This diverse new crop of children’s picture books celebrates family, friendship and the great outdoors in stories that range from Minnesota to West Africa. Children take on challenges of daily life, including learning to hike and camp, figuring out a new way to capture a runaway chicken, and adapting to a new baby in the home.
And in St. Paul writer Kao Kalia Yang’s “The Shared Room,” a child comes to understand and accept the finality of a sibling’s death.
By Pete Oswald Candlewick, $17.99, ages 4-8
This story in pictures shows a father and child heading out of the city at dawn for a hike in a forest. Along the trail, they pass bluebirds and rabbits, foxes and woodpeckers, bear tracks and deer. The worried child eyes a log bridge but makes it across safely. The two climb a steep cliff and stand at the top, taking in the birds’-eye view of eagles and pine trees far below. Children can come up with their own words as they read this striking book about the wonders of nature and the bonding between parent and child.
‘Catch That Chicken!’
By Atinuke, illustrated by Angela Brooksbank
Candlewick Press, $16.99, ages 2-5.
In her West African village, Lami excels at catching chickens. Some children are faster at spelling, some are faster at braiding hair, but she is the fastest at chasing down those runaway birds. But when she slips and sprains her ankle, she needs to find a new way to do her job. Nigerian-born Atinuke began her career as a storyteller, and this book moves with the verve of spoken word. Angela Brooksbank’s colorful mixed-media illustrations are full of life and fun.
‘The Camping Trip’
Written and illustrated by Jennifer K. Mann
Candlewick Press, $17.99, ages 3-7
Ernestine is excited to go camping with her cousin Samantha. But swimming in a lake, she finds, isn’t much like swimming in a pool. Hiking up steep hills isn’t much like walking on sidewalks. And sleeping in a tent is downright scary. In Jennifer K. Mann’s charming story, Ernestine’s tentative exploration of the out-of-doors turns to enthusiasm with a little help from her cousin and aunt. Her mixed-media illustrations are both funny and gorgeous.
‘Do I Have to Wear a Coat?’
Written and illustrated by Rachel Isadora
Nancy Paulsen Books, $17.99, ages 2-5
Caldecott Honor winner Rachel Isadora makes all four seasons look equally delightful in this picture book that begins in spring (when “we draw on the sidewalk” and “ride our bikes everywhere”) and ends in bright cold winter, with snow angels and cocoa. Her cheerful illustrations feature children of all races and abilities, making this a fun book for any kids anywhere.
‘The Shared Room’
By Kao Kalia Yang, illustrated by Xee Reiter
University of Minnesota Press, $16.95, ages 8 and up.
After a young girl dies, “a hush like winter” settles over her family’s home. No matter how boisterous the other children can be, “there seemed a sound barrier over the family.” Sometimes the parents look at videos of the girl on their phone, to remember the happy times. The father pauses in the doorway of her silent bedroom to grieve.
St. Paul writer Kao Kalia Yang bases this sensitive and tender tale on a true story — the accidental death of 6-year-old Ghia Nah, who drowned three years ago in a Lake Elmo swimming pool.
Illustrated with muted, somber paintings by St. Paul artist Xee Reiter, “The Shared Room” is a story of grief and healing. While this poignant book might best be read by children who have suffered tragedy or loss, the story is so carefully and beautifully crafted that its hopeful message is appropriate for all.
‘Khalil and Mr. Hagerty and the Backyard Treasures’
By Tricia Springstubb, illustrated by Elaheh Taherian
Candlewick, $16.99, ages 5-8
Khalil, who lives with his big family in the upstairs of a duplex, strikes up a friendship with Mr. Hagerty, who lives alone downstairs. Both are interested in digging in the soil — Mr. Hagerty is a gardener, and Khalil is on the hunt for buried treasure. In this charming story, illustrated with paper collage, oil and colored pencil, each makes sure that the other gets his wish. (And chocolate cake.)
‘The Night Is for Darkness’
By Jonathan Stutzman, illustrated by Joseph Kuefler
Balzer + Bray, $17.99, ages 4-8
Late on a star-filled night, a family packs up the car and heads out of the city. On a quiet country road, the headlights pick up a sign: “Now leaving Minnesota.” They keep going into the night, passing deer and rabbits, buttes and forest, until finally arriving at a lit-up house filled with people and love. The rhyming story is rhythmic and soothing. The illustrations by Twin Cities artist Joseph Kuefler play with light, darkness, perspective and shadow.
‘Knowing the Name of a Bird’
By Jane Yolen and Jori van der Linde
Creative Editions, $18.99, ages 6 and up, available Aug. 18
What’s in a name? Poet Jane Yolen explores the difference between what we call birds, and what birds are and do. A bird’s name, she points out, is not the same thing as an actual bird. A bird’s name is not the same thing as “the exact blue of its neck.” A bird’s name “tells you little about the build of its nest.” Jori van der Linde’s poster-like illustrations, worked in pen and Photoshop, are both realistic and stylized.
‘My Brother the Duck’
By Pat Zietlow Miller, illustrated by Daniel Wiseman
Chronicle Books, $16.99, ages 3-5
Stella Wells, “fledgling scientist,” sets out to prove that her brand-new baby brother — swaddled in yellow, with a flat and broad nose much like a bill — is actually a duck. “But scientists can’t just wing it,” she says. “They have to gather facts.” And so she and her friend Carla Martinez set about gathering facts. Daniel Wiseman’s bold, bright illustrations perfectly match the mock-serious tone of this funny story.
By Ame Dyckman, illustrated by Cori Doerrfeld
Little, Brown, $17.99, ages 4-8
Life, writes Ame Dyckman, has a sense of humor. And to prove it, Minneapolis artist Cori Doerrfeld depicts Life as a small furry guy with a big head, a goofy smile and a lot of zing and pop. He leaps out of a wooden box, he demolishes a cake, he dons Groucho Marx glasses. When Life gives you lemons, you get not lemonade, but a banana. “Life is weird!” Dyckman writes. This amusing fable is aimed at children ages 4-8 but the lesson it imparts is for everyone.