In Every Life by Marla FrazeeWhat it is: a lyrical, color-suffused album of moments in which we can experience mindfulness and gratitude.
Want a taste? "In every birth, blessed is the wonder. In every smile, blessed is the light. In every hope, blessed is the doing. In every love, blessed are the tears."
Who it's for: While creator Marla Frazee based this book on a Jewish baby-naming blessing, its warmth and sense of promise is accessible to kids and families of all kinds.
Sometimes It's Nice to Be Alone by Amy Hest; illustrated by Philip C. SteadWhat it is: an ode to introversion in which a glasses-wearing child enjoys the simple pleasure of being alone with her own imagination.
How it's told: in vignettes, each one depicting the child's solo activities -- turning somersaults, crunching leaves, eating a snack -- followed by her imagined version, in which her animal toys become life-size and join in.
Who it's for: kids who love imaginative play, and anyone who enjoys whimsical artwork.
Once Upon a Book by Grace Lin and Kate MessnerWhat it's about: Feeling cranky and cooped up due to bad weather, Alice opens a book and is drawn into a wonder-filled journey across the far-flung locations in its pages.
Look for: the pattern on Alice's dress, which constantly changes to suit her environment; and the little rabbit who accompanies her from place to place.
What it's about: Raccoon is bored so decides to bake an apple cake. He has no eggs so visits his friend Fox. She's mending the roof but needs a ladder. Badger will have one! Off they go.
"Perfect!" thinks Raccoon. "A walk with Fox."
A walk with fox leads to a picnic with Badger leads to a climbing expedition with Crow leads to...the best day out. A perfect, wonderful day!
Hey Otter! Hey Beaver! by Brian PinkneyStarring: toothy purple Beaver and brown, whiskery Otter, two friends who try to cooperate, even when they disagree about the best uses for sticks. (Otter thinks sticks are for playing, but Beaver "really really really really needs" them for his dam.)
Read it for: the distinctively fluid and exaggerated art of Brian Pinkney, as well as reiterating text that may prompt repeat read-alouds.
Eyes That Speak to the Stars by Joanna Ho; illustrated by Dung HoWhat it's about: After a friend makes him feel insecure about the shape of his eyes, a Chinese American boy finds comfort in seeing how his eyes can hold not only starshine or sunlight, but also a cherished resemblance to his grandfather, dad, and little brother.
Art alert: Sweeping illustrations of the cosmos are balanced by cozy, down-to-Earth family moments.
Hot Dog by Doug SalatiWhat it's about: When a summer's day in the city gets too hot and claustrophobic, the titular dachshund and his human travel to a breezy, beachy island where "a pup can run."
Why kids might like it: Spare yet vivid text allows the illustrations to shine, and kids will be drawn in by the evocative atmosphere and the winsome dog's expressive body language.
Award buzz: Hot Dog is the winner of the 2023 Caldecott Medal.
Sir Ladybug by Corey R. TaborWhat it's about: Despite his sword, round Sir Ladybug is a gentle soul. When he and his friends Pell (a roly-poly) and Sterling (a snail) set out to save a caterpillar in peril, the knight saves the day not with fighting, but with clever creativity.
Series alert: Sir Ladybug's quests continue in Sir Ladybug and the Queen Bee.
Love in the Library by Maggie Tokuda-Hall; illustrated by Yas ImamuraWhat it's about: The "uncomfortable and unjust" environment of Minidoka, a Japanese American internment camp, is an unorthodox setting for a love story. But that's exactly what unfolds between volunteer librarian Tama and avid book-borrower George.
Read it for: a moving true story (inspired by the author's grandparents) and an age-appropriate example of hope amidst terrible circumstances.
Big Truck Little Island by Chris Van DusenWhat it's about: When a huge tractor trailer gets stuck on a twisting, narrow road across a tiny island, no cars can get past in either direction. While the adults in the cars "stew and steam," the kids come up with an elegant solution.
Read it for: snappy rhymes, cool vehicles, arresting illustrations of the idyllic island, and a sweet tale of cooperation.
Did you know? This book is based on a true story.
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