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Christian Robinson (Atheneum)

When a brown-skinned girl is awakened by a cat that looks just like hers, she follows it, eventually arriving at a place where playing children all have "another"—a double. Riffing on the idea of duos while juxtaposing similarity and difference, Robinson creates a speculative world with its own logic alongside a well-paced adventure that will both puzzle and amuse.



Julie Flett (Greystone Kids)

In a sensitive story that cycles through one year from spring to spring, beginning with a family's move and a new neighbor, Flett delicately traces filaments of growth and loss through intergenerational friendship, art making, and changing moons and seasons. Cree-Métis words, defined in a small glossary, add an intimate layer of identity to the lustrous narration and rich, spare illustrations.


Crab Cake: Turning the Tide Together

Andrea Tsurumi (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

Life under the sea is pretty much by the book, but one outlier, Crab, loves to bake pastries, perplexing fellow inhabitants. When a boatload of junk crashes into the ocean, Crab engages in an act that coaxes shocked schools out of hiding and into collaboration. Tsurumi's mastery of detail and humor shines in this moving affirmation of one crab's power to bring a community together.


Daniel's Good Day

Micha Archer (Penguin/Paulsen)

"Have a good day!" everyone says to Daniel as he walks to his grandmother's house. Along the way, the child polls his neighbors—"What makes a good day for you?"—discovering something distinctive about each of them. Archer's impressively detailed oil-and-collage vignettes portray a diverse neighborhood in the midst of a blooming spring, and a joyful child in meaningful community.


Fry Bread: A Native American Family Story

Kevin Noble Maillard, illus. by Juana Martinez-Neal (Roaring Brook)

Using brief statements, Maillard creates a powerful meditation on fry bread as "a cycle of heritage and fortune." Martinez-Neal's wispy art features a group of six children alongside descriptions of the food that range from the experiential to the more conceptual, and spare poems emphasize the variable dish—and its complex history—in terms of provenance and culture.


The Important Thing About Margaret Wise Brown

Mac Barnett, illus. by Sarah Jacoby (HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray)

Margaret Wise Brown lived a dashing, colorful life and wrote more than 100 children's books. Barnett yokes Brown's story to her work, playing with The Important Book's form to consider what might be momentous about her life, while Jacoby's vibrant illustrations shift between episodes past and present.


Migration: Incredible Animal Journeys

Mike Unwin, illus. by Jenni Desmond (Bloomsbury)

Unwin presents the epic journeys of 21 species, from dragonflies to whales, adroitly relating marvels of each creature's migration. Desmond's masterful illustrations capture the fragility and abundance of the natural world, and a map traces the migration paths globally.


My Papi Has a Motorcycle

Isabel Quintero, illus. by Zeke Peña (Kokila)

When Papi gets home from work, his daughter is ready for their ritual, a nightly motorcycle ride through their California town. Quintero and Peña conjure up the ride's sights and sounds with sensory immediacy; the love between the girl and her father is palpable, but her connection to her city's changing landscape is at the story's heart.


A Place to Land: Martin Luther King Jr. and the Speech That Inspired a Nation

Barry Wittenstein, illus. by Jerry Pinkney (Holiday House/Porter)

This deep dive into the speech that galvanized the 1963 March on Washington stars not only Martin Luther King Jr. but also the colleagues whose support was crucial to him. In emphatic phrases and warm art, Wittenstein and Pinkney's moving portrait of the civil rights leader in consultation shows that historical moments—and movements—are shaped and changed by many.


Pokko and the Drum

Matthew Forsythe (S&S/Wiseman)

"The biggest mistake Pokko's parents ever made was giving her a drum." After her father expresses misgivings, he prevails upon the young frog to head outside, where other animals fall in behind her as she plays, and the parade grows into a triumphant throng. Tapestry-esque spreads give the tense, funny sequences a lush elegance in Forsythe's book about embracing one's beat.



Elisha Cooper (Orchard)

A woman in a canoe waves goodbye to people on the shore and sets out on a journey down the Hudson River: "Three hundred miles stretch in front of her." Tracking her trip in sweeping pencil-and-watercolor layers of cloud and coast, river and rock, Cooper highlights the difficulties and joys of her expedition while underscoring her solitude and satisfaction in the voyage.


Roar Like a Dandelion

Ruth Krauss, illus. by Sergio Ruzzier (HarperCollins)

In single-line poems, the late Krauss works through the alphabet, fashioning impish commands that poke fun at the tedium of traditional ABC fare. Ruzzier extends the surreal mood with endearing creatures engaging in playful vignettes reminiscent of early Sendak. Each page offers its own adventure; together, the spreads create a deliciously subversive invitation to turn one's back on the tiresome.



Oge Mora (Little, Brown)

Ava's mother works six days a week, so Saturday, their only day together, "was the day they cherished." When one Saturday goes awry, the family handles dashed expectations in a way that acknowledges disappointment while conveying the buoyancy of resilience and the joy of their bond. Carefully paced repetition structures the tale, and Mora's brilliantly colored collages convey their adventures with elegant energy.


Small in the City

Sydney Smith (Holiday House/Porter)

Smith's understated solo debut follows a bundled-up child walking on a snowy winter day amid tall buildings, traffic, and telephone poles. "I know what it's like to be small in the city," the narration begins. As it continues, readers engage with a quiet but powerful emotional journey and an expertly executed portrait of longing, loving regard, and autonomy.


A Stone Sat Still

Brendan Wenzel (Chronicle)

As in They All Saw a Cat, Wenzel's poem focuses on how point of view affects experience. This time, his subject is a humble stone—encountered variably by a host of creatures. Wonderful mixed-media creatures and their interactions entertain, while bigger ideas suggest conversations about perception and perspective, wildlife and habitat, local and global change, and eternity and evanescence.


The Undefeated

Kwame Alexander, illus. by Kadir Nelson (Versify)

Performed first on the ESPN show of the same name, Alexander's magnificent anthem to the courage and genius of black Americans is here paired with stunning portraits by Nelson. Well-known figures appear alongside nameless heroes in this powerful work about people "who hurdled history/ and opened a world/ of possible."



Barbara McClintock (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

In this high-octane adventure, Annie fits her helmet over her red curls, gets into her race car, and rockets right out of her bedroom window. McClintock's crisp, clean landscapes have the precision of architectural drawings, and her economically told story offers all the greatest charms of adventure: being on one's own, seeing new places, and going really, really fast.


Who Wet My Pants?

Bob Shea, illus. by Zachariah Ohora (Little, Brown)

The animal scout troop is gathered around the campfire when everyone notices a crescent-shaped wet patch at the crotch of Reuben's pants. The bear immediately deflects the blame: "Who wet my pants?" he shouts, improbably. Shea and Ohora make a terrific team, creating a comedy that is both laugh-out-loud off-kilter and deeply humane.


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