cool reads for warm days… ten oustanding new picture books

This summer, again, I’m planning to create lists all-a-jumble with goodies from this year’s crop of picture books. Each one holds powerful seeds of ideas, wonder, imagination, creativity to germinate in our minds and hearts.

I’m getting a head start today with 10 outstanding titles. Take your pick!

spot the cat cover image

Spot, the Cat — a wordless book by Henry Cole
published in 2016 by Little Simon

Henry Cole’s brilliance in storytelling through his ink line drawings is on full display here in this captivating, cat-navigating, adventure.

spot the cat interior henry cole

A bird. A cat. An open window. Spot, the cat, leaps at the opportunity, but where does he go next? Tag along with Spot’s owner as we weave all over the city, trying to spot Spot! And nestle in with the coziest of endings. A most-satisfying journey for ages 3 and up.

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Leaps and Bounce: A Growing Up Story, by Susan Hood, illustrated by Matthew Cordell
published in 2016 by Disney Hyperion

Metamorphosis has never been so merry!

From the blobby mass of “round and spotted, polka-dotted” eggs to the “leaping, peeping, hopping, bopping” frogs who eventually emerge, this energetic guide entertains and informs seamlessly. It is a grand splash of fun!

leaps and bounce interior hood and cordell

And Matthew Cordell’s frogs! Have you ever seen such…

leaps and bounce illustration detail2 matthew cordell

leaps and bounce illustration detail matthew cordell

It’s a read-aloud winner, with exciting pages to unfold! Just right for this froggy time of year. Ages 2 and up.

the pancake king cover image

The Pancake King — story by Phyllis LaFarge, pictures by Seymour Chwast
originally published in 1971; republished by Princeton Architectural Press in 2016

Wow. I am loving the Princeton Architectural Press catalog! See for yourself what they’re up to at their website here.

This funky, remarkably-prescient story stars young Henry Edgewood who, one fine morning, decides to mix up some pancakes for breakfast. And oh my. They are delicious.

the pancake king illustration seymour chwast

Henry moves on to “buckwheat pancakes, blueberry pancakes, cornmeal pancakes, onion pancakes, and even blini. He ate them with maple syrup, blueberry syrup, sour cream, whipped cream, and apple butter.” And Henry was a whiz of a wiz if ever a wiz there was at flipping those flapjacks.

the pancake king illustration seymour chwast

However! What happens when Arthur J. Jinker swoops in ready to capitalize with a capital-C on Henry’s talents? A wild and sagacious tale for kids and grown ups ages 5 and up. *Includes Henry’s Famous Pancake recipe!

ideas are all around cover image

Ideas Are All Around — written and illustrated by Philip C. Stead
published in 2016,a Neal Porter Book, Roaring Brook Press

I suppose one of the most-frequently-asked questions of fiction writers is, “Where do you get your ideas?”

Deeply-thoughtful, award-winning author/illustrator Philip Stead ambles through an apparently idea-less day with us in this unusual, inspired, quiet, book. In the process he, and we, discover the tiny, interesting, nuggets of ideas that surround us in our ordinary spaces.

ideas are all around interior by philip c. stead

Formatted with photos and drawings that turn us toward what Stead sees with his eyes and in his mind’s-eye, it’s a book that calls us to closer observation and deeper wondering. A lovely, thought-provoking ramble for children as young as 4, and for grown-ups, too.

fairy tales for mr. barker cover image

Fairy Tales for Mr. Barker — written and illustrated by Jessica Ahlberg
first published in 2015; first U.S. edition 2016 by Candlewick Press

This is the first of two peek-through stories on today’s list, and it’s brought to us in Full-On Charm by Jessica Ahlberg, daughter of Alan and Janet Ahlberg of The Jolly Postman (and many many other marvelous books.)

Little Lucy is reading to her wee dog, Mr. Barker, when floop! he chases a butterfly right out the window. When Lucy follows, she lands in another place altogether — a cozy room with a table that’s set with large, medium, and small bowls of porridge. That small bowl is being eaten right up by a young, golden-haired girl. “I know where we are,” says Lucy. Do you?

fairy tales for mr. barker interior by jessica ahlberg

Follow Lucy and Mr. Barker on their fairy-tale escapades, hopping from one room to the next and using the clues to figure out where you’ve landed. A perfect treat for ages 2 and up who know their fairy tales.

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Apples and Robins — written and illustrated by Lucie Félix
originally published in France in 2013; first U.S. edition 2016 by Chronicle Books

And here’s the second story featuring fabulously ingenuous die-cuts.

The narrative of this book follows an apple tree and a nest of robins through the seasons. But — Félix’s genius graphic design makes magic happen on every page in such surprising ways that the book also becomes a feast for the imagination.

Die cuts transform an initial set of shapes, like these five short rectangles and one long rectangle…

apples and robins interior lucie felix

into objects with the turn of a page. See the ladder?


It’s a mind-fizzing set of transformations to accompany the changes taking place in the natural world. A marvel, for ages Under-Two and up.

little why cover image

Little Why, written and illustrated by Jonny Lambert
originally published in Great Britain; published in the U.S. in 2016 by Tiger Tales

There are gobs and gobs of books telling children that, “You are special.” This one does it with copious amounts of good-humor, tangy language, and wonderful, vivacious illustrations. Nothing sappy about it, thank you very much.

little why interior by jonny lambert

Little Why is a dinky elephant, gamely trying to keep up with the herd but distracted at every turn. Understandably. Those “spiny-spiky” horns of the wildebeest and “long-lofty” legs of the giraffe are mind-boggling. And Little Why wonders why-oh-why he can’t have some, too. This gets him in wayyy more trouble than you can believe! A joyous romp for ages 2 and up.

how to find gold cover image

How to Find Gold, written and illustrated by Viviane Schwarz
first U.S. edition 2016 by Candlewick Press

Anna and her pal Crocodile are off to find gold. This is a dangerous and difficult venture! It requires secretive behavior, uncommon strength, cartography skills, and navigation in perilous seas!

how to find gold illustration viviane schwarz

But never fear. They’ve got this. This story is a heap of fun, an outrageously imaginative adventure, made possible by the faithful camaraderie of two brave friends. Enjoy it with ages 3 and up.

ten kisses for sophie cover image

Ten Kisses for Sophie! — written and illustrated by Rosemary Wells
published in 2016 by Viking

Aunt Prunella is having a birthday and Sophie’s mama is making her “favorite chocolate kisses with pistachio buttercream filling.” Wow. My mouth is watering.

ten kisses for sophie interior rosemary wells

Sophie is an able and enthusiastic cook’s-helper. What’s more, she shows incredible restraint, waiting to eat her chocolate kiss until everyone’s gathered for the party. But wait a second… One extra cousin has showed up and suddenly there aren’t enough kisses to go around!

See how this picklish, ticklish situation turns out in this charming book from one of the masters. Ages Two and up.

cloth lullaby cover image

Cloth Lullaby: The Woven Life of Louise Bourgeois, by Amy Novesky, illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault
published in 2016 by Abrams Books for Young Readers

Louise Bourgeois was a world-renowned sculptor who is known, strangely enough, for her giant sculptures of spiders.

Why would anyone want to create a 30-foot-tall spider? 

cloth lullaby illustration isabelle arsenault

It’s quite a story. Louise’s mother was a weaver. She worked at restoring tapestries in France and taught Louise all about warp and weft, dye and wool, thread and intricate pattern. When Louise was a young woman, her mother died, and in her grief, Louise sculpted her first enormous spider, naming it Maman. For Louise, the spider did not represent something hideous, but an ingenuous thread-spinner, a repairer of broken filigree.

cloth lullaby illustration2 isabelle arsenault

Read this astonishing biography of Bourgeois, illustrated in the equally-astonishing lines, colors, and compositions of the amazing Isabelle Arsenault. Adults will love this, as will children ages 6 and up.