Spring’s Must-Read Children’s Books: Roller Derby, Historical Heists, and More

Spring’s Must-Read Children’s Books: Roller Derby, Historical Heists, and More

Snowballs have been thrown and hot cocoa has been drunk, yet we are all admittedly ready for springtime. As the warm weather slowly begins to melt away our winter troubles, it’s the perfect time to take a look at what books you’ll want to keep you and your kids company in this season of picnics and outdoor play. Whether little readers want to be lulled to sleep with multicultural nursery rhymes or they prefer to read solo and solve a murder most foul, their love of literature is sure to bloom this season.

Picture Books

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It takes a lot of stamps to mail an elephant—don’t even think about overnight delivery—so if your piggy bank is empty, it’s time to get creative. In this charming tale from Caldecott-winner Philip C. Stead, Amelia-Earhart-in-training Sadie braves planes, alligators, monkey bandits, and a lot of canned beans to deliver an elephant to her Aunt Josephine. Through silliness and heart, the story proves that actively showing you care is important for anyone who is separated from someone they love.

On shelves: March 3

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Over the Hills and Far Away

Around the world we go

The We Need Diverse Books movement rallies for authors to write and readers to demand books that included characters of different backgrounds. Fulfilling that wish is just part of what makes Over the Hills and Far Away such an incredible journey. Peter Piper, Miss Muffet, and other familiar faces are of course present, yet so are multicultural characters from all over the world. And with 77 unique illustrators, no two pages look the same. Jerry Pinkney (The Lion and the Mouse), Mo Willems (Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus), Niki Daly (Ruby Sings the Blues), and more work together to make this a visually stunning collection.

On shelves: March 10

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Tricky Vic

Liar, liar, pants on fire

Robert Miller originally moved to Paris to attend school, though he soon found that he had an even greater talent as a trickster. He scammed his way across the ocean to America, where he met with the original gangster, Al Capone, and picked up a few more tricks of the trade. His greatest crime, however, occurred when he returned to Paris and laid eyes on the Eiffel Tower. Author and illustrator Greg Pizzoli cleverly uses a fingerprint in lieu of a face for Miller, a subtle nod to his multitudes of aliases. Little fans of history and heists are sure to be captivated by this true tale of mystery and deceit.

On shelves: March 10

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Heather Has Two Mommies

My love, she keeps me warm

The first day of school can be nerve-wracking, but it’s even worse when you feel just a bit different from everyone else. Heather loves both of her moms, but she’s worried about what the other kids in her class might think or say when they realize she doesn’t have a dad. When her teacher asks for her students to draw pictures of their families, Heather realizes (spoiler alert) that all families are unique, and that’s what makes them wonderful. Heather and her moms were first introduced 25 years ago, and now, more than ever, the definition of family is anything but rigid. With new illustrations, this updated version of the classic story is perfect for all family reading shelves because, no matter who is raising them, it’s plain for kids to see that the beauty of family comes from the love that people share.

On shelves: March 24

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Drum Dream Girl

A rule made to be broken

Some words can push you down if you let them, but you can drown them out if your beat is louder than theirs. Girls cannot be drummers—that’s what Millo Castro Zaldarriaga was told over and over. Instead of giving in, she pursued her passion and drummed out the music that was in her heart. Inspired by Millo’s childhood in Cuba, this book captures the bravery and talent of a little girl who quite literally marched to the beat of her own drum and changed an antiquated tradition of her nation. Fans of this musical tale might also enjoy Trombone Shorty, the story of trombone prodigy Troy Andrews.

On shelves: March 24

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I Don’t Like Koala

Kreepy Koala

Koala is a semi-creepy stuffed animal, which is exactly what makes this book so delightful. His presence haunts young Adam, who does everything he can to escape those creepy yellow eyes. But no matter how often Adam tries to lose his fluffy companion, Koala always shows up the next morning… lying in Adam’s bed… closer than close. Adam’s tune changes, however, when something even more terrible than Koala shows up. Humorous and sweet, this weird little Koala is sure to steal your heart.

On shelves: April 14

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Florabelle

Sugar, spice, and everything pink

A little girl learns the power of imagination and the importance of focus in this gorgeous tale. Florabelle’s daydreams have the power to overwhelm her. She doesn’t mind escaping into the world of fairy princesses and rodeo queens, but her family is fed up with her lack of attention. When her family threatens to cancel their beach trip if she can’t come down to Earth, Florabelle shapes up quickly. All is going well, until she faces the darkness and depth of the ocean. Florabelle’s regular world is brightly illustrated by Brigette Barrager, and her imaginings take on life with the floral collages done by Michel Tcherevkoff. A must-have for any reader who thinks everything is better when it’s pink.

On shelves: April 21

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Middle Grade

The Imaginary

Everything you can imagine is real

You never see adults with imaginary friends, so what happens to them? Do they disappear as children grow older? Do they live in their own imaginary realm? Or are they taken from us? The Imaginary explores the world of Amanda and her non-existant best friend Rudger. Everything seems to be going well, until they receive a visit from Mr. Bunting, a man who consumes imaginary friends so that he can keep living. When Amanda’s hit by a car, it’s up to Rudger to find his own way out, before it’s too late. Creepy and packed with illustrations, it’s a spectacular read for those who enjoy getting carried away with their imaginations. Those wanting even more imaginary-friend fun may enjoy Chris O’Dowd and Nick V. Murphy’s Moone Boy, based on their hit Hulu series.

On shelves: March 3

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Roller Girl

Superchick

Victoria “Winnie the Pow” Jamieson channeled her love of roller derby into a graphic novel that breathes new life into the old tale of friends growing apart. Twelve-year-old best friends Astrid and Nicole have always done everything together, everything. But when summer rolls around Nicole signs up for dance camp and Astrid decides to sign up for derby camp instead. At first things don’t seem so bad, but between failing miserably at her first skating attempt and feeling as though she’s losing Nicole, Astrid’s summer starts to feel like a huge mess. For fans of girl power and realism, this is a story that sensitively explores the challenges of losing a friend while finding yourself.

On shelves: March 10

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Blackbird Fly

You were only waiting for this moment to arise

After her father dies, Apple Yengko and her mother move from the Philippines to Louisiana. Though they’ve lived in the United States for a few years, Apple still doesn’t feel at home. Her classmates call her Chinese, her mom thinks she’s “too American,” and her name was recently written on the list of the ugliest girls in school. Apple hates being different, it makes her entire life feel like a neverending embarrassment. The only solace she finds is in a Beatles cassette tape that belonged to her father. When the songs inspire her to save up for a guitar, Apple starts to discover who she is and learns that different doesn’t have to mean something negative, in fact it can mean extraordinary.

On shelves: March 24

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Murder is Bad Manners

Elementary, my dear Wong

For a duo of aspiring detectives at an all girls boarding school, solving the mystery of the missing tie just isn’t that satisfying. Though just when it seems that their detective work will be limited to studying the great Sherlock Holmes, Hazel Wong stumbles across the body of their science teacher. By the time she locates her friend and partner-in-crime-solving, Daisy Wells, the body has been moved and the game is afoot. As the secretary of the Wells & Wong Detective Society, Hazel narrates the story from the original discovery to the surprising end of this English whodunit.

On shelves: April 21

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Return to Augie Hobble

A Grimm summer

Bestselling author Lane Smith has given us picture book favorites such as the humorous It’s a Book and the sweet Grandpa Green, and now he is delighting us by stepping into the middle grade game with Return to Augie Hobble. Inspired by Smith’s own childhood, the story takes place in Fairy Tale Place, an amusement park run by Augie Hobble’s dad. Despite the name, it’s far from the ideal place to spend one’s summer—especially when it’s filled with bullies. Then there’s the girl who could be Augie’s Cinderella, but who certainly doesn’t think of him as her prince. Then things go from bad to weird with Augie becoming slowly convinced that he’s turning into a werewolf. Dark, funny, and very strange, the ideal book for any reader who likes their fairy tales a little bit Grimm. Catherynne M. Valente’s The Boy Who Lost Fairyland (March 3) would make for a slightly lighter, but equally enjoyable, companion read.

On shelves: May 5

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The Orphan Army

Pest control

The first book in this new series by Rot and Ruin author Jonathan Maberry may not have zombies, but giant bug aliens invading the Earth sounds even more terrifying to us. Thankfully, there’s Milo, a semi-reluctant hero whose keeps receiving visions from the Witch of the World. Turns out, the Witch thinks Milo is the key to saving the entire world. Milo isn’t so sure about that, until he comes across a group of magical creatures who are ready and willing to fight back against the extraterrestrial insects.

On shelves: May 19

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Lost in the Sun

Icarus learns to fly

It was a freak accident. It could’ve happened to anyone. But it didn’t happen to anyone, it happened to Trent. Jared is dead and Trent believes it’s his fault, even when people try to explain that it isn’t. Middle school is about to start, and Trent sees it as a chance to start over. Only…well, nothing goes the way he wants and everyone hates him and it all makes him angry. He isn’t so alone in the world though. There’s Fallon Little, a girl with a scar across her face, who doesn’t treat him the way everyone else does. A companion to Lisa Graff’s Umbrella Summer, Trent proves himself to be an honest character that readers, especially those put in situations beyond their age and understanding, will relate to.

On shelves: May 26

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