Spring 2019’s Best Children’s and Middle Grade Books

Spring 2019’s Best Children’s and Middle Grade Books

must-read children’s books

Raise your hand if you’re ready to shake off the chill of winter and dive into this batch of spring books! This season brings with it some incredible new releases. To make your lives easier, we’ve rounded up twelve of this spring’s must-read children’s books. Picture book readers will find themselves enchanted by a tale of a black cat from another dimension and a squirrel who becomes a reluctant mother. Middle grade readers can join in the adventures of a universe-destroying duo or enter a reality TV-style search for a prankster. Parents, prepare a picnic basket and get ready for long afternoons of reading at the park this spring.

Picture Books

Another by Christian Robinson

This wordless picture book follows a young girl and her cat through a mysterious portal. The girl awakens in the middle of the night to see a black cat that looks just like hers sneaking into her bedroom to steal her cat’s toy mouse before disappearing through a glowing circle on the wall. The girl and her cat follow, traveling through portal after portal to new exciting places. They find a giant ball pit, other children playing, and they discover that, like her cat, the girl also has a twin in this dimension. Young readers’ imaginations will go wild as they wonder what it would be like to meet their own double.

On shelves: March 5

Otto and Pio by Marianne Dubuc

A solitary squirrel learns to open his home and his heart in this charming tale. Otto lives alone in a small home in a large tree, until one day he discovers a newly hatched furry creature on his doorstep who, upon seeing the squirrel, believes that Otto is his mother. Otto, unable to find the animal’s real mother, takes him in for the night and eventually names him Pio. As Pio grows and grows, Otto becomes frustrated with his houseguest and tries to find Pio’s mom. But when Otto is in need, it’s Pio who comes to his rescue. This book is a lovely reminder that you don’t need to be related to be family.

On shelves: March 19

The Undefeated by Kwame Alexander, illustrated by Kadir Nelson

This picture book pairs Kadir Nelson’s illustrations with Kwame Alexander’s poem “This One Is for Us,” originally performed for ESPN’s The Undefeated. Beginning with the words “This is for the unforgettable,” the poem is dedicated to black Americans from the past and present. Readers will spot references to figures like Gwendolyn Brooks and Martin Luther King Jr., as well as memorials for victims of police brutality such as Sandra Bland and Michael Brown. Alexander also acknowledges “the ones who survived… [and] the ones who didn’t,” the nameless men, women, and children who shaped our world and deserve to be remembered. With powerful text and stunning realistic imagery, this is a book to treasure.

On shelves: April 2

Grandpa’s Stories by Joseph Coelho, illustrated by Allison Colpoys

A girl and her grandpa share in different adventures each season, making memories she’ll hold onto after he’s gone. The book opens with a young girl describing the activities she enjoys with her grandpa each season. In the spring they hold hands and take nature walks, and in the fall they draw the changing leaves. But the day comes when her grandpa passes, and the girl isn’t sure what to do. She turns to the notebook he made for her and decides to use it to capture all of her memories of him. It’s a touching story about cherishing memories and keeping loved ones in our hearts.

On shelves: April 2

The Important Thing About Margaret Wise Brown by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Sarah Jacoby

This delightful picture book introduces readers to Margaret Wise Brown, who wrote over 100 books including the classics Goodnight Moon and The Runaway Bunny. The story alternates between scenes of a rabbit librarian reading one of Brown’s books to a room full of young bunnies and episodes from Brown’s life, ranging from her childhood to her life as an author. Mac Barnett’s writing is an ode to Brown’s, often asking the reader questions as she did in her books, and similarly, Sarah Jacoby’s illustrations take cues from the art of Brown’s books while still being unique. It’s a story both children and parents will adore.

On shelves: May 21

The Last Peach by Gus Gordon

You’ve met James and his giant peach; now get ready for the last peach of summer. When two insects stumble upon this fruit, they agree at once it’s the most beautiful one they’ve seen all season and decide to eat it. Before they have a chance to dive in, they’re visited by other insects who each offer reasons why they shouldn’t eat the peach. What’s a bug to do? Our insect heroes agree on almost everything and often repeat each other’s lines when concurring, which is sure to earn a wry smile from parents of siblings who recognize the behavior in their own children. Adult readers, prepare your silliest voices. You’ll need them when reading this gem.

On shelves: May 21

Middle Grade

Sal and Gabi Break the Universe by Carlos Hernandez

Thirteen-year-old Sal Vidón is in trouble. On his third day at his new school, he’s been sent to the principal’s office. It seems that someone put a raw chicken in a bully’s locker. Sal claims to be innocent, but his classmate Gabi Reál sees through his ruse. Once he realizes he can trust her, Sal reveals his gift: He can open holes into alternate universes. But it isn’t all pranks and silliness. Sal is still learning to control his power, and sometimes he draws his late mother, who is still alive in other timelines, into his world. When Gabi’s baby brother is in trouble, Sal believes he can help. Readers looking for a rolicking adventure with humor and heart will love this dynamic duo.

On shelves: March 5

A Good Kind of Trouble by Lisa Moore Ramée

Junior high changes everything. At least that’s how 12-year-old Shay feels. It all started when her best friends began to drift apart, or maybe it was when her sister accused her of not having any black friends, or perhaps it was when she attended a Black Lives Matter protest with her family. All Shay knows is that she started the year with three best friends and a dedication to sticking to the rules, and suddenly she’s standing up for herself after getting into trouble for breaking her school’s dress code by wearing a Black Lives Matter armband. Readers will find a lot to love in this debut about navigating junior high, changing friendships, and the things it’s worth causing trouble over.

On shelves: March 12

Beast Rider by Tony Johnston and María Elena Fontanot de Rhoads

Manuel is determined to travel to Los Angeles to reunite with his brother Toño, but to do so he’ll have to leave his home in Oaxaca, Mexico by way of a dangerous train dubbed the Beast. Manuel’s first attempt to jump on the train ends in a beating from the Mexican police who find him, and on his second try he’s attacked by a gang. Despite the danger, Manuel tries for a third time, and with the help of kind strangers he meets along the way he may just succeed. Manuel’s story is harrowing and reflects the reality migrants experience on their journeys. Readers will be hooked as they follow his trials and the lingering impact his experiences on the Beast have on him.

On shelves: March 19

Caterpillar Summer by Gillian McDunn

Eleven-year-old Cat feels the weight of the world on her shoulders. After her father passed away, her mother began putting in more hours at work and Cat stepped up to take care of her younger brother Chicken, who has special needs. But things begin to change when Cat and Chicken are sent to stay with grandparents they’ve never met in North Carolina. Chicken quickly bonds with their grandmother, and with two reliable adults around Cat suddenly finds herself in a position where she’s can be a child again. Inspired by her own relationship with her brother, Gillian McDunn’s debut is a thoughtful exploration of sibling dynamics, family bonds, and coming of age.

On shelves: April 2

The Next Great Paulie Fink by Ali Benjamin

The seventh graders at Mitchell School are shocked when beloved prankster Paulie Fink doesn’t return to school at the start of the year. Students regale each other with tales of Paulie’s legendary antics and along the way decide to hold a reality TV-inspired contest to find the next Paulie Fink. They also decide that the only fair judge is Caitlyn Breen, the new girl who never met Paulie. Before she knows what’s hit her, Caitlyn is organizing the contest and creating challenges. Can Caitlyn make a name for herself at a school obsessed Paulie? Readers will revel in this hilarious tale about friendship, change, and standing out.

On shelves: April 16

Hurricane Season by Nicole Melleby

Sixth grader Fig loves her father dearly, but she doesn’t always understand him. To be fair, he doesn’t seem to understand himself. A former pianist, he now suffers from mood swings that prevent him from composing. When a social worker is sent to their home, Fig realizes she must act quickly if she hopes to stay with her dad. A scientist at heart, Fig decides to take up an art class to better understand her father’s mind, and she begins to research Vincent van Gogh. While at the library learning more about van Gogh, Fig develops a crush on the high school girl who works the circulation counter. Father and daughter find their way back to each other in this moving novel, and readers will root for Fig every step of the way.

On shelves: May 7

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