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
Penguin/Doubleday
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
Candlewick
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.

Growing a Reader: Garden Pictures Books for Spring 2022

Spring has sprung! Or I’m sure it will any time now. And with it comes the chance to get outside (finally!) and enjoy nature, feel the sunshine, and play in the garden. This spring the publishing world has supplied us with a bumper crop of titles to inspire gardeners of all ages. With picture books and board books, fiction and nonfiction, there is something to inspire all of us to grab our garden tools and start digging. Happy reading (and planting)!

BOARD BOOKS:

My Garden: My World in 100 Words
Happy Yak, illustrated by Marijke Buurlage
Quarto
Published April 12, 2022
Ages Birth to 3

This bright and bouncy vocab primer explores the seasons and fun to be had in nature with simple word to illustration connections. Broken into easy to interpret categories, each spread includes object, action, and emotion words, and with a nod to social emotional learning, color-coded dots indicate actions and emotions.

PICTURE BOOKS:

Behold Our Magical Garden: Poems Fresh from the School Garden
Allen Wolf, illustrated by Daniel Duncan
Candlewick
Published March 8, 2022
Ages 8-12

Part poetry collection, part gardening guide, and all fun. Wolf’s poetry and thoughtful end notes weave English language arts lessons, with STEM topics in verses full of curiosity, wonder, and interesting biology facts. The diverse class groups and detailed digital drawings are an engaging combination sure to inspire garden clubs to start planning.

The Fairy Garden
Georgia Buckthorn, illustrated by Isabella Mazzanti
Quarto
Published April 5, 2022
Ages 4-7

Mimi dreams of a fairy garden and works diligently to plant, prune, and tidy her garden until it’s perfect—for people, not fairies. With a little encouragement from its former inhabitants, she lets go and grows a beautiful and wild garden for the fairies to thrive. Lovely, soft-focused, colored pencil illustrations evoke a magical setting for dreaming of fairy-folk. Illustrated endnotes include rules for creating a fairy-friendly garden, adorable housing included.

NONFICTION PICTURE BOOKS:

Little Homesteader: A Spring Treasury of Recipes, Crafts, and Wisdom
Angela Ferraro-Fanning, illustrated by AnneliesDraws
Quarto
Published March 22, 2022
Ages 6-8

A fun and fact-filled celebration of spring’s natural wonders. Full of wholesome, hands-on ways to enjoy the foods, plants, and holidays that make spring so lovely, including crafts, recipes, and gardening tips. Vibrant colored pencil illustrations of veggies, bugs, and animals also include two rosy-cheeked children enjoying all the fun.

The Gardener of Alcatraz: A True Story
Emma Bland Smith, illustrated by Jenn Ely
Charlesbridge
Published April 5, 2022
Ages 7-10

Elliott Michener, sent to Alcatraz as a convicted counterfeiter, changed both his life and the island prison when he discovered a passion for gardening. Without white-washing Michener’s crimes or intentions, Bland Smith treats his story with empathy and his transformation from criminal to landscaper with dignity. Ely’s thoughtful use of color swings from dreary to cheerful (and back) in attentive accordance to the mood of the text. Back matter includes a dual timeline for Alcatraz Island and Michener, extensive notes on both, and a bibliography and author’s note.

Planting a Garden in Room 6: From Seeds to Salad
Caroline Arnold
Charlesbridge
Published March 15, 2022
Ages 3-7

With a little help from their teacher, the students in room 6 will learn how to plant and tend a garden. Step-by-step explanations and photos cover everything from seed sprouting to planting to harvesting and taste-testing. A tool guide, Q&A, vocabulary terms, and both digital and hard copy resources complement the extremely detailed text. Planting a Garden in Room 6 is the third book in the collaborative series between Arnold and kindergarten teacher, Jennifer Best.


Which titles would you add to this list?

Hispanic Heritage Month: Highlighting Hispanic/Latinx Titles for All Ages

Yesterday marked the beginning of Hispanic Heritage month, which begins on September 15th, as it is the independence anniversary for several Latin American countries. This week, we highlight a variety of titles for all ages by Hispanic/Latinx writers that each, in turn, celebrate different parts of their cultural experience.

Picture Books

Mi Casa is My Home
Laurenne Sala, illustrated by Zara González Hoang
Candlewick Press
August 19, 2021

This bilingual book celebrates the family as Lucía shows the reader around, explaining her surroundings and introducing her various family members in Spanglish. The large and diverse family is depicted in soft watercolor and colored pencil art. Sala shows the cozy and welcoming aspects of the home of a Hispanic family, where extended family and neighbors are always welcome.

A Thousand White Butterflies
Jessica Betancourt-Perez & Karen Lynn Williams, illustrated by Gina Maldonado
Charlesbridge
January 19, 2021

Isabella has recently arrived in the US from Colombia with her mother and grandmother, having to leave her father behind. She is lonely and looking forward to her first day of school and making new friends. A storm and snow-day leave Isabella heartbroken, missing the warm climates and friends she left behind in Colombia. While looking out the window, she spots Katie playing in the snow. A playdate and new friend improve Isabella’s perspective on her new situation. Back matter includes authors’ notes which delve into the real-life inspiration for the story, general information about immigrants, and a glossary translating the Spanish terms used throughout the story.

Your Mama
NoNieqa Ramos, illustrated by Jacqueline Alcantara
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt/Versify
April 6, 2021

Ramos celebrates mothers in this twist on the classic “yo’ mama” joke, with each phrase celebrating motherhood. Banners that resemble old school “mom” tattoos are used to start each lyrical phrase, with vibrant art mixing markers and pastels depicting a brown-skinned mother and daughter. Including Spanish in some of the text drives home both the author’s and illustrator’s stated commitments to promote inclusiveness and diversity in children’s literature.

Children’s Fiction

Fearless
Mandy Gonzalez
Simon & Schuster/Aladdin
April 6, 2021

Broadway star Mandy Gonzalez weaves her knowledge of theater into her debut novel. Twelve-year-old Monica Garcia arrives in New York City after being chosen as an understudy in a new show at a famed, but now struggling, theater. Rumors of a curse plague the building and strange and terrible things start to happen, threatening the chances of a successful opening night. Monica and her castmates must figure out how to reverse the curse, using a mixture of mystery solving and supernatural magic. This book, along with its just announced sequel, is sure to appeal to readers looking for drama or a fright.

Time Villains
Victor Piñeiro
Sourcebooks Young Readers
July 6, 2021

This debut novel from Piñeiro combines magic, imagination, and adventure in this first entry to a new series. Javi is working on a school assignment that involves “inviting historical figures to dinner” when he finds out that his family’s mysterious antique table can actually bring the historical guests into the present time. Unfortunately, one of his guests is Blackbeard, the infamous pirate, and he escapes the party, determined to summon the rest of his pirate crew. This leads Javi, his best friend, and his sister to work together to return Blackbeard to his own time, but they might have to invite other historical figures in order to do so. Back matter includes notes about all historical figures featured in the book.

Wild Survival #1: Crocodile Rescue
Melissa Cristina Márquez
Scholastic
February 2, 2021

Twelve-year-old Adrianna Villalobos travels the world with her family as her parents host Wild Survival!, a nature show featuring animal rescues. Adrianna is determined to prove that she deserves a spot-on camera as the show is poised to move from YouTube to a TV network. This is all put in jeopardy when her brother is injured in an accident that is partially Adrianna’s fault. To avoid being sent home, Adrianna must prove herself, even if it means confronting a legendary Mega Croc rumored to inhabit the waters around the family’s base camp. Back matter includes an author’s note where Márquez, a marine biologist and wildlife educator, recounts the real-life inspiration for the book, crocodile facts, and translations of Spanish terms used in the family’s dialogue.

Teen Fiction

Fire with Fire
Destiny Soria
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
June 8, 2021

Sisters Dani and Eden Rivera have been raised as dragon slayers. While they have different life priorities, they agree about the importance of their dragon slaying duty. That is, until Dani gets to know a dragon and realizes that what they were taught was wrong. Eden turns to mysterious magic to save her sister, believing her to be lost to the dragons. As the two dabble in new and dangerous magic, there is a more powerful enemy lurking in the shadows.

How Moon Fuentez Fell in Love with the Universe
Raquel Vasquez Gilliland
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
August 10, 2021

Moon is used to living in the shadow of her twin sister, a social media star. That is, until one fateful summer when she takes a job as the merch girl on a tour bus full of influencers. She starts off with nothing but hatred for her bunkmate, Santiago Phillips, but this feeling shifts as the two continue to cross paths, along with Moon’s acceptance of her role in relation to her sister. This romance focuses not only on the connection between its two primary characters, but also on Moon finding herself and her place in the universe.

On the Hook
Francisco X. Stork
Scholastic Press
May 18, 2021

Hector has always kept his head down, taking steps towards a better life. Then, he is forced into a violent confrontation when his brother gets into a fight with the head of the DiscÍpulos gang. The consequences are many, including being sent to a reform school where he must live side by side with his enemy Joey, who had already previously promised to kill him. Hector must ultimately choose between revenge and working his way back to the path towards the life he dreamed of.

Nonfiction

It’s All Love: Reflections for Your Heart & Soul
Jenna Ortega
Random House Children’s Books
January 5, 2021

This debut by actress Jenna Ortega focuses on uplifting quotes and affirmations. Ortega’s personal stories about growing up Latina in Hollywood, working through depression, and more are accompanied by relevant quotes framed by illustrations. The range of experiences and emotions described within the collection is sure to resonate with a large variety of readers.

Butler Bookshelf

IMG_3242Here’s a few titles that we got this week that we are excited to read:

Carmen Sandiego: Endangered Operation published by HMH Books for Young Readers. Comes out October 1st, 2019.

Mario y el agujero en el cielo: Cómo un químico salvó nuestro planeta by Elizabeth Rusch, illustrated by Teresa Martinez, translated by Carlos E. Calvo. Published by Charlesbridge.
Comes out November 5th, 2019.

Whose Footprint is THAT? by Darrin Lunde, illustrated by Kelsey Oseid, published by Charlesbridge.
Comes Out October 22nd, 2019.

Milton & Odie and the Bigger-than-Bigmouth Bass by Mary Ann Fraser, published by Charlesbridge.
Comes out October 1st, 2019.

Dog and Rabbit by Barney Saltzberg, published by Charlesbridge.
Comes out October 8th, 2019.

Baby Loves the Five Senses: Sight! (Baby Loves Science) by Ruth Spiro, illustrated by Irene Chen, published by Charlesbridge.
Comes out September 24th, 2019.

The Oregon Trail: Gold Rush! Choose Your Own Trail by Jesse Wiley, published by HMH Books for Young Readers. September 2019.

Beware! by Bob Raczka, illustrated by Larry Day, published by Charlesbridge.
Comes out October 8th, 2019.

If Elephants Disappeared by Lily Williams, published by Roaring Brook Press.
Out now, September 2019.

Alice and Greta: A Tale of Two Witches by Steven J. Simmons, illustrated by Cyd Moore, published by Charlesbridge.
Out as of August 2019.

Butler Bookshelf

IMG_3223Here are some books that we got in this week that we’re really excited about:

Paper World: Planet Earth illustrated by Bomoboland, published by Big Picture Press

Permanent Record by Mary H.K. Choi, published by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

The Other Side: Stories of Central American Teen Refuges Who Dream of Crossing the Border by Juan Pablo Villalobos, published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux

King of the Mole People by Paul Gilligan, published by Henry Holt and Co.

If Animals Celebrated Christmas by Ann Whitford Paul, illustrated  by David Walker, published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Color Me In by Natasha Diaz, published by Delacorte Press

Best Friends by Shannon Hale, illustrated by LeUyen Pham, published by First Second

Life is Short and Then You Die: Mystery Writers of America Present First Encounters with Murder edited by Kelley Armstrong, published by Macmillan

Stargazing written and illustrated by Jen Wang, published by First Second

Between Us and Abuela: A Family Story from the Border by Mitali Perkins, illustrated by Sara Palacios, published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Arriverderci Crocodile or See You Later Alligator begun by Fred Marcellino and completed by Eric Puybaret, published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers

Remarkables by Lisa Mantchev, illustrated by David Litchfield, published by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

Who’s Ready for School to Start?

Back-to-school butterflies? First day jitters? The newest academics among us will appreciate these sweet, silly, and giggle-worthy introductions to just who and what awaits them in the classroom. This brand new class of back-to-school picture books to will ease the way for the little humans in your library, classroom, or living room as all get ready for the first day of school.

 

Bunnys book clubBunny’s Book Club Goes to School
By Annie Silvestro, illustrated by Tatjana Mai-Wyss
Penguin Random House, June 2019

Josie is worried about making friends at school, but her book-club buddy Bunny can help—he’ll just be her school friend too. As the book club animals search the school for Josie, they’ll introduce kids to all the fun places waiting for them at school. Sweet illustrations complement this gentle story of friendship, empathy, and support.

 

clothes line cluesClothesline Clues to the First Day of School
By Katheryn Heling and Deborah Hembrook, illustrated by Andy Robert Davies
Charlesbridge, June 2019

It’s a laundry basket inspired guessing game in this guide to all the new people excited to meet you at school. A silly rhyme will help set expectations and turn anxiety to anticipation about the first day of school.

 

i will be fierceI Will Be Fierce
By Bea Birdsong, illustrated by Nidhi Chanani
MacMillan, April 2019

While not strictly a back-to-school-themed book, it follows this fierce little girl to school and back and through all the adventures in between. Brightly colored and boldly written, this is a great illustration of how a little confidence can go a long way on a big (first) day at school.

 

 

if animals went to schoolIf Animals Went to School
By Ann Whitford Paul, Illustrated by David Walker
Farrar, Straus and Giroux, May 2019

Beaver might not want to go to school, but after a day of music, learning, and his fun with his friends, he doesn’t want to go home. A perfectly inspirational story for the tiny human determined NOT to go to school!

 

king of kindergartenThe King of Kindergarten
By Derrick Barnes, illustrated by Vanessa Brantley Newton
Penguin Random House, July 2019

An exuberant and imaginative walkthrough of the first day of school! Barnes’ pacing is just right for introducing a new routine and finding the fun in what could be a scary first day.

 

The smell of freshly sharpened pencils is in the air—Happy Back-to-School season, friends!

 

 

 

 

My TBR List Celebrates APHM (Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month)

One benefit of a mile-long TBR list is that there is always a themed booklist hiding within. This month, as luck (and publishing trends) would have it, my list contains a lovely selection of titles in celebration of Asian/Pacific American Heritage month. As we honor Asians and Pacific Islanders in the US, this May, and celebrate the diverse traditions, tastes, and identities they represent, I can’t think of a better way to appreciate their varied experiences than through stories, can you?

Here’s what’s had me turning pages well into the night this month…

Ojiichan's Gift

Ojiichan’s Gift
Chieri Uegaki
Illustrated by Genevieve Simms
Kids Can Press, April 2019
Ages 5-8

Mayumi grows up and grows close to her grandfather as he teaches her to care for the garden he’s built her. But when her Ojiichan is no longer able to work in the garden, Mayumi must learn to accept the change in their relationship and give a gift of her own. Gentle and quiet, an explanation of aging and the changing relationships between grandparents and grandchildren.

Pie in the Sky by Remi Lai

Pie in the Sky
Remy Lai
Henry Holt, May 2019
Ages 8-11

Jingwen is struggling. Moving to Mars (aka Australia) is hard. Learning to speak English is hard. Making friends is hard. Losing his father is hard. But making cake is easy and making the cakes he made with his father seems to make the rest a bit easier too. The juxtaposition of prose and comic-style illustrations complement the honest mixing of humor and grief in Jingwen’s world.

I Love You So Mochi by Sarah Kuhn

I Love You So Mochi
Sarah Kuhn
Scholastic, May 2019
Ages 14-17

Fleeing a fight with her mother over her future plans, Kimi Nakamura impulsively accepts an invitation to spend spring break in Kyoto, Japan with the grandparents she’s never met. But her journey of self-discovery takes a turn for the romantic when a cute boy (dressed as a mochi) volunteers to help her figure out what she’s meant to do. As they explore the sights in Kyoto, Kimi comes to value her true artistic vision, her budding relationships with Akira and her grandparents, and her mother’s concern for her future. Adventure, flirtation, and delicious treats on the path to enlightenment.

The Beauty of The Moment by Tanaz Bhathena

The Beauty of the Moment
Tanaz Bhathena
MacMillan, February 2019
Ages 14-17

Susan is a recent transplant from India to Canada, by way of Saudi Arabia—book-smart, artistic, and driven by a desire not to disappoint her parents. Malcolm was born and raised in Canada by an angry father and deceased mother—street-smart, hurting, and trying to figure it all out. As their relationship evolves (and devolves) and each deals with their own family struggles, they will learn how to be friends and to be themselves. Full of all the heartaches, headaches, and struggles of growing up, with just enough humor to balance the weight.

And a summer publication worth waiting for…

The Downstairs Girl by Stacey Lee

The Downstairs Girl
Stacey Lee
Penguin Teen/Putnam, August 2019
Ages 14-17

Orphan, turned hat designer, turned ladies maid, turned secret advice columnists, Jo Kuan is used to blending into the background as a form of self-preservation. But now her unconventional advice about challenging societal norms in 1890s Atlanta and a desire to challenge her own family’s troubled history, may just be the things that push her into the spotlight. A thoughtful commentary on race, gender, and being true to one’s self.