My Rainbow by Trinity and DeShanna Neal; illustrated by Art TwinkStarring: Trinity, a little girl whose transgender identity is "part of what made her a masterpiece, just like her autism and her Black skin."
What happens: Trinity feels like she can't be herself without long hair, but she hates how it makes her itchy. Can Trinity's clever mom help her create the wig of her dreams?
Did you know? This straightforward, upbeat picture book is based on the real experiences of mother/daughter coauthors Trinity and DeShanna Neal.
A Polar Bear in the Snow by Mac Barnett; illustrations by Shawn HarrisWhat it's about: Waking from hibernation, a polar bear sniffs the air and lumbers off into the snow. He passes a cave, a fisherman, and some tasty-looking seals before his destination is revealed with a sudden plunge into the sparkling, ice-blue sea.
Why kids might like it: A questioning refrain ("There is a polar bear in the snow… Where is he going?") and evocative cut-paper illustrations in cool, Arctic colors invite readers to imagine themselves in the polar bear's world.
Turtle Walk by Matt PhelanWhat it's about: "Nice and slow, here we go" is the low-key rallying cry of the turtle family in this picture book as they doggedly plod up a hill while the seasons change around them.
Are we there yet? It takes awhile for the turtles to reach the hilltop, but the illustrations make the journey worthwhile, capturing the sweetly rounded shapes of the turtles and portraying nature's finery in billowing washes of watercolor.
Don't miss: the joyful surprise ending!
Lubaya's Quiet Roar by Marilyn Nelson; illustrated by Philemona WilliamsonWhat it's about: Dreamy, thoughtful Lubaya isn't outspoken -- in fact, she's happiest when she's on her own, creating works of art on the backs of her parents' old protest signs. After seeing scary events on the news, however, Lubuya and her family know it's time to use the signs again, complete with Lubaya's inspiring images.
Reviewers say: "This quietly powerful family story encourages children to use both voices and hands to advocate for change" (Kirkus Reviews).
The Little Mermaid by Jerry PinkneyWhat it is: a fresh spin on Hans Christian Andersen's classic, as imagined by picture book legend Jerry Pinkney.
Featuring: Melody, an inquisitive mermaid; Zion, the human girl Melody longs to meet; and the Sea Witch, the red-tentacled monster who gives Melody legs in exchange for her voice.
Why kids might like it: With an empowering new ending, an infusion of Black Girl Magic, and illustrations so lush you can practically feel the sea-spray, this retelling is bound to make a splash.
The King of Kindergarten by Derrick Barnes; illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-NewtonWhat it is: a buoyant slice-of-life story in which a kindergartner’s first day of school gets the royal treatment.
What happens: Kids can follow one confident boy as he wakes up, the sun behind his head “like a crown,” and rides “a big yellow carriage” to the “grand fortress” of his school, where he learns about shapes, letters, numbers, and making new friends.
Who it’s for: anxious kindergartners in need of encouragement.
We Don't Eat Our Classmates by Ryan T. HigginsIntroducing: Penelope Rex, an overalls-clad dinosaur who's ready for the first day of school. What's she's not ready for, however, is being surrounded by delicious, snack-sized humans. Can this hungry dino learn that classmates are friends, not food?
Wait, you mean she devours children?! Yes, but since Penelope safely spits out each kid she chomps, the tone is more silly than scary.
Series alert: For more antics from Penelope, pick up the sequel, We Will Rock Our Classmates.
Mango, Abuela, and Me by Meg Medina; illustrated by Angela DominguezWhat it's about: Even after Abuela moves in with Mia and her family, she still feels far away, because Abuela barely speaks English, and Mia's Español isn't much better. Could a parrot named Mango be their key to communicate?
Why kids might like it: Expressive cartoon illustrations capture the relatable frustration and excitement in this warmly authentic read.
Try this next: Want more bicultural bonding between grandparent and grandchild? Try Drawn Together by Minh Lê.
Be Kind by Pat Zietlow Miller; illustrated by Jen HillWhat it's about: While trying to help a classmate who spills grape juice and gets laughed out of the room, this book's young protagonist ponders what kindness means. Is it giving? Is it paying attention? Or maybe it's small good deeds that combine with other people's small good deeds to make something bigger?
Art alert: Round, outsized heads and careful brushstrokes ensure that viewers' eyes are drawn to the kids' expressive faces, highlighting the emotions in every scene.
A Piece of Cake by LeUyen PhamWhat it's about: As Mouse carries a lovingly baked birthday cake to Little Bird, he meets various animals who wheedle him into trading away slices of cake until he's left with nothing but crumbs and motley collection of items. With a bit ingenuity, however, Little Bird's birthday might be a sweet one after all.
Why kids might like it: While they may be attracted to the saturated colors and retro art, children may also be amused by how this story challenges expectations.
Contact your librarian for more great books for ages 0-8!