The King of Kindergarten by Derrick Barnes; illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-NewtonWhat it is: a buoyant slice-of-life story in which a kindergartner’s first day of school gets the royal treatment.
What happens: Kids can follow one confident boy as he wakes up, the sun behind his head “like a crown,” and rides “a big yellow carriage” to the “grand fortress” of his school, where he learns about shapes, letters, numbers, and making new friends.
Who it’s for: anxious almost-kindergartners in need of encouragement.
Bear Came Along by Richard T. Morris; illustrated by LeUyen PhamWhat it’s about: Bear’s impromptu log ride down a winding river turns into a group expedition as he’s joined by several other animals, each one bringing an enlightening new perspective to share.
Art alert: Perspective is also key to the retro illustrations, which show the animals’ journey from varying points of view, heightening both the goofy sight gags and the drama of an unexpected waterfall.
Puppy Truck by Brian PinkneyWhat it’s about: When Carter is given a toy truck instead of the puppy he wanted, he literally takes it in stride, leashing up the truck (which comes to life with a “vroom beep bark!”) and heading off for a walk in the park.
Why kids might like it: Swirling, swooping lines and a bright, bold color palette add irresistible verve to this tale of a boy and his unusual pet.
Kids might also like: Chris Raschka’s A Ball for Daisy.
Bilal Cooks Daal by Aisha Saeed; illustrated by Anoosha Syed What’s cooking? Lentils, cumin, turmeric, chili...Bilal and his dad are making chana daal, with help from Bilal’s friends Elias and Morgan.
Is it ready yet? Making daal takes patience, and though Bilal worries that his friends might not like it, he’s reassured by their enthusiastic slurping when mealtime finally rolls around.
For your next course: try F. Zia’s Hot, Hot Roti for Dada-ji, another upbeat picture book about preparing and sharing delicious South Asian food.
A Normal Pig by K-Fai SteeleStarring: Pip, “a normal pig who did normal stuff.”
What happens: Pip might be the only spotted pig among her all-pink classmates, but she’s never been afraid to be herself...at least, not until a new student points out all of Pip’s differences. Can a timely trip with her mom help this frustrated little pig redefine her idea of “normal”?
Reviewers say: “any child who feels they stand out in any way will identify and feel empowered” (Kirkus Reviews).
A Fire Truck Named Red by Randall De Sève; illustrated by Bob StaakeWhat it’s about: At first, birthday boy Rowan is disappointed to be gifted Red, his grandfather's rickety old toy fire truck. But then Papa begins fixing up the rusty relic while regaling Rowan with tales of Red's derring-do, leaving the boy excited to embark on some adventures of his own with the now-refurbished vehicle.
Who it’s for: Similar to Mike Austin's Fire Engine No. 9, this lively intergenerational picture book is sure to satisfy young truck aficionados.
It's an Orange Aardvark! by Michael HallStarring: Five hard hat-wearing carpenter ants, all wondering what’s causing the noise outside their tree stump home. Could it be a sneaky gray aardvark? Each time they peek outside, a different color is revealed, provoking increasingly outlandish guesses from the most anxious ant.
Art alert: Die-cut holes and vivid colors are used to clever, comical effect, amping up the playful suspense.
For fans of: the colorful cut-paper art of Lois Ehlert and Eric Carle.
Yellow Time by Lauren StringerWhat it is: a lyrical, read-aloud ready celebration of autumn’s brightest color.
Why kids might like it: readers and listeners alike will be drawn in by Yellow Time’s simple, expressive language and glowing, windswept illustrations.
Want a taste? “Black crows fill bare branches and raise their voices in praise of yellow time...They fill still-leafy trees with their voices, announcing its coming to everyone.”
They Say Blue by Jillian TamakiWhat it’s about: One young girl tries to understand the colors of her world, both seen and unseen.
Why kids might like it: Imaginative, whimsical illustrations accompany the girl’s observations about natural colors such as the hidden orange of egg yolks inside their shells, the surprising purple of a spring crocus, and the reflected blue of water.
Who it’s for: thoughtful kids who wonder about the world around them.
Green is a Chile Pepper: A Book of Colors by Roseanne Thong; illustrated by John ParraWhat it is: a color concept book that explores Mexican American culture. As well as the titular green chiles, children will find a whole spectrum, including red skirts for baile folklórico and orange marigolds for Día de los Muertos.
Read it for: inviting rhymes, vibrant folk-art illustrations, and Spanish labels to bolster language learners.
Try this next: Round is a Tortilla and One is a Piñata, also by author Roseanne Greenfield Thong and illustrator John Parra.
Contact your librarian for more great books for ages 0-8!
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