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A Big Mooncake for Little Star

Grace Lin (Little, Brown)

Lin’s lyrical text and nighttime paintings successfully combine three distinctive and memorable elements into this story about why the moon waxes and wanes: an uncontrived fable, a vision of a mother and child living in cozy harmony, and a night kitchen of Sendakian proportions.

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Carmela Full of Wishes

Matt de la Peña, illus. by Christian Robinson (Putnam)

From the award-winning team behind Last Stop on Market Street comes a story about a birthday girl on a walk with her big brother, the puffy dandelion she finds along the way, and the series of wishes she considers, all told against the backdrop of the family's Spanish-speaking community. Sensitively conceived and exuberantly executed.

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The Crocodile and the Dentist

Taro Gomi (Chronicle)

The phrase “two sides of the same coin” aptly describes this amusing story. On the left side of every spread is a crocodile who doesn’t want to see the dentist but knows he has to; on the right is a dentist who doesn’t want to treat the crocodile but knows he must. Larger themes about the importance of empathy add meaningful layers to each playfully juxtaposed scene.

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The Day You Begin

Jacqueline Woodson, illus. by Rafael López (Penguin/Paulsen)

Woodson imagines being “an only” in the classroom—the only one with an accent, the only one who stayed home during summer vacation, the only one whose lunch box is filled with food “too strange or too unfamiliar for others to love as you do.” Her lilting story and López’s artistry create a stirring portrait of the courage it takes to be oneself.

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Dreamers

Yuyi Morales (Holiday House/Porter)

With exquisitely rendered mixed-media collages and timely, heart-pulling text, Caldecott Honor artist Morales traces the journey that she and her young son took when they immigrated from Mexico to the United States, and the succor that books and libraries offered as the two made their way in a new place.

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The Elephant

Jenni Desmond (Enchanted Lion)

Desmond’s third title devoted to endangered animals offers memorable facts about African and Asian elephants amid naturalistic depictions and expressive touches (a mountain of fruits and vegetables represents what an elephant could eat in a day, and a boy sits atop the pile, munching on an apple). An affectionate and informative celebration of two magnificent species.

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The Eye That Never Sleeps: How Detective Pinkerton Saved President Lincoln

Marissa Moss, illus. by Jeremy Holmes (Abrams)

This picture book recounts the Pinkerton National Detective Agency’s famous beginnings alongside the story of a thwarted assassination attempt on then-president-elect Abraham Lincoln en route to his inauguration. Detailed illustrations invite close inspection, and the limited color palette and multipaneled spreads evoke a graphic novel style.

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Fox & Chick: The Party and Other Stories

Sergio Ruzzier (Chronicle)

The first in a comics-style early chapter series stars an animal odd couple in three short stories. Like Frog and Toad (and George and Martha), one is even-tempered, and one is often a pain in the neck. The resulting hilarity will engage nascent readers.

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Hello Lighthouse

Sophie Blackall (Little, Brown)

This graceful account celebrates a lost era and vocation—the sometimes lonely, sometimes dangerous job of keeping a lighthouse. Spreads as delicate as painted porcelain depict the lighthouse and its circular rooms, each moment like the hand on the face of a clock. A jewel of a creation.

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Julián Is a Mermaid

Jessica Love (Candlewick)

After seeing three mermaids on the subway, Julián fashions himself a similar costume while his Abuela is in the bath; when she emerges, Abuela regards his work and leads him to his counterparts at the Coney Island Mermaid Parade. Debut author Love’s deep understanding of her characters and keen-eyed observations of urban life come together in a story of love and identity.

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Kitten and the Night Watchman

John Sullivan, illus. by Taeeun Yoo (S&S/Wiseman)

In this quiet book, a night watchman hugs his family and goes to work, where he methodically makes his rounds through an empty construction site, alert to the night’s beauty and a visiting kitten. Washes of orange, pink, and blue take readers from sunset to dawn and echo the story’s quiet mood of deep appreciation for simple joys.

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Mary Who Wrote Frankenstein

Linda Bailey, illus. by Julia Sarda (Tundra)

Celebrating the 200th anniversary of Frankenstein, this biographical account of young Mary Shelley, illustrated with breathtaking period detail, showcases how the author's life catalyzed her art and creativity—and, perhaps, the birth of science fiction.

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The Patchwork Bike

Maxine Beneba Clarke, illus. by Van Thanh Rudd (Candlewick)

A brown-skinned child gives readers a tour of a desert village, from “our mud-for-walls home” to “the sand hill we built to slide down.” But the best thing? The bike the kids have built from discarded items. Debut author Clarke’s lines sing with sound and rhythm, and street artist Rudd’s textured art creates a strong sense of place in this snapshot story.

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The Rabbit Listened

Cori Doerrfeld (Dial)

What’s the best way to comfort someone? After a child’s tower takes a tumble, animals approach with strategies for feeling better—but none but the rabbit listens, none but the rabbit stays. Each concise vignette in this wise, gentle story brims with emotional honesty.

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Sing a Song of Seasons: A Nature Poem for Each Day of the Year

Edited by Fiona Waters, illus. by Frann Preston-Gannon (Nosy Crow)

With a cohesive visual thread and an eye toward interacting regularly with poetry and the outdoors, this hefty offering presents a nature poem for every day of the year, from a wide variety of writers including Christina Rossetti and Margaret Wise Brown.

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Stumpkin

Lucy Ruth Cummins (Atheneum)

Stumpkin is a beautiful pumpkin—all he lacks is a stem. But people want stems on their Halloween jack-o’-lanterns. Amid the subway signs and storefronts of a cozy Brooklyn block, a high-stakes ordeal closes with an inventive visual sequence in this warm, seasonal tale of hope and transformation.

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Thank You, Omu!

Oge Mora (Little, Brown)

After Omu (pronounced AH-moo, Igbo for “queen”) makes “thick red stew in a big fat pot,” the delicious scent wafts through the neighborhood, and hungry passersby stop in one by one until Omu gives all her stew away. But she isn’t left without for long. This story of inclusivity, gratitude, and delicious fellowship also offers a feast for the eyes.

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Up the Mountain Path

Marianne Dubuc (Princeton Architectural)

Mrs. Badger climbs Sugarloaf Peak every Sunday, helping overturned turtles and speaking with acquaintances along the way. Then Lulu the cat joins her, learns the route, and, when Mrs. Badger is too frail to make the trips, takes on her tradition of kindness. A guidebook to amity and exploration.

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The Wall in the Middle of the Book

Jon Agee (Dial)

A tall brick wall runs along the gutter in this delightful story: “The wall protects this side of the book,” a knight explains, “from the other side of the book.” Agee makes clever use of the famous fourth wall as a literary device (and gives the book a new wall altogether) while reminding readers that preconceived notions, over a boundary or otherwise, are often distinctly wrong.

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