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I have often written that when I was an unexpressed trans girl growing up in the 60’s and 70’s, I could find no characters like me in the stories I consumed. That is true—there were no trans characters anywhere. Many stories still offered me at least some comfort, though, by showing me characters with something secret and precious hidden inside. And, oh, did I resonate with them. They helped me hold myself together on the difficult path I had chosen of impersonating masculinity, in spite of not actually being a boy.
I discovered The Thirteen Clocks, by James Thurber, when I was five, and loved it instantly and intensely. When I read it, and understood it had been created by another human, I realized for the first time that I too had been put on this Earth to make stories. It was the flashpoint for my origin story as a writer.
It also spoke to my internal gender exile, already underway by that time. The only female character in the book is the Princess Saralinda, who has had a spell cast on her by the evil Duke, so that all she can say in his presence is “I wish him well.” In retrospect, this is an eye-rollingly obvious analogy to how I had already capitulated to the restrictive expectations of the all-pervasive gender binary.
The ending always bothered me, though, because Saralinda’s prince shows up, and that was where the parallel broke down. I was princeless, and had no realistic hope of such rescue.
Another early re-read favorite was The Phantom Tollbooth, by Norton Juster. On the surface, Milo is an ordinary boy living a humdrum life. As the story unfolds, however, he experiences a rich magical secret second life, in which he discovers the power of being open to the world and practicing selfless kindness.
I thrilled at his story, too, but also struggled again at the end, when he returns to his regular life. He does so with renewed joy, but also with that second life still locked away inside. The message I received was that the soft loving thing inside me was beautiful, but that it had to stay secret.
In The Dark is Rising, by Susan Cooper, ordinary boy Will Stanton discovers on his 11th birthday that he is one of the Old Ones, a warrior in an eternal struggle between Good and Evil. When I found this book in the stacks of my local public library, I devoured the whole five-book series of which it was a part. Will compelled me, and also left me aching at the end, in the same way that Milo did; but it was the character of Jane in book three, Greenwitch, who touched me most deeply. What that story comes down to is a girl saving the day through an act of selfless kindness that can never be revealed.
And then there’s Tenar, the child priestess in Ursula Le Guin’s The Tombs of Atuan—a girl taken out of the world and forced into lifelong servitude to ancient forces she cannot love or understand. This one reached me deepest of all, I think. I still cry when I read the passage where she finally feels herself freed (with the help of a wizard) from the grip of the Nameless Ones near the end of the book.
These books and many others helped me survive a long lonely road, but when it came to how to change that road or escape it altogether, they let me down. They taught me that my only hope was either a rescue I could never realistically hope for, or selfless sacrifice to the end of my days. There was never even a hint that it was possible, using just my own strength, to break free.
That is why today I feel driven to write stories that bring the transgender struggle and its possible successful resolutions out into the open. Secret lives can only carry you so far. In the end they are no replacements for a real life, lived freely and joyously out in the world for all to see.
School’s out, which means summer is HERE! Time for kids to sleep in, scarf down bowls of cereal, and find the perfect reading nook…because we’ve got seven fun-packed middle grade books perfect for reading this summer! So, whether your reader loves nature, fantasy, monsters, misfits, or adventure, there’s something here for everyone! Get summer ready with these seven middle grade essentials.
Squirm, by Carl Hiaasen
Get ready for a mysterious and nature-filled adventure with Squirm. When Billy was only three, his dad left him and his mom. Ever since, his dad’s location has remained a mystery. That is, until Billy discovers an address and sneaks off to Montana to confront his dad. But when he arrives, his dad is missing—and all he finds is an abandoned truck with slashed tires and a message from a drone that says, “See you in Florida.” Follow Billy as he journeys through nature, dodges a grizzly bear, and attempts to save his dad.
Sunborn Rising: Beneath the Fall, by Aaron Safronoff
Beautiful images are peppered throughout this fantastical novel, whichtakes readers on an immersive adventure. Safronoff has created an intriguing alien world unlike any other, with forest creatures, a forgotten light, a mysterious plague, and a legacy to uphold. Follow Barra as she travels across the Great Forest to bring light to her dying world.
Hello, Universe, by Erin Entrada Kelly
Winner of a Newbery Medal, Hello, Universe follows four strangers who—at first—believe they only have their neighborhood in common. Until a prank goes too far, and these four misfits must use their unique personalities to rescue one of their own from the bottom of a well. Featuring a diverse cast of characters including Valencia, who is deaf, and puts on a brave front but is secretly lonely, to Kaori, who believes she is psychic, this absorbing novel has something for everyone.
The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl, by Stacy McAnulty
After lightning strikes Lucy Callahan, she acquires a super power: genius-level math skills. At just twelve years old, she’s technically ready for college. However, her grandma insists she first finish middle school, make a friend, join in on an activity, and read a book. Can Lucy brave the stares of her fellow classmates, check off this ambitious to-do list, venture outside of her comfort zone?
Camp Shady Crook, by Lee Gjertsen Malone
Camp Shady Crook is not your average camp. Unless you call campers trying desperately to out-con each other, “average.” For Archie, in a newly blended family, and Vivian, resentful because her parents dumped her at camp so they could travel all summer, this is exactly what their camp experience is like. Until things go too far, risking the most important friendship Vivian has ever had. Can Archie and Vivian find a way, despite their competitiveness, to work together to make things right?
A Babysitter’s Guide to Monster Hunting, by Joe Ballarini
Ever wonder who fights the monsters under kids’ beds? Fortunately, this book is here to spill all. In it we meet Kelly and her secret society of babysitters, who attempt to destroy under-bed-dwelling characters like the Boogeyman with the help of an ancient handbook. But can they rescue Baby Jacob from the monsters in his nightmares? Fun black-and-white illustrations bring this series to life.
My Brigadista Year, by Katherine Paterson
Fans who loved Katherine Paterson’s Bridge to Terabithia will adoreher historical novel My Brigadista Year. Follow thirteen-year-old Lora as she joins Fidel Castro’s national literacy campaign against her family’s wishes and travels to an impoverished town to teach others how to read. This coming-of-age story about a Cuban teenager was inspired by amazing true events.
We’ve kicked off a new, weekly Baby Storytime event on Sundays at Barnes & Noble this summer!
Our third Baby Storytime will take place this Sunday, June 23rd, at 11am, and will feature Hello, World! Dinosaurs, by Jill McDonald.
With bright colors, charming illustrations, and lots of simple and neat facts about dinosaurs, it’s a fun, engaging book that even the youngest book lovers (and book lovers-to-be) will enjoy exploring with you! Besides reading a delightfully interactive board book, we’ll be engaging in fun activities that promote sensory development and are perfect for little ones.
So pop your under-2 into the carseat, stroller, or carrier (easier said than done, we know!), and head to your local B&N to meet and mingle with other local parents and caregivers and their babies!
Toy Story 4 hits theaters June 21st, and it will introduce fans to a new character by the name of “Forky.” To celebrate, we’ll be reading a hilarious book by Drew Daywalt, author of The Day the Crayons Quit, which tells the story of the day Forky goes to school on “craft day”—suddenly, he’s surrounded by crafts who are a little confused about their purpose, which puts him in a role he’s not quite accustomed to. Can Forky learn to be a leader?
Storytimes come with a coupon offer for a grilled cheese and milk or juice for $4 (café stores only). While you’re there, why not take a minute to join the B&N Members and Kids’ Club for special offers all year long? Ask a bookseller for details on how to join!
These six new fun chapter books offer fresh takes on so many subjects, from a parent getting remarried, to the importance of trees, to a magic camper van that shows up in a driveway. Every book here will take readers on a new adventure to a different place and time. Stock up for summer and get your early readers excited to read the summer away!
Juana & Lucas: Big Problemas, by Juana Medina I’m so excited about Juana, who lives in the beautiful city of Bogotá with her two most favorite people in the world: her Mami and her dog, Lucas. When Mami gets a new hairdo and a new amigo named Luis, Juana enjoys learning about photography and jazz music from him, but she also misses the way things used to be. Especially now that Luis and Mami are getting married. This story is based on author-illustrator Medina’s own childhood in Colombia (Juana & Lucas). As a former single mom who started dating my now-husband when my daughter was in third grade, I wish we’d had a chapter book like this!
Bea Garcia: The Tree and Me, by Debora Zemke Bea Garcia and her classmates are on a mission to save their school’s old oak tree (named Emily, after Bea and Judith’s favorite American poet) from being cut down! This is the fourth chapter book in this series about teamwork in the class and care for the environment. I love the dedication at the beginning: “This story was inspired by the campaign of Mrs. Schenker’s class at Grant School to save the oak tree outside their classroom window. It’s dedicated to all young authors, artists, and activists.”
Polly Diamond and the Super Stunning Spectacular Book Fair, by Alice Kuipers and Diana Toledano This second in this chapter series is Ivy and Bean meets Amelia Bedelia. Polly loves reading books, making lists, and writing in her special book called Spell. Spell has magical powers and can communicate with Polly by writing back to her and making whatever she writes down come true. However, Spell takes everything Polly writes literally, which makes for some fun wordplay! A wonderful story featuring a smart, adventurous biracial protagonist.
Magic on the Map #1: Let’s Mooove!, by Courtney Sheinmel and Bianca Turetsky “On the last day of second grade, Finn and Molly Parker came home to find a camper in their driveway….” That’s how this chapter book begins. Finn and Molly are twins who decide to check out the camper in the middle of the night and discover that it’s actually a magic transporter called Planet Earth Transporter (aka PET). This story, the first in a new series that will explore a different state in each book, is a mix of geography lessons, adventure, and mystery, including fun facts about Colorado.
Little Goddess Girls: Athena & The Magic Land, by Joan Holub, Suzanne Williams, and Yuyi Chen Greek mythology meets The Wonderful Wizard of Oz as Athena gets carried away from home in a storm and lands onMount Olympus. There are talking animals, magical sandals, and a dog who joins Athena for her adventure. The book includes a Word List at the end with definitions, and conversation-sparking questions, such as “If you were a goddess or a god, what would your magic power be?”
A is for Elizabeth, by Rachel Vail and Paige Kaiser In a series that spins off of the Justin Case books, we meet Justin’s little sister, Elizabeth, who’s working hard in second grade. She sets out to make a poster of her name and learns some lessons about what’s fair and when to speak up. This is a good choice for fans of Judy Moody, Junie B. Jones, and Clementine.
One of the fun things about having kids on hand is sharing with them favorite books from your own childhood! Here are some great classics for 9 to 12 year-olds that were fun for us to read back when we were kids, and that the children in your life will love too!
The 13 Clocks, by James Thurber This story of a brave prince who wins the hand of a beautiful princess by defeating an evil duke is tremendous fun! The gothic fairy-tale extravagance of the Duke’s cold castle with its stopped clocks and curiously creep denizens is over the top, as is the quest the prince must undertake, and it’s told with joyously whimsical language. There’s logic to it all, but it’s the sort of twisted logic that kids love. Though a similar story published today would give the princess more to say, and possibly back away from the fairy-tale extremes of evil, it holds up well; my own boys enjoyed it just as much as I did when I was young.
The Borrowers, by Mary Norton
The Borrowers are a family of tiny people who live beneath the kitchen floor of a big old house. Arrietty, the only child, isn’t allowed to go with her father on his trips up into the house to “borrow” all the small things they need, though she longs for more than the safety of the family’s cramped quarters. When she sets off to explore on her own, she meets a human boy almost as lonely as she is, and the two become friends. The most magical part of the book, and indeed of the series as a whole, is the wonderful ingenuity of the Borrows in reworking human-sized things, and Arreitty’s story of wanting to push past parental boundaries and expectations is one that will never grow dated.
The Birchbark House, by Louise Erdrich This story takes readers through a year in the life of Omakayas, an Ojibwe girl growing up in Michigan in the mid-19th century. It’s full of vivid descriptions of everyday life, in which everyone has their part to play in keeping the community going, that will delight kids fascinated by how people did things in the past. On a larger scale the story includes the effects of European contact, including the introduction of diseases such as smallpox, that makes for some harrowing reading. On a more personal scale, it’s a moving story of family love. It’s a great counterpart to Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House Books.
Bunnicula, by Deborah and James Howe The Monroe family has a new pet—an adorable little rabbit. But is Bunnicula as sweet as he looks? As blanched vegetables, drained of juice, began to appear around the house, Chester the cat leaps to the conclusion that Bunnicula is a vampire! Chester and Harold the dog must get to the bottom of the mystery, and keep their family safe before it is too late. Chester, a cat with a Gothic imagination that runs wild, is the brains of the pair, with Harold, who narrates the story, as his sidekick. It’s very entertaining, although the poor bunny has a rather hard time of it! And happily there are lots of sequels, continuing the fun.
Holes, by Louis Sachar This was the winner of the Newbery award way back in 1999. Some Newbery winners aren’t strong on kid appeal, but that’s not the case for the story of Stanley Yelnats, a boy suffering from a curse that was laid on his many times over great-grandfather that has blighted all the following generations of the family. Stanley is sent to Camp Green Lake, where the boys are forced to “build character” by digging holes all day. He suspects there must be a reason for the holes, and sets out find it… and as he solves the mystery, he finds a way out of the trap of the curse. Stanley’s a great character, the setting is vividly memorable, and the mystery intriguing, and this deserves to be a classic that lasts for years to come.
The Westing Game, by Ellen Raskin When Sunset Towers opens, sixteen carefully selected people move in. All are surprised when they find, shortly afterwards, that they are heirs to the fortune of reclusive millionaire Sam Westing. But only two will get the lion’s share of the fortune—Mr. Westing’s will divides them into teams of two, who must work together to solve the puzzle he set for them. All have secrets, some of them deadly. And one is a mistake. All sixteen are remarkable characters, in particular 13-year-old Turtle, who chafes at the expectation that she should be a “good girl” like her older sister. The mystery is just as fun today was it was back when it won the Newbery in 1979.
The Wolves of Willoughby Chase, by Joan Aiken This was a classic even before most of us were born, but if you read it as a kid you’ll want your kids to experience its magic too! Orphaned Sylvia arrives at her cousin Bonnie’s stately home, Willoughby Chase, in the dead of winter, surviving a train ride beset by wolves. But Bonnie’s parents leave them to the care of a governess, Miss Slighcarp, who proves even more terrifying than the wolves howling out in the snow. She sends the girls to a horrible school for orphans where they are starved and ill-treated. Though they manage to escape, how can they defeat the cruel Miss Slighcarp? It is marvelously entertaining, and anyone who enjoys stories of plucky kids beset by dangerous adults (and wolves) will love it!
Where the Sidewalk Ends, by Shel Silverstein It might not occur to us parents to offer poetry books to our kids, but this funny and profound collection is still as much fun for kids as it was when it was first published in 1974! The whimsical poems address relatable concerns, alongside poems that are sheer delightful nonsense, and Silverstein’s illustrations lift the words to further flights of fancy. It’s great for reading aloud together with a little one, great for a bunch of kids to explore together, and great to revisit at any age.
If you’re a fan of the rhyming picture book, there’s a lot to love in this list! Many of the following books have poetic elements. Some are full-on celebrations of rhyme and meter.
Below, you’ll find an anthology of how-to poems, a collection of train poems, a book about a girl who ties poems to trees, and an ode to the beauties of the Sonoran Desert. This list also contains wonderful non-rhyming books, including heartwarming biographies, true tales of canine courage, and silly stories about baked goods.
I Can Only Draw Worms, by Will Mabbitt
Never has there been a book with a more charmingly on-the-nose title. As the title declares, Mabbitt is indeed a picture book author who can only draw worms. Somehow, this is enough to create a very strange, totally hilarious book about counting. Mabbitt introduces ten worms, each of which look pretty much the same. One worm thinks he’s the boss, another worm is feeling sick, but both are wriggly and pink. Readers will love giggling about the author’s limited artistic skills as they count along.
Birds, by Carme Lemniscates
As Carme Lemniscates reminds us in her latest picture book, the skies are filled with birds of all sizes and colors. There are large birds like eagles and small ones like hummingbirds. There are showy birds like peacocks and shy ones like owls. Some birds sing “sweet and tender songs” that sound like “the loving words of a friend.” Birds is a thoughtful celebration of our feathery friends in the sky, one which delights in nature and urges readers to do the same.
Cake, by Sue Hendra and Paul Linnet
Cake is so excited. He’s just been invited to a party. But what to wear? Cake tries on feather boas, capes, masks, and pirate costumes. Nothing feels quite right. In the end, Cake settles on something classic: candles and frosting.
Everyone is very excited when Cake makes his appearance at the party. But he gets a bad feeling in the middle of the birthday song. Thankfully, just as his candles are blown out, Cake is rescued by a troupe of sweet treats. Once they make their escape, Cake and his new friends decide to celebrate with a party of their own.
Clackety Track: Poems about Trains, by Skila Brown and Jamey Christoph
There’s something about trains. Those who love them, really love them. This seems to be especially true of young train enthusiasts. Kids who love trains want to know everything they can about them. If that’s your kid, Skila Brown’s Clackety Track will be a welcome addition to your picture book library.
Brown’s book is a wonder. She is able to capture the timeless appeal of trains, impart information on favorite types of locomotives, and create some very lovely poetry. Often, she does all of this in just a few poetic lines. A steam engine is the “Biggest beast you’ve ever see./Gobbling up a coal cuisine./One hundred tons of steel machine./Belching out a steam smoke screen.” Train tracks are a “Stretched web path./No start. No End/ Crisscross the ground/around a bend.” Read along to Skila Brown’s superb rhymes with your favorite train-lover and learn a bit about freight trains, sleeper trains, electric trains, and bullet trains.
Steel Drums (Made by Hand), by Patricia Lakin and Glenn Rowsey
Lakin’s Steel Drums is a compelling tribute to one of the world’s most unique instruments. A relatively recent invention, the steel drum is the only “nonelectric instrument… created in the twentieth century.” Much of the book focuses on the history, cultural impact, and craftsmanship of the steel drum. Readers will learn about Ellie Mannette, the Father of the Modern Steel Drum. Mannette built the first concave steel drum in Trinidad when he was just 19. Readers will also get incredibly detailed lessons on how to shape, cut, buff, and tune steel drums.
B Is for Baby, by Atinuke and Angela Brooksbank
Atinuke’s B is for Baby tells the story of a young stowaway. Set in West Africa, a baby hidden in her brother’s bike basket watches as the world flies by. She sees many things that start with the letter b. There are bananas, baobab trees, birds, baboons, buses and bridges. It isn’t until her brother reaches his destination, that baby is discovered inside the basket. Atinuke’s enchanting picture book concludes with a recap of the things baby saw on her journey.
The Night Flower: The Blooming of the Saguaro Cactus, by Lara Hawthorne
Lara Hawthorne’s picture book focuses on the magic of desert wildlife. On one night each year the saguaro cactus blooms with strong-scented white flowers. Creatures of all kinds await the blooming of the cactus. There are birds, butterflies, squirrels, bats, and lizards. The Night Flower takes place over a single day in the Sonoran Desert, where the saguaro cactus is a native plant. Hawthorne completes the book with engaging infographics that detail key features of the plant as well as its life cycle.
Ten Rules of the Birthday Wish, by Beth Ferry and Tom Lichtenheld
This is definitely a favorite new picture book release. On one hand, Ferry and Lichtenheld’s birthday rules are fairly straightforward. It must be your birthday, there must be singing and you must close your eyes when you make a wish. But within each rule, there are endless silly caveats. For example, balloons are a must unless you are a rhinoceros, swordfish, or “pointy in any way” as pointy creatures tend to pop balloons. And it must be your birthday unless “your life cycle is a month, a week, or sniff, sniff, only a single day.” In that case, the authors urge you to “celebrate immediately!” Ten Rules of the Birthday Wish is a wonderfully funny and immensely inventive picture book. Highly recommended.
A Computer Called Katherine: How Katherine Johnson Helped Put America on the Moon, by Suzanne Slade and Veronica Miller Jamison
As anyone who has seen the movie Hidden Figures knows, Katherine Johnson led an incredible life. She was a math prodigy who skipped grades and began attending high school at 10. She worked at NASA as a computer, calculating the flight paths of some of the most important space missions of all time. Suzanne Slade’s work is the perfect picture book tribute to a woman who helped put humans in space and on the moon.
Noah Builds an Ark, by Kate Banks and John Rocco
In a modern retelling of the classic Bible story, Kate Banks recasts Noah as a young boy living in the city. The boy and his family are preparing for a giant storm. While Noah’s parents board up the house and gather supplies, he builds a miniature ark for birds, insects, and rodents. Using a little red wagon and a few planks of wood, Noah creates a safe haven for the small creatures. The ark keeps the animals safe while Noah and his family wait out the storm inside. Once the storm passes, a rainbow stretches across the sky.
The Cat Who Lived with Anne Frank, by David Lee Miller, Steven Jay Rubin and Elizabeth Baddeley
It’s difficult to imagine how a picture book could depict the tragedy of Anne Frank’s life. But somehow, David Lee Miller and Stephen Jay Rubin are able to tell Anne’s story in a way that was both accurate and appropriate for its audience. The book is told from the perspective of Mouschi, a cat who lived with Anne. Mouschi describes living in the secret annex with Anne and seven others, cramped into a hidden space behind a bookcase. The cat watches as Anne writes in her diary, and peaks through curtains at the Black Spider soldiers. At the end of the book, Mouschi dreams that Anne’s words and “kind and gentle spirit” will light up “the world forever.”
Doctor Esperanto and the Language of Hope, by Mara Rockliff and Zosia Dzierzawska
Rockliff tells the little-known story of Leyzer Zamenhof, a Polish-Jewish boy who grew up surrounded by many languages. Zamenof longed to create a language that would be understood by all people. Zamenof studied many languages and decided that his new language would built on the similarities between languages. In this way, Zamenof designed Esperanto, a new tongue that would speak to the world. Though there have been other constructed languages before and since, Esperanto remains the most widely spoken.
The Proper Way to Meet a Hedgehog and Other How-To Poems, by Paul B. Janeczko and Richard Jones
Though they may vary in tone and subject, each poem in this collection is fantastically first-rate. The Proper Way to Meet a Hedgehog is a compilation of how-to poems which include instructions on how to tell goblins from elves, how to be a snowflake, how to build a poem, and how to say a prayer. Contributors include authors past and present such as Kwame Alexander, Robert Louis Stevenson, Margarita Engle, and Christina Rossetti.
Beware of the Crocodile, by Martin Jenkins and Satoshi Kitamura
Crocodiles are terribly dangerous. They have about a zillion pointy teeth and are surprisingly fast. They attack their prey with quick lunges and gigantic splashes. But, as Martin Jenkins proves, there’s “more to crocodiles than SPLASH, snap, twirl, swallow.”
Jenkins’s book contains a myriad of intriguing crocodile facts. The reptile’s life cycle and behavior are described in detail. An engaging and informative read, Beware of the Crocodile is perfect for readers who love learning about dangerous creatures.
Angry Cookie, by Laura Dockrill and Maria Karipidou
Angry Cookie does not want you to read his book. By opening the book, the reader has invaded Cookie’s space. Calling the reader a “nosy noodle,” the angry treat insists again and again that the reader stop reading. Readers will adore disobeying Cookie.
Once Angry Cookie realizes that the reader isn’t going anywhere, he decides to tell his tale of woe. It’s been a trying day. First, his roommate played the same awful song on her recorder. Then, Cookie accidentally brushed his teeth with super spicy toothpaste. Worst of all, he got a really bad haircut.
But by the end of the book Angry Cookie isn’t so angry. After all, the reader listened to his whole story! Cookie ends the book with a friendly thank you to the reader. Dockrill’s picture book is sure to lead to a gigglefest, and maybe some snacking!
Poetree, by Shauna LaVoy Reynolds and Shahrzad Maydani
Sylvia, a young girl inspired by spring, writes a poem and ties it to a birch tree. The next day, there’s a new poem on the tree. Has the tree written back?
Though she doesn’t know it, Sylvia has begun a poetic correspondence with a boy from her class named Walt. When Sylvia and Walt discover each other at the poetree, a creative friendship blooms. Together, the new friends sit under the tree and wait for inspiration to strike.
Reynold’s sweet story of friendship, language, and nature is perfectly accompanied by Maydani’s illustrations, a lovely combination of watercolor and pencil. Poetree is Reynolds’s debut picture book.
With Smile, readers learn about Chaplin’s difficult childhood, first street performances, and rise to stardom. Chaplin’s story is told through marvelously lyrical text, simple silhouettes, and black and white title cards that recall the silent era. Readers will find a short summary of Charlie Chaplin’s life at the end of the book.
Superpower Dogs, by Cosmic
Superpower Dogs has one of the craziest picture book covers I’ve ever seen. There’s a dog surfing, a dog leaping through the clouds, and another dog barreling down a mountain. It’s a lot, but I love it!
Superpower Dogs tells the stories of five amazing canines. Readers will meet an avalanche rescue dog named Henry and a Search and Rescue K9 trainee named Halo. They will also meet Tipper and Tony, two bloodhounds who help endangered animals by tracking poachers. Rounding out the superpowered crew is Ricochet, the surfing golden retriever. Each story is accompanied by photos of the dogs in action; jumping off boats, flying from helicopters, and surfing the waves.
Baby Day, by Jane Godwin, Davina Bell, and Freya Blackwood
It’s baby’s birthday and it’s time to celebrate with a bunch of baby friends. At the party there are all kinds of babies. There are strong babies, lazy babies, dancing babies, and even twin babies. If you’re hunting for a picture book featuring adorable babies in endless silly poses, look no further. Baby Day is the book for you!
The Bear, the Piano, the Dog, and the Fiddle, by David Litchfield
The follow-up to The Bear and the Piano, Litchfield’s latest introduces a new animal musician—Hugo, a fiddle-playing dog. When the book begins, Hugo is merely a fan of music. It’s his best friend Hector who plays the fiddle. But when Hector retires, Hugo misses the melodies. The dog takes to the fiddle.
When Hector learns that his dog has learned to play his favorite instrument and is super talented, he feels jealous. Hector struggles even more when Hugo is scouted by Bear, a famous piano player. If Hector wants to keep Hugo’s friendship, he must swallow his pride. A touching story of music and friendship, Litchfield’s book stresses the importance of celebrating the successes of others.
Father’s Day is around the corner, and what better way to celebrate dear old Dad than with some fun kid’s books about the joys (and challenges!) of fatherhood? These are also perfect books for a little one to gift his or her father, or for Dad to share with his children. Spending time reading books together is a great way to celebrate Father’s Day and to make the time together even more special for the whole family.
Dad By My Side, by Soosh
This sweet book actually started out as a series of illustrations posted on Instagram by author and illustrator Soosh that went viral and it’s easy to see why. These gorgeous watercolor illustrations of a girl and her larger than life father are a lovely accompaniment to the simple and heartfelt text about a beautiful father-daughter relationship. “He teaches me. And I teach him too.” A great read for Father’s Day, or any other day you need to be reminded to reach for the stars.
Pet Dad, by Elanna Allen
Plum wants a pet; Plum’s dad does not want a pet. At all. So Plum decides to do the next best thing and turn her father into a pet! But taking care of a pet grown up is harder than it looks (they like to eat “disgusting foods, like kale and quinoa” for one). Plum soon discovers the secret to caring for this pet is easy; he just requires lots of hugs. A heartwarming book, just in time for Father’s Day!
A Father’s Love, by Hannah Holt and Yee Von Chan
Summer also means it’s time to honor fathers, and this charming book does a terrific job of that. Holt’s sweet rhymes and Chan’s adorable pictures pay tribute to the dads of the animal kindgdom, from the lions who babysit their cubs while the moms go hunting, to the pygmy marmosets who tote their babies on their backs, to the emus who solo parent their hatchlings, often “losing 15 percent or more of his body weight while tending the eggs,” according to the animal facts in the back of A Father’s Love.
Hair Love, by Matthew A. Cherry and Vashti Harrison
Speaking of fathers rising to the challenge of parenting, Hair Love by former NFL star turned inventor, film director, writer, and producer (whew!) Matthew A. Cherry is a love letter to any dad who’s ever looked at his daughter’s unruly hair and said, “Yes, I can tame this!” Little Zuri explains that her hair “kinks, coils, and curls every which way.” Her dad thinks Zuri’s hair is marvelous, of course, no matter what shape it happens to take that day, but some special occasions call for a tidy ‘do. Daddy’s first attempts to style Zuri’s hair go awry—three lopsided puffs, raggedy braids, and full ’70s afro. But soon he figures out what the experts know—there’s a video for that!—and Zuri
My Papi Has a Motorcycle, by Isabel Quintero and Zeke Peña
This heartfelt book showcases the tight bond between a daughter and her papi as they speed around their ever changing immigrant neighborhood on his blue motorcycle. As Daisy Ramona and her papi zip through the colorful city you get a snapshot of this community—passing brightly colored murals and houses, yapping dogs and the new homes that are replacing the citrus groves. The poetic language paired with vibrant illustrations make this book a delight to read, and you’ll want to stay in this world for a little longer after you finish the last page.
Just Me and My Dad, by Mercer Mayer Going camping with Dad is a rite of passage, from picking out the campsite, to pitching the tent, and fishing in the river. Mercer Mayer’s Little Critter enjoys time with just his dad in this cute and funny picture book that may inspire a camping trip of your own this summer.
Guess How Much I Love You, by Sam McBratney and Anita Jeram With love as high as they can reach and high as they can hop, both Big Nutbrown Hare and Little Nutbrown Hare show their amount of love for each other in Guess How Much I Love You. A perfect book for father and child that expresses the enormous amount of love a parent has for a child, this is a classic that deserves a spot on your bookshelf for Father’s Day (and every day).
The Berenstain Bears and the Papa’s Day Surprise, by Stan Berenstain Need ideas for how to celebrate Dad? Kids will love reading this book about how the Berenstain Bears surprised their Papa on Father’s Day—and maybe it will help them come up with some surprises of their own!
A Father’s Day Thank You, by Janet Nolan and Kathi Ember Are your kids wondering what to get Dad for Father’s Day? In this book, Harvey isn’t sure either. His siblings seem to know exactly what presents to give their dad. But what should Harvey give? This is an adorable book about what’s really important.
A Perfect Father’s Day, by Eve Bunting and Susan Meddaugh Susie tells her dad they are going on an outing for Father’s Day—when he asks if he may drive, the four-year-old cutely replies “Certainly!” This is a sweet father-and-daughter book all about Father’s Day.
Froggy’s Day with Dad, by Jonathan London and Frank Remkiewicz Froggy and his dad spend an adventurous day together, including riding in bumper boats and playing miniature golf. But how will Froggy’s golf game turn out? Their day is full of excitement and fun, just like this sweet story.
Your Baby’s First Word Will Be DADA by Jimmy Fallon, illustrated by Miguel Ordonez If it’s Dad’s first Father’s Day, this might be the book to buy, especially if he is trying to teach his little baby to say “Dada!” (before the baby says “Mama!”). Filled with cute illustrations of daddy animals and their babies, the book shows a variety of dads trying to get their respective babies to say Dada—and instead all they get is “Baa!” or a “Quack!”
What are your family’s favorite picture books to read on Father’s Day?
When I was ten years old, I daydreamed about two very specific things. Instead of imagining a career in medicine or a life as an astronaut, I knew one day I wanted to surround myself with live music. This was one of my vivid childhood dreams. The other dream, plain and simple, was one day to be a dad—and an awesome dad at that. I am proud to say that both of these dreams came true (though you’ll have to ask my kids about the awesome part).
I was always told that there are no words to describe the true love and joy of being a parent until you are one yourself—and I can now confidently say this is so very accurate. Holding my son in my arms for the first time—and, just three years ago, my daughter—set off a whirlwind of emotions that I never imagined I was even capable of experiencing.
Let’s just say, my mind was blown. So while many know me as Zack Bush—club owner, bar owner, restaurant owner, music aficionado, author, etc.—at my core, I am none of these things. At my core, and in my heart of hearts, I am Dad.
For me, there is no greater or more important title in the world. Being a dad is my purpose. So for new dads and all those who are trusted with that vital role, here are three tips:
Tip 1: Create a New Balance.
Whether you are a go-to-work dad or a stay-at-home dad, we all have our daily routines. These routines obviously get disturbed when the new role of dad gets thrust upon you. It is important to create a new balance. Make the time to embrace your new role. Wake up earlier, go to sleep later, and do whatever is necessary to show your family and little one(s) how much they are loved. Family is everything, and now is the time to practice what you preach! This includes putting the phone/computer away. (This was a hard one for me, but so very worth it.)
Tip 2: Breathe and Cherish.
Take it all in, and find joy in the little moments. The joy of fatherhood also comes with moments of chaos, crying, tears, trips to doctors, etc. It is important to breathe. Take a deep breath in these moments of chaos. More than anything, cherish each moment. I know it sounds cliché, but it really does go by so fast. My wife and I see newborns today, and even with our own kids (ages 4 and 3), it is so easy to forget the beautiful infant stages. It is truly remarkable how time flies, and you need to be fully present to truly enjoy the magic. Cherish all of the tender moments—and there will be plenty of them!
Tip 3: Read to Your Child.
I am not a doctor, and while I am certain there are learning benefits to reading to your child daily/nightly, that is not why I suggest this. I found reading to my children from day one has provided a great way for me to connect with them. Sure, we have plenty of playtime and silly time—but when we snuggle up and read (and I read with a lot of expression), I feel a tremendous connection between myself and each of my kids. There is no better feeling than watching the magic in their eyes and seeing their imaginations at work. In fact, I love reading to my kids so much, I wrote a children’s picture book entitled Made for Me, which has become a part of our goodnight family ritual.
As the mother of two daughters, journeys about mother-daughter duos lift me up. That’s why Born Just Right, written by limb difference advocate Jordan Reeves with her mother, Jen, pulled me right in. I loved hearing about how Jordan and Jen both support and challenge each other. Read on and you’ll be inspired, too!
Questions for Jordan Reeves:
When your book comes out in June, what grade will you be going into?
Jordan: I’ll be a rising 8th grader! I can’t believe it. Time flies!
The book drops on June 4 so I’ll be traveling a lot with my mom to help promote it this summer—NYC, D.C., Chicago, and the San Francisco area to name a few cities. But I’m really looking forward to our annual family vacations to North Carolina in June and Maine in August. It’s just a really fun time with family and friends. It’ll be a great break from the media tour and a long school year.
Later in the summer, I usually go to Paddy Rossbach Camp through the Amputee Coalition. We usually just call it Amp Camp. It’s a bunch of amputee and limb difference kids hanging out for a week. It’s my favorite camp in the whole world. I also usually go to an event called Camp No Limits in Missouri.
What was the mother-daughter writing process like? For example, did you and your mom sit down to write together every week?
First, we sat down and talked through the whole outline of the book. We talked about the different stories and examples we wanted to add into each section. When we started writing, my mom had more to say about topics when I was little and I had more to say in parts of the book about when I got older. There were times when my mom wrote sections and I went in and totally changed it. Other parts I wrote and she edited. I always say my mom writes just like I talk but better.
I remember this one Sunday we had a pow-wow in my mom’s bed just reading through the first draft of the book together—going back and forth. It was kind of cool to just zone in on one thing for a change, but it took us a long time.
How do you balance it all, between schoolwork, a book deal, promoting your organization, a TED talk (!), 3-D design projects, friends, and family?
My parents help me a lot! Sometimes it gets to be too much, but my mom and I have a great relationship so when I start to feel overwhelmed she helps to pull things back so I can do the things that I sometimes miss out on when I’m on the road. I miss hanging with my friends. Often, I sneak in a sleepover when I’m in town. It can be tough to find balance, but we make a good team and try to add to the schedule opportunities for me to let my hair down and have fun. For example, I got a cool new scooter when I visited Chicago and rode it all over the city. It was great!
I was so happy to hear that Project Unicorn uses biodegradable glitter. What’s the glitter made of? How did you find “BioGlitz”?
The glitter from BioGlitz is a “secret formula” that is totally respectful of the environment. It is even “certified compostable.” We found the company after my mom reached out to every single biodegradable glitter company she could find. BioGlitz was excited to work with us.
Since writing your book, has the American Girl company made any changes to offer dolls who made have a limb difference?
We are still waiting for changes at American Girl. But I am really honored to have worked with the Barbie design team to release the first doll with a prosthetic leg. It even comes off! I want to see even more dolls show all kinds of differences. But this is a great start!
Where’s your favorite place to go in Columbia, Missouri?
My backyard! It’s my happy place. We live on a lake and we have a dock, kayak, canoe, and even paddle boards. I am so happy it’s getting warm again. But I’m not so happy about our dock when a bunch of spiders hide. If you get a certain spot extra wet, the spiders run out. That’s why we have an extra float pad so we can play in the water without the spiders getting in the way. It’s kind of gross but it’s also funny when my friends get scared!
I also have a favorite ice cream spot called Sparky’s. It’s quirky with weird art on the walls but I love to go there. My favorite ice cream to get is cookies and cream. They have a lot of creative flavors but I can’t stop with that classic. I try to take everyone who comes for a visit there. Ooh and Shakespeare’s Pizza is right down the street. It has the best pie around. Columbia is a big college town so pizza is kind of important.
Tell me about your big brother Cameron. What do you two like to do together?
We get along best when we watch movies together and play video games. Cameron is now 17 and really interested in film and he has an awesome Instagram account where he posts movie reviews. He even started writing scripts! Even though we fight sometimes, Cam is a really great older brother and I know he’s proud of me. He wrote a really cool article about what it’s like to be my brother and it made me really proud.
Jen Lee Reeves
Questions for Jen Reeves:
I love when you write, “Jordan and I are a team. I’m also her mom, so I have to do mom things (like say no sometimes).” I’m curious: what do you need to say NO to sometimes when it comes to Jordan?
Often that ‘no’ is around times when Jordan needs to stop and relax. We are very similar people and we could go and go non-stop if someone doesn’t call us out. I am sometimes Jordan’s internal monitor. After one sleepover, she does not need a second one the next day. Sometimes she’ll get into a movie or a string of “satisfying” videos on Instagram and I have to say no and make sure she knocks out her homework. Jordan is a great self-motivated student, but there are definitely times when I have to step in and make sure she’s doing her work.
What would you like readers to know about your foundation, Born Just Right?
Jordan and I launched our nonprofit Born Just Right in 2016. Our mission is to build creative solutions that help kids with differences live a more enjoyable life. We believe giving kids design and STEM knowledge empowers them to create their own solutions.
We are focused on three major outcomes: 1) Raising awareness about the power of design and STEM education; 2) Identifying and supporting inclusive designers and brands; and 3) Empowering and growing a community for kids and parents to help foster learning.
We believe and we KNOW kids with disabilities are natural problem solvers. Born Just Right taps into that natural skillset and teaches design thinking. I really hope we can develop new job paths for our workshop participants.
What are you working on now?
Right now, we’re working on developing partnerships for our BOOST workshop that brings together kids with disabilities and designers and engineers to create and build really cool and creative prosthetics and body modifications. Our program director is testing out a curriculum for schools and we hope to launch a youth consultancy so more kids can help offer insight to companies that need them. (In the same way Jordan worked with Mattel to launch a Barbie doll that uses a prosthetic leg.) All that growth requires sponsorship. We hope to encourage more companies to support our mission so we can reach more kids with disabilities.