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All Picture Book Coverage

Separated by a sturdy wooden fence, two companions—a little girl and a dog belonging to her neighbors—are drawn together by a shared love of stories. They forge a bond that transcends boundaries and changes their lives forever.

Everywhere With You is uniformly flawless. With a master storyteller’s rhythm, author Carlie Sorosiak (Leonard (My Life as a Cat), I, Cosmo) narrates in present tense, close-third person from the lonely pup’s perspective, and his thoughts and unspoken words propel the story forward. Sorosiak’s writing is heartfelt and brimming with emotion. You’ll be so caught up in the narrative that you may not even notice the artistry beneath the words—poetic turns, perfectly tuned descriptions, the power of a concise, earnest statement—but it’s worth a second read to catch and savor it all.

If Sorosiak’s beautifully told story does not completely capture your heart, the artwork will seal the deal. Illustrator Devon Holzwarth’s vibrant, lush images of jewel-tone flowers and trees are mesmerizing, as botanical wonders in deep, rich colors threaten to overflow the edges of the pages.

The kind-faced girl and her canine companion are utterly charming. When the girl reads aloud to her four-legged friend, Holzwarth’s art blossoms even more as the friends’ imagined worlds come to life, with spectacular kingdoms filled with magical creatures and daring adventures—and no wooden fences.

The book’s heightened emotions walk a tightrope between poignance and heartbreak at a pivotal point toward the end. Sorosiak and Holzwarth give real weight to this moment of yearning, tip-toeing the reader up to the edge of despair before pulling back with a final burst of fantasy and delight. It’s a balancing act impeccably managed.

It will be the rare reader who can finish Everywhere With You without a slight catch in their throat. It rings with tender truth: When you are with the ones you love, everywhere you go is home.

Carlie Sorosiak and Devon Holzwarth's flawless picture book rings with a tender truth: When you are with the ones you love, everywhere you go is home.

Yoshi and the Ocean: A Sea Turtle’s Incredible Journey Home, Lindsay Moore’s account of the incredible intercontinental journey of a loggerhead sea turtle, opens with two spreads that precede its title page. Readers meet Yoshi inside an egg, “before she had a name.” Folded within a shell, the little turtle waits until “the voice of the waves” calls her to hatch and enter the world.

As Moore’s story begins, Yoshi is “small and broken,” wounded in the water and rescued by fishermen who name her Yoshitaro. She finds a new home and heals at an aquarium in Cape Town, South Africa, much to the delight of the aquarium’s visitors. But after some time, Yoshi knows that she needs to return to the ocean: “She is from away from here, and that is where she needs to go.”

The scientists who brought Yoshi back to health attach a tracking device to her shell and release her into the ocean. The rest of Moore’s book tracks Yoshi’s extraordinary three-year journey up the eastern coast of Africa, as far north as Angola, then back around the southern tip of the continent and all the way across the Indian Ocean to waters off the northwestern coast of Australia—a distance of 25,000 miles!

Moore gives this remarkable true story an appealing structure. The refrain “This is Yoshi . . .” grounds readers in each new location along the turtle’s journey. As Yoshi sets out on her trip, the story’s brisk pace keeps readers turning pages. Each time Yoshi surfaces above the waves, allowing her tracker to send a signal to a satellite, we read in a looping cursive font: “Hello from Yoshi. I am here.” The narrative pacing slows as the turtle nears Australia, where she transmits one final, emotionally satisfying message, displayed in large letters that span the entire spread: “Hello from Yoshi. I am home.”

Moore illustrates this tale in sweeping full-bleed views of the worlds above and below the waves. Readers discover these worlds along with Yoshi as she takes in all the wonders of ocean life. Moore’s language is precise but also lyrical as she notes the “shape of a wave, the shift of the wind, the push of a current.” The book’s detailed back matter, which includes a photograph of Yoshi, will inspire readers to revisit the turtle’s story, equipped with the context to fully appreciate her astonishing voyage.

With vivid emotion, Lindsay Moore tells the astonishing story of a loggerhead turtle who traveled more than 25,000 miles from South Africa to Australia.

The life of a 19th-century poet, painter and gardener is vividly captured in Celia Planted a Garden: The Story of Celia Thaxter and Her Island Garden, a lovingly written and illustrated nonfiction picture book. It’s a fruitful collaboration by award-winning writers Phyllis Root and Gary D. Schmidt, with colorful, engaging illustrations by Melissa Sweet.

As a young child, Celia Thaxter (née Laighton) moved with her family from Portsmouth, New Hampshire, to White Island, part of the Isle of Shoals archipelago off the coasts of New Hampshire and Maine, where her father became the island’s lighthouse keeper. In 1847, when Thaxter was 12, her father built a large hotel on nearby Appledore Island. Thaxter worked in the hotel and planted a garden on its grounds.

The hotel attracted summer visitors, including well-known artists and writers such as Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and Nathaniel Hawthorne. Thaxter blossomed as her relationships with these creative figures opened up her world. Eventually, they encouraged Thaxter to write stories and poems about her life on the island and helped her find publication.

Thaxter moved to Watertown, Massachusetts, after she married, but she continued to spend summers on Appledore Island. During the winter months, she wrote and painted greeting cards and china pitchers, bowls and plates. Today, Thaxter is best known for her 1894 book, An Island Garden, illustrated by the American impressionist painter Childe Hassam, and for her garden on Appledore, which was re-created and restored in 1977.

Root and Schmidt’s accessible text focuses on Thaxter’s lifelong love of nature. Sweet incorporates hand-lettered quotations from Thaxter’s own writing, bringing her poetic voice into many of the book’s gorgeous spreads: “The very act of planting a seed has in it to me something beautiful.” Although Celia Planted a Garden contains substantial back matter, including a biographical note, a timeline of Thaxter’s life and an annotated bibliography, specific citations for Thaxter’s quotations aren’t include, which is a notable omission considering their prominence in the book.

Much like Barbara Cooney’s beloved Miss Rumphius, Celia Planted a Garden evokes the magic of summers in Maine and the joy of tending flowers. And like that classic picture book, Celia Planted a Garden is sure to inspire a new generation of young gardeners everywhere.

This picture book biography of 19th-century poet, painter and gardener Celia Thaxter evokes the magic of summers in Maine and the joy of tending flowers.

Today is a momentous day for young Juan. After years of hearing about his father’s landscaping business, Juan will come along to help for the first time, armed not only with gardening supplies but also with a sketchbook and drawing tools.

During this perfectly ordinary but splendidly memorable day, Juan assists Papi and another worker, Javier, as they rake leaves, mow lawns and prune bushes. He accompanies them to a gardening supply store, where they select plants and flowers for a client. He also joins them at the dump, where the branches and other waste they have collected will be turned into mulch. Finally, the budding artist meets Papi’s new clients, listens to their vision for their overgrown yard and sketches out a design for their future garden. Inspired by his father, Juan is learning how to “make the world more beautiful.”

In a note at the end of John Parra’s heartfelt picture book Growing an Artist: The Story of a Landscaper and His Son, the author-illustrator reveals that Juan’s story is autobiographical. Working with his father as a young boy inspired Parra to consider a career in landscape architecture and design, though he ultimately took a different path and trained as a fine artist. A photograph of Parra and his father accompanies the note, and the book’s landscaping blueprint endpapers contain a designer’s mark for “Del Parra Landscape Constr.”

Parra incorporates Spanish words and phrases into the text and touches on the importance of Latin American migrant workers to the landscaping industry. It’s an underappreciated job that requires creativity and demanding physical labor. An early scene delicately depicts Juan’s growing recognition of such prejudice: Juan waves to a classmate who is neighbors with one of Papi’s clients, but the boy “looks away and pretends not to see me,” and Juan’s “heart sinks.”

Honoring the great pride that Parra’s father took in his landscaping work, Parra’s characteristically vibrant and finely detailed acrylic illustrations in Growing an Artist depict people and plants with equal affection and respect. The way that Papi points out natural beauties to his artistic young son is tender and moving, and a scene in which he gently lifts a branch to reveal a hidden bird’s nest is especially lovely.

Growing an Artist is a love letter to sons and their fathers, to work done with one’s hands and to making the world more beautiful, no matter what tools are used to do so.

This beautiful autobiographical picture book about a boy who spends the day with his father at his landscaping business is a love letter to those who “make the world more beautiful,” no matter what tools they use to do so.

In The World Belonged to Us, prolific and acclaimed author Jacqueline Woodson transports readers on a nostalgic journey to a summer in Brooklyn “not so long ago.”

The first-person narrator evokes the world of her childhood through sensory details as well as reflections on the thoughts and feelings of her younger self, offering a joyful vision of a time in her life when the future seemed bright and full of possibility. Summer begins when someone opens a fire hydrant, soaking children who are already giddy with new freedom as they walk home on the last day of school. Every sunny day after, “from the end of breakfast to the beginning of dinner,” kids play a marvelous litany of games: double Dutch, kick the can, stickball, tag, hide-and-seek and more. They chase the ice cream truck and share frozen treats with friends. Sometimes knees get scraped, but older kids tell reassuring stories until “hurt knees [are] forgotten.”

Pura Belpré Honor illustrator Leo Espinosa (Islandborn) depicts a vibrant and diverse neighborhood filled with lots of visual callouts to the 1970s, from the cars to everyone’s groovy hairstyles and clothes. Colors, patterns and styles popular during this period abound, including mustard yellows, avocado greens, plaid bell-bottom pants and knee-high white socks worn with tennis shoes and athletic shorts. Adult readers will even pick up on a throwback vibe of the bubbly typeface used on the cover and throughout the book.

Young readers will find The World Belonged to Us to be far more engaging than a generic lecture about “the good old days.” It’s an immersive, hyperspecific invitation for readers from different generations to form connections with each other, fueled by the unmistakable, joyful energy of childhood summers. Adults should be prepared to share stories about what summer was like when they were young after reading this bright and emotionally engaging book.

Jacqueline Woodson and Leo Espinosa offer a joyful vision of a time when the future seemed bright and full of possibility in The World Belonged to Us, a nostalgic ode to summer.

★ Let’s Do Everything and Nothing

Illustrator Julia Kuo (The Sound of Silence, I Dream of Popo) makes her authorial debut with Let’s Do Everything and Nothing, a simple yet powerful salute to mothers and daughters and the time they spend together. With spare text and phenomenal illustrations, Kuo pays homage to epic scenes, intimate moments and everything in between. 

As the book opens, a mother and her young daughter stand atop a hill, tiny figures amid a gorgeous full-spread landscape depicted in rich shades of indigo. The girl’s bright red dress contrasts vividly, bringing the pair into sharp focus. “Will you climb a hill with me?” the text asks.

On subsequent pages, Kuo’s text offers invitations to “dive into a lake” and “read the starry sky.” Her illustrations transform them into grand adventures, and we see the pair diving among giant manta rays and reaching the summit of a snowy peak in mountaineering gear. Throughout, Kuo uses a spare color palette of deep blues and purples and highlights of reds, oranges and yellows. Her striking graphic style crisply illuminates these shared moments between mother and child. 

In closing scenes, the mother gives her daughter a bath, then the pair rest together and “watch the shadows stretch.” This exquisite book would be a perfect gift to bring to a baby shower. “We’ll do everything and nothing,” Kuo writes, “for being together is the best journey yet.”

Me and Ms. Too

A spunky girl has a bumpy transition after her father marries a children’s librarian in the fresh, funny Me and Ms. Too

“Before Ms. Too, my house looked like my house and nobody else’s,” young Molly announces. “My dad was my dad and nobody else’s.” Molly feels increasingly out of sorts as Ms. Too changes the living room wallpaper and fills their house with her belongings, including lots of books. 

Award-winning young adult author Laura Ruby (Bone Gap, Thirteen Doorways, Wolves Behind Them All) conveys Molly’s desire to resist this life change. She includes both Molly’s ongoing struggle (“Every time we went somewhere, I asked: ‘Is she coming too?’”) and scenes of her father’s courtship and wedding (“I said Ms. Too’s dress looked like underwear. I said my stomach hurt.”). Ruby’s narrative pacing is spot on as she captures how Molly slowly warms up to the new arrangement, and the trio eventually form a tightknit “funny kind of family” that Molly comes to adore. 

Exuberant, cartoon-style illustrations from Dung Ho (Eyes That Kiss in the Corners) energize this well-told tale. Molly’s exaggerated facial expressions, which shift gradually from obstinate and indignant to happy and loving, are particularly well done, while Dad and Ms. Too are fully realized in artful strokes by both Ho and Ruby. 

With warmth and honesty, Me and Ms. Too validates the emotional challenges of welcoming a new stepmother while shining a light on the wonderful outcome that can result. 

★ Also

E.B. Goodale’s Also is a lovely book about memory and intergenerational connections, told with accessible sophistication. 

The book’s unnamed narrator begins by describing a visit to her grandmother’s house on a beautiful summer day. She spends the afternoon among the blueberry bushes on a hill behind the house and is eventually joined by her mother, her grandmother and her grandmother’s orange cat, Nutmeg. As the narrator introduces herself and each character (including Nutmeg), she describes what they are doing that day, then describes a memory that each is recalling at that very moment. For instance, the narrator’s mother remembers sitting in the kitchen when she was a child, sorting blueberries and laughing with her sister. 

Goodale (Windows, The House of Grass and Sky) paints these remembered scenes using blueberry ink, which results in a purplish duotone effect and visually distinguishes the characters’ memories from the vivid greens, yellows and oranges of the present-day setting. An easy recipe for blueberry ink, included on the final page, is an excellent resource for readers inspired to paint their own memories. 

A bright red cardinal (a bird commonly associated with departed souls) appears on every page, and its lively spirit helps peel back the book’s many layers of memory. Toward the end of the book, the cardinal swoops and glides across blueberry-ink spreads, trailing the bright colors of the present in its wake and uniting past, present and future along the path of its flight. 

Also is sure to prompt conversations about meaningful memories between adult readers and young listeners, while its subtext—that people and places we love are always with us in our hearts—offers quiet comfort to children experiencing loss. Also is a colorful portrait of three generations of mothers and daughters and the bonds they share.

Mama and Mommy and Me in the Middle

In Nina LaCour (We Are Okay, Watch Over Me) and Kaylani Juanita’s Mama and Mommy and Me in the Middle, a young girl in California spends a week at home with her Mama while Mommy is away on a business trip to Minnesota.

LaCour’s day-by-day account spotlights fun times (projecting a movie on the wall of a garden shed) as well as lows (when Mama is “too busy to play”). A midweek video call cheers everyone up and gives Mommy the opportunity to share that she’s missing Mama and her daughter as much as they miss her. “I miss you as much as all the snow in Minnesota.” she tells them. In a touching scene at the girl’s school, the teacher asks if anyone else in the class is missing someone. Several students are, including a boy whose father “is in a faraway country” and a girl whose older sister is away at college. 

Juanita’s illustrations are packed with small details that will entice and hold young readers’ attention, from the plants that fill the family’s living room to the cakes and pastries in the window of the café, where an apron-clad employee sets out food for neighborhood cats while Mama laughs at her daughter’s milk mustache. 

Juanita perfectly captures the girl’s mutable emotions over the seven days that Mommy is away. At lunch on Wednesday, the girl slumps over the table next to Mommy’s empty chair. On Sunday, as Mommy’s trip nears its end, she frolics through a community garden and eagerly gathers a welcome-home bouquet. 

Mama and Mommy and Me in the Middle is a reassuring and inclusive look at what it feels like to be separated from and reunited with a parent.

This Mother's Day, cuddle up with a bundle of picture books that capture the best parts of being a mom.

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