The Big Umbrella by Amy June Bates with Juniper BatesWhat it is: a sweet story about a rainy day and a smiling red umbrella that offers limitless shelter to anyone and everyone who needs it.
Who it's for: With gentle watercolor art and a "boundlessly inclusive spirit" (Booklist), The Big Umbrella is for everyone.
Author alert: Illustrator Amy June Bates makes her writing debut alongside her 11-year-old daughter, Juniper.
The Rabbit Listened by Cori DoerrfeldWhat it's about: After Taylor's masterful block tower is toppled, the child's animal friends try to help: bear suggests shouting, hyena urges laughter, snake proposes further destruction…but only rabbit's patient listening leaves room for all of Taylor's emotions.
Why kids might like it: With soft-lined cartoon illustrations to match the understated message, this story will both comfort and validate kids who long to be understood.
Jinx and the Doom Fight Crime! by Lisa Mantchev; illustrated by Samantha CotterillWhat it is: the adventures of Jinx and her little brother the Doom, a costumed crime-fighting duo who take on villains (imaginary) and missions (real -- the dog needs a bath!) with cooperation and infectious enthusiasm.
Read it for: high-energy storytelling and theatrical, mixed-media dioramas.
For fans of: David Soman's Ladybug Girl books.
Kate, Who Tamed the Wind by Liz Garton Scanlon; illustrated by Lee WhiteWhat it's about: After a man living on a windswept hilltop calls out for help, his clever young neighbor Kate arrives with a wagon full of tree seedlings to plant around his home. As time passes, the trees grow into a protective barrier, and friendship grows between the two neighbors.
Who it's for: Winsome illustrations and cumulative text make this picture book a great choice for reading aloud, either one-on-one or with a group.
Baby Monkey, Private Eye by Brian Selznick and David SerlinStarring: Baby Monkey, a private detective who's far from hard-boiled -- he begins each case with a struggle to put on his pants -- but who excels at finding missing objects, from a chef's stolen pizza to an astronaut's lost spaceship.
Why kids might like it: Don't let the lengthy page count fool you: beginner-friendly vocabulary and charmingly detailed pencil illustrations make this easy reader/graphic novel just right for emerging readers.
How does your garden grow?
The Night Gardener by The Fan BrothersWhat it's about: William's life is glum and gray until the morning he awakes to discover a tree trimmed into the shape of a majestic owl. It's the first of many enchanting animal topiaries to appear in the night, leaving William to wonder: who's behind this arboreal art?
Why kids might like it: Muted twilight colors and intricate illustrations add to the air of mystery in this quiet, inspiring picture book.
Kids might also like: Peter Brown's The Curious Garden.
Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt by Kate Messner; illustrated by Christopher Silas NealWhat it is: an attention-grabbing, earth-toned look at a single growing season with a girl and her grandmother, offering cutaway views to show not only the surface ecosystem of their garden, but also the teeming plant and animal life within the soil itself.
Series alert: For more nature nonfiction with a similar perspective, try Over and Under the Pond and Over and Under the Snow, also from author Kate Messner and illustrator Christopher Silas Neal.
Anywhere Farm by Phyllis Root; illustrated by G. Brian KarasWhat it's about: Soil, sunshine, water, and a seed -- that's all you need to start a farm or a garden. An urban alley provides a venue for the diverse community gardeners in this picture book, which also contains facts about gardening, suggestions for alternative containers (how about a bucket, a shoe, or a pot?), and an upbeat, empowering tone.
Kids might also like: Michael Foreman's The Seeds of Friendship or Anna Walker's Florette.
Grandpa Green by Lane SmithWhat it's about: A boy gives a tour of his great-grandfather's topiary garden, which tells the story of the old man's life and, now that he's losing his memory, reminds him of its important events.
Who it's for: Elegant and understated, Grandpa Green is "a wonderful bridge to exploring family history with the very young" (Kirkus Reviews).
Further reading: For another tender ode to a grandparent whose memory is slipping, check out Reeve Lindbergh's My Little Grandmother Often Forgets.
Pandora by Victoria TurnbullStarring: Pandora, a fox whose lonely life in a wasteland of trash and "broken things" is transformed by the friendship of an injured bird. As the bird heals and flies further afield, it brings Pandora flowers and seeds, transforming the dingy landscape into a verdant wonderland.
Why kids might like it: Bittersweet yet ultimately uplifting, this friendship story also features fanciful artwork that invites readers to take a closer look.
Contact your librarian for more great books!