Swashby and the Sea by Beth Ferry; illustrated by Juana Martinez-NealStarring: Capt. Swashby, a grumpy old salt who doesn’t need -- or want -- any friends except the sea.
What happens: After an exuberant girl and her granny move in next door to Swashby’s seaside cottage, the mischievous ocean alters Swashby’s curmudgeonly messages in the sand, turning his rebuffs into invitations.
Art alert: Soft shading and muted colors evoke the beach setting in this tale of unexpected friendship.
Lift by Minh Lê; illustrated by Dan SantatWhat it’s about: After her toddler brother usurps her cherished task of the pushing the elevator button in their building, a frustrated girl claims a discarded button panel for her own and discovers that it can transport her to places far more awe-inspiring than any typical elevator could.
Why you might like it: Similar to the creators’ previous collaboration, Drawn Together, Lift uses few words, depending on vivid details and entrancing atmosphere to show action and emotion.
Unstoppable by Adam Rex; illustrated by Laura ParkIt begins: with a crab and bird who decide to join forces, becoming a nigh unstoppable Crabbird!
Things escalate: as the duo teams up with more animals, gaining new abilities and zany names (“Birdraburtlebear!”) every time. When their habitat is threated by a mall, however, the amalgamated animals set their sights on a different kind of power: Congress.
Reviewers say: Readers of Unstoppable will “delight in the over-the-top absurdity, even while absorbing a nice lesson on cooperation” (Booklist).
You Matter by Christian RobinsonWhat it is: a playful and inclusive look at how all living things -- from microscopic organisms to planets to people like you -- are important and valuable.
Why kids might like it: sprightly poetry and endearing illustrations offer a variety of perspectives, demonstrating how things can look different from another point of view.
Did you know? Kids who'd like to experiment with creator Christian Robinson's distinctive collage art style can participate in Making Space, Robinson's interactive online video series.
Smashy Town by Andrea Zimmerman and David Clemesha; illustrated by Dan YaccarinoStarring: wrecking-ball operator Mr. Gilly, who's ready to SMASH, CRASH, CRUMBLE, and TUMBLE old buildings so that new ones can be built.
Read it for: big machines. gleeful destruction, and a refrain ("Is the demolition done?") that encourages interaction (because kids love yelling "NO!").
For fans of: Mr. Gilly’s 1st outing in Trashy Town, or Sherri Duskey Rinker’s Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site.
Hangry by Drew BrockingtonWhat it's about: Hankering for hot dogs, a little lizard monster heads into the city, only to discover that the best hot dog joint is closed. Now the monster is both hungry AND angry, and as his temper grows, so does he, leading to a tantrum of epic proportions.
Who it's for: While everyone can enjoy Hangry's energetic, graphic novel-style artwork, the story will resonate with kids (and adults) who get cranky when they need a snack.
My Teacher Is a Monster! (No, I Am Not.) by Peter BrownWhat it’s about: Bobby and his teacher, Ms. Kirby, don't get along -- after all, Ms. Kirby is a mean, green, sharp-toothed monster! Bobby's behavior isn't perfect, but are a few paper airplanes a good reason for Ms. Kirby to stomp, roar, and take away recess?
What happens: A chance encounter at the park leads teacher and student to see each other differently.
For fans of: Mr. Tiger Goes Wild, who will welcome creator Peter Brown's blocky art and pitch-perfect humor.
I Will Chomp You! by Jory John; illustrated by Bob SheaBe careful: the snaggled-toothed monster in this exuberant book seems awfully serious about chomping anyone who reads it! Sure, his bites aren’t exactly precise, but he's bound to get more frantic as you turn the pages and get closer to his delicious, sugary secret.
If you like: dangerously silly metafiction like Adam Lehrhaupt's Warning: Do Not Open This Book, it might be safe for you to try I Will Chomp You!... but don't say we didn't warn you!
The Little Shop of Monsters by R.L. Stine; illustrated by Marc BrownWelcome to: a very unusual shop, in which a sinister narrator guides readers through cages filled with slimy, toothy, scaly, googly-eyed monsters.
Why kids might like it: Although the monsters are more goofy than gruesome, this story has an ominous undercurrent: "At the Little Shop of Monsters, you don’t choose a monster... a monster chooses YOU!”
About the creators: Author R.L. Stine has thrilled generations of kids with his popular Goosebumps books, while illustrator Marc Brown is best known for the beloved, bespectacled Arthur.
Gargantua (Jr!): Defender of Earth by Kevin SylvesterWhat it's about: "I want to grow up to be just like my mom," declares an ambitious baby dino-monster, watching in awe as Mom (a reformed rampager) protects the Earth from threats and provides helpful demolition.
However: When trying to tackle a big job, the little monster bites off more than they can chew. Will Mom come to the rescue? (Spoiler alert: she does.)
Read it for: an offbeat twist on monster-movie hijinks, and a sweet (but subtle) message about family and teamwork.
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