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 Non-Fiction Picture Books for Kids: Sports, Science, Bios, History and More!

2015 non-fiction picture books for kids a book long enough

It seems like I get a lot of interest in non-fiction picture books for kids, so I'm happy that 2015 is proving to be a great year for this genre! Science, sports, and history are all important subject areas, but it sure is nice to be able to get kids interested in non-fiction a fun way, which these books provide. If you share these with your kids, I promise they'll never know they learned anything ... they'll be too busy having a great time!

new 2015 kids nonfiction books sweep up the sun a book long enough

Sweep Up the Sun by Helen Frost and Rick Lieder

ages 2-8

I'm a bit of a backyard bird fanatic, but I promise that even if avian creatures usually remind you of Alfred Hitchcock, your kids are going to love this beautiful picture book. Rick Lieder has managed to photograph everyday birds in flight, while award-winning author Helen Frost wows us with her simple, gorgeous poetry.  The book is supplemented with endnotes that identify and give more scientific information about each bird. You and your kids will look at these creatures with renewed wonder and appreciation. 

Courtesy of  Candlewick Press .

Courtesy of Candlewick Press.

new 2015 kids non-fiction picture books a book long enough

Tricky Vic: The Impossibly True Story of the Man Who Sold the Eiffel Tower by Greg Pizzoli

ages 7-11

Award-winning picture book artist Greg Pizzoli morphed a fascination with tricksters and con artists into this fantastic book about the mysterious Robert Miller, a man who was crafty enough to trick people into buying pieces of the Eiffel Tower. If you're looking for a children's book that spends lots of time moralizing about a life of crime, this one isn't it. At the same time, Pizzoli is careful not to celebrate Miller's illegal activities. Rather, he ties Vic's activities to historical topics like Prohibition, the construction of the Eiffel Tower, Alcatraz, and counterfeiting. A glossary or terms and extensive bibliography are also presented. Most importantly, Pizzoli's dynamic illustrations make the book. He uses "pencil, ink, rubber stamps, halftone photographs, silkscreen, Zipatone, and Photoshop" to create them. The artwork in Tricky Vic has a noir feel that reminds me of a cross between Get Smart and my favorite Humphrey Bogart/Sam Spade movies. Both of my girls, ages 10 and 12 pronounced this book fascinating. It's perfect for kids who like history-mysteries, mysterious characters, or books about strange places. That's just about every third through sixth grader I've met!

Courtesy of  School Library Journal . 

Courtesy of School Library Journal

new kids nonfiction picture books mesmerized ben franklin a book long enough

Mesmerized: How Ben Franklin Solved a Mystery that Baffled All of France by Mara Rockliff and Iacopo Bruno

ages 7-11

Oh, I am so excited about this fabulous new book which melds history, science, and pure entertainment very effectively! Mesmerized has received starred reviews across the board from the children's book review journals, and it certainly deserves lots of accolades. It's the true story of Dr. Mesmer, an 18th-century Frenchman who took Paris by storm with his ability to heal people with the wave of his "magic" wand. Enter Ben Franklin, a regular Parisian visitor, who sets out to find exactly what's behind Mesmer's success. Kids will learn about the scientific method, the placebo affect, and hypnotism (we get the word "mesmerized" from Mesmer's name), as well as a little-known aspect of the always-fascinating Ben Franklin's life. Besides all that, the pencil and digital artwork adds an air of comedic excitement, and the irreverent tone of the storytelling provides even more laughs! ("Dr. Mesmer was as different from Ben Franklin as a fancy layered torte was from a homemade apple pie.") I love when a great book is so much fun that kids associate learning with a good time. Don't pass this one by!

Courtesy of  Junior Library Guild .
hippos are huge new 2015 kids non-fiction picture books a book long enough

Hippos Are Huge! by Jonathan London and Matthew Trueman

ages 5-9

The animal section of any children's library is always one of the most popular areas, and Jonathan London (of Froggy Gets Dressed fame) has just penned an excellent addition. This book cleverly combines short sentences with offset type in small informational paragraphs so that it can be used as a simple read-aloud, or for more in-depth research. It's a fascinating look at hippo behavior, including how they use dung to fight with each other. (My son LOVED that part of the book, needless to say.) The large-scale illustrations are awesome, too. I expect to see Hippos Are Huge on awards lists for 2015.

families a book long enough

Families by Shelley Rottner and Sheila M. Kelly

ages 2-5

This lovely photographic picture book is a perfect introduction to the many types of families that preschoolers and kindergarteners encounter. Kids meet families that look alike, families that don't, families with one mom and dad, and families raised by two same-sex parents or by extended relatives. They also learn about families that live close to each other, and those that are separated by distance. Readers see families playing together, working together, and loving each other. The book ends with a great conversation starter: "There are many different kinds of families. What about yours?" A warm non-fiction picture book that will help kids learn that not all families are the same, as well as feel like their own families are perfect, just as they are. 

Queen of the Diamond: The Lizzie Murphy Story by Emily Arnold McCully

Growing Up Pedro by Marr Tavares

ages 7-10

I'm reviewing these two books together because they're both about America's favorite spring and summer pastime, baseball. Queen of the Diamond introduces kids to Lizzie Murphy, a young girl born at the turn of the 20th century. Despite her natural talent as a pitcher and catcher, she was laughed off the baseball field as a kid for being a girl. Determined to play, she showed the boys what she could do, and won their acceptance. As a young woman, she made it onto a semipro team as a publicity stunt. When the manager withheld her pay, Lizzie played "hard ball" and banked on the manager's need for her talent. She got her money and 17 more years playing pro ball. 

Matt Tavares is known for his outstanding baseball biographies, and this time he takes on the story of Pedro Martinez, who pitched the Red Sox to the World Series championship, in Growing Up Pedro. Like Lizzie, Pedro encountered many obstacles on his way to success, including growing up in poverty in the Dominican Republic and being considered too short to play pro ball. Martinez' loving relationship with his big brother and commitment to his hometown are also highlighted. Tavares' large-scale paintings beautifully complement this inspiring story.

These two titles will of course appeal to sports enthusiasts, but my nearly-10 year old, who doesn't give two hoots about baseball praised them both, and I think most kids will enjoy them. I think this is because both of these non-fiction picture books feature people overcoming great barriers to achieve impossible dreams. Every kid can enjoy learning about the relationship between perseverance and success.

Image courtesy of  MacMillan Publishers .

Image courtesy of MacMillan Publishers.

Image courtesy of  Smart Books for Smart Kids .

Image courtesy of Smart Books for Smart Kids.

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.