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The Princess and the Pony

Kate Beaton (Scholastic/Levine)

Already acclaimed for her online comic, Hark! A Vagrant, Beaton makes an exuberantly funny yet empathic foray into children's books with an underdog (or perhaps underhorse) tale that shows that princesses, warriors, and ponies come in all shapes and sizes.


The Day the Crayons Came Home

Drew Daywalt, illus. by Oliver Jeffers (Philomel)

It's a rare sequel that surpasses its predecessor, but that's what Daywalt and Jeffers have managed with this follow-up to their bestselling The Day the Crayons Quit, full of hilariously clever postcards from crayons that have been left behind on vacation, melted together in the sun, or are fulfilling their thirst for adventure.


Last Stop on Market Street

Matt de la Peña, illus. by Christian Robinson (Putnam)

In this deceptively simple and understated story, a bus ride shared by a boy and his grandmother highlights the power of everyday moments to reveal the world's beauties and inequities, as well as the way small actions can have a significant impact.


This Bridge Will Not Be Gray

Dave Eggers, illus. by Tucker Nichols (McSweeney's)

An iconic bridge in a city known for its eccentricity deserves a biography to match, and the Golden Gate Bridge gets one here. The easygoing cadence and restrained humor of Eggers's storytelling are instantly engrossing, and Nichols's bold paper-cut artwork makes as strong an impact as the bridge's emblematic hue.



Carson Ellis (Candlewick)

Expansive yet intimate, Ellis's study of what makes a home recognizes that there's no one-size-fits-all answer to that question. Ellis whisks readers around the world (and into the realms of the fantastical and strange) as she moves from cozy Russian kitchen to nursery-rhyme shoe and city apartment, inviting children to contemplate what home means to them.


The Night World

Mordicai Gerstein (Little, Brown)

Caldecott Medalist Gerstein celebrates the strangeness that darkness confers on an otherwise familiar landscape, following a boy and his cat through the inky minutes before the arrival of dawn. And when morning does appear, in a glorious explosion of color and light, it's nothing short of a revelation.


The Only Child

Guojing (Random/Schwartz & Wade)

Inspired by Guojing's experience growing up under China's one-child policy, this haunting debut, a wordless graphic journey unfolding in panels drawn in the gentlest pencil, creates a sense of pure magic as a small girl toddles away from home to visit her grandmother and finds protection and joy in unexpected places.



Kevin Henkes (Greenwillow)

Henkes offers a close-up view of the limited but full lives of five toy figurines on a windowsill, leaving readers with much to consider—especially those children who may feel like their own lives are an inscrutable or unpredictable series of arrivals, departures, unexpected events, and waiting for whatever comes next.


The King and the Sea

Heinz Janisch, illus. by Wolf Erlbruch (Gecko Press USA)

Originally published in Germany, this thought-provoking picture book consists of a series of encounters between a king and various people, objects, and intangible forces, which offer profoundly revealing insights on the nature and limitations of power. "I don't believe in ghosts," the king tells a spirit in one scene. "I don't believe in kings" is the pointed response.


Toys Meet Snow

Emily Jenkins, illus. by Paul O. Zelinsky (Random/Schwartz & Wade)

Since Jenkins's subtitle - Being the Wintertime Adventures of a Curious Stuffed Buffalo, a Sensitive Plush Stingray, and a Book-Loving Rubber Ball - provides the gist of the story, let's cut to the chase: the snowy explorations of this trio of toys, captured in expansive detail in Zelinsky's illustrations and Jenkins's wonderfully understated wit, brim with the magic of discovery, the joy of companionship, and the beauty of seeing the world through multiple perspectives (even when one is a rubber ball that, technically, lacks eyes).


Sidewalk Flowers

JonArno Lawson, illus. by Sydney Smith (Groundwood)

Small miracles—like weedy flowers that fight for life in an unforgiving urban environment—are everywhere, if you just look. That's just one of many ideas readers can glean from Lawson and Smith's wordless tale, something of a small miracle itself, which traces a father and daughter's travels through gray city streets that gain color through acts of kindness and reverence.


Finding Winnie: The True Story of the World's Most Famous Bear

Lindsay Mattick, illus. by Sophie Blackall (Little, Brown)

Mattick provides a lovely and intimate account of how her great-grandfather Harry Colebourn, a Canadian veterinarian during WWI, acquired and cared for the bear that would inspire Winnie-the-Pooh. Playfulness and tenderness go hand in hand in both text and art, as Mattick and Blackall reveal the real-life backstory behind one of the most beloved characters in children's literature.


Thank You and Good Night

Patrick McDonnell (Little, Brown)

McDonnell pays the sweetest of tributes to cherished children's book creators and their most famous creations, while giving readers the gift of a pitch-perfect bedtime story. Well-read parents and children will smile with recognition as they pick out references to the books of Brown, Hurd, de Brunhoff, and Milne as a girl named Maggie throws a slumber party for a rabbit, elephant, and bear.


Flutter and Hum: Animal Poems/Aleteo y Zumbido: Poemas de Animales

Julie Paschkis (Holt)

A love of language—two languages, actually—and of the natural world is instantly evident in this collection of 12 poems that celebrate whales, crows, deer, and other creatures. Paschkis's poems are delightful reads in both languages (of a moth: "La polilla/ bombarde/ la bomilla,/ buscando la luna"), while the English and Spanish words woven into the artwork invite further study and contemplation.


Lenny & Lucy

Philip C. Stead, illus. by Erin E. Stead (Roaring Brook/Porter)

When life doesn't offer happiness on a platter (say, when one has just moved to a new house in the woods with one's father), the Steads suggest a direct approach: make a few protector-friends for company, and real friends might just follow. Written and illustrated with delicacy and restraint, it's another emotionally incisive offering from this husband-and-wife team.


The Dog That Nino Didn't Have

Edward van de Vendel, illus. by Anton Van Hertbruggen (Eerdmans)

Gorgeous, 1970s-inspired illustrations and playful language counterbalance the loneliness of a boy who misses his father. Nino's vivid imagination and a pristine landscape of pine forests, rocky outcroppings, and lakes offer him solace, while drawing readers into both his melancholy and his appetite for exploration and adventure.


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Leo: A Ghost Story

Mac Barnett, illus. by Christian Robinson (Chronicle)

One doesn't need a heartbeat to long for companionship, as Barnett and Robinson prove through the story of a dapper ghost named Leo, who is on the hunt for a true friend. Moody, eloquent, and witty, it's a "ghost story" for any time of day, any time of year.


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