At Last: More Brand New 2015 Picture Books for Kids of All Ages

8 fun new picture books a book long enough

It's been a long summer dear readers, one that seems to finally be drawing to a close, at least calendar-wise. (I live at the "bottom of the world," so we have at least three more months of heat to go!) 

While I've been too busy and distracted to post, my family and I have been reading like gonzos, and I've been taking notes in anticipation of finally finding the time to share some noteworthy, fun, cool brand new picture books with you. Hope you enjoy!

Roger is Reading A Book by Koen Van Biesen

ages 3-9

When I first began studying children’s literature in graduate school in the early 2000s (dating myself, I know), modern international children’s literature was just starting to be taken seriously by librarians and educators. Fast forward a decade plus, and the number of books first published in another country, and then brought to the United States for American children to appreciate and enjoy, has grown exponentially. We’re not only experiencing a golden age of children’s books, our children have access to voices, perspectives, and styles like never before. To make a long story short, it’s a super exciting time not just to be a reading child, but also to be a teacher/parent/grandparent/etcetera sharing picture books with kids! 

Roger is Reading a Book was translated to English, then published in America in 2015, after first being released in Belgium in 2013. Van Biesen is not new to the picture book scene, having illustrated more than 20 books. In this droll, quirky title, the adult Roger keeps trying to get some peace and quiet to read his book, while young Emily, who lives in an adjacent apartment, is determined to disturb the peace. How the neighbors work out their quandary is both funny and touching: Emily learns the joys of reading, while Roger’s normally quiet (and hilariously expressive) bassett hound has the last laugh/bark.

The simple text in this book makes it quite accessible to young readers. The exaggerated mixed media illustrations, however, are what makes this import stand out for kids of all ages, as well as any adult who likes to laugh. 

The Bus is for Us! by Michael Rosen and Gillian Taylor

ages 2-5

This charming picture book makes me want to find a warm toddler to curl up with and read to. (Time to borrow my nephew!) I think it would also be ideal for sharing with large groups of preschoolers. You might remember Rosen as the author of this iconic picture book for toddlers and preschoolers, published back in 1989. With The Bus is for Us!, he’s back in top form.

This time around the topic is transportation, which little ones generally love (especially buses!), and the story is told in accessible language, with a gentle rhythm:

I really like to ride my bike.

I like going far in our car.

When it starts to rain, 

I like the train.

But the best is the bus.

The bus is for us!

As the story progresses the means of transportation become whimsically imaginative (a sleigh, a cloud, a kite, the back of a bear). But the refrain always comes back to that “best” bus. I love the seamless transition between “real” modes of getting around and more magical ones, which seem to reflect the average preschooler’s ease at switching from concrete to fanciful, often not even bothering to delineate between the two. 

Now that I’ve gone on and on about how much I like the written portion of The Bus is for Us!, I would be completely remiss if I didn’t finish up with mention of Gillian Rosen's fabulous double-spread, full-page watercolor illustrations, which are crucial to the book’s appeal. They're soft, lovely, multicultural, and bridge imagination and reality with aplomb.

Pool by JiHyeon Lee 

ages 5-10

A boy and a girl meet in a swimming pool and find that the objects of their imagination are bigger than anything concrete could possibly contain. 

My ten year old very much enjoyed the imaginary aspects of this beautiful wordless picture book, with specific mention of what the kids imagined at the bottom of the pool, as well as the fact that Lee created underwater animals that are generally recognizable as fish or whales, but still completely fictitious. 

Published first in South Korea, this is yet another international picture book that has come to the U.S. in 2015.  The large format of Pool and Lee’s colored pencil and oil pastel artwork pull readers into a half real-half fantastical world. Lee’s rendering of the girl and boy changes from black and white to color as they move further into their adventure, which is symbolic of both embracing the fun of fantasy, and moving from timidity and hesitation to friendship and courage. 

On the back cover of Pool are its only words: “For Those Who Want to Swim Freely in the World.” Children will want to dive in deeply.

Trapped! A Whale’s Rescue by Robert Burleigh and Wendell Minor

ages 5-12

When a humpback whale is caught in a fishing net, a team of divers works to save her in this story based on a real-life occurrence. 

Trapped! teaches kids to respect earth’s creatures and touches on the potential effects of littering, problems with the use of non-biodegradable materials, and how we work to right environmental wrongs when we’re unable or fail to prevent them ahead of time. Burleigh’s text is minimal, so that kids of a wide age range can savor this book.  Stunning full-page oil paintings are typical of Minor’s well-known picture book art. Additional information on the true-life story, whale rescues, humpback whales, and a bibliography of books and websites, are also included. Kids (and adults) who read Trapped! will be struck by the human ability to both destroy and preserve our world. Ultimately, my daughters and I left this book feeling moved by the potential love involved in human/animal relationships.  

You Can Do It, Bert! by Ole Könnecke

ages 2-6

Such an unexpectedly adorable book! Very simple text makes it appropriate for tiny lap listeners, but subtle humor will draw in kids who are slightly older. 

Be prepared for this quirky tale to surprise you. Tiny red bird Bert looks like he’s gathering all his courage to take his first flight, but he’s actually gearing up for something unexpected, and just as brave. Kids will identify with Bert’s efforts as he takes on a new, somewhat intimidating, adventure. They will also laugh, loudly.

Oh, and try this on for size: You Can Do It, Bert! was written by a native Swedish freelance illustrator, living and working in Germany. The book was first published in New Zealand in 2007 in German, and then translated to English and distributed to the United States and other countries last year. Talk about international!

Everybody Sleeps (But Not Fred) by Josh Schneider

ages 5-8

When I first heard of this one, my honest reaction was “Meh, not another book about a kid who doesn’t want to go to bed.” Then I read it to my six year old one night. And then another time the next night. And another.

And of course this book appeals to my child because he lives to avoid bedtime. (Who knows what he might miss while he’s sleeping, right?) But Everybody Sleeps (But Not Fred) offers more than just that base story. First off, it’s super quirky. It’s hilariously funny. It must be read repeat times to get each joke. And it’s written and illustrated by the award-winning Josh Schneider. Published in April, “But Not Fred” is one of my absolute favorites of this past summer. 

Orangutanka: A Story in Poems by Margarita Engle and Renée Kurilla

ages 4-9

Cuban-American Margarita Engle is one of those rare talents who writes across genres and ages, with beautiful results. (I wrote about another one of her new titles here.) Lately, her chapter and picture books have been so perfectly executed, each time a new one is published (four books this year!) it seems hard to believe it could possibly be as good as the last. With Orangutanka: A Story in Poems, Engle not only lives up to her well-earned reputation — she exceeds it.

Try to put all this together in your mind: This is a book of Japanese-style “tanka” poems. (Previous to this book, I was ignorant of this five-line form of 5-7-5-7-7 syllable count per line, much like haiku, but different.) Each poem is linked to tell the story of a young, feisty, adorable orangutan who longs to dance. “Big sister” lives in a wildlife preserve in Borneo, and interacts with her family, a park ranger, and curious onlookers. (The young orangutan’s free-spirited nature even inspires a group of multi-ethnic children to cut a rug.)

Author Engle has pulled off something quite complicated: She’s married Asian-inspired word art, which she studied in Singapore, with her memories of a trip to Borneo and her love for wild animals. Yet the magic in this book is the utterly simple way it will beguile children. (Kurilla’s pencil, ink, and watercolor illustrations, which capture “big sister” in all the joy of irreverent dance, are key to this success.) Orangutanka is an ideal book for preschoolers and kindergartners. And with an extension activity (an “orangudance”), in which kids use their imaginations to move like big sister through the rain forest, Orangutanka is also custom made for sharing with groups. 

For older kids, or curious readers who want to understand more, notes are provided that explain tanka poetry, orangutan facts, websites, and books. That means Orangutanka works well for kids studying units on poetry, the rainforest, orangutans, and more. It's truly a book with a wide appeal.

Ice Cream Summer by Peter Sís

ages 5-8

Globe-trotting Peter Sís has been writing award-winning children’s literature for decades. He ardently researches his picture books (this one is no exception), and many of them are rendered in a very detailed manner appropriate for upper elementary readers. With Ice Cream Summer, Sís takes a sweeter, simpler turn. Well — at least at first glance. 

Young Joe writes a letter to Grandpa filled with simple sentences about his summer activities. As the story progresses, it becomes clearer and clearer, through word play and the illustrations, that Joe has one thing on his mind … convincing Grandpa he’s earned a “special trip” for ice cream. This book will have wide appeal: Its undemanding main text works for young kids, who will enjoy the summery pastel color scheme and delicious ending. Older kids will be drawn into Ice Cream Summer due to Sis’ clever injection of global ice cream history into intricate illustrations. Minds and tummies will be filled with this superb story!

Link disclosure: A Book Long Enough is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to That means if you purchase a book through an Amazon link that appears on my site, I receive a commission.

Tween Chapter Books: 21 New Titles for 8-12 Year Olds (Part 2)

2015 tween chapter books a book long enough

A couple of months back, I shared seven new tween chapter books, perfect for boys and girls roughly ages 8 to 12. I'm finally back to introduce Part 2 of this series. Here are seven more brand new chapter books you don't want your tween to miss!

pieces and players 2015 tween preteen chapter books kids a book long enough

Pieces and Players by Blue Balliett

If you know a tween who likes logic puzzles, learning about famous works of art, and a good mystery, middle grade author Blue Balliett is not to be missed. Balliett introduced readers to several engaging, thoughtful pre-teen characters in her previous critically acclaimed novels, in which they solved mysteries involving famous art works. This time 13 pieces of art are missing after a heist. Although the suspenseful pace keeps Pieces and Players interesting, Balliett is particularly adept at developing quirky, deeply intelligent, and thoughtful tween characters. If you use phrases like "still water runs deep" to describe an "old soul" kiddo, please be sure to hand them this series. 

fish in a tree new 2015 tween preteen chapter books a book long enough

Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt

Librarians are all aflutter in their praise of this new chapter book, which features a middle school girl trying to survive and thrive under difficult circumstances. Ally is a talented 12-year-old artist and excellent at math, but she has a dark secret ... she can barely read. As a sixth grader, she's entering her seventh school in seven years, and plans to keep her difficulty hidden. But her new teacher Mr. Daniels sees right through the protective wall Ally's built around herself. Kids will enjoy Mr. Daniels' warmth and perception as he helps Ally understand her dyslexia. Besides her difficult learning disability, Ally deals with other issues that will resonate with young preteens, including a parent overseas in the military, a bunch of (realistic) mean girls at school, and coping with being the new kid on the block. Hunt has a way of writing that rises above the sometimes schmaltzy tone of middle school realistic fiction, producing a novel that is beautifully thoughtful.

gone crazy in alabama new 2015 tween preteen chapter books a book long enough

Gone Crazy in Alabama by Rita Williams-Garcia

My 12-year-old daughter loves the previous two books featuring the Gaither sisters, a trio of African-American girls growing up in the 1960s. Kids will want to read One Crazy Summer and P.S. Be Eleven (each garnered awards like the Newbery Honor, National Book Award finalist, and the Coretta Scott King Book Award), before picking up this third in the series. This time out, the Gaither girls are headed from Brooklyn to spend the summer with their grandmother in Alabama. Williams-Garcia's books are hard to put down because her characters are so endearing. The sisters squabble, just as expected, but their love for family runs deeper than their temporary irritations with each other. Readers will learn more of the Gaither family history, from slavery to segregation, all couched in humor, warmth, and a fine depiction of the resilience required to survive difficult circumstances. 

jack true story of jack and the beanstalk new 2015 tween preteen chapter books a book long enough

Jack: The True Story of Jack and the Beanstalk by Liesl Shurtliff

Readers of Shurtliff's outstanding debut Rump: The True Story of Rumpelstiltskin, will be thrilled to learn she has just published a second fantasy novel. This time, Shurtliff broadens another well-known fairy tale. A terrible giant causes an uproar in Jack's hometown, stealing most everything, including Jack's father. Of course Jack travels up the beanstalk, and is immersed in a fantastical land in which he must adjust to being as small as a mouse. Fortunately, Jack's sister Annabella sneaks along behind him and is able to get help from animals and pixies. Kids who enjoy fantasies and fractured fairy tales will eat this book up! 

roller girl new 2015 preteen tween chapter books a book long enough

Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson

My 10-year-old daughter is a graphic novel fanatic, so I'm always on the lookout for new graphics featuring female main characters. I bought Roller Girl to add to her collection when it was published in March, and I'm pretty sure she's read it (along with El Deafo), at least a dozen times since. Astrid is almost a middle schooler, and unlike her best friend Nicole, who is into boys, dance, and clothes, Astrid's singular fascination is roller derby. Even though Astrid's hard work skating is the premise of the story, this graphic novel is really about navigating the often rocky transition from childhood friendships to adolescent relationships. Female friendships become a minefield around fifth through seventh grade, and Jamieson handles this common experience deftly. Roller Girl is perfect not just for fans of Raina Tagelmeier's Smile, but for all girls navigating the rocky waters of peer pressure and "fitting in."

case of the missing moonstone new 2015 tween preteen chapter books a book long enough

The Case of the Missing Moonstone by Jordan Stratford

I'm very excited about this new title, the first in the Wollstonecraft Detective Agency series, which I think will greatly appeal to readers of Lemony Snicket and Pseudonymous Bosch. Stratford takes two real life historical characters and introduces them as girls in the 1820s. Mary Shelley, author of Frankenstein, and Ada Lovelace, considered the world's first computer programmer, join forces to catch a jewel thief. A witty, charming mix of mystery, history, and fantasy. 

echo new 2015 tween preteen chapter books a book long enough

Echo by Pam Muñoz Ryan 

I truly believe Echo will be an award winner for 2015. It's a beautifully drawn story of three children living in terrible times (the Holocaust, World War II, and the Great Depression), who are able to flourish despite painful circumstances. Although the children live in different years and places, each is tied together by a single harmonica. Here's what Kirkus had to say about this stunning novel:

Sweeping across years and place, Ryan's full-bodied story is actually five stories that take readers from an enchanted forest to Germany, Pennsylvania, Southern California and finally New York City. Linking the stories is an ethereal-sounding harmonica first introduced in the fairy-tale beginning of the book ... In Nazi Germany, 12-year-old Friedrich finds the harmonica in an abandoned building; playing it fills him with the courage to attempt to free his father from Dachau. Next, the harmonica reaches two brothers in an orphanage in Depression-era Pennsylvania, from which they are adopted by a mysterious wealthy woman who doesn't seem to want them. Just after the United States enters World War II, the harmonica then makes its way to Southern California in a box of used instruments for poor children; as fifth-grader Ivy Lopez learns to play, she discovers she has exceptional musical ability. Ryan weaves these stories together, first, with the theme of music ... and its ability to empower the disadvantaged and discriminated-against, and then, at the novel's conclusion, as readers learn the intertwined fate of each story's protagonist. A grand narrative that examines the power of music to inspire beauty in a world overrun with fear and intolerance, it's worth every moment of readers' time.

Ryan masterfully executes a mystical tale that will leave young readers deeply touched and inspired with hope. I highly recommend that parents and teachers consider it as a book discussion choice for kids ages 10 and up. 

I'll be back soon to share with you seven more 2015 chapter books for tweens!

Link disclosure: A Book Long Enough is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to That means if you purchase a book through an Amazon link that appears on my site, I receive a commission.