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On a Magical Do-Nothing Day by Beatrice AlemagnaA rainy day is the perfect time to lie on the couch playing video games, right? Nope! Not according to the mom in this picture book, who sends her orange-jacketed kid outside to play in the drippy woods. Lonely and bored, the kid is more inclined to sulk than to explore. Except...are those snails over there? And look at those red mushrooms! There's also mud for digging, branches for swinging, and puddles for jumping. By the time the child returns home for some hot cocoa, readers will be so enchanted by this dramatic, stylized depiction of outdoor play that they'll be looking forward to the next rainy day.
I Love You Like a Pig by Mac Barnett; illustrated by Greg PizzoliWhat does it mean to love someone like a pig? That's up to the readers of this silly salute to similes. Beginning with "I'm happy like a monster" and continuing with further head-scratchers such as "funny like a fossil" and "lucky like a window," this unusual picture book encourages kids to think (and laugh) about figurative speech. Cheery pastel illustrations of kids and animals offer visual suggestions for what each expression might mean, while leaving plenty of gaps for young imaginations to fill. And on the off chance that these purposefully puzzling similes don't inspire any new interpretations, the chorus filled with "oinks" is sure to provoke audience participation.
Why Am I Me? by Paige Britt; illustrated by Selina Alko and Sean QuallsThe boundless curiosity of childhood is embraced in this philosophical picture book, and it all begins with a chance encounter on a train. Spotting each other across the platform, a boy carrying a skateboard and a girl toting a guitar share the same unspoken question: "Why am I me, and not you?" Underscored by colorful layers of mixed-media collage, the childrens' thought-bubble musings continue, covering the breadth of human diversity (represented by the people they see) and expanding outward to a cosmic yet open-ended conclusion. This "mindful, captivating ode to wonder" (Kirkus Reviews) will resonate with readers who relish life's big questions.
The Littlest Train by Chris GallAfter a tiny toy train tumbles off of his tabletop home, he travels to a strange new world. There are lots of trains there too, but they're all so BIG! As he tries to find his way home, the little train hops on board a steam locomotive, a freighter, a rotary snowplow, a bullet train, and many others -- each rendered in satisfyingly detailed digital illustrations -- making friends with each as he goes. Fans of Thomas the Tank Engine will flock to these winsome anthropomorphic machines; those looking to learn more about real-life trains may enjoy Elisha Cooper's Train.
The Antlered Ship by Dashka Slater; illustrated by the Fan BrothersHow deep does the sun go when it sinks into the sea? Red fox Marco longs to know the answer to that question and many others. When Sylvia, the deer captain of a majestic antlered ship, arrives in search of a crew, Marco signs right up. Joining the deer and a flock of pigeons (led by peg-legged, bandanna-wearing pigeon Victor), Marco braves storms, pirates, and rocky waters on his quest for answers. Whether they share Marco's thirst for knowledge or they're drawn to the meticulous yet whimsical illustrations, young dreamers won't be able to resist The Antlered Ship.
Tap Tap Boom Boom by Elizabeth Bluemle; illustrated by G. Brian KarasIt's a busy afternoon in the city when the first "tap tap" of raindrops signals a coming downpour. Soon the rain begins to pelt, and the resounding "boom crackle-BOOM" of thunder sends everyone scurrying into the subway for shelter, where soggy strangers become friends, sharing music, pizza, and umbrellas as they wait out the storm. Snappy verse and lively mixed-media illustrations add read-aloud appeal to this upbeat tale of urban community. Kids who appreciate the photographic backgrounds and cartoony characters in Mo Willems' Knuffle Bunny books will love the look of this feel-good read.
Quit Calling Me a Monster! by Jory John; illustrated by Bob SheaThe snaggle-toothed, spindly limbed, and purple-furred protagonist of this picture book is fed up with your judgment, okay? Name-calling isn't nice, especially when the name is "monster." So what if he lurks in dark closets and howls at the moon? That doesn't give you the right to call him anything other than his real name (which is Floyd Peterson, thank you very much)! After all, he could just as well call you a "little meat snack," but Floyd has manners. Bob Shea's energetic, scribbly artwork will appeal to Willems fans, as will the offbeat tone of this rib-tickling read-aloud about the challenges of politeness.
Can I Tell You a Secret? by Anna Kang; illustrated by Christopher Weyant"Psssst!" That's Monty the frog trying to get your attention. He's got a secret, and he can only tell it to YOU: he's afraid of water! So far, he's managed to avoid getting wet (even if it did involve using an umbrella), but someday he'll have to swim. It's a tough secret for a little frog. Should he tell his parents? If he does, you'll need to give him LOTS of encouragement. Cartoony and interactive, Can I Tell You a Secret? offers "chuckles, charm, and a handy-dandy life lesson" (Booklist). Similar to the eponymous stars of the Elephant and Piggie series, Monty addresses readers directly about his relatable anxiety.
Up! Tall! and High! by Ethan LongThrough "captivating" (Kirkus Reviews) illustrations, fold-out panels, and very simple text, the three funny stories in this book demonstrate the concepts of "up," "tall," and "high." Featuring three cartoon birds who outdo and out-boast one another but also help each other out, this is a clever and entertaining book that both toddlers and beginning readers can enjoy (particularly if they like the concept-based humor in Mo Willems' Elephant and Piggie Like Reading! series). For further quirky concept books, check out Leslie Patricelli's Yummy Yucky and Quiet Loud or Saxton Freymann's Food for Thought.
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