Favorites: 2022 Back to School Picture Books

New shoes, new school supplies, and maybe new anxieties—back to school season is here! Whether you’re sending off the kids from your home, home library, or welcoming them into your classrooms, these 2022 picture books are full of reassurance (and sometimes silliness) to help with a smooth transition into the norms and routines of the school year.

KINDergarten cover art

KINDergarten: where kindness matters every day
Written by Vera Ahiyya
Illustrated by Joey Chou
Penguin/Random House Studio
June 2022
Age 4-8Leo is nervous about kindergarten, especially his new teacher’s request that the class contribute ideas to kindness pledge. Leo prefers quiet. What if he can’t figure out what to say? As Leo meets his classmates, and hears their ideas about kindness, he realizes his actions can speak just as loudly as their words. Vibrant colors and geometric illustrations lend a joyful tone to this reminder about all the ways we can show kindness to others.

Purple School cover art

The World Needs More Purple Schools
Written by Kristen Bell and Benjamin Hart
Illustrated by Daniel Wiseman
Penguin/Random House Children’s Books
June 2022
Age 3-7

Penny Purple and her friends are back and bringing their plans for a more curious, respectful, and cooperative world to their classroom—and yours. Bright and joyful illustrations combine with silliness galore to explore Penny’s school community and everything the students and teachers do as good citizens and friends. 

Everything in Its Place cover art

Everything in Its Place: A Story of Books and Belonging
Witten by Pauline David-Sax
Illustrated by Charnelle Pinkney Barlow
July 2022
Age 3-7

An introverted young book-lover finds solace (and an escape from recess) by volunteering in the school library. Forced to face a week of recess on her own, an all-female motorcycle group inspires her to take a risk on opening up in order to find a like-minded friend. A mix of blue pencil drawings, watercolor, and collage are brilliantly combined to bring the girl’s interests, experiences, and imagination together in one cohesive and lovely ode to books and belonging.

Hurry, Little Tortoise cover art

Hurry, Little Tortoise, Time for School!
Written by Carrie Finison
Illustrated by Erin Kraan
Penguin/Random House Studio
July 2022
Age 3-7

Little Tortoise is determined to be on time for her first day of school. Passed by classmate after classmate, her dedication turns to despair when she’s knocked on her shell. A rescue by her teacher, Mr. Sloth, gives just the pick me up she needs to build confidence and get to class right on time. A sweet tale of perseverance to illustrate that moving at your own pace doesn’t diminish your place in the crowd.

This is a School cover art

This is a School
Written by John Schu
Illustrated by Veronica Miller Jamison
March 2022
Age 3-7

Through simple text and lively art, this diverse and vibrant school community comes to life and introduces young students to the rhythms and learning within. Identifying locations, experiences, and emotions tied to the school day and beyond, Schu gently welcomes readers to the world of school. Differences in culture, ability, skill, and social-emotional experience are celebrated in vignettes exploring all the school building and school community might offer and what community members have to offer in return.

Butler Bookshelf

Octopus Shocktopus! by Peter Bently and illustrated by Steven Lenton is the colorful tale of an octopus on the roof and how good an octopus can be! A witty story about welcoming newcomers!

Check it out, along with the other titles we are featuring below!

An ABC of Democracy
Written by Nancy Shapiro and Illustrated by Paulina Morgan
Published by Frances Lincoln
Available Now!

Blood Like Fate
Written by Liselle Sambury
Published by Margaret K. McElderry Books
Available Today!

Little Homesteader: A Fall Treasury of Recipes, Crafts, and Wisdom
Written by Angela Ferraro-Fanning and Illustrated by Anneliesdraws
Published by Ivy Kids
Available Now!

Math For Kids: Fun Math Games and Activities Inspired by Awesome Mathmematicians, Past and Present!
Written by Rebecca Rapoport and Allanna Chung, and Illustrated by Kelly Anne Dalton,
Published by Quarry Books
Available September 27th!

Little People, BIG DREAMS 77: Nikola Tesla
Written by Maria Isabel Sánchez Vegara and Illustrated by Alexander Mostov
Published by Frances Lincoln
Available September 6th!

Octopus Shocktopus!
Written by Peter Bently, and Illustrated by Steven Lenton
Published by Nosy Crow
Available Now!

Intrigue and Romance: A Review of Foul Lady Fortune

Foul Lady Fortune
Chloe Gong
Simon and Schuster / Margaret K. McElderry Books
September 27, 2022
Age: 14 and up

It’s 1931 Shanghai; Imperial Japan has just invaded Manchuria. Rosalind Lang, a Chinese Nationalist assassin, must investigate a string of murders through the city before the Japanese use the terrorist actions as a pretense for invasion. Fighting against her training as a killer, and instead acting as a spy in a normal-seeming office building, she must work with the wealthy playboy and Nationalist spy Orion Hong, her new fake husband. All while keeping secret her identity of Lady Fortune and her ability to heal from almost any wound hidden. The story’s core is both an excellent spy thriller and romance between Orion and Rosalind. Author Chloe Gong sets the stage for a complicated ride through the intrigue of the time. Orion and Rosalind both have a sibling in the Communist party, with whom the Nationalists are at war. Orion’s trust in the Nationalist party is in question due to his father’s connection to Imperial Japan, and Rosalind is a notorious former gangster. While not perfect, these tensions, pulling at well-written characters, create some great dramatic moments. Gong utilizes shifting points of view in occasional chapters to build tension and fill out the identities of the secondary characters. In one instance, a chapter ends on a cliffhanger, only to build back up to that same cliffhanger in the next, as a new character learns the truth, revealing the satisfying twist. While this book can be read as a stand-alone, it does assume some familiarity with the characters, using a light hand to describe their sexual preferences, gender identity, and political ideology, which may be further developed in later installments.

A well-crafted romantic spy thriller with a great lead into future stories.

Butler Bookshelf

In the urban fantasy novel The Whispering Dark, Delaney Meyers-Petrov is a Deaf college student with a peculiar connection to the afterlife. When she’s offered a spot at an elite university program that trains students to slip between parallel worlds, she’s excited for an opportunity to prove herself and show others that she isn’t as fragile as they think.

Check it out, along with the other titles we are featuring below!

Haven: A Small Cat’s Big Adventure
Written by Megan Wagner Lloyd
Published by Candlewick Press
Available August 16th!

I Was Born for This
Written by Alice Oseman
Published by Scholastic Press
Available October 18th!

Something About Grandma
Written and Illustrated by Tania de Regil
Published by Candlewick Press
Available August 9th!

A Synagogue Just Like Home
Written by Alice Blumenthal McGinty and Illustrated by Laurel Molk
Published by Candlewick Press
Available August 9th!

The Whispering Dark
Written by Kelly Andrew
Published by Scholastic Press
Available October 18th!

Bedtime for Creatures Great and Small: A Review of Sleep

Sleep cover art

Barbara Herkert
Illustrated by Daniel Long
Albert Whitman & Co.
October 1, 2022
Ages 4-8

Humans require less sleep as they grow older. Grey whales float on the water’s surface to breathe while they sleep. Most mammals and birds exhibit signs of REM sleep, which means they may dream like humans. All living things with a nervous system need sleep, from dogs to insects to sharks to us; sleep specifics just depend on the type of animal and its habitat. Sleep, written by Barbara Herkert and illustrated by Daniel Long, dives deep into the world of slumber with detailed facts about sleep patterns, cycles, and the differences between sleep needs and experiences in humans and animals.

Filled with a lush color scheme and vivid images, the book resonates calm, perfect for this topic of sleep and making it a relaxing bedtime read. Each image is digitally illustrated, in a similar style to mixed media collages, but shaded to bring out depth and textures, which brings each animal to life. Long’s images are vibrant, but simply detailed, keeping them from distracting from the information provided on each page. Sedate pacing prevents the fact-heavy text from overwhelming readers. With a background in biology and fine arts, Barbara Herkert provides facts in a tone filled with admiration for the natural world that complements the extraordinary details she provides. The author also includes a glossary and additional resources as backmatter for those who would like to continue researching the world of sleep. Working through interesting information on humans and animals, the book takes young readers on a mind-opening adventure into the world of sleep and the extraordinary world we live in.

Butler Bookshelf

In The Tower of Life by Chana Stiefel and illustrated by Susan Gal, after Yaffa Eliach has to escape the Nazis during WW2, her hometown is destroyed. President Jimmy Carter reaches out to Yaffa and asks her to help build a holocaust memorial. She decides to make the memorial out of found photographs instead of bricks; it becomes what will be called the Tower of Life.

Check it out, along with the other titles we are featuring below!

Catalina Incognito: Off-Key
Written by Jennifer Torres and Illustrated by Gladys Jose
Published by Aladdin
Available Today!

Written by Illustrated by Gale Galligan
Published by Graphix
Available October 18th!

I am Ruby Bridges
Written by Ruby Bridges and Illustrated by Nikkolas Smith
Published by Orchard books
Available September 6th!

Monsters Play… Counting!
Written and Illustrated by Flavia Z. Drago
Published by Orchard books
Available Now!

This is Our Place
Written by Vitor Martins
Published by Push
Available November 1st!

The Tower of Life: How Yaffa Eliach Rebuilt Her Town in Stories and Photographs
Written by Chana Stiefel and Illustrated by Susan Gal
Published by Scholastic Press
Available October 4th!

Should Revenge Be Served at All?: A Review of Sweet and Sour

Sweet and Sour cover art

Sweet and Sour
Debbi Michiko Florence
July 26, 2022
Age: 8-12

Mai, budding birder and BTS stan, and her parents have always spent idyllic summers with family friends in small-town Mystic, Connecticut. Until two summers ago, when their son and Mai’s BFF, Zach, betrayed her and the friends suddenly moved to Japan. Now the trip is back on and Mai is unhappily headed from west coast to east with a new BFF, Lila, and years of built up anger. When Zach, so changed from two years away, wants to pick up their friendship right where he thinks they left it, Mai must decide how to handle her hurt feelings (not well), whether to hang onto a grudge she may have outgrown (not fun), and how to be a better friend to new friends and old.

Told from Mai’s point of view, Debbi Michiko Florence perfectly captures the 13-year-old voice with swings from light to moody, petulant to kind. The text is sprinkled with good and bad memory flashbacks, labeled sweet or sour, providing the backstory of Mai and Zach’s childhood and the racist incident that fractured their bond. Mai’s journey from sadness to anger to letting go is choppy and full of tween uncertainty. But her moments of introspection and insistence on standing up for yourself and your friends, whether it be from anti-Asian hate, bullying, or on matters of consent, keep her character from verging into the self-centered and vengeful. With wise words from friends, she learns to process her feelings rather than bury them and how to both forgive and ask for forgiveness. The relationships between Mai and Lila, Zach, and a new friend Celeste provide powerful examples of different types of friendships and illustrate the value of each. A secondary storyline, featuring Mai’s parents and their perceived inability to handle her big emotions, could have been better developed, but lends import to the central theme of communicating one’s feelings. Mai’s complicated emotions add both sweet and sour notes to the narrative of this summer adventure exploring the complexities of friendship, memory, growing up.

Butler Bookshelf

A story about siblings, middle school, and peer pressure, the graphic novel Twin Cities by Jose Pimienta follows twins as they try to find their own identities separate from each other. Set on the border of the US and Mexico, Teresa crosses the border to go to school in the US while her brother Fernando stays in Mexicali, Mexico. When the twins have trouble in their new school lives, they still push each other apart when they get home. How will they navigate this new distance?

Check it out along with the other titles we are featuring below!

Chester Keene Cracks the Code
Written by Kekla Magoon,
Published by Wendy Lamb Books
Available Now!

Race for the Escape
Written by Christopher Edge
Published by Delacorte Press
Available Now!

Revenge of the Zombert
Written by Kara LaReau and Illustrated by Ryan Andrews
Published by Candlewick Press
Available August 8th!

Star Knight
Written and Illustrated by Kay Davault
Published by RH Graphic
Available Now!

Twin Cities
Written and Illustrated by Jose Pimienta
Published by RH Graphic
Available Today!

Witches of Peculiar (#1): Double, Double, Twins and Trouble
Written by Luna Graves
Published by Aladdin
Available Today!

Down to Earth: A Review of Keepunumuk: Weeâchumun’s Thanksgiving Story

Keepunumuk: Weeâchumun’s Thanksgiving Story
Danielle Greendeer, Anthony Perry, and Alexis Bunten. Illustrated by Gaary Meeches Sr.
August 2nd, 2022
Ages 3 – 7

Keepunumuk is an embedded narrative about the harvest feasts that became known as the first Thanksgiving, composed in the style of Wampanoag oral storytelling tradition. When Maple and Quill ask their grandmother to tell them a story about the three sisters, the personifications of Corn, Beans, and Squash, she tells them about Keepunumuk, the first Thanksgiving. Weeâchumun (Corn), the eldest of the three sisters, is told of the arrival of newcomers to Turtle Island (North American continent). When Fox asks if they should trust the newcomers, Weeâchumun cautions them to watch them over the winter. These newcomers, the pilgrims, are seen struggling until spring. Weeâchumun and her two sisters decide, along with Fox and the other animals, to help these new people and send the First People, the Wampanoag, to teach them how to live with the land. With the help of the Wampanoag, the Pilgrims are saved and can survive the year. With the harvest that saved their lives, they had the first Thanksgiving. Meeches’ art, based on the Plains art style, excels at the depictions of Weeâchumun and her two sisters. Her form flowing out of corn stalks reinforces this connection between the personification and the crop she represents. The choice of detailing Weeâchumun and Fox more than the various humans in the narrative also supports the idea that the flora and fauna of Turtle Island are of primary importance in this story. Compared to the simple depictions of the pilgrims, they are important to the story only as beings to be cared for and the first people as willing helpers to the other residents of the land. The front and back of the book include additional materials for the readers about the Wampanoag, the first people of Massachusetts. The backmatter contains sections on Wampanoag storytelling tradition, traditions of giving thanks, a brief historical overview of the land and its inhabitants before the Pilgrim arrival, the basics of the aftermath of that arrival, a glossary of Wampanoag language (Wôpanâak) terms, as well as a recipe for Nasamp, a cornmeal-based dish.

A reimagined indigenous folktale about giving thanks to the world that provides for us.

Butler Bookshelf

A couple of our staff members visited ALA this week, (if you’d like to read more about the event head over to our blog post on it https://wordpress.com/post/butlerspantry.org/34939) so we are featuring some of the books that we brought home from the trip! Slip by Marika McCoola and Aatamja Pandya follows Jade who is on her way to a summer art incentive when her best friend, Pheobe, attempts suicide. Jade must deal with her feeling if she doesn’t focus completely on Pheobe, does that mean she is abandoning her.

Check it out along with the other titles we are featuring below!

Everyday Hero MachineBoy
Written by Irma Kniivila and Tri Vuong
Published by SkyBound Comet
Available Sept 13th!

Magically Maximus
Written by Kiki Thorpe and Illustrated by Laura Catrinella
Published by Disney Hyperion
Available Now!

My Second Impression of You
Written by Michelle I. Mason
Published by Bloomsbury Publishing
Available Sept 20th!

The Orphan Keeper
Written by Camron Wright
Published by Algonquin Young Readers
Available Now!

A Scatter of Light
Written by Malinda Lo
Published by Dutton Books
Available Oct 4th!

Written by Marika McCoola and Aatmaja Pandya
Published by Algonquin Young Readers
Available Now!