Favourite Finds for Everyone


It was hard to narrow the list down to ten books; I was fortunate to read so many stellar picture books this past month. I decided to highlight non-Canadian books in this post and will do another post highlighting Canadian authors and illustrators later. So here they are in alphabetical order.

The Boy and the Gorilla

Author: Jackie Azúa Kramer

Illustrations: Cindy Derby

Publisher: Candlewick Press

Release Date: Oct. 13/20

It’s such a difficult topic to deal with, but Jackie Azúa Kramer has given us a gift that will help our readers dealing with death and grief. On the day of his mother’s funeral, a gorilla comes to ease the boy’s pain and answer the questions he has, unable to talk with his father. The gorilla patiently answers the boy in a straight forward compassionate manner and stays at his side until he can speak to his father. Once the boy and the father share their grief and memories, the gorilla no longer needed, quietly slips away. The language of the answers is soft-spoken and sensitive- “Where did mom go? No one knows for sure.” I am becoming a big fan of Cindy Derby’s talents as I discover more and more of her work (Outside In and Too Many Birds), and this book is no exception. The muted tones and the use of watercolours create the grief-stricken and then hopeful mood. 

Dinosaur Lady: The Daring Discoveries of Mary Anning, the First Palaeontologist

Author & Illustrator: Linda Skeers & Marta Álvarez Miguéns 

Publisher: First Second

Release Date: July 7/20

Readers will learn a great deal about Mary Anning, who was fascinated by fossils and bones and made several contributions to the science now known as Palaeontology. I love a biography that shares how women overcame being in a male dominated science and becomes recognized and appreciated for her knowledge, dedication and discoveries. Back matter includes Bone Bits and Fossil Facts, a timeline of her life and an author’s note.

Donut Feed the Squirrels

Author: Mika Song

Publisher: Random House Graphics

Release Date: Sept. 29/20

Early graphic novel series are hard to come by but, this series will be an excellent addition and fit alongside Elephant and Piggie, Jan Thomas’s Giggle Gang, and Mo Willems Elephant and Piggie Like Reading companion books. I laughed out loud reading this new graphic novel and know other young will enjoy it over and over again. Nora and Belly, two squirrel friends, have to make alternate plans when their breakfast pancakes get burnt. When they figure out the delicious smell is donuts from the donut truck, they know what they want for breakfast. However, when they go to order, instead of receiving a donut, they get sprayed with water. Now the game is on, and these two will stop at nothing to get their breakfast. With great supporting characters and easy to follow graphic panels and a sense of fun and humour, I look forward to reading the next book Apple of My Pie.

Evelyn del Rey is Moving Away

Author Meg Medina

Illustrator: Sonia Sanchez 

Publisher: Candlewick

Release Date: Sept. 8/20

Moving is hard, and Meg Medina beautifully captures a friendship that is going to change. What I appreciated about this story is the reality of the move right there – boxes, moving trucks, parents loading things up in the car. It’s right there in our faces, and yet we know these two girls will stand the test of time because of the things they did together. Ms. Medina shares with readers the memories between these two friends with her words. “…Evelyn’s mirror, with the stickers around the edge, her easel for painting on rainy days and the sofa that we bounce on to get to the moon.” The move is taking place in the fall, associated with death, yet the vibrant colour palette depicted is full of light, energy and optimism. We all should be so lucky to have a friendship like Evelyn del Rey and Daniela.

Frankenstein Doesn’t Wear Earmuffs

Author John Loren

Publisher: Harper Collins

Release Date: July 21/20

Ever had to don on a parka and winter boots for Halloween? If so, you are going to love this story and sadly relate to this a little too much. A little boy is getting ready for Halloween and dressing up as Frankenstein. However, his parents are concerned that the weather is not going to cooperate, and so every time he is ready to leave, they add something else to wear to keep him warm. Bundled up so much that no one can tell what his awesome costume is, he shouts the book’s namesake, shedding the extra layers and leaves. Once out and about, he realizes that perhaps it is a bit chilly and slushy wishing perhaps, he had some of the items his parents wanted to give him. When he meets up with his friends, he sees that they all have warm clothes and gear his parents initially wanted him to wear. Right on cue, the boy’s parents show up with all the gear, and everyone has a wonderful Halloween. Told in rhyme, this will be a cold-weather favourite, and I could relate to both perspectives.

The Invisible Alphabet

Author: Joshua David Stein

Illustrator: Ron Barrett

Publisher:  Rise X Penguin Workshop

Release Date: Sept. 22/20

A twist on the alphabet book, this book will provide loads of discussion and is worth adding to your collections. This version uses letters of the alphabet, creating words to talk about all the things we do not see, just missed or waiting to see. Examples include; L is for Lost, with a missing sock, and W is for Whiteout looking out into a blizzard. I love this new twist and perspective to look at the alphabet. Illustrations leave a lot of white space to emphasize the empty or invisible space.

Love is Powerful

Author: Heather Dean Brewer

Illustrator: LeUyen Pham

Publisher: Candlewick Press

Release Date: Sept. 8/20

Based on the real-life experience of 6-year-old Mari, this is the story of a young girl who makes signs and participates in the 2017 Women’s March with her mom. Once there amongst thousands of people, she begins to chant what she has written on her sign Love is Powerful. To her amazement, others join in until the crowd is chanting, “Love is Powerful!” What a positive message for young readers to find about the influence they can have on adults. Vibrant illustrations depict the upbeat mood and the diversity of the crowd, ensuring that all readers will be able to see themselves in the book.

Me and Mama

Author: Cozbi A. Cabrera

Publisher:  Denene Millner Books/Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers

Release Date: Aug. 26/20

The illustrations alone by Ms. Cabrera make this book worth having on display – and yes, it needs to be front and center so readers can take in the two-page spreads of a little girl and her mama spending a rainy day together. Told from the little girl’s perspective, readers spend the day with them as the rest of her family sleep. The two of them will take Max the dog out for a walk in the rain, but before they can do this, they need to get ready. Here is where we see the little girl share the similarities and differences between herself and her mama. Right from the endpapers depicting big and little objects, you get the sense that there is a special bond behind the pairing, and the story is about to unfold. A beautiful celebration of mothers and daughters expressing the love between them during an ordinary rainy day reminding us, any day can create memories that will last a lifetime.

A Polar Bear in the Snow

Author: Mac Barnett

Art by: Shawn Harris

Publisher: Candlewick

Release Date: Oct. 13/20

With a sparse number of words and incredible art, this is going to be a popular book released just in time for the winter snuggly reads. True to Mr. Barrett’s writing style, there is a surprise or two for the reader to appreciate. The art in this book is a star as well; using cut paper and ink is stunning. The opening page is textured white paper -no sign of a polar bear until the following pages where the nose and then the eyes appear. The author invites the reader to speculate where the polar bear is going and then proceeds to take us where he goes with an ending that promotes discussion and my favourite cut paper page leaving us almost as we started the book.

You are a Beautiful Beginning

Author: Nina Laden

Illustrator: Kelsey Garrity-Riley

Publisher: Roaring Brook

Release Date: Aug. 25/20

A simple but powerful poem reminds readers of the simple ways of leading a beautiful life. Three friends spend the day together, being present with one another and working together to build a community around them. A reaffirming message to love yourself while serving the community, real or imaginary. Warm illustrations that are playful and whimsical, there are lots of layers to this book and wondrous things to find on closer inspection.

There you have it – a variety of picture books from my month of reading. In the future, I am hoping to shift gears a bit and have a theme around the picture books read. Are there any themes you would suggest?

Favourite Finds for Everyone!

I am hoping that along with a regular Noteworthy and Nourishing post that I began last week that I can do the same for the stacks of picture books that I read. Some will be new releases, some upcoming releases and others will be older books that I have recently discovered, listed in alphabetical order.

Author: Antoinette Portis

Publisher: Neal Porter Books

Release Date:

April 14/20

Riddles with rich vocabulary all revolving about nature, one page provides the poetic riddle, with the following page providing the answer. I love the way Antoinette Portis reveals a new way to look at things with her words and the illustrations. Many may think that this book is one for younger readers, but I know the #classroombookaday teachers will look at the author’s craft of the language used to evoke beauty and a new perspective.

Author: Fan Brothers

Publisher: Tundra

Release Date: Sept. 1 -20

Waaaay beneath the surface of the Perfect Pets store where children can buy genetically engineered pets lives Barnabus, a Failed Project. Half mouse and half elephant, Barnabus dreams of the world above that his friend Pip the cockroach has shared with Before they are recycled by the people in green suits, the other Failed Projects band together to escape.

As with all other Fan Brother books, the illustrations alone are worth the purchase. This one packs an extra punch with its message of following your dreams and staying true to yourself. A definite book to add to your classroom and libraries.

Author: Jonathan D. Voss

Publisher:Henry Holt and Co.

Released: 2018

A delightful story about friendship, where Olive likes her adventures in books and Hoot the stuffed Owl prefers to experience his outside. Stunning illustrations, with some memorable lines such as, “As long I’m here and you’re there, and here and there aren’t very far apart, we can never be lost.” make this book the perfect older published find.

Author & Illustrator: Nelly Buchet & Andrea Zuill

Publisher: Schwartz & Wade Books

Release Date: April 28/20

Almost wordless, this is the story of two families coming together and figuring things out. Andrea Zuills’s subtle details in the illustrations capture so many emotions – one example is how the woman is standing on her tiptoes to hug the man upon arrival. The captured expressions on the animals are priceless and recognized by dog and cat owners. I loved this unique way to talk about becoming a blended family and will allow readers to share their experiences using an animal character.

Author: Katrina Moore

Illustrations: Xindi Yan 

Publisher: little bee books

Release Date: April 7/20

A story about a granddaughter meeting her grandfather for the first time, I love how BOTH of the characters overcome their language and cultural differences and begin to bond with one another. The expressions on Yeh-Yeh are spot on of what appears to be a cantankerous senior, and yet he is trying to get to know his granddaughter. Lots of ways to unpack this story and appreciate the recipe at the back so readers can experience how Daisy and Yeh-Yeh finally connected.

Author: Charlene Chua

Publisher: Kids Can Press

Release Date: Sept. 1/20

A cat coughs up a hairball and proceeds to say to the girl that he is not feeling well. The girl asks if the cat would like a hug, and he replies, yes. Animal after animal – come asking for a hug until a unicorn comes by and she asks if it too would like a hug and replies, no, I’m good. The little girl continues to be accosted by various animals for a hug until she finally has had enough and yells. A humorous looking at boundaries and personal space, asking for something and being okay to reply No. Lots of variety of animals and expressive illustrations will make this one a fun read-aloud.

Author & Illustrator: Derrick Barnes & Gordon C. James

Publisher: Nancy Paulson Books

Release Date: Sept. 1/20

A beautiful, beautiful book that inspires and provides hope. Our narrator expresses all the good things he is including the times when he has fallen, been there for others who needed a hug and the reality of how others see him and call him names. The illustrations that capture the fun, the sad and the love are breath-taking. It is hard to come up with something new and original about this book as people more eloquent than I have expressed the power of this book. No other way to say it, read this book and then share it.

Author & Illustratoe: A.E. Ali & Rachele Jomepour Bell

Publisher: Salaam Reads / Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers

Release Date: June 30/20

A kindergarten class bonds, by sharing their favourite day over the school year. The choices of the favourite days often reflect different cultures, and there are opportunities lost to provide more information about the individual days and the pronunciations. I was pleased to see days that also included non-cultural days, so it is inclusive. There is a family that celebrates science, and so they talk about March 14 and Pi. This book shows another way to build relationships year-round, not just with the students in the class but to include families as well.

Author: Sarah Kurpiel

Publisher: Grennwillow

Release Date: May 12/20

I found out about this book through my TL friend Megan and who also personally can relate to the story as two of her pack are huskies. Maple is a husky who is often mistaken for a wolf and then begins to question her own identity. Confusion about who you are, how you fit in and trying to be someone you are not are common themes, and everyone will be able to relate to this story. Also important to note is the power wheelchair used in the book is the author representing herself, reaffirming everyone needs to see themselves in books.

Author & Illustrator: Miranda Paul & Ebony Glenn

Publisher: Clarion Books

Release Date: July 7/20

Another excellent way to share the many ways one can speak up. The book told in rhyme shared a variety of situations when you need to find your voice and speak up. I liked that it included mental health, the environment but also not following the pack when you know it is not the right thing and leading others away from a possible choice by offering an alternative. The back matter in this book is helpful by sharing ways for quieter individuals to have a voice without having to be the center of attention along with kids who spoke up to lead change.

So ten of my favourite picture books read this past month. I’d love to hear of your favourite finds this month in the comments.