Open Sesame: New Picture Books Explore Rich Themes

A Wave of New Picture Books

It’s summer! One of my family’s favorite seasons to jump into the pages of a good book. Lucky us, there’s a wave of new titles rolling off the presses. Here are eight picture book picks for young readers. You’ll find bulldogs and poodles, a panda and a pilot, a dragon, a ninja, barefoot critters, a home on wheels, and an imaginary friend. Hold on to your little ones and jump in – the story’s fine!

Have You Seen My Dragon? by Steve Light, invites readers on a city prowl and counting expedition as they help a boy find his dragon somewhere in lower Manhattan. Detailed cityscapes drawn in mostly black and white provide an urban playground for young adventurers. Numbered maps on the end papers show the story’s route through the city and add more interactive appeal. Fun seek-and-find picture book. (Candlewick Press, 2014   ISBN: 978-0763666484)

Gaston written by Kelly DiPucchio and illustrated by Christian Robinson, is a cheerful little story about a bulldog who may not look like his siblings but feels just right in his family. When Gaston crosses paths with a poodle, it’s realized there’s been a puppy mix-up and the two are switched. Now everyone seems to “look” right together but they don’t feel right. A charming end lets everyone be right where they belong. Expressive paintings and reassuring storyline make for a furry good read aloud. (Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2014   ISBN: 978-1442451025)

The Pilot and the Little Prince: The Life of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry by Peter Sîs is a beautiful biography of the man who wrote the timeless treasure, The Little Prince. Masterfully designed with layers of story, factual information, and dramatic images, Sis takes readers on a journey through Saint-Exupéry’s life and portrays his passion for planes, flying, and risk-filled adventure. Evocative illustration and fascinating biographical story come together in a stunning portrait of the author of the The Little Prince. (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2014   ISBN: 978-0374380694)

Stella’s Starliner is a new work from picture book maven, Rosemary Wells. In this story, a little fox who lives in a cozy trailer with her loving family, is teased about her home. When her father drives the trailer to another place, Stella makes new friends who are delighted by her starliner, and help put the hurt behind her. Simple text with an emotional undertone paired with Wells’ singular artistic style make for a sweet and satisfying story. (Candlewick, 2014   ISBN: 978-0763614959)

The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend by Dan Santat, begins on a magical island where imaginary friends, like Beekle, are born. Beekle waits to be imagined by a child, but is passed over time and again. Drawing up his courage, he does the unimaginable, and sets off in search of a real child. An enchanting storyline and colorful mixed media illustration serve up a splendid tale of friendship and imagination. (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2014   ISBN: 978-0316199988)

 Ninja! by Arree Chung follows a young ninja as he gathers special gear and sneaks through his house on a covert mission. Showing skill and expertise, he moves from room to room closing in on his target. Wee ninja fans will enjoy the forward motion of the story and the expressive cartoon-like pictures. (Henry Holt & Co, 2014   ISBN: 978-0805099119)

Chengdu Could Not, Would Not, Fall Asleep by Barney Saltzberg, is a sleepy time story just right for little ones. It is night in the bamboo forest, and Chengdu the panda is the only one awake. Restless and uncomfortable, he maneuvers among the branches until he finds the perfect resting spot on his brother. A palette of black, white, and green creates a cozy bamboo landscape, and the simple storyline is one all sleepyheads can relate to. (Disney-Hyperion, 2014   ISBN: 978-1423167211)

Adventures with Barefoot Critters by Teegan White is an alphabet book featuring a group of animal friends who enjoy special activities the seasons have to offer. As the critters adventure through the year, readers learn the letters of the alphabet and watch the natural world change through seasonal cycles. Vintage-style illustrations harken back to the Little Golden Books and enhance the warm, fuzzy feelings the barefoot critters personify. (Tundra Books, 2014   ISBN: 978-1770496248)


Cheli Mennella

Cheli has been involved with creative arts and education for most of her life, and has taught many subjects from art and books to yoga and zoology. But she has a special fondness for kid’s books, and has worked in the field for more than 20 years. She is a freelance writer and regular contributor to Valley Kids and teaches a course for adults in “Writing for Children.” She writes from Colrain, where she lives with her musician-husband, three children, and shelves full of kid’s books.

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