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 amazon.com. That means if you purchase a book through an Amazon link that appears on my site, I receive a commission.

2015 Multicultural Award Winners in Kids' Books: African-American, Latino, Asian-American, Jewish, and International Titles

2015 Multicultural Award Winners-2.png

I mentioned in a post earlier this week that I'd be back to share some more award winners. This time we're going to focus on picture books, chapter books, non-fiction, and teen lit that garnered three major American Library Association 2015 awards. In addition, we'll take a look at medal winners designated by the Association of Jewish Libraries. All of these awards are reserved for books that portray the African-American, Latino, Jewish, and global experiences.

It also happens to be my turn for the Multicultural Kid Blogs Global Pick of the Day, so the awards came at a great time! Now, in case you're wondering why multicultural children's books are so important, take a look here. Then read on below to find great titles you don't want to miss!

First, the Coretta Scott Book Awards, which are divided into subcategories are

given annually to outstanding African American authors and illustrators of books for children and young adults that demonstrate an appreciation of African American culture and universal human values.  The award commemorates the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and honors his wife, Mrs. Coretta Scott King, for her courage and determination to continue the work for peace and world brotherhood.   

This year's Author Award went to:

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson (ages 9-12)

Brown Girl Dreaming pretty much cleaned up on awards this year, and for good reason. In addition to the Coretta Scott King Medal, it earned the National Book Award, a Newbery Honor Award, and a Sibert Honor Award. Read my review of this beautiful novel here

The runners-up for the author award were:

The Crossover by Kwame Alexander (ages 11 and up) (The Crossover was also awarded the 2015 Newbery Medal for the most distinguished contribution to American children's literature.)

how i discovered poetry by marilyn nelson (ages 11 and up)

How it Went Down by Kekla Magoon (ages 14 and up)

The Coretta Scott King 2015 John Steptoe Award for New Talent is given to a previously unpublished African-American author. This year's winner was:

When I Was the Greatest by Jason Reynolds (ages 12 and up)

Here's what the awards committee had to say about this novel:

Reynolds' lively and engaging portrayal of urban teenage boys is a compelling story about neighborhood, family, friendship, values and the acceptance of difference. Living in an underserved neighborhood in Brooklyn, Allen/Ali befriends Noodles and his brother Needles, who has Tourette Syndrome. In an authentic contemporary voice, Reynolds focuses on the importance of family, the acceptance of responsibility and the obligations of friendship and portrays a likeable teenager learning how to be a good man.

This year's Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award went to:

Firebird: Ballerina Misty Copeland Shows a Young Girl How to Dance Like the Firebird by Misty Copeland and Christopher Myers (ages 6-9)

The awards committee cited Firebird's 

vibrant lines and colors (which) mirror the movement of Copeland’s “Firebird." Encased in gorgeous collages and endpaper, balletic poses, leaping and bounding into the air at tremendous heights spur the imagination and inspire a young girl’s hopes and dreams.

Here's a look at two page spreads so you can see some of this beautiful book yourself:

firebird book long enough
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The runners-up for illustration were:

Josephine: The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker by Patricia Hruby Powell and Christian Robinson (ages 6-11) 

Little Melba and Her Big Trombone by Katheryn Russell-Brown and Frank Morrison (ages 6-11)

I'm very excited about Christian Robinson's win, because I am a huge fan of his picture books! Take a look at some of the artwork from Josephine

josephine book long enough
josephine book long enough

Doesn't Christian Robinson's rendition of the Charleston just jump off the page?

I reviewed Little Melba here. It's a must-have picture book. Here are two illustrations:

little melba book long enough
little melba book long enough

And how cool is it that all three of the Illustrator Awards went to books about women in the arts? 

Let's take a look next at the Pura Belpré Medal. Pura Belpré was the first Latina librarian at the New York Public Library. According to the American Library Association, the award is 

presented annually to a Latino/Latina writer and illustrator whose work best portrays, affirms, and celebrates the Latino cultural experience in an outstanding work of literature for children and youth. 

The 2015 Author Award went to:

I Lived on Butterfly Hill by Marjorie Agosin (ages 10-13)

Here's why the awards committee chose this book:

When warships appear, in “I Lived on Butterfly Hill,” Celeste’s idyllic life is shattered. As people disappear, Celeste’s parents go into hiding, and she is sent into exile. When she returns home, she works to reunite people she loves and to move her country forward. Lyrically written by acclaimed poet, Marjorie Agosín, this Chilean story offers a refreshing perspective on resiliency.
 
With her poet’s eye, Marjorie Agosín gives this tale of exile and return an epic feel. Though she is a refugee, Celeste learns she belongs anywhere there are things she loves.

The committee awarded a Pura Belpré Honor Award to runner up:

Portraits of Hispanic American Heroes by Juan Felipe Herrera and Raúl Colón (ages 8-12)

The committee noted:

Juan Felipe Herrera celebrates the lives of 20 Hispanic people who up to now have been in the shadows to many despite their significant contributions to American society. These poignant biographical sketches succinctly present the essence of each hero’s life and legacy to the future generations of their culture.

And if you're not familiar with Raúl Colón, he's an award-winning picture book artist worth checking out!

The committee gave the Illustrator Award to:

Viva Frida by Yuyi Morales (ages 5 and up)

This one also won a prestigious Caldecott Honor. The illustrations are amazing, partly because they were created in such a complex manner. The awards committee said:

“Viva Frida” uses rich, vibrant color photographs and minimal evocative text to beautifully portray the unique imagination and creativity of an iconic Latina artist. Morales blends a wide variety of mediums - stop-motion puppets, acrylic paints and digital manipulation - to create a whimsical picture book that will inspire your artistic sensibilities.  
 
“It’s Yuyi, what more can you say?” said Pura Belpré Award Committee Chair Tim Wadham.  “Her multi-media illustrations take the reader on a journey straight into Frida Kahlo’s artist’s heart and creative soul.

Viva Frida is one of those rare picture book that can be enjoyed by kids of all ages, and even adults. 

Three books were awarded honors in the illustration category:

Little Roja Riding Hood by Susan Middleton Elya and Susan Guevara (ages 4-8)

Green is a Chile Pepper: A Book of Colors by Roseanne Greenfield Thong and John Para (ages 3-8), which I reviewed here.

Separate is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez and Her Family's Fight for Desegregation by Duncan Taonatiuh (ages 7-10). This one also won a Sibert Honor medal. I reviewed it here

The American Library Association gives the Mildred Batchelder Award for

the most outstanding children’s book originally published in a language other than English in a country other than the United States, and subsequently translated into English for publication in the United States.

The 2015 winner was:

Mikis and the Donkey by Bibi Dumon Tak (ages 6-9)

This short chapter book was translated from Dutch. The committee noted:

Mikis’ simple, quiet life on the Greek island of Corfu is upended when his grandfather surprises him by buying a donkey. During the following year, Mikis’ adventures with the donkey show the village what it means to care for one another. This charming book has remarkable depth. Vividly set in a tiny island village, the universal themes will be relevant to all readers.

Runners-up for the Batchelder Award were:

Hidden: A Child's Story of the Holocaust by Loic Dauvillier, Greg Salsedo, and Marc Lizano (ages 8-12)

Hidden was translated from French. The committee noted:

In this evocative graphic novel, a grandmother recounts her childhood experiences hiding from the Nazis in World War II France. Surrounded by cruelty, Dounia also benefited from the exceptional kindness and courage of her protectors.  The telling of her story to her grandchild brings healing and hope. This subtle but powerfully illustrated graphic novel will capture readers with its gripping account of heroism in the truly dire circumstances of the Holocaust.

Nine Open Arms by Benny Lindelauf (ages 10-13)

Also translated from Dutch, this novel was chosen as an honor recipient because:

In this intricately plotted book, Fing’s loving but fractious family moves into a new house outside of town and gradually discovers a “tragical tragedy” concerning the mysterious man living in the hedge. Combining elements of historical fiction, mystery and magical realism with large doses of humor, this book enthralls. Readers will be enchanted by the indelibly drawn characters, the rich language and the interwoven narrative.

Finally, the Sydney Taylor Book Award is given annually by the Association of Jewish Libraries. "to outstanding books for children and teens that authentically portray the Jewish experience." The awards are divided into three categories, which are books for "younger," "older," and "teen" readers. The 2015 winners, in age category order, were:

My Grandfather's Coat by Jim Aylesworth and Barbara McClintock

Hidden: A Child's Story of the Holocaust by Loic Dauvillier, Greg Salsedo, and Marc Lizano (ages 8-12) 

Storm by Donna Jo Napoli

I'm so excited to see My Grandfather's Coat win this medal! It was one of my favorite picture books published last year, and you can read why here

Finally, the Asian/Pacific American Awards for Literature, also given by a division of the American Library Associations, were announced this past week. These books "promote Asian/Pacific American culture and heritage ... and are awarded based on their literary and artistic merit." Awards and honors are given in "picture book," "children's" (chapter book), and "young adult" (teen) categories. Here are the awards for books published in 2014, in age/category order:

Hana Hashimoto, Sixth Violin by Chieri Uegaki and Qin Leng (ages 5-8)

Gaijin: American Prisoner of War by Matt Faulkner (ages 10-14)

tiger girl by may-lee chai (ages 14 and up)

I bought Hana Hashimoto, a lovely picture book, as a gift for my daughters' violin teacher this past Christmas, so I'm thrilled to see it win this award!

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 amazon.com. That means if you purchase a book through an Amazon link that appears on my site, I receive a commission.