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When little Afia can’t sleep, her mind as active as a summer night, she and her papa travel in their imaginations to find love. And find it they do—in the sun-warmed sand, on a snowy mountain top, in the ocean’s friendly waves and even in the darkest night sky. Before she finally drifts off to sleep, Afia and her father discover that love looks like many things across the world; but most of all, it looks like them. What Love Looks Like, written by Laura Obuobi and illustrated by Anna Cunha, is a captivating addition to the bedtime bookshelf.

Against the safe coziness of a cream-colored background, Cunha’s characters are sweet and softly drawn, as well as a little messy and hazy, like a dream. Her oil painting style and warm colors enchant from the start, but as Afia and Papa journey on, Cunha’s art blossoms into magical worlds that feel wondrous and grand while remaining calm and welcoming. Cunha manages to make her art feel both old and contemporary—which means it will never be dated or stale.

Cunha’s artwork is so captivating, it hardly needs accompanying narration, but it’s perfectly balanced by author Laura Obuobi’s beautiful, well-chosen descriptions told with a storyteller’s sensibility. Obuobi’s writing begs to be read aloud and savored, and she peppers her narration with alliteration and a rhythm that pulls one gently forward. Her poetic descriptions are impeccable and lovely, conjuring new settings in seconds. All of these things make What Love Looks Like a perfect last book before bed: Readers may find themselves relaxing and feeling sleepy as they read. 

While there is no lack of picture books to help with bedtime procrastination, What Love Looks Like deserves a spotlight. Not many offerings are so well-matched in their text and art. Indeed, Cunha and Obuobi deliver the embodiment of What Love Looks Like: beautiful things to look at, gentle words before bedtime and someone dear to share them with.

Cunha and Obuobi deliver the embodiment of What Love Looks Like: beautiful things to look at, gentle words before bedtime and someone dear to share them with.
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Gennifer Choldenko’s The Tenth Mistake of Hank Hooperman is a moving story about an 11-year-old abandoned by his single mom and left to care for his 3-year-old sister, Boo, inspired by Choldenko’s own childhood experiences of having undependable parents and a caring older brother who acted as a surrogate parent. Fans of the Newbery Honor author’s Tales from Alcatraz series won’t be disappointed. Hank is an engaging narrator, and his desperate plight, as well as the caring community of characters he encounters, are reminiscent of Kate DiCamilo’s Beverly, Right Here.

After about a week alone in their apartment, facing eviction with no money, food, or electricity, Hank, who has no idea who his father is, realizes that his mother isn’t coming back anytime soon. Hank loves his mom, but he knows  that sometimes she “will drive to Mexico in the middle of the night or invite strange people to our apartment or not come home at all.”

A dreamer, but also smart and responsible, Hank wonders how he and Boo will survive, musing that at least the kids in From The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler had money for tickets to the museum they found themselves living in. Instead, he lands on the doorstep of Lou Ann Adler, a friend of his late, beloved grandmother. This hard-nosed, 60-ish daycare provider welcomes Boo with open arms, but peers sharply at preteen Hank, announcing, “I’m not wild about teenagers.”

Hank does an excellent job coping with the endless uncertainties in his life, which are expertly channeled via Choldenko’s succinctly effective prose. Despite Hank’s grim situation, this is an upbeat, hopeful book that shows how supportive communities can rise up out of seemingly nowhere. Hank befriends Lou Ann’s kindhearted neighbor Ray Delgado, as well as Ray’s large, extended family. He attends a new school, where he finds an inspiring basketball coach as well as a lively, diverse group of friends. His relationship with Boo, who equally adores him, forms the heart of this novel: “Without Boo I feel like a shoe in a sock drawer,” Hank explains. Their journey features diligent social workers and a dangerous and dramatic appearance by Hank and Boo’s mother that forces Hank to make a gut-wrenching choice.

Readers will immediately be drawn into the world of The Tenth Mistake of Hank Hooperman, whose endearing and memorable characters will inspire repeated readings. This book tackles a tricky subject with grace, showing readers that even seemingly hopeless situations can offer happy endings.

Hank Hooperman does an excellent job coping with the endless uncertainties in his life, which are expertly channeled via Gennifer Choldenko’s succinctly effective prose.
STARRED REVIEW

4 picture books starring critter friends

Whether it’s rowing down a river, buying bread at the bakery, playing before bedtime, or just figuring out how to get out of a funk, the charming adventures of these little animals will put a smile on your face.
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Little Shrew lives a life similar to most people: He wakes up, goes to work and comes home to do his daily chores. But certain ordinary things are exciting enough to disrupt his neatly maintained schedule: solving his Rubik’s Cube, finding an old television set for sale and having friends visit his house. Soon, Little Shrew has a dream to leave behind his mundane life and visit a tropical island, “a beautiful place, like the one on the television.” But can the life he has continue to enchant him until that day?

Akiko Miyakoshi (I Dream of a Journey) quietly charms with Little Shrew, a cozy collection of three stories in which muted visuals in a rustic palette—created with Miyakoshi’s signature mix of wood charcoal, acrylic gouache and pencil—are paired perfectly with soothing yet sparse text, truly setting the mood of each story. 

Though Little Shrew dreams of going somewhere grand, it is the small things in his life that shine brightest. The best part of his day is when Little Shrew “buys two rye bread rolls and one white roll,” inspiration for an illustration that will immediately make readers long for a bakery. He lists beloved gifts from friends, which are as meaningful as any trip: “A jar of cherry blossom honey harvested in the spring. Mushrooms and chestnuts gathered in autumn. Fancy chocolate bars.” 

Little Shrew feels calm and grounded in a way that few picture books do. Readers will be left considering  the quiet, enchanting moments they can find amidst the humdrum of their daily lives. Little Shrew will be a beloved addition to the shelves of readers who loved Phoebe Wahl’s Little Witch Hazel or Yeorim Yoon’s It’s Ok, Slow Lizard, or fans of cozy classics and their film adaptations like Paddington and Winnie the Pooh.  

Little Shrew feels calm and grounded in a way that few picture books do. Readers will be left considering the quiet, enchanting moments they can find amidst the humdrum of their daily lives.
Review by

As long as there are bedtimes and children who’d like to avoid them, there will be picture books there to help: Moon Bear, written by Clare Helen Welsh and illustrated by Carolina T. Godina, is an excellent addition to the fold.

Godina’s gouache and colored pencil illustrations introduce young Ettie as she cleans up, bathes, puts on pajamas and enjoys a story with her mother. But the comfort of her bedtime routine dissolves as soon as her mother turns out the light, leaving Ettie in the dark with a flashlight. The almost wordless format gives emerging readers the chance to interpret the story as they see it, and with its soft palette and gentle spirit, Welsh and Godina’s collaboration is sure to be loved by children and caregivers alike. 

Godina varies her layouts throughout, sometimes utilizing a comic book style to demonstrate bedtime moments over multiple panels, other times illustrating full spreads, as when Ettie’s fearful face peeks out of the covers in her darkened room. When twinkling light begins streaming through the break in her curtains. Ettie gets out to explore, testing the light tentatively before pulling it around to draw beautiful designs. Looking out the window, she notices how certain stars form the shape of a bear and connects them with the magical light, bringing the bear to life. At first shy, the bear soon starts to play with Ettie, trying on her slippers and testing her paintbrushes. 

Before long, they are both fast asleep, and when morning comes, Ettie can’t wait to start her day. The final pages show her rushing excitedly through her day, even announcing, “Time for bed, Mommy,” as the clock on the wall shows her to be 45 minutes ahead of her normal bedtime. With nods to such favorites as Frank Asch’s Moonbear and Eric Rohmann’s Clara and Asha, Moon Bear is a quiet reminder of the power of a child’s imagination. 

With its soft palette and gentle spirit, Clare Helen Welsh and Carolina T. Godina’s ode to bedtime is sure to be loved by children and caregivers alike.

A little bird is in a funk. But that’s OK, a grown-up bird reminds them. It’s OK to feel a little bit off sometimes: “No need to try to fix everything, but let’s move a few things around.” You never know what might make a tiny difference. In A Tiny Difference (Katherine Tegen, $19.99, 9780063114159), with the help of their grown-up and lots of friends, our little bird learns new techniques to connect with their body. To breathe, to stretch, to wiggle, to dance! At the same time, our friend also begins to reconnect with their mind, imagining everything from hot air balloons to aliens to a hug from a friend.

Writer and illustrator June Tate presents a tender poem from the perspective of a kind and loving adult, encouraging readers with simple, relatable language. Rather than telling us to breathe, Tate writes “fill up your rib cage” and “open up like a window.” Rather than reminding us to stretch, she tells us to “reach to the sides of the room” in order to “get out those crunchy bits.” The picture book concludes with the narrator listing all the traits that make the little bird special, reminding us as readers that we too are loved by those in our lives. 

Made with colored pencils, markers and watercolors, Tate’s illustrations are reminiscent of a child’s drawings. These deceptively simple images introduce friends to help out: A frog teaches us to breathe. A squirrel teaches us to stretch. A butterfly teaches us to squeeze and relax! Each creature’s expressions and actions are clear and relatable. 

Whether your young reader is anxious, worried or simply has had a hard day, this sweet, mindful book is sure to help all readers center themselves. Fans of Susan Verde and Peter H. Reynolds’ I Am books and Cori Doerrfeld’s The Rabbit Listened will be glad to add A Tiny Difference to their book shelves.

In A Tiny Difference, writer and illustrator June Tate presents a tender poem from the perspective of a kind and loving adult, encouraging young readers with simple, relatable language.

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Whether it’s rowing down a river, buying bread at the bakery, playing before bedtime, or just figuring out how to get out of a funk, the charming adventures of these little animals will put a smile on your face.
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By day, Aminah stays busy seeing friends and eating mangoes while basking in the sunshine of her tropical home; at night, she enjoys cozy times with her grandfather, Da, as he reads aloud stories of great adventurers. Aminah’s world suddenly changes, when her parents announce they are moving and Da will stay behind. “I am always with you,” he advises. “You will find sunshine wherever you go.” Debut author Maryam Hassan, a first-generation child of Pakistani immigrants, writes in a realistic, reassuring way about displacement in Until You Find the Sun, a story that will appeal to a wide audience of young readers, whether the changes they face in their routines are big or small. 

Despite Da’s encouragement, Aminah struggles to find any sunshine in the cold, bustling city of her new home. Her only source of joy comes from calls with Da, to whom she yearns to return. Anna Wilson’s buoyant art energizes every page, highlighting the stark contrast between Aminah’s hometown—bathed in bright colors and “full of sparkles”—and her dreary new world, drenched in dark blue shadows. Eventually, a new winter coat, as bright as the sun, gives Aminah “a new glittering glow in her heart,” while an overnight snowfall opens her eyes to fresh types of beauty and joy. 

A new friend further rejuvenates Aminah, allowing her to start enjoying her situation. Wilson uses patterns and shades of bright orange and yellow as motifs that connect Aminah to both her native land and to Da. Toward the end, Aminah gazes with anticipation at her vision of a wintry, icy-blue castle high on a hill, a symbol of new adventures waiting to be discovered.

Until You Find the Sun is a joyful book that celebrates new adventures while acknowledging the challenges that transition may bring. It’s also a reminder of the powerful bond between grandparent and child, which remains even when distance keeps them apart.

Until You Find the Sun is a joyful book that celebrates new adventures while acknowledging the challenges that a big move may bring.
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A child heads outdoors, walking through a verdant and hilly rural landscape, as the sun rises and a shadow appears as the “last hint of night.” Thus begins an evocative exploration of shadows, both literal and metaphorical, in There Was a Shadow, written by Bruce Handy and illustrated by Lisk Feng. 

Handy examines the omnipresent, big and small shadows of the natural world, from the noontime shadow a tree casts, to the subtle shadows that land on a face or water. Feng’s delicate, fine-lined illustrations bring these depictions to brilliant life on the page: The falling light casts the faintest shadows across the protagonist’s face as she stares straight at the reader. Feng then depicts sunlight shimmering upon rippling water, creating shadows in various shades of blue, which Handy describes as being “like a dance.” 

A “thinking shadow . . . you could feel but not see” also plagues the protagonist: the feeling of worry. But it’s momentary and soon darts away. As all the children head home, the shadows of late afternoon stretch until they disappear altogether with the setting sun. Dinner is served among cozy and comforting indoor shadows. Feng gives readers a peek of the night landscape with a palette of deep, rich cobalt and sapphire blues, while Handy closes the book with a satisfying and thought-provoking question about memories and dreams.

It is with tenderness and reverence for the interior world of children that Handy tells this multilayered story. There Was a Shadow flows like poetry and sparkles with Feng’s beautifully wielded, sun-dappled colors, which impart mood and mystery. It’s easy to get lost in these shadows, and when the journey ends, readers will want to head right back to the book’s beginning.

There Was a Shadow brims with Bruce Handy’s tenderness and reverence for the interior world of children and sparkles with Lisk Feng's beautifully wielded, sun-dappled colors.
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Pulitzer-winning novelist Viet Thanh Nguyen (The Sympathizer) takes his first foray into children’s books with Simone, a thoughtful and emotionally intense family story set during the California fire season. Simone, a young Vietnamese American girl, is dreaming of floating in the ocean when she is awakened by her mother (whom she calls M&aacute, the only Vietnamese word she knows). A wildfire is approaching their town, and they’ve been ordered to evacuate.

Simone and her mother are prepared with go bags and an evacuation route—but even then Simone has to make tough choices: “I’ll be back for you,” she reluctantly says to the books and toys she can’t take. The pain of leaving things behind and the panic of vacating her home in an emergency remind Simone’s m&aacute of when floods forced her to evacuate her childhood home in Vietnam and abandon everything but her precious crayons. Despite the disorientation and chaos at the evacuation shelter, Simone’s m&aacute helps Simone find a path forward: “You don’t fight fire with fire, / You fight fire with water,” she says.

Minnie Phan’s hand-lettered text reinforces Simone’s first-person perspective, and Phan’s colored pencil and watercolor palette gorgeously interprets the book’s themes. Simone dreams in color, but when she awakens, the world is black and white, with the only remaining colors the red and orange of the flames. Likewise, her mother’s memories of Vietnam are blue, like the floodwaters that engulfed her home. Toward the end, as Simone and her new friends use artwork to remember their homes and to re-imagine their future, color returns to the pages. The illustrations combine with Nguyen’s words—“It’s up to us”—to offer a vision of hope and healing in the wake of generations of displacement.

In Simone, Minnie Phan’s illustrations combine with Viet Thanh Nguyen’s prose to offer a vision of hope and healing in the wake of generations of displacement.
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After sharing a year with Mouse in Mouse’s Wood, young readers can now enjoy a day on the river with Mouse on the River: A Journey Through Nature, a quiet picture book full of charm. As the titular hero spends the day rowing down a river that eventually meets the sea, the most dramatic event is a passing rainstorm—making this a good choice for a soothing bedtime tale.

William Snow’s rhyming text moves the story along as Mouse begins his solo journey early in the morning, while fellow anthropomorphic friends wave goodbye from the dock. This is very much an experiential book, with a multitude of details to scour, beginning with the full-spread map showing Mouse’s planned route. Numerous die-cut flaps encourage keen observation as they reveal cozy, detailed interiors of buildings along the way, including a floating house, a café and a treehouse. Additional fold-out flaps appearing as trees enhance the sense of Mouse’s ongoing progress, enlarging several scenes beyond the book’s borders. Once the journey is complete, an illustrated list of Mouse’s equipment—as well as depictions of flora and fauna encountered along the way—will encourage enthusiastic readers to go back and find these items. 

The star of this show is Alice Melvin’s rich illustrations, which are chock-full of details: squirrels having tea inside a bright cafe; a fox waiting on a customer in a well-stocked bakery; Mouse camping snugly in the rowboat underneath the stars. The book brings to mind another one that quickly became a favorite in our house when my girls were young: Welcome to Mouse Village, written by Gyles Brandreth and illustrated by Mary Hall.

Mouse on the River is a well-planned, enchanting adventure worthy of repeat enjoyment.

Mouse on the River is a well-planned, enchanting adventure in which the most dramatic event is a passing rainstorm—making this richly illustrated picture book a good choice for a soothing bedtime tale.
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Quietly and sweetly, before the sun rises, a father finds his daughter already awake in anticipation and places a cowboy hat on her head. This will be a “just us” morning: They will ride the streets of their cityscape on horseback, Daddy on his longtime mare, Power, and our young narrator on her pony, Clover. 

Along with the rest of the city, Mommy and the girl’s little brother are still asleep, but Abuelita is up first as usual, her coffee brewed strong. She gives the narrator a paper bag of apple slices and sends the two on their way. They travel by motorcycle to a backyard ranch in the middle of the city, complete with horse stalls and hay. The narrator splits her apple slices between Power and Clover, enjoying Power’s “soft, velvety nose,” and Clover’s mane that “looks kind of like the hay she eats but feels softer.” Then they brush, saddle up and ride through the streets of the sleeping city until the sun rises and the city wakes up. 

There is so much to love about My Daddy Is a Cowboy, a gorgeous book that celebrates Black urban horsemanship. The illustrations by C.G. Esperanza are breathtaking, awash in color with bold swaths of paint that make sharp contrasts between the dark predawn and the splashes of color from Daddy’s purple jacket, the narrator’s hair beads and her little leather cowboy boots. Their facial expressions are captured so perfectly: You can see the wonder on the child’s face as they ride, as well as the love in Daddy’s eyes as he watches his little cowboy continue a sacred tradition. Readers can look at their faces and call to mind someone they love dearly, remembering all the times they shared together over something special and intimate—something for “just us.” 

This book hits all the high points of Black cowboy culture and will be a must-have on the shelf for all budding enthusiasts eager to see themselves represented authentically and beautifully. Giddyup! 

There is so much to love about My Daddy Is a Cowboy, a gorgeous book that celebrates Black urban horsemanship.
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As long as there are bedtimes and children who’d like to avoid them, there will be picture books there to help: Moon Bear, written by Clare Helen Welsh and illustrated by Carolina T. Godina, is an excellent addition to the fold.

Godina’s gouache and colored pencil illustrations introduce young Ettie as she cleans up, bathes, puts on pajamas and enjoys a story with her mother. But the comfort of her bedtime routine dissolves as soon as her mother turns out the light, leaving Ettie in the dark with a flashlight. The almost wordless format gives emerging readers the chance to interpret the story as they see it, and with its soft palette and gentle spirit, Welsh and Godina’s collaboration is sure to be loved by children and caregivers alike. 

Godina varies her layouts throughout, sometimes utilizing a comic book style to demonstrate bedtime moments over multiple panels, other times illustrating full spreads, as when Ettie’s fearful face peeks out of the covers in her darkened room. When twinkling light begins streaming through the break in her curtains. Ettie gets out to explore, testing the light tentatively before pulling it around to draw beautiful designs. Looking out the window, she notices how certain stars form the shape of a bear and connects them with the magical light, bringing the bear to life. At first shy, the bear soon starts to play with Ettie, trying on her slippers and testing her paintbrushes. 

Before long, they are both fast asleep, and when morning comes, Ettie can’t wait to start her day. The final pages show her rushing excitedly through her day, even announcing, “Time for bed, Mommy,” as the clock on the wall shows her to be 45 minutes ahead of her normal bedtime. With nods to such favorites as Frank Asch’s Moonbear and Eric Rohmann’s Clara and Asha, Moon Bear is a quiet reminder of the power of a child’s imagination. 

With its soft palette and gentle spirit, Clare Helen Welsh and Carolina T. Godina’s ode to bedtime is sure to be loved by children and caregivers alike.
Review by

Little Shrew lives a life similar to most people: He wakes up, goes to work and comes home to do his daily chores. But certain ordinary things are exciting enough to disrupt his neatly maintained schedule: solving his Rubik’s Cube, finding an old television set for sale and having friends visit his house. Soon, Little Shrew has a dream to leave behind his mundane life and visit a tropical island, “a beautiful place, like the one on the television.” But can the life he has continue to enchant him until that day?

Akiko Miyakoshi (I Dream of a Journey) quietly charms with Little Shrew, a cozy collection of three stories in which muted visuals in a rustic palette—created with Miyakoshi’s signature mix of wood charcoal, acrylic gouache and pencil—are paired perfectly with soothing yet sparse text, truly setting the mood of each story. 

Though Little Shrew dreams of going somewhere grand, it is the small things in his life that shine brightest. The best part of his day is when Little Shrew “buys two rye bread rolls and one white roll,” inspiration for an illustration that will immediately make readers long for a bakery. He lists beloved gifts from friends, which are as meaningful as any trip: “A jar of cherry blossom honey harvested in the spring. Mushrooms and chestnuts gathered in autumn. Fancy chocolate bars.” 

Little Shrew feels calm and grounded in a way that few picture books do. Readers will be left considering  the quiet, enchanting moments they can find amidst the humdrum of their daily lives. Little Shrew will be a beloved addition to the shelves of readers who loved Phoebe Wahl’s Little Witch Hazel or Yeorim Yoon’s It’s Ok, Slow Lizard, or fans of cozy classics and their film adaptations like Paddington and Winnie the Pooh.  

Little Shrew feels calm and grounded in a way that few picture books do. Readers will be left considering the quiet, enchanting moments they can find amidst the humdrum of their daily lives.

“Shabbat is the best day of the week and today is the best best day of all.” So begins Joyful Song, a cheerful contemporary story celebrating Jewish naming traditions, from the award-winning team of Lesléa Newman and Susan Gal.  

Zachary, the story’s narrator, is a new big brother—and especially proud to be pushing the carriage holding his new baby sister as he and both of his moms make their way to the synagogue. As they walk through their neighborhood, the family greets neighbors curious about the new baby. Of course, everyone wants to know her name. 

But although the baby has been called by cute nicknames such as “Little Babka,” “Snuggle Bunny” and “Shayneh Maideleh” (which means “beautiful girl”), Zachary is careful to explain that her real name will be announced on that very day, at her naming ceremony. 

Before long, friends join in to accompany the family in a happy parade. At the synagogue, Zachary steps up to play a leading role, reciting the words he has been practicing to get right. And just as the baby opens her eyes and stretches her hands out to him, he announces that she will be called Aliza Shira, which means “joyful song.” After a community lunch in the social hall, the family hurries home, where their two little dogs greet them with excited barking. 

Gal’s bright, exuberant palate is highlighted by brilliant sunshiny golds and luscious coral and orange shades. The colorful, vibrant art brings a natural warmth to the array of diverse characters depicted throughout. In an author’s note, Newman provides information about naming ceremonies and traditions around the choice of names, sharing that she was named for her grandfather who died just months before she was born. Hebrew translations are provided for several names as well. 

A final question in this heartwarming book opens the door to further conversations for all kinds of families: “Everybody’s name has an interesting story. What’s the story of yours?” 

Susan Gal’s colorful, vibrant art brings a natural warmth to the array of diverse characters depicted throughout Lesléa Newman’s Joyful Song.

Picture Day at Ghoulington Academy is fast approaching, and Itty Bitty Betty Blob is feeling frustrated at her inability to strike the perfect photo-ready pose.

The problem? In a world where cantankerousness is celebrated and scariness reigns supreme, Betty is an outlier: a smiley, bright pink monster who’s more sweet than scary. To her classmates’ irritation and teachers’ consternation, “While typical monsters stomped in storms, Betty rejoiced at rainbows,” and, even worse, “During Chorus, her GRRRs turned into GRRRA-LA-LAAAs!” 

In an effort to ease Betty’s nervous anticipation, her supportive mom gives her a fashionable yet frightful gown to wear, but Betty can’t help fretting as she follows the winding forest path to school on the big day. After all, she knows that her mom was just being nice when she lovingly said Betty looked “Positively putrid!”

Everything changes when a tiny adorable pink puff appears, beckoning Betty deeper into the woods to a “place as bright on the outside as she felt on the inside.” The multicolored oasis is populated by puffs of many hues, all of them eager to make Betty’s dress reflect who she really is via an exuberant makeover montage rivaling those in big-screen rom-coms. But what will happen when Betty arrives at school wearing a veritable bouquet of beautiful, brightly colored flowers (not to mention a gaggle of puffs that hitched a ride)? 

Constance Lombardo’s straightforward, sweetly witty prose will have readers rooting for Betty as well as nervously holding their breath on her behalf when she finally dares to embrace being different. And Micah Player’s boldly drawn, emotion-infused illustrations expertly embody everything from Ghoulington Academy’s imposing gothic architecture to the puffs’ extreme cuteness and slightly manic energy. There are lots of fun little details for itty bitty bibliophiles to discover upon rereads, too.

Itty Bitty Betty Blob’s nicely balanced combination of humor, emotion and inspiration (plus plenty of monster appreciation) makes it an absolute treat of a read—a warm and wonderful reminder to celebrate our differences and dare to share our joy with others.

Itty Bitty Betty Blob’s nicely balanced combination of humor, emotion and inspiration (plus plenty of monster appreciation) makes it an absolute treat of a read.

A little bird is in a funk. But that’s OK, a grown-up bird reminds them. It’s OK to feel a little bit off sometimes: “No need to try to fix everything, but let’s move a few things around.” You never know what might make a tiny difference. In A Tiny Difference (Katherine Tegen, $19.99, 9780063114159), with the help of their grown-up and lots of friends, our little bird learns new techniques to connect with their body. To breathe, to stretch, to wiggle, to dance! At the same time, our friend also begins to reconnect with their mind, imagining everything from hot air balloons to aliens to a hug from a friend.

Writer and illustrator June Tate presents a tender poem from the perspective of a kind and loving adult, encouraging readers with simple, relatable language. Rather than telling us to breathe, Tate writes “fill up your rib cage” and “open up like a window.” Rather than reminding us to stretch, she tells us to “reach to the sides of the room” in order to “get out those crunchy bits.” The picture book concludes with the narrator listing all the traits that make the little bird special, reminding us as readers that we too are loved by those in our lives. 

Made with colored pencils, markers and watercolors, Tate’s illustrations are reminiscent of a child’s drawings. These deceptively simple images introduce friends to help out: A frog teaches us to breathe. A squirrel teaches us to stretch. A butterfly teaches us to squeeze and relax! Each creature’s expressions and actions are clear and relatable. 

Whether your young reader is anxious, worried or simply has had a hard day, this sweet, mindful book is sure to help all readers center themselves. Fans of Susan Verde and Peter H. Reynolds’ I Am books and Cori Doerrfeld’s The Rabbit Listened will be glad to add A Tiny Difference to their book shelves.

In A Tiny Difference, writer and illustrator June Tate presents a tender poem from the perspective of a kind and loving adult, encouraging young readers with simple, relatable language.

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