Curious Minds

The Atlas Obscura Explorer’s Guide for the World’s Most Adventurous Kid

Dylan Thuras and Rosemary Mosco, illus. by Joy Ang. Workman, ISBN 978-1-5235-0354-4

This guide to world wonders presents 100 curious and awe-inspiring destinations in 47 countries and three states in the U.S. For each locale, the authors include an obscure fact: “In Cambodia, the human head is considered sacred—never pat somebody on the head!” Actual travel is not required—Thuras and Mosco advocate exploring the here and now: “You are already somewhere amazing.” Ages 8–12.

Dinosaurium

Lily Murray, illus. by Chris Wormell. Big Picture, ISBN 978-0-7636-9900-0

This addition to the Welcome to the Museum series offers a vivid tour of a paleontological exhibition. The muted color palette adds to the sense of visiting a natural history museum with curiosities to be found around every corner—or, in this case, with the turn of the page. Ages 8–12.

Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species: Young Readers Edition

Adapted by Rebecca Stefoff. Atheneum, ISBN 978-1-4814-6249-5

This attractive, oversize adaptation of Charles Darwin’s classic work of science has been shortened, updated, and streamlined for clarity and readability. Stefoff describes the fundamental concepts behind Darwin’s “Big Idea” and preserves the richness of Darwin’s content for contemporary young readers. Bright photographs and illustrations provide an expansive and inviting visual element. Ages 10–up.

A History of Pictures for Children: From Cave Paintings to Computer Drawings

David Hockney and Martin Gayford, illus. by Rose Blake. Abrams, ISBN 978-1-4197-3211-9

Hockney and Gayford take young readers on an adventure through art history. From cave paintings to video games, they show how and why pictures have been made and explain each piece. Blake’s new illustrations add a personal perspective to a wide variety of works of art. Ages 10-14.

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, ISBN 978-1-5362-0247-2

Waters presents 366 poems (by writers as varied as Christina Rossetti and Margaret Wise Brown) devoted to nature and the seasons. Preston-Gannon offers a cohesive visual thread, with gentle mixed-media renderings of animals, as well as urban and pastoral scenes. All ages.

Visual Stories (Picture Books)

Stories of the Night

Kitty Crowther. Gecko, ISBN 978-1-776571-97-0

In this collection of original tales by Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award–winner Crowther, Little Bear asks for three bedtime stories, and Mother Bear obliges. Each story fuses an uncanny wildness with images of coziness and safety. Ages 3–7.

Hello Lighthouse

Sophie Blackall. Little, Brown, ISBN 978-0-316-36238-2

Painted with the featherlight touch that distinguishes Caldecott Medalist Blackall’s work, this graceful account of a lighthouse keeper’s life celebrates a lost era. It’s a jewel of a creation and a gift to those who dream of retreat. Ages 4–8.

The Little Barbarian

Renato Moriconi. Eerdmans, ISBN 978-0-8028-5509-1

Loosely stroked watercolors by Brazilian artist Moriconi give impish humor to the nightmarish dangers the little barbarian of the title faces. And his simple, even wise, adventure salutes the power of a child’s imagination. Ages 4–8.

A Big Mooncake for Little Star

Grace Lin. Little, Brown, ISBN 978-0-316-40448-8

This magical story about why the moon waxes and wanes unfolds against the velvety black of the night sky, as Mama and Little Star work on their mooncake, an Asian holiday treat. Lin successfully combines three distinctive and memorable elements: a fable that avoids contrivence, a vision of a mother and child living in cozy harmony, and a night kitchen of Sendakian proportions. Ages 4–8.

Dreamers

Yuyi Morales. Holiday House/Porter, ISBN 978-0-8234-4055-9

In warm, sparkling prose that moves easily from English to Spanish and back, Caldecott Honor artist Morales traces the journey that she and her small son took in 1994, when they emigrated from Mexico to the United States. A Spanish-language version is also available. Ages 4–8.

Visual Stories (Graphic Novels)

Estranged

Ethan M. Aldridge. HarperCollins, ISBN 978-0-06-265386-4

Stolen at birth and replaced with a fae changeling, Edmund grows up as a human spectacle in the fae World Below. He escapes to the human world—the World Above—in hopes of finding his changeling. Newcomer Aldridge delivers a fun, daring, and dark take on the classic switched-at-birth narrative coupled with beautifully toned watercolor art. Ages 8–12.

Sanity Tallulah

Molly Brooks. Disney-Hyperion, ISBN 978-1-368-00844-0

Readers will be over the moon for this rollicking space adventure that features best friends Sanity Jones and Tallulah Vega on the dilapidated space station they call home at the end of the galaxy. A gifted scientist, Sanity uses her lab skills and energy allowance to create a definitely-illegal-but-impossibly-cute three-headed kitten that escapes and threatens the survival of their home. Ages 8–12.

The Cardboard Kingdom

Chad Sell. Knopf, ISBN 978-1-5247-1937-1

In his first title for young people, cartoonist Sell offers a story that unfolds in a neighborhood where children make elaborate cardboard costumes that let them try on new personas and powers. Imagination, these kids prove, can erase what seem like unbridgeable differences. Ages 9–12.

On a Sunbeam

Tillie Walden. First Second, ISBN 978-1-250-17813-8

In this sprawling, wonderfully original space jaunt by Walden the depicted characters are all female or gender nonbinary, and the diverse protagonists inhabit cluttered and homey quarters aboard a fish-shaped starship. This masterful blend of science fiction–inflected school drama, road trip, and adventure is nothing less than marvelous. Ages 12–up.

The Prince and the Dressmaker

Jen Wang. First Second, ISBN 978-1-62672-363-4

A talented seamstress and a prince with a secret will win readers’ hearts in Wang’s utterly charming graphic novel, set in a playfully tweaked version of 19th-century Paris, which highlights identity, acceptance, and fashion. It’s all but certain to deliver grins, gasps, and some happy tears. Ages 12–up.

Brazen: Rebel Ladies Who Rocked the World

Pénélope Bagieu. First Second, ISBN 978-1-626-72869-1

Bagieu creates short graphic biographies about inspiring women from various times and places, such as Leyah Gbowee, an organizer whose part in ending the civil war in Liberia won her the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize. Any one of these stories would make a rousing picture book biography; 29 of them in one volume produces a work whose energy and wit will spur readers to get going and change the world. Ages 14–up.

Memorable and Moving

The Night Diary

Veera Hiranandani. Dial, ISBN 978-0-7352-2851-1

When Nisha receives a diary for her 12th birthday, she begins to document her family’s upheaval amid the 1947 Partition of India in entries addressed to her deceased mother. As the daughter of a Hindu father and a Muslim mother, Nisha questions which side of the Indian-Pakistani border to call her own. The diary format gives her story striking intimacy and immediacy. Ages 8–12.

We Rise, We Resist, We Raise Our Voices: Words and Images of Hope

Edited by Wade Hudson and Cheryl Willis Hudson. Crown, ISBN 978-0-525-58042-3

This anthology offers empowering answers to today’s often-unsettling political climate for children of varying ethnicities, faiths, identities, and abilities, the husband-and-wife team present 30 illustrated essays, poems, stories, and letters from more than 50 diverse children’s book creators. The book serves as a hope-engendering treasury. Ages 8–12.

Merci Suárez Changes Gears

Meg Medina. Candlewick, ISBN 978-0-7636-9049-6

This warmly told coming-of-age tale about family and the perils of sixth grade introduces 11-year-old Merci, descendent of Cuban immigrants, who attends a Florida private school on scholarship. Shunned by the rich girls at school and facing stress at home where money is tight and her beloved grandfather is failing, Merci’s self assuredness helps her succeed. Ages 9-12.

Tales from the Inner City

Shaun Tan. Scholastic/Levine, ISBN 978-1-338-29840-6

Tan offers an almost endless stream of startling ideas in these short stories that imagine a collection of alternate worlds in which animals dwell cheek by jowl with humans amid urban sprawl: crocodiles live on the 87th floor of an office building; massive snails make love on city streets. In these uneasy, strange visions, moments of beauty and even a bleak, futurological kind of joy, abides. Ages 12–up.

Bridge of Clay

Markus Zusak. Knopf, ISBN 978-0-375-84559-8

From the author of the acclaimed bestseller The Book Thief is a breathtaking story of five brothers who bring each other up in a world run by their own rules. At the center of the family is Clay, a boy who will build a bridge—for his family, for his past, for greatness, for his sins, for a miracle. Written in powerfully inventive language and bursting with heart, this book is signature Zusak. Ages 14-up.

Adventure Seekers

Dactyl Hill Squad

Daniel José Older. Scholastic/Levine, ISBN 978-1-338-26881-2

In this delightful historical fantasy set in a Civil War–era New York City in which dinosaurs never went extinct, a diverse band of orphans fight to save their friends from slavers and corrupt authorities. Rooted in real events and attitudes, and appended with facts about the time, this fast-paced adventure makes for a memorable tale in which numerous characters of color take the lead. Ages 8–12.

Knights vs. Dinosaurs

Matt Phelan. Greenwillow, ISBN 978-0-06-268623-7

In a highly illustrated chapter book, four braggart knights and one underappreciated squire square off against dinosaurs, all while learning about teamwork and honesty. Plot twists reveal the heroes’ true identifies, adding depth to this hilarious slapstick romp. Ages 8–12.

Monstrous Devices

Damien Love. Viking Books for Young Readers, ISBN 978-0-451-47858-0

Twelve-year old Alex receives a package in the mail: an old tin robot from his grandfather. “This one is special,” says the enclosed note, and strange events start occurring. Just as things get out of hand, Alex’s grandfather arrives, pulling him into the macabre magic of an ancient family feud. Together, the duo flees across snowy Europe, unraveling the riddle of the robot while trying to outwit relentless assassins of the human and mechanical kind. Ages 8-12.

The Assassination of Brangwain Spurge

M.T. Anderson, illus. by Eugene Yelchin. Candlewick, ISBN 978-0-7636-9822-5

In a witty, offbeat adventure, elfin historian Magister Brangwain Spurge is sent by Lord Ysoret Clivers, of the Order of the Clean Hand, to the allegedly wicked goblin court of Ghohg the Evil One, in order to broker peace. Told in narrative and illustrated pages, the story blends the absurd and the timely to explore commonality, long-standing conflict, and who gets to write a world’s history. Ages 10–12.

The Light Between Worlds

Laura E. Weymouth. HarperTeen, ISBN 978-0-06-269687-8

In this haunting historical fantasy, two sisters struggle with reacclimation to the modern world after spending years in a magical realm. Weymouth infuses her characters with a rich panoply of emotions set against wartime England in a literary love letter to portal fantasies and Narnia. Ages 13–up.

A Winter’s Promise: Book One of the Mirror Visitor Quartet

Christelle Dabos, trans. from the French by Hildegarde Serle. Europa, ISBN 978-1-60945-483-8

Ophelia’s entire family inhabits Anima, one of 207 planetary shards that orbit Earth’s remains. Her clan traditionally intermarries, so it’s shocking when Anima’s ruling matriarchs order the awkward young woman to wed Thorn, from a distant shard dubbed the Pole. This darkly enchanting debut, a French bestseller, employs vibrant characters, inventive world-building, and a sophisticated plot that will dazzle readers. Ages 15–up.

Festive Reads

All-of-a-Kind Family Hanukkah

Emily Jenkins, illus. by Paul O. Zelinsky. Random/Schwartz Wade, ISBN 978-0-399-55419-3

When two top picture book talents introduce a new generation to Sydney Taylor’s classic stories of Jewish family life on the Lower East Side, it’s what’s known in Yiddish as a mechaye—something that gives great joy. Jenkins captures a wealth of feelings, while Zelinsky’s pictures give readers a sense of both the close quarters of tenement life and the unbreakable bonds that made immigrant Jewish families so resilient. Ages 3–7.

A Home in the Barn

Margaret Wise Brown, illus. by Jerry Pinkney. HarperCollins, ISBN 978-0-06-623787-9

A never-before published manuscript from legendary children’s book author Margaret Wise Brown, this comforting, snowy story of animals seeking shelter from the cold in a big warm barn is brought to life by Caldecott Medalist Jerry Pinkney. Brown describes the cozy animal activity with reassuring, repeating lines. Like the barn itself, Pinkney’s paintings offer a warm refuge for readers to return to. Ages 4–8.

The Lost Christmas

B.B. Cronin. Viking, ISBN 978-0-451-47904-4

On a snowy Christmas Eve in this holiday seek-and-find, children visit their mustachioed grandfather in his spectacularly cluttered home, planning to help him decorate. In the artist’s distinctive acrylics, the children and grandfather have a curious cuteness reminiscent of vintage Little Golden Book characters. The daring shades of neon pink, green, and yellow practically vibrate on the pages. Ages 3–7.

Winterhouse

Ben Guterson, illus. by Chloe Bristol. Holt/Ottaviano, ISBN 978-1-250-12388-6

In this satisfying, highly suspenseful mystery filled with puzzles and magic, orphaned 11-year-old Elizabeth Somers is sent by her grandparents to spend Christmas alone at the remote Winterhouse Hotel. There she is troubled by feelings of uneasiness, as well as a sinister couple who seem to be keeping tabs on her and a mysterious book. Ages 9–12.

The Lost Words

Robert Macfarlane, illus. by Jackie Morris. Anansi International, ISBN 978-1-4870-0538-2

Published in Britain last year, this Wainwright Prize finalist has won wide acclaim. The New Statesman called it “breathtaking”; Alex Preston called it “a thing of astonishing beauty”; and Jeannette Winterson said it is “gorgeous to look at and to read.”

In 2007, when a new edition of the Oxford Junior Dictionary—widely used in schools around the world—was published, a sharp-eyed reader soon noticed that around 40 common words concerning nature had been dropped. The list of these lost words included acorn, bluebell, dandelion fern, heron, kingfisher, newt, otter, and willow. Taking their place were such words as attachment, blog, broadband, bullet-point, cut-and-paste, and voice-mail.

The news of these substitutions—the outdoor and natural being displaced by the indoor and virtual—became seen by many as a powerful sign of the growing gulf between childhood and the natural world. Ten years later, Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris set out to make a “spell book” that will conjure back 20 of these lost words, and the beings they name, from acorn to wren. By the magic of word and paint, they have summoned these words again into the voices, stories, and dreams of children and adults alike, to celebrate the wonder and importance of everyday nature. The Lost Words has already cast its extraordinary spell on hundreds of thousands of people. All ages.

The Astonishing Color of After

Emily X.R. Pan. Little, Brown, ISBN 978-0-316-46399-7

In the wake of her mother’s suicide, convinced that her mother has been reincarnated as a great red bird, 15-year-old Leigh travels from the U.S. to Taiwan. There, she hopes to come to terms with the tragedy while getting to know the maternal grandparents she has never met. Pan’s emotionally charged debut is a compelling exploration of grief and the insidiousness of depression. Her narrator, an artist, sees the world through a colorful, complicated lens, and the novel is steeped in its Taiwanese setting. The subtlety and ambiguity of the supernatural elements place this story in the realm of fantasy, full of ghosts and complex feelings, and send an undeniable message about the power of hope and inner strength. Ages 12–up.

Have Your Book and Read It, Too

Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol: A Book-to-Table Classic

Charles Dickens, illus. by Tisha Cherry and Vega Hernando. Puffin, ISBN 978-0-451-47992-1

The first title in the Book-to-Table Classic series is an innovative holiday outing that integrates the complete text of Charles Dickens’s Christmas classic with seasonal recipes sampled from Giada de Laurentiis, Ina Garten, Martha Stewart, and Trisha Yearwood. Culinary and textile designers Cherry and Hernando include photographs of objects crafted from food, which correlate to moments in Dickens’s tale; Marley’s face (as it appears on Scrooge’s doorknob) is rendered in what resembles mashed potatoes, while Scrooge’s grave is crafted from a crackerlike headstone, fallen snow that looks like feta cheese, and sprigs of rosemary for grass. Ornaments and other food-made decorative objects embellish the pages. Here is a rich amalgam of culinary arts and classic literature.

Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice: A Book-to-Table Classic

Jane Austen, recipes by Martha Stewart. Puffin, ISBN 978-0-451-47991-4

The second in this yummy series, Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, features recipes from Martha Stewart accompanying the classic, unabridged text. Here the focus is tea-time treats, such as sugar-and-spice cake and petit fours. Full color photographs accompany the recipes and text. Ages 10–up.

A Provocative First

Children of Blood and Bone

Tomi Adeyemi. Holt, ISBN 978-1-250-17097-2

Eleven years ago, King Saran cemented his grip on the throne by banishing magic from Orïsha and slaughtering the realm’s maji. The maji’s descendents have lived under tyranny ever since, but now there is cause for hope. Book one in the Orïsha Legacy trilogy, Adeyemi’s devastating debut is a brutal, beautiful tale of revolution, faith, and star-crossed love. By making tangible the power that comes from embracing one’s heritage, Adeyemi conjures a story that resonates with magic both literal and figurative while condemning apathy in the face of injustice. Complex characters, colossal stakes, and a kaleidoscopic narrative captivate, and the book’s punishing pace catapults readers to a jaw-dropping conclusion that poses as many questions as it answers. Ages 14–up.