2023 Picture Books to Have on Your Radar
If you are a frequent reader of Teen Librarian Toolbox, you know we don’t always just write about teen-related things. I work in an elementary library, so sometimes I write about books for younger readers. And we know our readers work with children and children’s books for all ages, so why not cover a little bit of everything, right?
Here are a few books for young readers I’m looking forward to in 2023. Look for another list, covering books from the second half of the year, in the coming months!
All descriptions from the publishers.
The Kindest Red: A Story of Hijab and Friendship by Ibtihaj Muhammad, S. K. Ali, Hatem Aly (Illustrator) (ISBN-13: 9780759555709 Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers Publication date: 01/10/2023 Series: The Proudest Blue #2, Ages 4-8)
The sequel to the acclaimed New York Times bestseller The Proudest Blue shows the power of friendship and kindness, from Olympic medalist Ibtihaj Muhammad.
It’s picture day and Faizah can’t wait to wear her special red dress with matching hair ribbons, passed down from her mother and sister. Faizah’s teacher starts the day by asking her students to envision the kind of world they want, inspiring Faizah and her friends to spend the day helping one another in ways large and small.
But when it’s time for sibling pictures, Faizah realizes that she and her older sister, Asiya, don’t match like her classmates do with their siblings. With help from her classmates inspired by Asiya’s hijab, Faizah finds that acts of kindness can come back to you in unexpected ways.
From Olympic medalist Ibtihaj Muhammad and fellow bestselling, award-winning creators S.K. Ali and Hatem Aly comes a heartfelt exploration of friendship, faith, and the joy of spreading kindness wherever you go.
Sometimes It’s Nice to Be Alone by Amy Hest, Philip C. Stead (Illustrator) (ISBN-13: 9780823449477 Publisher: Holiday House Publication date: 02/14/2023, Ages 4-7)
A celebration of the joy and comfort to be found in alone time and the joy and comfort that a friend can bring.
Sometimes it’s nice to be alone.
Just you, eating a cookie, alone.
But what if a friend drops in?
In Amy Hest and Philip C. Stead’s accomplished hands, anyone can become a potential friend—and that includes horses, whales, crocodiles, and even dinosaurs. The book’s effortless lilt and joyous illustrations are reminiscent of the very best work of Margaret Wise Brown and Charlotte Zolotow. It’s a complete treat for any lonely kid with a big imagination.
The Liebrary by Amanda Pearlstein, Howard Pearlstein, Maren Amini (Illustrator) (ISBN-13: 9781953458605 Publisher: Yeehoo Press Publication date: 02/20/2023, Ages 4-8)
Should children learn to drive cars?
Are volcanoes bubbling with fondu?
And do rhinos make good pets?
Mikayla and Drew loved to read and learn new things…but when a new stack of books gives way to facts unlike anything they had ever heard of before, chaos ensues! Soon the children are swimming with alligators, eating candies like vitamins, and getting blasted by their neighbor. Which leads them to wonder . . .
If it’s in a book, is it actually true?
From Amanda Pearlstein, Howard Pearlstein, and Maren Amini, comes a rhyming tale about what happens when a family decides to take every word to heart—and the hilarious consequences that follow. A perfect book for fans of Harry Bliss and Doreen Cronin!
Can We Please Give the Police Department to the Grandmothers? by Junauda Petrus, Kristen Uroda (Illustrator) (ISBN-13: 9780593462331 Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group Publication date: 04/04/2023, Ages 4-8)
Based on the viral poem by Coretta Scott King honoree Junauda Petrus, this picture book debut imagines a radicially positive future where police aren’t in charge of public safety and community well-being.
Petrus first published and performed this poem after the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri in 2014. With every subsequent police shooting, it has taken on new urgency, culminating in the 2020 murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer, blocks from Junauda’s home.
In its picture book incarnation, Can We Please Give the Police Department to the Grandmothers? is a joyously radical vision of community-based safety and mutual aid. It is optimisitic, provocative, and ultimately centered in fierce love. Debut picture book artist Kristen Uroda has turned Junauda’s vision for a city without precincts into a vibrant and flourishing urban landscape filled with wise and loving grandmothers of all sorts.
The Artist by Ed Vere (ISBN-13: 9780525580874 Publisher: Random House Children’s Books Publication date: 04/04/2023, Ages 3-7)
A brave little artist goes on an epic adventure to share her creativity with the world in this picture book from New York Times bestselling author-illustrator Ed Vere. It’s an inspiring exploration of the creative spirit, perfect for fans of What Do You Do with an Idea? and The Dot.
Creative young children will see themselves and the world around them in a fresh light in this charming story about an artistic soul. Through setbacks and triumphs, our young hero adds color and life to a drab gray city, bringing beauty to those who live there. It’s a journey that reminds us that it’s okay to color outside the lines: Art is full of heart!
The Artist is a perfect gift for creative kids, graduates, or anyone setting out on a new path, encouraging them to face life’s obstacles with a positive outlook.
The Loud Librarian by Jenna Beatrice, Erika Lynne Jones (Illustrator) (ISBN-13: 9781665910545 Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers Publication date: 04/11/2023, Ages 4-8)
A little librarian with a larger-than-life voice finds her place in this sweet and uproarious picture book about being true to yourself—no shushing required!
Penelope is perfect for the job of student-librarian. Friendly? Check. Helpful? Check. Book lover? Check. There’s just one snag. Penelope is…LOUD. Bookcases may topple and the ground may quake at the sound of her voice, but Penelope is determined to prove she’s perfect for the job and stay true to herself. Can a little librarian with a big voice find a place where she belongs?
Sam and the Incredible African and American Food Fight by Shannon Gibney, Charly Palmer (Illustrator) (ISBN-13: 9781517909659 Publisher: University of Minnesota Press Publication date: 04/25/2023, Ages 5-9)
Six-year-old Sam, with his Liberian dad and African American mom, finds a way to bring everyone in his cross-cultural family together at the dinner table
Rice and okra soup: Sam’s auntie from Liberia made it, and it’s Dad’s favorite. Mom, homegrown in Minnesota, made spaghetti and meatballs. And Sam? He’s just hungry, but no matter what he chooses to eat, someone will be disappointed. Caught in the middle of his family’s African and American food fight, Sam gets a little help from his grumbling stomach—and readers of this seriously funny book by Shannon Gibney get a peek at cultures colliding in a family kitchen that work out in a very delicious way. Charly Palmer’s vibrant and captivating illustrations make this gentle lesson in getting along a bright and colorful visual feast as well.
Cassava leaf torbogee or homemade sausage pizza? Sam’s family recipes bring Sam and the Incredible African and American Food Fight to an apt and happy ending—and readers can decide which dinner is best. But, really, why not both?
Wombats Are Pretty Weird: A (Not So) Serious Guide by Abi Cushman (ISBN-13: 9780063234437 Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers Publication date: 05/23/2023, Ages 4-8)
Wombats are elusive, burrowing marsupials. Their teeth never stop growing, they have backward-facing pouches, and they’re the only animal to have cube-shaped poop. And if you ask their snake friend, those aren’t the only things that are weird about wombats!
Abi Cushman’s Wombats Are Pretty Weird contains informative, expressive, and funny illustrations, and offers an entertaining blend of narration, sidebars, speech balloons, and dialogue between Snake and the wombats he meets in the wild. A refreshing departure from traditional informational books, Wombats Are Pretty Weird is a child-friendly guide to understanding the weird and wonderful world of wombats.
Features extensive backmatter including a glossary.
Like Lava In My Veins by Derrick Barnes, Shawn Martinbrough (Illustrator) (ISBN-13: 9780525518747 Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group Publication date: 07/04/2023, Ages 5-8)
A super-cool graphic picture book about a boy learning how to control his temper, by bestselling author Derrick Barnes.
Bobby Beacon’s got fire flowing through his veins. And now he’s psyched to attend a new school that’ll help him get a better grip on his powers. But right off the bat, his new teacher is not too welcoming. That causes Bobby’s hot temper to land him in the principal’s office. It ain’t easy to stay calm when people don’t seem to understand you and are always pushing you to the edge. Good thing Bobby gets moved to a class with an understanding teacher who clues him in on ways to calm himself and shows him that caring for others is its own kind of superpower. With her help—and some cool new friends—he just might be on his way to becoming the best version of himself possible.
Filed under: new books
About Amanda MacGregor
Amanda MacGregor works in an elementary library, loves dogs, and can be found on Twitter @CiteSomething.
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