The Quiet Book, by Deborah Underwood and Renata Liwska
You probably think there’s only one kind of quiet. Then you see this book’s sweet animal characters deep in “lollipop quiet”—because everyone’s mouth is full of candy—and you can feel how it’s different from “underwater quiet.” Which is not at all the same as “pretending you’re invisible quiet.”
City Dog, Country Frog, by Mo Willems and Jon J. Muth
As you may know from his droll Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!, Willems is unfailingly hilarious. But in this heartfelt tale of a canine-amphibian bond, he shows his depth as a writer. Muth’s soft watercolors set the mood for a tearjerker about friendship and change—with a finale that’s far more sweet than bitter.
Tried-and-true storybook messages turn wryly witty in Rosenthal’s hands. Here she tells of a young spoon who’s jealous of the knives, forks, and chopsticks, whom he assumes lead far more exciting lives. Then his wise mom gives him the scoop: He has enviable talents of his own. Who else gets to plunge into the ice cream?
This absurd yet profound book is less story than imagination-starter: It’s a collection of the what-ifs that run through a kid’s head. “Supposing I built my own rocket and went to the moon, but didn’t like it much and came home without telling anyone…” Bedtime reading could inspire colorful dreaming.
Best for: 5- to 12-year-olds.
To buy: $16, New York Review Children’s Collection, amazon.com.
5 of 8Clarion
Art & Max, by David Wiesner
When Art the iguana asks Max the lizard to paint him, Max takes the request literally, covering his friend in artistic styles from Seurat-like pointillism to line drawing. It’s fast-paced slapstick but also a celebration of art itself.
Prepare to have your notions of fairyhood debunked: Flory, our heroine, can be snarky and rough. But she’s also gutsy, loyal, and inherently good. The story of how Flory must fend for herself after losing her wings brings equal doses of character and suspense—and offers a satisfying antidote to all those prissy princess tales.
The Strange Case of Origami Yoda, by Tom Angleberger
Dwight, a sixth-grade outcast, gets popular when he starts dispensing sage advice to his classmates via a paper Yoda finger puppet. The tale unfolds as an oral history—on sheets of crumpled paper covered with notes and doodles from multiple students, all trying to figure out who the real genius is: Origami Yoda or Dwight.
At age 12, Liam looks like a 30-something adult, which to him feels like a curse. Then his friend Florida helps him realize that this is a free pass to the land of grown-ups: He starts masquerading as Florida’s dad so the two can go places kids aren’t normally allowed by themselves. Even though the plot veers into sci-fi territory (the pair end up on a rocket), Liam’s earnest, believable tween voice keeps the story grounded.