2023 Fiction Picture Books Reviewed
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Most of us gave up buying new umbrellas after the third purchase. But, quite unexpectedly, these portable canopies will offer us something wildly wonderful when we need it the most. Let's see what happens in The Umbrella (Clarion Books, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, March 21, 2023) written by Beth Ferry with artwork by Tom Lichtenheld.
In his newest, expansive wordless endeavor, author illustrator Aaron Becker presents possibilities. He asks us to examine our beliefs on the relationship between the natural world and humans' place in it. In this gorgeous, highly detailed presentation of the passage of time, The Tree and the River (Candlewick Press, March 14, 2023), we take a journey unlike any other.
In Maple & Rosemary (Neal Porter Books, Holiday House, February 28, 2023) written by Alison James with illustrations by Jennifer K. Mann readers are witness to a remarkable friendship. In the best, truest friendships, you are never apart, but entwined forever.
This is how bridges are built between books and readers. When that bridge is built, when that connection is forged, something nearly indescribable happens. We see it in their eyes, their demeanor, and their body posture. It is joy. This joy is wonderfully expressed in words by John Schu and in artwork by Lauren Castillo in their first collaboration, This Is A Story (Candlewick Press, March 14, 2023). This book shows us the power of story, our stories and the stories of others.
It's in these moments our outlook shifts. We see, hear, or smell something we might otherwise miss. Beneath (Little, Brown and Company, January 17, 2023) written and illustrated by Cori Doerrfeld is about looking with new eyes. It is about opening up our minds and hearts in order to understand the wholeness of someone or something. This is when we are our best selves. This is when life is richer and larger.
For this reason, music is a bridge, too, between us and what surrounds us daily as well as to our past. Bravo, Little Bird! (A Paula Wiseman Book, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, February 21, 2023) written by Annie Silvestro with artwork by Ramona Kaulitzki is the heartwarming story of an old man and the bond his music makes with a bird. Their relationship transcends death in a truly beautiful tribute to the power of music, family, and friendship.
We might be nervous or worried, but once we are in that moment, if we are doing something we love, everything and everyone else disappears. That passion we hold close to our hearts is released. Something Wild (Nancy Paulsen Books, an imprint of Penguin Random House, February 28, 2023) written and illustrated by Molly Ruttan connects to that apprehension all of us feel at times. It shows us how that apprehension is transformed into something unexpectedly marvelous.
In Sometimes It's Nice To Be Alone (Neal Porter Books, Holiday House, February 14, 2023) written by Amy Hest with illustrations by Philip Stead readers are soothed by the contentment of being alone and awakened to the joy of shared experiences. Rhythmic text presents the solace found in ordinary activities but also elevates those through imagination coupled with exquisite artwork.
The loss of memory through the disease of Alzheimer's is particularly difficult to see happen to those we love. Never Forget Eleanor (Harper, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, February 14, 2023) written by Jason June with pictures by Loren Long explores memory loss through the affectionate bond between a grandson and his grandmother. For as long as you can, you will remember this tender story about the power of words.
This is the gift of a book, given to us again and again whenever the cover is opened. Authored by Grace Lin and Kate Messner with illustrations by Grace Lin, Once Upon a Book (Little, Brown And Company, February 07, 2023) is a layered narrative with hidden references to other titles and different cultures. It is a story of longing and belonging.
There is something exceptionally beautiful about the relationship between a grandparent and a grandchild. The one is young enough to appreciate the wisdom in the elder and the elder is old enough to welcome the wisdom of the youth. This mutual affection and respect is lovingly presented in Just Like Grandma (Heartdrum, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, January 24, 2023) written by debut picture book author Kim Rogers with illustrations by Julie Flett.
When I read In Every Life (Beach Lane Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing Division, February 07, 2023) written and illustrated by Marla Frazee for the first time, it was as if my dad was looking over my shoulder. When I read it a second time, it was as if every illustration was a testament to something I had heard over and over and over until it became a part of me. It is one thing to read or hear words, but when those words are made visible, their truth is revealed.
Author illustrator Matthew Cordell shows us bravery can come when we least expect it in his new title, Evergreen (A Feiwel and Friends Book, an imprint of Macmillan Publishing Group, February 7, 2023). This squirrel's trek represents the special turning point when bravery sets us free to enjoy the best kind of adventure our world has to offer.
Each time All Because You Matter written by Tami Charles with illustrations by Bryan Collier is read, you find yourself saying in your heart of hearts, "Yes! Yes! Yes!" You repeat that word of affirmation because of the truth and power in the words you've read and in the artwork you've seen. These same creators released the next book, We Are Here. in this trio as our new calendar year started. It is as compelling and eloquent as its predecessor.
So many wild beings are in need of our assistance and protection. They are not alone, though, as Sanctuary: A Home for Rescued Farm Animals (Clarion Books, January 31, 2023) written and illustrated by Julia Denos shows us. Her thoughtful text and heartwarming artwork are a precious ode to those animals who might be overlooked in our endeavors to make life for all those on our planet better.
Author Anne Wynter and artist Daniel Miyares have collaborated to bring readers a book, Nell Plants A Tree (Balzer + Bray, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, January 31, 2023), that shows this optimism, hope, and faith. A single act causes something to happen. Some might say what happens is expected and ordinary. There is nothing ordinary about the sight of a majestic tree or the generations of family bound to that tree, each weathering the storms of life.
Dim Sum, Here We Come! (Harper, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, January 3, 2023) written and illustrated by Maple Lam is pure delight. Page after page, it is a joyous window into a world of family, food, and tradition, tied together with great affection.