lively style. And in this first book on sharks, she hooks early elementary readers by asking them to determine which information is accurate. The early-reader format helps hone reading skills even as kids learn much about the size, skin and swimming behaviors of these amazing animals. Michael Slack’s colorful cartoons ramp up the fun.
ages 9 – 12
Super Jake & the King of Chaos
By Naomi Milliner
Running Press Kids, 2019, $16.99
Ethan loves doing magic, but he knows that the needs of his baby brother Jake, who was born with a neurological disorder, must take precedence over his performance schedule. Readers see Ethan’s love for Jake in how he talks to and plays gently with him, even though Jake can’t play in the interactive way of Ethan’s other brother Freddy. But when he has the chance to meet Magnus the Magician, Ethan must make a tough choice between acting on his dream or connecting with his family and community on a special day for Jake. In her debut novel, Maryland author Naomi Milliner shows how a good-hearted boy and his kind family deal with uncertainty and change and emerge with renewed strength.