Each month, I check my local library’s website for newly added picture books. It’s one of the ways I keep up with what’s out there in the marketplace, while also finding new books for my reading list. This month’s favorites have the distinction of being released in the past year; but more importantly, they stood out to me in a way that made me want to share them with you. My hope is that you’ll go beyond my blog to read them for yourselves. Enjoy!

“Harry and the Guinea Pig” written by Nancy Lambert and illustrated by Saba Joshaghani (Copyright 2020, Harper imprint of HarperCollins) uses the classic style of the original team, Gene Zion and Margaret Bloy Graham, to bring vintage favorite, Harry the Dirty Dog, back for his first new adventure in over fifty years. When the children are pet sitting a neighbor’s guinea pig, Harry feels ignored. He tries to look, act, and play like a guinea pig, but ends up being sent outside for making a mess. The next day, Harry is excited to go to school with the children for show-and-tell, but becomes disappointed when he discovers that the guinea pig is also going. While no one in the classroom is looking, Harry tries to climb into the cage with the guinea pig so the children will have to notice him, but he doesn’t fit and the guinea pig escapes. Knowing the escape was his fault, Harry follows the clues and tracks down the escaped guinea pig by lunchtime, getting the attention of the children while sharing the show-and-tell spotlight for his “clever detective work.” I love that this timeless character is returning to entertain a new generation of readers!

“Share Some Kindness, Bring Some Light” written and illustrated by Apryl Stott (Copyright 2020, Simon & Schuster) is a beautifully illustrated story about acceptance and kindness. Coco has a new friend named Bear, who is not only very kind–he’s also a good dancer. Bear shares with Coco that the other animals are afraid of him because he is so big. Coco comes up with a plan, based on a saying from her grandmother, to show them that Bear is good and kind, not scary at all. The two of them decide to “share some kindness and bring some light” by baking cookies and making lanterns to give away. As they set out in the winter snow to share their gifts, Bear is scared. Coco tells him not to let it stop him from giving. Their gifts don’t seem to work and one-by-one, they are turned away by all the animals. On their way home, they hear a cry for help. Following the sound, they find Baby Deer, who is stuck in the snow. While taking Baby Deer back to her home, they encounter the other animals, who are using the lanterns they’d given them to help Mama Deer with the search. Seeing for themselves how he helped Baby Deer makes the other animals realize what a good thing it is that Bear is so “big, brave, friendly, and kind.” Bear and Coco discover that “kindness is about giving away love instead of gifts . . . doing something nice from the heart without expecting to get anything in return.” The story ends with Bear, Coco, and their new friends sharing a fun dance together in the lantern light of a snowy night.

“I Am the Storm” written by Jane Yolen and Heidi E. Y. Stemple and illustrated by Kristen and Kevin Howdeshell (Copyright 2020, Rise x Penguin Workshop) is a colorful book about the ability of humans to seek out safety in the face of nature’s power during a tornado, a blizzard, a wildfire, and a hurricane. The illustrations, sketched in pencil and finished using Photoshop with a Wacom tablet, present people and circumstances that will be familiar to many young readers. The story uses descriptive text about what occurs during each weather event, followed by the comforting thought that they always eventually stop, and that life goes on afterward. Knowing that it’s okay to be scared, the children in the book use expressive play to empower themselves, mimicking the weather they’ve witnessed by becoming strong and powerful like the storm, then calm when it passes, “as it always does.”  The story is followed by two end-pages that briefly describe tornadoes, blizzards, wildfires, and hurricanes, so that young readers can better understand them.

“Cozy” written and illustrated by Jan Brett (Copyright 2020, G.P Putnam’s Sons imprint of Penguin Random House, LLC) is a story that was born out of Jan Brett’s visit to the Musk Ox Farm in Palmer, Alaska. The main character is named Cozy because of the soft, thick, silky coat of fur that covers him in a blanket of warmth. While separated from his herd, a winter storm causes many animals to find refuge in Cozy’s fur coat. With each new addition, Cozy adds rules that help the animals respect each other during their time together. As winter continues, and the animals make themselves more and more at home in his fur, Cozy begins wishing he could return to his family. The rules become stretched as the animals grow tired of each other’s company, and Cozy begins to shed his coat, a sure sign that spring is arriving. As his fur continues to shed, the animals also leave to look for new homes. When Cozy celebrates his freedom by leaping into the air, he sees his herd in the distance. He soon joins them, hearing the voices of his new friends on the breeze, reminding him that they’ll see him again “when the snow flies.” In true Jan Brett style, the text and illustrations complement each other seamlessly into what will no doubt be another classic.

If you have a favorite 2020 picture book release to recommend, I’d love to hear about it.

Happy Reading 😊


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