Election Year Titles for All Ages

We’re less than two months from election day, and it’s the perfect time for civic-minded students of all ages to understand that their voice and their vote matters. Publishers have provided a plethora of options; from picture books to YA novels, fiction and nonfiction, there is something for every kid and every lesson plan.

Pre-school—Kindergarten

Curious George Votes
Deidre Langland
Illustrated by Mary O’Keefe in the style of H. A. Rey
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
September 1, 2020

As per usual, Curious George causes well-intentioned chaos with an elementary school mascot election while passing out stickers, stuffing the ballot box, helping a write-in candidate get elected—a monkey! This silly introduction to voting will be a great introduction for little ones that might be curious about all this election-talk.

V is for Voting
Kate Farrell
Illustrated by Caitlin Kuhwald
Macmillan/Henry Holt
July 21, 2020

This civic-minded ABC book is a bright and optimistic look at why we vote—for Citizens’ rights, Onward progress, and Representation. A diverse cast of engaged voters (and kids), with cameo appearances by political and social figures past and present, represent 26 reasons why your vote is important. The back matter, including notes on how to contact elected officials, organizing a voter registration drive, and a voting rights timeline, is geared toward grown-up reading buddies.

Elementary

Vote for our Future
Margaret McNamara
Illustrated by Micah Player
Penguin Random House/Schwartz & Wade
February 18, 2020

They may not be old enough to vote yet, but these elementary school students will make their voices heard because “kids have to live with adult choices.” By passing out voting guides, talking about voting options, encouraging registration, and hosting a bake sale, they build enthusiasm and turn out in their community. Includes a list of Acts of Congress that were influenced by votes for a better future.

The Next President: The Unexpected Beginnings and Unwritten Future of America’s Presidents
Kate Messner
Illustrated by Adam Rex
Chronicle Books
March 24, 2020

Everybody starts somewhere, even our presidents, who were politicians, soldiers, farmers, students, and regular kids. This timeline of U.S. presidents gives snippets of their histories and overlapping experiences to show how, even now, our future leaders are leading, learning, growing-up, and maybe even reading this book.

Middle-Grade

Act
Kayla Miller
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
July 21, 2020

Olive puts her sixth grade civics lessons to work when she runs for student council representative. Learning about protests, debates, and the issues important to her classmates will make her a great candidate, even if it means running against her friends. This bright and engaging graphic novel includes a recipe for Mint Chocolate Chip-Ins, notes on historic and modern day peaceful protests, and a suggested reading list.

The Kids’ Complete Guide to Elections
Cari Meister, Emma Carlson Berne, and Nel Yomtov
Capstone
January 1, 2020

This thorough nonfiction guide covers everything from vocabulary to in-depth, but age-appropriate explanations of democratic values, campaigns, the electoral college, political parties, and voting. Vibrant photography and relatable examples will both inform and inspire students to make a difference in their communities.

Young Adult

Running
Natalia Sylvester
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt/Clarion
July 14, 2020

When Mari Ruiz’s father runs for president; she isn’t prepared for the effects on her life—intense media scrutiny, questioning her family values, and her growing sense of political activism. As she evaluates her feelings and beliefs, Mari sets her own boundaries and finds her own voice. An intimate look at the way personal beliefs conflict with business as usual in U.S. politics.

Unrig: How to Fix Our Broken Democracy
Daniel G. Newman
Illustrated by George O’Connor
Roaring Brook/First Second
July 7, 2020

An accessible exploration of the connection between corporation, big money, and political power, and how breaking that connection is the needed to see genuine change in our country. The subtle turquoise and goldenrod color palette in this YA graphic novel puts the focus on specific examples, clearly-explained concepts, and what readers can do to affect change.

Beyond the stars: A Review of Lights on Wonder Rock

Lights on Wonder Rock
David Litchfield
Clarion/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
September 9, 2020
Ages 4-8

Heather was searching for something more—magic, friendship, adventure, and aliens! So she spends her nights at Wonder Rock, doing all she can to attract the attention of a spaceship. When she finally gets her chance to jump aboard, Heather realizes she doesn’t want to leave her family behind. She grows up, loses the wonder of childhood, and has a family of her own, but never gives up waiting for her alien friend. When at last they return, Heather once again recognizes that she might already have all she needs here on Earth.

Litchfield’s thoughtful story explores themes of longing, hope, and curiosity about what other lives may be out there for us. His use of dark and muted tones for the forest, juxtaposed with the colorful and sparkling pages where the spaceship appears, help to set off the difference between how Heather sees her life and her expectations about what might await her in outer space. Double-page spreads of wordless panels put a unique focus on the two most important relationships in the story, with her son and her alien friend, and explain the pull she feels between them. Throughout, Litchfield cleverly uses light—sun, moon, and flashlight beams—to focus on Heather’s emotions and the devotion she feels to both her family and her dreams.

A Bounty of Books: Picture Books to Celebrate Summer Gardens

In this season of farmer’s markets and garden harvests, my thoughts are often on homegrown tomatoes and plans for next year’s garden. But before we get there, 2020 provides a bountiful harvest of picture books to celebrate the growing season and all the benefits of time in the garden. Whether you’re looking for sweet, silly, or informational, there’s something here for every little gardener in your library.

What Grew in Larry’s Garden
Laura Alary, illustrated by Kass Reich
Kids Can Press
Age 4-7
April 7, 2020

Grace thinks Larry’s garden is one of the “wonders of the world” and spends each season helping him nurture it. They work together to solve problems like bugs, squirrels, and the shadow created by a neighbor’s new fence. But Larry also using his garden to teach his students, and Grace, about growing community. Based on a real-life teacher and garden, this sweet story, and its lovely gouache illustrations, is full of inspiration for friends, problem-solvers, and gardeners.

One Little Lot: The 1-2-3’s of an Urban Garden
Diane C. Mullen, illustrated by Oriol Vidal
Charlesbridge
Ages 3-7
March 3, 2020

This not-so-simple counting book tracks the progress of a diverse group of neighbors as they transform an empty neighborhood lot into a vibrant community garden. With imagination, teamwork, a few green thumbs, and some helpful honey bees, both the neighbors and readers will enjoy the journey and delicious harvest. A thorough author’s note provides insights into the author’s inspiration, facts about honey bees, and tips for making your garden more bee-friendly.

Feast of Peas
Kashmira Sheth, illustrated by Jeffrey Ebbeler
Peachtree
Ages 4-8
March 1, 2020

Jiva diligently tends his small garden by weeding, watering, and waiting for his favorite veggies—the peas! But each time some are ready to pick, they disappear. Is it rabbits? Is it ghosts? Jiva sets a trap for the pea-thief and catches his friend Ruvji, who’s been admiring the peas all along. As punishment for his tricks, Ruvji is the one to cook a feast of peas, and he’s lucky Jiva is generous enough to share. Richly colored illustrations highlight the lush Indian setting and add to the silly humor in this delightful tale.

Khalil and Mr. Hagerty and the Backyard Treasures
Tricia Springstubb, illustrated by Elaheh Taherian
Candlewick
Ages 4-8
May 26, 2020

Khalil loves to spend his days in the garden with his downstairs neighbor, Mr. Hagerty. When digging in the garden leads to disappointing results, they each find a way to make the other’s day. Their days in the garden grow into a sweet intergenerational friendship with plenty of chocolate cake! The simple story and charming collage art will inspire conversations about all the treasures to be found when we work together.

Maker Comics: Grow a Garden!
Alexis Frederick-Frost
Roaring Brook Press/First Second
Ages 9-13
February 25, 2020 (Paperback)

The new students at Garden Gnome Academy have a lot to learn about gardening, but Mr. Butternut and the school staff have a lot to teach them (and you) about how to get started. With lessons on selecting seeds, making paper seed pots, composting, and sprouting the seeds, the gnomes are getting a hands-on education. This bright and funny graphic novel contains step-by-step instructions for many of the tasks needed to start a garden, all tucked within a story full of friendship and adventure.

Faults and Aftershocks: A Review of Odessa

odessa-9781620107898_lg.jpgOdessa
Written and illustrated by Jonathan Hill
Published by Oni Press
Available November 10, 2020
Ages 13+

Eight years ago, Vietnamese-American Ginny Crane’s earth shattered—and not just because an earthquake ripped the West Coast apart, tearing apart the land and communities. No, Ginny’s world was shaken when her mother left her family, taking off without a word. In the years that followed, Ginny and her dad took care of her two kid brothers, acclimating to a new way of life. Now, on her eighteenth birthday, Ginny receives a package from her mother, Odessa. Ginny knows this is her chance to find her mother. Ginny takes off in the middle of the night, leaving her family behind. Her brothers, Harry and Wes, however, tag along on her journey; they miss their mother, too. As the trio bushwhack their way through a post-apocalyptic America, they struggle with who they can and cannot trust. They encounter rival gangs—all bent on keeping their territory intact—and join forces with an enigmatic man called Four Dollars. Jonathan Hill’s images in Odessa are salmon-saturated and filled with exquisite detail. The landscape is decimated, and the population is weary. Hill’s drawings capture the fatigue and manic energy that is integral to their survival. The Crane family is full of love and secrets: the mysterious Four Dollars is actually the siblings’ long-lost Uncle Hank. Uncle Hank, in turn, is deeply connected to the warring factions that plague the Crane’s journey. As family mysteries are unearthed, the Cranes encounter violence and death. Hill ends the story with a new beginning: the remaining Cranes must set forth into Middle America to find the truth. This new #OwnVoices graphic novel from Oni Press is a taut and exciting exploration of perseverance, truth, and unbreakable bonds.

Dog Meets Boy: A review of I Always Wanted One

I Always Wanted One cover artI Always Wanted One
Olivier Tallec
Quarto
August 18, 2020
Ages 4-8

Dog has always wanted a boy of his very own, but quickly learns that it’s not all fun and games. Having a boy is a big responsibility—training, feeding, grooming, and figuring out where he wanders off to all day with his bag of books. But even after all the work and all the years, where the boy has “grown bigger and takes up all the room on my couch,” Dog is proud of his boy, and they “remain the best of friends in the world.”

In this twist on the age-old friendship between a boy and his dog, Tallec flips the script and the prescribed emotions of each. Dog has the duties of responsible ownership, and his dry humor and droll observations illustrate that it can be work. But his thoughtful reflections on their evolving relationship demonstrate his devotion to boy. Tallec’s subtle pencil and watercolor illustrations complement the understated text while adding a layer of visual humor to Dog’s opinions. The sight of boy hiding under the dresser or his freshly brushed hair will surely get a giggle from young readers. The horizontal orientation of the book mimics the twisted theme. Both the orientation and detailed illustrations lend themselves to one-on-one reading. A perfect pick for a child who needs to learn what it’s like to belong to a pet.

Poetry is My Superpower: A Review of Isaiah Dunn is My Hero

41TdgcCewtL._SY346_Isaiah Dunn is My Hero
Written by Kelly J. Baptist
Published by Crown Books for Young Readers
Available August 18, 2020
Ages 8-10

Ten-year-old Isaiah Dunn loves to write poetry. He doesn’t anymore, though, not since his father passed away. Everything is different now that his father is gone. His mother, Lisa, stopped going to work and barely talks, and his little sister Charlie keeps calling their motel room “home.” The only thing Isaiah wants to do is spend time with his best pal, Sneaky, or read his dad’s journals. They are filled with stories about Isaiah Dunn, Superhero, who gets his special powers from eating rice and beans. He feels connected to his father when reading the stories and wishes he could be a superhero himself. Things are getting more complicated, though. Isaiah keeps getting in trouble at school for reacting to his classmate Angel’s name-calling. When he and Angel get paired up for a class project, it could not get any worse. Things start to improve when a school counselor mediates between Angel and Isaiah; Angel reveals that Isaiah hurt her feelings when he made fun of her hair. Angel and Isaiah discover they have a lot in common and create a poetry business together. After losing her job, Isaiah’s mom enters a rehabilitation program; while she is away Isaiah and his sister stay at a family friend’s home.  Isaiah spends more time at the library. He comes up with an idea to have a writing room in an old storage space, and the library approves the idea. Isaiah’s mother returns home and the family celebrates the Fourth of July all together. Kelly J. Baptist’s novel explores Isaiah as a budding young poet while struggling with the loss of a parent and home insecurity. Baptist breaks up the story by days, as if writing in a journal, and populates the middle-grade novel with poetry and snippets of short stories. Baptist depicts Isaiah’s and his family’s grief as the complex entity it is. Lisa’s grief-induced alcoholism and depression are layered and multi-dimensional. Sneaky and Angel are complicated individual characters who go beyond their supporting role. While this is a book about grief, this is a hopeful novel—and a great addition to a middle-grade collection.

What Do You See?: A Review of The Last Mirror on the Left

Last Mirror on the LeftThe Last Mirror on the Left
Lamar Giles, illustrated by Dapo Adeola
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt/Versify
October 20, 2020
Ages 8-12

The Legendary Alston Boys of Logan County are back for a second adventure to help solve another problem they may have had a hand in creating. When Otto and Sheed took mirrors from the Rorrim Mirror Emporium to fight Mr. Flux (The Last-Last-Day-of Summer, 2019), they inadvertently set free some dangerous criminals jailed inside the mirrors. Now they must travel through mirrors and the Multiverse to bring order back to the Multiverse Justice System. But stepping through the mirror into the Warped World of alternate-Fry will have consequences—like Otto slowly turning to stone and Sheed to a skeleton—that aren’t as random as they seem. With the help of an alt-Grandma (and her flying hat), the Epic Ellison twins (of course!), and some unjustly-jailed giant spiders, the Alston boys will save Fry once again and their future selves in the process.

Lamar Giles’ world-building is stellar, as he creates a Logan County both ordinary and extraordinarily weird. Then throws a warped version into the mix too. Otto and Sheed (two African American cousins) are brave, diligent, and funny even when dealing with themes of injustice, illness, greed, and an angry kangaroo creature. And Giles’ secondary characters are so vividly drawn that they could easily stand alone—maybe an Epic Ellisons series? Dapo Adeola again provides illustrations that add a comic touch to highlight the action while perfectly capturing the personalities of Otto and Sheed. Imaginations will run wild with this second installment of the series full of fast-paced adventure, yet grounded in family bonds and Grandma’s wise counsel.

Butler Bookshelf

This week on the Butler Bookshelf, we’re eager to read a picture book on the Queen of Soul herself–Aretha Franklin! Author Katheryn Russell-Brown and illustrator Laura Freeman take readers on a journey back to Aretha Franklin’s childhood and her rise to legendary status in A Voice Named Aretha. For more great reads, check out the list Below!

Arlo Finch in the Kingdom of Shadows
Written by John August
Published by Roaring Brook Press
Available now!

Machines in Motion: The Amazing History of Transportation
Written by Tom Jackson
Published by Bloomsbury
Available now!

Hop Little Bunnies
Written by Martha Mumford and illustrated by Laura Hughes
Published by Bloomsbury
Available now!

A Voice Named Aretha
Written by Katheryn Russell-Brown and illustrated by Laura Freeman
Published by Bloomsbury
Available now!

A Beginner’s Projects in Coding
Written by Marc Scott and illustrated by Mick Marston
Published by Bloomsbury
Available now!

A Way with Wild Things
Written by Larissa Theule and illustrated by Sara Palacios
Published by Bloomsbury
Available now!

 

What’s Bugging You?: A Review of Bugs Everywhere

Bugs Everywhere cover art

Bugs Everywhere
Lily Murray, illustrated by Britta Teckentrup
Candlewick/Big Picture Press
April 7, 2020
Ages 4-8

Bugs really are everywhere, whether we like it or not! This fact-filled picture book for bug-lovers proves it, exploring a wide range of topics from their history, environments, feeding, survival, reproduction, and even their relationship with people—we need them, you know? Small, and often gross, bits of trivia make this title perfect for jumping in and out of, but might induce the curious to settle in for a long, squirm-inducing read. Did you know there are millions of species of bugs? That the cicada is the loudest insect in the world? That there are bugs that live on your face?!?

Lily Murray excels at boiling down the information into concise, yet fun facts that entomologists of all ages will love. Britta Teckentrup’s collage-like, digital illustrations are reminiscent of Eric Carle and provide a vibrant full-color backdrop to the details. The metallic foil accents and friendly lady bugs on the cover will draw in the reader and delightful, yet detailed illustrations will charm even the bug-shy. This will make an excellent and informative step-up for young fans of Carle’s bug books. Originally published in 2019 by King’s Road Publishing (London) under the title There Are Bugs Everywhere, this first US publication under the new title comes from Big Picture Press.

Butler Bookshelf

Tensions are high on the Zero Local train, as riders deal with delays and frustrations. But a new passenger joins the daily commute, and passengers begin to practice gratitude. Ethan and Vita Murrow’s Zero Local: Next Stop Kindness picture book is next on our to read list. For more reads, check out the list below!

Portrait of an Artist: Georgia O Keefe
Written by Lucy Brownridge and illustrated by Alice Wietzel
Published by Wide Eyed Editions
Available now!

The Not BAD Animals
Written and illustrated by Sophie Corrigan
Published by Frances Lincoln Children’s Books
Available now!

Who Do You Think You Are?
Written by Alice Harman and illustrated by Blok Magnaye
Published by Wide Eyed Editions
Available now!

Alphonse, There’s Mud on the Ceiling!
Written and illustrated by Daisy Hirst
Published by Walker Books
Available now!

Zero Local: Next Stop: Kindness
Written and illustrated by Ethan and Vita Morrow
Published by Candlewick
Available now!

Evonne Goolagong: Little People Big Dreams
Written by Maria Isabel Sanchez Vegara and illustrated by Lisa Koesterke
Published by Frances Lincoln Children’s Books
Available now!