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Berry Song

Michaela Goade (Little, Brown)

“On an island at the edge of a wide, wild sea,” a child and grandmother celebrate the earth as they forage through the seasons. Together, they express their gratitude to the land as they gather seaweed, catch “slippery salmon,” and pick forest berries. Goade’s soft, pensive watercolors are emboldened by vivid, brilliant hues, painting a serene picture of nature and its many gifts that’s just right for berry season and beyond.

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A Day for Sandcastles

JonArno Lawson, illus. by Qin Leng (Candlewick)

Lawson and Leng offer a wordless story about a long day at the beach via one family’s sun-dappled visit. While the adults pitch an umbrella, the children begin building sand castles near the ocean’s edge. But the tide is inexorable, and after a windblown hat takes out a turret, a big wave flattens the rest, requiring the kids to begin again. It’s a portrait of the best kind of childhood learning curve—slow, cooperative, independent, and made with little more than water and sand.

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Does a Bulldozer Have a Butt?

Derick Wilder, illus. by K-Fai Steele (Chronicle)

As a father and child walk to school, an important question arises: “Which things do and don’t have butts?” Paired with Steele’s ink line and bright washes, Wilder’s transgressively funny concept (plus plentiful puns and mentions of tush utility) will no doubt win over the target audience. But even more important is the view the book offers: one of a world in which questions serve as a common bond, curiosity is amply rewarded, and variety is the spice of life.

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Hot Dog

Doug Salati (Knopf)

Set on one sizzling summer day, Salati’s solo debut is a remarkable slice-of-life story starring a copper-hued, city-dwelling dachshund. In candid-feeling spreads, Salati captures an urban crush, and the dog’s subsequent meltdown, until—a cab, a train, and a ferry later—hound and human companion arrive at “an island... wild and long and low,” where, at last, “a pup can run.” Luxurious scenes of ocean, sand, and reeds add to a calming portrait of escape and renewal.

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A Seed Grows

Antoinette Portis (Holiday House/Porter)

Employing spare language and sunny, stippled multimedia spreads that belie their quiet complexity, Portis gracefully traces a sunflower’s cycle from seed to sprout to plant—and back again. This vibrant offering, almost as jam-packed as a seed itself, details a seedling’s early needs and maturation phases with text and images that hint at the plant’s place as participant in the natural world.

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The World Belonged to Us

Jacqueline Woodson, illus. by Leo Espinosa (Penguin/Paulsen)

Lilting, intimate lines by Woodson capture a delicious sense of autonomy and possibility shared “In Brooklyn/ in the summer/ not so long ago,” when “the minute/ school ended, us kids were free as air.” In Espinosa’s spreads, kids crowd sidewalks and stoops, open hydrants, and play street games with chalk and bottle caps. Together, the creators celebrate the strengths of shared experiences and community, showing how childhood can engender joy that follows “everywhere I’d ever go.”

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