Spring 2016’s Best Children’s Books: Persistent Pups, Beauty Queens, and Parkour Street Rats

Spring 2016’s Best Children’s Books: Persistent Pups, Beauty Queens, and Parkour Street Rats

After a long and chilly winter, we’re all ready to embrace a gentle spring breeze and some overdue sunshine. Even authors are ready for a change in the weather, which perhaps is why so many of this season’s titles are about nature. Lane Smith’s latest picture book takes readers on a journey through animal families, while middle grade readers can explore nature through a robot’s eyes in Peter Brown’s novel. But perhaps your little reader would prefer a boy and girl who practice parkour in their ancient city, or a tale of a boy finding his identity after losing his voice. No matter what you and your little reader are looking for, there are a lot of great titles to look forward to this season.

Picture Books

Ideas Are All Around

Let your creativity grow

Earlier this year, J.K. Rowling shared a funny interaction she had with a young boy who claimed he never had story ideas. Perhaps, that boy (and other budding storytellers) should pick up Philip C. Stead’s latest. Stead begins the book by saying he is out of story ideas. So instead of writing, he decides to take his dog Wednesday for a walk. Along the way they encounter a blue paint spill that looks like a horse, a train filled with ducks, and a skunk looking for company. As it turns out, a good imagination can help you find ideas everywhere.

On shelves: March 1


Who’s a good boy?

A charming and rotund little pooch stars in this hilarious tale of a single-minded pursuit. This dog has one thought and one thought only: treat. Using only a single word, this picture book follows our canine friend as he travels from family member to family member in pursuit of something to munch on. But rather than a Scooby snack, he’s presented with a child’s crayon drawing, a pair of dentures, and a stuffed shark. Defeated, he falls into a stressed-out slumber where treats are kept just out of his reach. Will this obsessed pup ever get the one thing he desires? The book practically vibrates with the small dog’s excitement and hunger. His expressive personality leaps off the page. Pet owners will find themselves laughing aloud at the increasingly erratic typography that shows the dog’s increased frustration. This follow-up to Mary Sullivan’s Geisel Honor-winning picture book Ball is perfect for anyone, young or old, who loves dogs.

On shelves: March 1

Little One cover

Little One

Seasons of love

There’s a lot for a little bear to learn about the big world. Thankfully, his mom is there to guide him. In a book that Kirkus calls “quietly stunning,” a mother called Big Bear and her cub Little One emerge from their den to greet the spring. Together, they spend the spring, summer, and fall exploring the wonders of the natural world: catching fish in the rushing forest river, basking in the warm summer sun, and making friends with a kind family of hedgehogs. When a snowstorm sweeps through, they head back to their warm den to rest for the winter. British author and illustrator Jo Weaver crafts a warm tale about growing up, learning to stand on your own feet, and, most importantly, love.

On shelves: March 1

Waiting for High Tide

Worth the wait

Little readers who find the wait for summer days unbearable can learn a thing or two from Nikki McClure’s latest. A young boy impatiently waits for the tide to rise so he can play in the surf. To pass the time, he observes the shoreline’s various creatures: barnacles that make strange noises, a diving kingfisher, and crabs that scurry across the sand. Together with his mother, father, and grandmother, he helps to build a raft that can take them all out to sea. It’s a perfect day by the water, and the boy leaves knowing that some things are worth waiting for.

On shelves: April 5

There Is a Tribe of Kids

I wanna be like you

Children who are eagerly looking forward to the new Jungle Book movie will devour this creative and colorful tale of a lost boy. A Mowgli-esque child journeys across land and sea in search of the place where he truly belongs. Along the way he finds a colony of penguins, a pod of whales, an unkindness of ravens, and a parade of elephants. Try as he might, no group of animals feels quite right until he follows a mysterious trail of seashells and finds exactly what he’s been searching for. Award-winning author and illustrator Lane Smith creates a beautiful story about our desire to belong and the need for a family that will move adults and entertain little readers.

On shelves: May 3

Thunder Boy Jr.

What’s in a name?

A young Native American boy struggles to create his own identity in this energetic and vibrant picture book written by Sherman Alexie and illustrated by Yuyi Morales. The boy’s father is called Big Thunder, a striking and bold name, while the boy is nicknamed Little Thunder, which he thinks sounds like “a fart.” Determined to create a new identity, he comes up with a list of nicknames based on his interests, such as Drums, Drums, and More Drums—inspired by his love of powwow dancing. When Big Thunder learns that Little Thunder is searching for a new name, he helps his son come up with the perfect one.

On shelves: May 10

Middle Grade

The Charmed Children of Rookskill Castle

Something wicked this way comes

Nazi spies, magic, and secret passages—oh my! Readers looking for adventure will find it in Janet Fox’s magical tale set during the Blitz. Kat Bateson and her siblings have been sent to Rooksill Castle, a school meant to keep children safe and educated during the war. But not all is as it seems at the manor. There are rumors that headmistress Lady Eleanor has been alive for centuries. And when students begin to go missing, Kat knows she has to do whatever it takes to find out the truth. Kat will appeal to left-brained readers: She loves numbers, puzzles, and logic. What she finds hiding within the walls of Rookskill Castle challenges everything she believes to be true.

On shelves: March 15

The Wild Robot

Domo arigato

When Roz wakes up alone on a strange island, she doesn’t feel scared or sad. In fact, she feels nothing because Roz is a robot. Washed ashore and activated by a group of curious otters, Roz isn’t sure where she came from or what she is doing on the island. But she does know that she has to learn how to survive. At first, the forest animals are frightened or aggressive towards her, but everything changes when she saves a baby goose and needs to work with the island’s other animals to help the baby survive. Just as Roz is beginning to feel comfortable in her new surroundings, humans enter the forest and threaten the creatures that have become her family. Peter Brown’s middle grade debut explores what it feels like to be an outsider, and is sure to spark many conversations about what it means to belong.

On shelves: April 5

The Nameless City

One jump ahead

The Nameless City has been invaded many times, and the citizens are used to frequent changes in power. The current rulers are the Dao. Native Rat hates the Dao for killing her parents, and she really doesn’t like 13-year-old Kaidu, a Dao boy new to the Nameless City. But when he offers her food in exchange for teaching him how she travels through the city by using the rooftops, they begin to form a tentative friendship. This is a world of assassination attempts, political upheaval, and powerful female warriors—meaning readers who are looking for a wild ride are sure to be entertained. The first in Faith Erin Hicks’ Asian-inspired graphic novel trilogy explores themes of loyalty, identity, and the complex relationship between conquerors and those they overtake.

On shelves: April 5

Raymie Nightingale

Little miss congeniality

Raymie Clarke is a girl with a plan. She’s convinced that if she wins the Little Miss Central Florida Tire 1975 competition and gets her picture in the paper, her father (who ran off with a dental hygienist) will be so proud of her that he’ll come rushing home. For this plan to work, she has to master baton twirling. Raymie enrolls in a class and meets her competition: Beverly Tapinski and Louisiana Elefante. Each girl has her own reason for wanting to win. Beverly is armed with a pocket knife and determined to sabotage the whole contest, while the frequently-fainting Louisiana needs the prize money for her grandmother. While training for the competition, the three girls (who have all been touched by loss and tragedy) find that they have more in common than they originally thought. Kate DiCamillo (Because of Winn-Dixie) delivers another touching middle grade novel about friendship, love, grief, and miracles.

On shelves: April 12

Save Me a Seat

You can’t sit with us

Award-winning children’s author Sarah Weeks partners with debut author Gita Varadarajan to bring middle grade readers a story of two boys just trying to fit in. Indian American Ravi Suryanarayana has one goal for his first day at his new school: Find a way to sit at the popular table during lunch. His way in is through Dillon Samreen, another Indian American and the school’s resident cool guy. But to student Joe Sylvester, a white boy with Auditory Processing Disorder, Dillon is anything but cool. While Ravi tries to get on Dillon’s good side, Joe does everything he can to stay far away from him. The chapters alternate between Ravi and Joe, who become unlikely friends and partners thanks to Dillon. Perfect for any reader who has experienced lunchroom anxiety, this is a charming book about what makes a real friend.

On shelves: May 10


Deafening silence

Wayne Kovok doesn’t think life can get much worse. He and his mother were involved in a plane crash when flying back from his uncle’s funeral. Though they both survived, Wayne doesn’t feel like himself anymore. He was once a boy who would rattle off facts and lived to share his encyclopedic knowledge. But the crash damaged his vocal chords and left him without a voice. Wayne is left with questions that he suddenly can’t ask: Why did he live when others died? Why does his strict grandfather have to stay with him and his mom? And, most importantly, who is he without his voice? Author Karen Harrington’s middle grade novel is a compelling exploration of identity and how families cope with tragedy.

On shelves: May 24


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