Here are 10 beautifully illustrated picture books to share with your children.
‘I Sang You Down From the Stars’
By Tasha Spillett-Sumner, illustrated by Michaela Goade | Little, Brown, $18.99, ages 4-8, in stores April 6.
Inniniwak (Cree) and Trinidadian writer Tasha Spillett-Sumner draws on her Native heritage to tell a loving story of a mother and infant. “I loved you before I met you,” she says. As the baby grows inside of her, the mother gathers significant objects — a feather, a pebble, a quilt — to give to her child.
In January, Michaela Goade, who is Tlingit, became the first Native artist to win the prestigious Caldecott Medal. Her dreamy watercolor and mixed media illustrations for this book swirl and sparkle with violet and blue swooshes and recurring patterns of stars.
‘Hello, Earth! Poems to Our Planet’
By Joyce Sidman, illustrated by Miren Asiain Lora
Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, $18.99, ages 5-9
Joyce Sidman’s keen eye for the natural world informs her many books of poetry. Her latest, “Hello, Earth!,” is framed as a conversation between a curious person and the planet itself, and it explores the mind-boggling concept that our solid Earth is actually one tiny rock hurtling through space.
The poet’s poems — coupled with artist Miren Asiain Lora’s stark but lovely watercolor and acrylic paintings — emphasize the tininess of humans in comparison to the vastness of space. Text at the end of the book gets less poetic, more science-y, with facts, suggested projects and other resources. This book will fill you with awe.
By Ludwig Bemelmans
Thames and Hudson, $18.95, ages 3 and up
Ludwig Bemelmans is best known for his Paris-set “Madeline” books, but “Sunshine,” first published in 1950, is his ode to New York City. Mr. Sunshine is very picky about who can rent his apartment — he wants someone quiet, with no pets and who will pay rent on time. Miss Moore seems a perfect tenant — until it turns out she runs a music school.
The illustrations will be familiar to “Madeline” lovers, as will Bemelmans’ rhythmic rhyme.
‘Evelyn Del Rey Is Moving Away’
By Meg Medina, illustrated by Sonia Sánchez
Candlewick Press, $17.99, ages 5-7
Evelyn Del Rey is Daniela’s best friend, “my mejor amiga,” she says. They play every day, their apartments are mirror images of each other, and their fertile imaginations grow even wilder when they are together. But Evelyn is moving away. In this ebullient celebration of friendship, the girls waste no time — they throw themselves into playing every last second, until it’s time to part.
Newbery medalist Meg Medina tells a story full of love and strength, and Sonia Sánchez’s vivid digital illustrations are fused with flat-out joy.
‘Norman: One Amazing Goldfish!’
By Kelly Bennett, illustrated by Noah Z. Jones
Candlewick Press, $16.99, ages 4-8
Norman, the goldfish from “Not Norman,” is back, and the boy who owns him wants the world to know how special Norman is. Together, they work out a routine for the annual Pet-O-Rama, with synchronized movements, a tuba and Norman’s famous singing. But at a crucial moment, the goldfish is stricken with stage fright.
This charming story by Kelly Bennett, with bright primary-color illustrations by Noah Z. Jones, celebrates teamwork and friendship.
‘Two Can Play’
By Margaret Sturton
Andersen Press, $17.99,
ages 4-9, April 6
Cat wants to plant a garden, but her sister Puss won’t help. “I just want to play!” says Puss. But when the time comes to harvest the vegetables and make a fine meal, will Cat share? Author and illustrator Margaret Sturton uses fresh, spring-like colors in her digital collages and packs each page with wonderful details to bring the joys of gardening — and sisterhood — to life.
By Gustavo Roldan, translated from Spanish by Robert Croll
Archipelago Books, $22, ages 3 and up, May 4
Juan Hormiga has two supreme talents: napping, and retelling his grandfather’s early adventures. And then one day, Juan Hormiga decides to follow in his grandfather’s footsteps. But after he leaves, a torrential rainstorm washes Juan away — or does it?
This fable, written and illustrated by Argentine author Gustavo Roldan, is a homage to storytelling and the power of myth.
‘Me + Tree’
By Alexandria Giardino and Anna and Elena Balbusso
Creative Editions, 18.99, ages 6 and up
To most of the children in the playground, the tree stump was just that — an old, dead stump. It had once been a “tall tree with apples to eat, branches to swing from and a trunk to climb.” But no one gives it a second glance until a young girl comes by. As she rests on the stump, she begins to imagine the vibrant life the tree once had. “I see you,” she whispers. And under the little girl’s attention, it turns out the stump isn’t dead at all.
Alexandria Giardino’s story celebrates the importance of friendship and of recognizing the overlooked. Anna and Elena Balbusso’s illustrations are lively, but tinged with sepia, as if from long ago.
By Kao Kalia Yang, illustrated by Billy Thao
University of Minnesota Press, $16.95, ages 5 and up, April 13
“Yang Warriors” is a breathtaking book, all the more impressive because the story it tells is true. In the Ban Vinai Refugee Camp in Thailand, where thousands of Hmong families lived following the Vietnam War — and where author Kao Kalia Yang was born — a band of children work to become warriors. They meditate. They practice martial arts. They prepare physically and mentally for battle. And then one morning they slip out of the camp to forage for greens for their hungry families. The children suffer the consequences of their illegal act, but for that day, thanks to them, their families have enough to eat.
“Before lunch they had been naughty children, playing a game,” Yang writes, “but after that meal all of us saw that they were brave and powerful.”
The cheerful graphite pencil and digital illustrations by Hmong artist Billy Thao depict the children as tiny and fierce against a backdrop of barbed wire and distant mountains. His illustrations keep this inspiring story about courage from feeling dark.
By Marsha Diane Arnold and Susan Reagan
Creative Editions, $18.99, ages 6 and up
Little Fox emerges from his den into a night as bright as day. Traffic lights, streetlights, city lights blot out the dark. Birds can’t see the stars to migrate. Frogs wait for dark before singing — but dark doesn’t come. Newly hatched turtle babies head the wrong direction, unable to find the ocean in the blinding light.
This simple story is a gentle reminder that dark is as beautiful and as important as light. An author’s note urges readers to remember Dark Sky Week, which takes place each April.
8 more book picks for kids of all ages:
8 book recommendations for kids of all ages
‘When Pencil Met Eraser’
Written by Karen Kilpatrick and Luis O. Ramos Jr.
Illustrated by German Blanco
This hilariously illustrated book is about a pencil who “likes to work alone” and an eraser who has all sorts of ideas for improvement for pencil’s drawings. At first, pencil is annoyed by eraser’s changes, but by the end of the book, he recognizes that the white space, blending effects and mistake correction that eraser offers makes his drawings better. Chosen by Parents magazine as one of the best kids’ book of the year.
By Ximo Abadia
Along with “Small in the City” (below), this story won a place in the New York Times/New York Public Library Best Illustrated Book of the Year. It’s the simple tale of a farmer, Paul, hard at work planting and tending his crops, when a drought comes along and threatens to destroy everything he’s worked so hard to nurture. The boldly colored illustrations are charming and full of whimsy, with little “easter egg” surprises here and there that will delight children in their discovery.
‘Room on Our Rock’
Written by Kate and Jol Temple
Illustrated by Terri Rose Baynton
Named winner of the 2020 Charlotte Huck Award, this clever book is actually two in one — it can be read forward and backward. In the “forward” story, an adult and child seal must find another rock to live on when theirs is overtaken by water, but the seals on the rock they approach don’t want to make room. Read the pages backward, though, and the same collection of phrases and sentences tell another story: We see your plight and welcome you to our rock, where we have plenty of room. A great look at differing attitudes toward refugees and a learning moment for empathy and sharing.
‘Small in the City’
By Sydney Smith
This delicately wrought tale about a child’s search for a missing “friend” through the snowy city is a masterpiece of art and storytelling. But just who is the narrator? The city is seen in evocative glimpses and atmospheric impressions, and the story’s narrative takes a surprising and poignant turn that will leave you rereading the whole thing with tears in your eyes.
‘Citlali and the Day of the Dead — Citlali y el Dia de Muertos’
Written by Berta De Llano
Illustrated by Jamie Rivera Contreras
If you are a member of a bilingual Spanish-speaking family or simply want to learn Spanish vocabulary, the Keepsake Stories Collection offers several engaging stories in dual-language format. Many of the titles retell traditional Latin American folktales, but “Citlali and the Day of the Dead” is an original story that follows Citlali as she and her community prepare for Dia de los Muertos.
‘Mosi Musa: A True Tale About a Baby Monkey Raised by His Grandma’
By Georgeanne Irvine
The fourth book in the San Diego Zoo’s Hope and Inspiration Collection, “Mosi Musa” is the true story of a baby vervet monkey whose start in life was a complicated birth and a mother who showed no interest in caring for him. Although his human caretakers need to bottle feed him, Mosi’s Grandma Thelma steps in to cuddle, groom and protect him. Together, Mosi and Grandma Thelma show how special — and important — grandmas truly are.
‘Trevor Lee and the Big Uh-Oh’
Written by Wiley Blevins
Illustrated by Marta Kissi
This cute, clever and funny children’s book is about a mischievous third-grader doing all he can to avoid reading in front of a large audience on his school’s Parents Night, driven by the insecurity that he is not a great reader. To make matters worse, he is soon assigned an additional passage when another student falls ill. Beneath the quirky “kid’s eye” view of the world lies the message that learning to read is a process that takes persistence.
‘I Can Make This Promise’
By Christine Day
Inspired by the author’s personal family history, this powerful children’s book is about a mixed-race 12-year-old Native American girl searching for the truth behind her family’s complicated legacy and a connection to the culture from which she has been raised apart.