- Hat TricksBy Satoshi KitamuraPeachtree, 2020, $16.99In this playful interactive picture book, a rabbit named Hattie pops out of a top hat – and invites readers to her magic show. Every double-page spread gives little ones a chance to chime in with the magic words and put together visual clues to determine which creature next emerges from Hattie’s chapeau. A squirrel, a moose, an elephant – and then the finale literally doubles that fun. Babies will enjoy the energetic language while tots will immediately gravitate to the sleuthing and giggle at the silliness.
ages 3 – 6
- In a JarBy Deborah MarceroG.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2020, $17.99An introspective bunny likes to collect things in jars – “small, ordinary things, like buttercups, feathers and heart-shaped stones” — that help him remember certain times and friends. When a best pal moves away, the bunny’s hobby helps them to maintain their friendship. He puts bits and pieces from new experiences into small jars and mails them to her. Whether interpreted as literal or metaphorical, the bunny’s process might model and be a means to comfort and connect children far from beloved people or places. This gentle picture book honors a child’s deep, vulnerable feelings.
- What’s This Tail Saying?By Carolyn CombsIllustrated by Cathy MorrisonDawn/Sourcebooks, 2020, $16.99
Animals communicate in many ways, and this lively nonfiction picture book acquaints youngsters with an especially important, informative body part: the tail. Kids will love repeating the rhyming and onomatopoeic words and solving the mystery, with clues in text and illustration, of the meaning of different gestures. For example, the rattlesnake’s shaking, rattling tail and the skunk’s lifted one both serve as warnings, the peacock’s feathered display attracts a mate and the dolphin’s water slapping alerts fellow dolphins to nearby, tasty fish. Cathy Morrison’s detailed illustrations acquaint readers with each creature’s ecosystem.
- A Ride to RememberBy Sharon Langley and Amy NathanIllustrated by Floyd CooperAbrams, 2020, $18.99
Sharon Langley describes the planning and protests that led to a landmark moment for civil rights. While grownups in Southern states were fighting for the equal treatment of black people on buses and in the voting booth, families were working to integrate play spaces. In Baltimore, little Sharon was the first African-American child to ride the carousel in Gwynn Oak Amusement Park, which had finally opened to people of all races in 1963. The book’s final pages mention the current location of this historic carousel – still in operation on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.
- The Memory Book: A Grief Journal for Children and FamiliesBy Joanna RowlandIllustrated by Thea BakerBeaming Books, 2020, $17.99
This beautiful keepsake album can foster healing and hope. It helps youngsters to explore losses and voice sorrow in whatever way feels most comforting to them. There are questions and suggested activities throughout, but the approach is open-ended. There’s no need to move through this journal in a linear fashion or by a prescribed deadline. A child might wish to do this privately – or a family might remember, talk and write together.
ages 7 – 12
- A Piglet Called TruffleBy Helen PetersIllustrated by Ellie SnowdonWalker Books, 2020, $14.99
Happily, for young animal lovers, a popular English chapter book series – “Jasmine Green Rescues” – has crossed the pond for an American audience. Jasmine lives on a family farm with her dad and veterinarian mom. She’s surrounded by critters at home and in her community – and some need her help. In the first book, a runt proves to be a porcine hero in the search for two lost guinea pigs. Be on the look-out for other charming titles, including “A Duckling Called Button,” “A Collie Called Sky” and “A Kitten Called Holly.”
- Don’t Check Out This Book!By Kate KliseIllustrated by M. Sarah KliseAlgonquin, 2020, $16.95
The creative Klise sisters are such an ingenious team! Their latest novel tells of elementary school skullduggery through memos, letters, emails and newspaper articles originating in the fictitious town of Appleton, Illinois. There’s a nefarious school board president and a beleaguered librarian, not to mention pickled cucumbers and delicious apples from a friend at a local orchard. Thankfully, a group of savvy fifth graders solves the case and brings the shenanigans to a surprising and very satisfying close.