Winter 2017’s Best Children’s and Middle Grade Books: Carl Sagan, a Frog Prince, and a Cupcake-Eating Alien

Winter 2017’s Best Children’s and Middle Grade Books: Carl Sagan, a Frog Prince, and a Cupcake-Eating Alien

Here at Bookish, we’re looking forward to all of the great things that winter has to offer: hot chocolate with marshmallows, snowball fights, and fantastic new books. The end of 2016 will bring a magical middle grade tale about a Spanish estate, as well as a joyous introduction to Chinese New Year. In 2017, we’re already itching to get our hands on Kevin Henkes’ latest picture book and Ellen Oh’s short story collection inspired by the We Need Diverse Books movement. So what are you waiting for? Look over the list, check it twice, and get ready to read.

Picture Books

PoPo’s Lucky Chinese New Year

The year of the grandma

PoPo traveled to America from China to celebrate Chinese New Year with her family. Her young granddaughter, our unnamed narrator, doesn’t know much about the holiday. PoPo makes it her responsibility to explain the significance of each tradition. Her granddaughter listens excitedly and tries to follow each ritual, often to humorous results: To rid the home of bad luck, she decides her baby brother should be put outside. But when the fateful day comes, the little girl cuddles with her brother and grandmother and thinks happy thoughts about the year to come. This year, Chinese New Year falls on Saturday, January 28, marking the start of the year of the rooster. Author Virginia Loh-Hagan and illustrator Renné Benoit deliver a warm and enchanting picture book that serves as the perfect introduction to the holiday.

On shelves: December 1

A Greyhound, a Groundhog

Life’s one happy game

This new book from Emily Jenkins and Chris Appelhans is sure to become a read-aloud favorite. The titular characters are an odd couple indeed: a large greyhound and a small, round groundhog. The groundhog is originally startled by the large dog, but soon the two are chasing each other in circles. Their friendship is joyful and entertaining. The illustrations and text embody the spirit of playfulness and readers young and old will love trying to quickly spit out the tongue-twisting language: “A greyhound, a groundhog, a found little roundhog.”

On shelves: January 3

Wolf in the Snow

The power of kindness

On her way home from school, a small, nameless girl in a red parka get caught in a blizzard. She isn’t the only one stuck in the snow. She comes across a tiny wolf pup who has been separated from its pack. The girl follows the sounds of the pack’s howls and, after facing a series of dangerous situations, safely returns the wolf. The wolves, in turn, come to the girl’s aid when she collapses on her way back to her own family. Matthew Cordell’s wordless book is an inspiring tale about offering help to those in need and repaying the kindness that has been given to you.

On shelves: January 3

Egg

Which came first

Caldecott Medalist Kevin Henkes delivers another winning book for young readers with Egg. The premise centers on four eggs: one blue, one pink, one yellow, one green. The blue, pink, and yellow eggs hatch and three newborn baby birds fly away. But the green stays still, uncracked and unhatched. The birds return and decide to help the last egg along by gently pecking at the shell. When the egg finally does hatch, the birds are in for a big surprise! Once again Henkes creates a tale that speaks volumes with surprisingly little text. This is a beautiful story that will encourage readers to think about patience, acceptance, and friendship.

On shelves: January 3

Strange Fruit

A strange and bitter crop

In 1939, jazz singer Billie Holiday sang “Strange Fruit”—a song written by Abel Meeropol that protested the lynching of African Americans. This powerful book touches on the lives of both Holiday and Meeropol, but centers its focus on how the song came into being and the dramatic effect it had on listeners across America. In a starred review, Kirkus calls Gary Golio and Charlotte Riley-Webb’s book “a must-read, must-discuss [story] that will speak to children and linger with adults.” Get this book into the hands of slightly older picture book readers who will appreciate the message that words have profound power.

On shelves: February 1

Life on Mars

Encounters of the sweet kind

A bold young explorer decides to prove that there is life on Mars in Jon Agee’s delightful new book. The tiny astronaut brings a box of cupcakes with him as a gift for any aliens that he might encounter. He searches high and low, far and wide, but can find no other living creatures. Unbeknownst to him, a large Martian has been following his footsteps! Readers will love knowing that the alien the boy seeks is right behind him, out of his sight.

On shelves: February 28

Middle Grade

Word of Mouse

A mischief of mice

Authors James Patterson and Chris Grabenstein have come together with illustrator Joe Sutphin to create this sweet tale about a little mouse with a big plan to save his family. Isaiah is devastated when he is the only mouse to safely escape from the lab he was held in. His 96 brothers and sisters remain trapped inside. Homeless and lost, he’s taken in by a mouse named Mikayla and brought back to live with her family. He even makes a human friend! But Isaiah can’t forget about his family, and he knows that he will have to do something big if he hopes to save them. Publishers Weekly even compared the title to another favorite literary mouse: “Reminiscent of Garth Williams’s work in Stuart Little, the artwork helps set up Isaiah as a modern-day counterpart to that intrepid mouse.”

On shelves: December 12

Iris and the Tiger

Enchanted estate

Twelve-year-old Iris Chen-Taylor is being sent to live at the Bosque de Nubes in Spain, her great-aunt’s enormous estate. Her cunning parents want Iris to learn everything she can about the place, for they hope to possess it when Great-Aunt Ursula passes away. But when Iris arrives, she’s shocked to find that there’s something magical at work. She spots sunflowers playing tennis, workboots that walk around without a human, and a mysterious animal that lurks in the wild forest surrounding the estate. With the help of Jordi, the groundskeeper’s son, Iris forgets her parents’ wishes and starts her own investigation to uncover the secrets of the Bosque de Nubes.

On shelves: December 13

Flying Lessons & Other Stories

#WNDB

Jacqueline Woodson, Walter Dean Myers, Meg Medina, Matt de la Peña… Do we have your attention yet? This short story collection features 10 stories from some of the best middle grade and young adult writers of our time. Edited and introduced by Ellen Oh, cofounder of We Need Diverse Books, this book covers universal themes (friendship, first loves, family bonds) and features a range of inclusive, realistic characters that readers will root for, relate to, and remember. This collection has already received starred reviews from Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, School Library Journal, and Booklist. You don’t want to miss it.

On shelves: January 3

The Warden’s Daughter

The caged bird

Cammie “Cannonball” O’Reilly lives in the apartment above the Hancock County Prison with her father, the prison warden. It’s a lonely place for a 12-year-old, especially for one without a mother. Overwhelmed by her grief and anger, Cammie tries to fill the hole in her heart by connecting with Boo Boo, one of the women incarcerated at the prison, and Eloda Pupko, her housekeeper and caregiver when her father isn’t around. Newbery Medalist Jerry Spinelli delivers a moving story about redemption, loss, and growing up that readers won’t soon forget.

On shelves: January 3

Frogkisser!

Pucker up

Fairy tale lovers, have we got a treat for you. New York Times bestselling author Garth Nix turns classic tropes on their heads in this fantastic tale of a princess on the run. Princess Anya lives with her evil stepmother and her new husband Duke Rikard, Anya’s evil stepstepfather. When Duke Rikard turns Anya’s sister’s love into a frog, Anya decides to use her Transmogrification Reversal Lip Balm to change him back. Only, she kisses the wrong frog and depletes her stash. Thus begins her quest to gather supplies for more magical balm. With the help of her talking dog, Ardent, and the frog prince, Anya sets off on a wild, hilarious, and dangerous adventure. Not only is Anya a wonderful and strong heroine, she’s one who learns to examine her princess privilege along the way.

On shelves: February 28

See You in the Cosmos

Star stuff

In 1977, astronomer Carl Sagan launched his Golden Record (which contained sounds and images of Earth) into outer space aboard the Voyager spacecraft. In Jack Cheng’s middle grade debut, 11-year-old Alex Petroski wants to do the same with his iPod. Alex records everything in his life: his journey to a rocket festival in New Mexico, his road trip to Vegas to find his possibly-not-dead-after-all father, his search for his lost dog, who is named Carl Sagan after his hero. Alex documents exactly what the world is like through his eyes, offering readers a touching and honest portrait of a young boy searching for family and learning to appreciate the one he already has.

On shelves: February 28

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