Ever since we expanded our children’s section, we find ourselves drawn to that part of our store with its vibrant, joyful wall of picture books. In a year full of cancelled gatherings, these books felt like much needed celebrations for young and older readers alike who may be seeing themselves reflected on the page for the first time.
In the toughest moments of 2020, when we had trouble stomaching our usual literary diets of poignant non-fiction essays and chilling dystopias that were hitting a little too close to home, we reached for stories of friendship, family, and adventure from our middle-grade shelves. These extraordinary titles remind us that a young target audience does not decrease quality, and that children’s literature draws a remarkable type of author - one who demonstrates that it is possible to hold up mirrors to truth with loving care for their readers, and the perfect mixture of sweetness to the bitter.
If you’ve been fretting over how to explain critical race theory to your baby, you’re in luck, and the wait is over… Kendi boils down the complex and ever-changing definition of “racist” and “racism” into nine, easily-digestible and simple steps packaged sweetly for newborns to three-year-olds. Even more, this book gives you more than just critical race theory as Kendi gently guides your baby toward not just being an antiracist but also becoming a budding political activist.
—Katie Miller, “Ibram Kendi’s Board Book Teaches Even Babies To Hate White People,” The Federalist
Every dog has his day… if by day you mean the night of the full moon! In their latest adventure, best friends Andres and Desmond come face-to-snout with their local werewolf and learn that sometimes the "big bad" is just badly misunderstood. With just the right amount of humor and spooky suspensefulness—and chock full of phenomenal black & white illustrations—Desmond Cole Ghost Patrol is one of our go-to chapter book series for emerging readers.
While there have been other children’s books with Sikh characters, Fauja Singh Keeps Going: The True Story of the Oldest Person to Ever Run a Marathon is the first children’s picture book by a major publisher to feature a Sikh character. Author Simran Jeet Singh beautifully shares Fauja Singh’s life story in a way that highlights his unique resilience and is somehow also relatable to both children and adults, especially immigrants.
—Nikki Singh and Ravleen Kaur, Brown Girl Magazine
Ghost Squad manages to be both creepy and heartwarming, fulfilling a need for stories that are both deeply relatable and culturally specific. Highly recommended for kids looking for a spooky read, a whole lot of feelings, and a story they'll not soon forget.
—Mark Oshiro, author of Anger is a Gift
The little girl kicking her legs on the front of I Am Brown will also raise a smile with her contagious grin. A celebration of having brown skin, the debut picture book from the bestselling Indian author Ashok Banker has a simple conceit, repeating: “I am…” to build up a picture of all the different things brown children can be, do, eat and wear... Coupled with Sandhya Prabhat’s illustrations of children laughing and playing, which spill joyously from the pages, it’s a note-perfect hymn about acceptance, pride and belonging.
—Imogen Carter, The Guardian
The first word that springs to mind upon opening I Am Not A Label is: ‘finally’. What a delight to find a book brimming with deaf and disabled role models who are the star of each story. This book is overdue, and it’s fantastically written and curated, hitting the mark for a mind-opening and world-expanding read for children, young people and adults, too.
—Kate Lovell, Disability Arts Online
‘I am a canvas / being painted on / by the words of my family / friends / and community’... [I]n Vanessa Brantley-Newton’s Just Like Me this is the poem that kicks off the entire book. Ostensibly this is a book that kids (according to the publisher) will use to find the poem that’s “just like them”. I can see that, but when I look at the 28 poems I see an amalgamation of different ways of looking at girls. I see poems that delve deeply into their subjects and others that just crest the surface. A book that is more than just the sum of its parts.
—Elizabeth Bird, School Library Journal
From crowded cities to open prairies, deserts to wetlands, plants grow everywhere! This comprehensive introduction will open children's eyes to the plants that surround them every day and how important they are to life on our planet.
This charming debut is by brothers who divide the writing and the art, which mixes ink-stamping and digital techniques in a glorious sunshine-washed palette. It’s a simple, beautifully constructed story about continuity and ingenuity… The Pumphreys have created a book that’s both timeless and au courant.
—Maria Russo, co-author of How to Raise a Reader
Fifteen Muslim authors contribute to this celebratory story collection centered around Eid, the holiday that marks the end of Ramadan. Joyful reunions, irritating relatives, fancy clothes, and special, heartfelt gifts appear in many of the tales, giving an overall tone of warmth and playfulness, and even the stories that take a more somber approach end with possibilities of hope and optimism.
—Kate Quealy-Gainer, Project Muse
Thanks to Rebecca Roanhorse and Race to the Sun, you’re about to plunge headfirst into the fabulous, scary, wonderful story-world of the Diné, also called the Navajo. Even if you already know something about traditional Navajo tales, you are going squee with delight, because you have never experienced them like this before… Keep your hands and feet inside the novel at all times, or some monster might bite them off.
—Rick Riordan, author of The Lightning Thief
Fagan establishes a warm, complicated world where magic is an accepted part of life—there are sorcerers, merfolk, and sea serpents—though wielded by only a few… A gorgeous fairy tale that touches on the benefits of cooperation and the beauty of discovering one’s own particular brand of magic.
—Emily Graham, Booklist