Written by Andrea Beaty
Illustrated by Dow Phumiruk
A downcast girl sits alone before dawn outside a dark house. A meteor drops an oblong object at her bare feet. When she opens it, flowers spring from its pages. Soon her world wakes and brightens as books and writing implements fill the landscape. Giant book spines replace high-rise facades; pencils (Phumiruk’s illustration medium) replace tree trunks and pointy rooftops. At school, when she begins to write, books fall from the heavens for her wonder-hungry friends. By day’s end, Beaty’s gently rhyming words are speeding their spark to countless others in “the darkest dark.”
40 pp. Abrams. $16.99. (Ages 5 to 7)
CALVIN GETS THE LAST WORD
Written by Margo Sorenson
Illustrated by Mike Deas
”See that kid reading a book? That’s Calvin. And I’m the book. I’m Calvin’s dictionary, and I’m tired.” So begins this book’s-eye view of a young boy’s love of words — a tale told by his well-worn dictionary, which he takes everywhere, even to baseball practice. But this is no paean to purple prose. Calvin’s devotion to finding le mot juste is about getting revenge (a.k.a. “retaliation”) on his “rascally,” “tricky” older brother, whose annoying habit is waiting till Calvin fills his mouth with food or drink to tell a joke. (Our narrator has the broccoli-clotted, milk-stained pages to prove it.)
32 pp. Tilbury House. $17.95. (Ages 8 to 12)
THE LIBRARY BUS
Written by Bahram Rahman
Illustrated by Gabrielle Grimard
It’s 5-year-old Pari’s first day as her mother’s library helper. “But this is no ordinary library — this one is on wheels!” In a story inspired by the first library bus in Kabul, Afghanistan, where Rahman grew up during the civil war, it brings books to girls in remote villages and refugee camps who have no other access to education. When it arrives, their cheeks blush with hope, like Pari’s magenta dress against Grimard’s richly nuanced saffron sand and sky. “Mama,” who had to hide in a basement to study when she was young, reads aloud. Learning, she reminds Pari, is what will make us free.
32 pp. Pajama Press. $18.95. (Ages 5 to 8)
JUST A STORY
Written and illustrated by Jeff Mack
The instant a boy opens a benign-looking book at a library (“This is just a story … ”), a pirate pokes his head up from a trapdoor near where he’s sitting. But the boy (“This is just a story about a boy … ”) is already buried in the book. As the pirate sneaks up behind him, followed by his captain (half Hook, half Ahab), he fails to notice the lion about to pounce from the tree that’s grown beside him. While you may think you know where this is going, Mack switches genres, story forms, even physical layouts as he tries every trick in the book (pardon the pun) to distract an avid reader.
32 pp. Neal Porter/Holiday House. $18.99. (Ages 3 to 7)
THE STRANGE BIRDS OF FLANNERY O’CONNOR: A Life
Written by Amy Alznauer
Illustrated by Ping Zhu
Like O’Connor, this gangly art object of a book tracing her first forays as a writer to an outsize fascination with the chickens in her childhood backyard is a “strange bird,” in the most wondrous of ways. “There was something about strangeness,” a young O’Connor realized after her trained bantam drew fame, “that made people sit up and look.” Alznauer pairs a grounded, authentic vernacular with a lyricism that takes flight, while Zhu’s depiction of odd human proportions against brilliant brushstroke plumage stuns.
64 pp. Enchanted Lion. $18.95. (Ages 4 and up)
DIGGING FOR WORDS: José Alberto Gutíerrez and the Library He Built
Written by Angela Burke Kunkel
Illustrated by Paola Escobar
One day on his route as a garbage collector in Bogatá, Gutíerrez found a discarded copy of Tolstoy’s “Anna Karenina.” He read it “again and again, always opening to a faraway time and place full of steam trains, ballrooms lit by candlelight, sleighs gliding through snow.” Thousands of books later, he runs a library in the barrio of La Nueva Gloria, where he is known as the Lord of the Books. Simultaneously published in Spanish.
40 pp. Schwartz & Wade. $17.99. (Ages 4 to 8)
THE LADY WITH THE BOOKS: A Story Inspired by the Remarkable Work of Jella Lepman
Written by Kathy Stinson
Illustrated by Marie Lafrance
Anneliese and her little brother, Peter, wander from Munich’s post-World War II rubble into Lepman’s 1946 traveling exhibition of 4,000 children’s books she hoped would create “bridges of understanding.” When their real-life counterparts begged to take a book home, Lepman translated “The Story of Ferdinand” (banned when Hitler was in power), about a bull who didn’t want to fight, into German and had 30,000 copies printed.
32 pp. Kids Can Press. $17.99. (Ages 4 to 7)
THE MAGIC BOOKCASE
Written and illustrated by Robert Ingpen
A goblin named Tally (from the Hans Christian Andersen medalist’s earlier book “The Dreamkeeper”) guides readers through a more-than-20-foot-long foldout reproduction of the massive mural Ingpen painted of “a room with bookcase walls” where instead of the great storybooks themselves their most colorful characters come alive. With his “belief-powered remote control,” Tally extracts quotations from classics such as “Pinocchio,” “The Nutcracker” and “Around the World in Eighty Days.”
32 pp. Minedition. $19.99. (Ages 3 to 7)
Jennifer Krauss is the children’s books editor of the Book Review.