2019 Gift Guide: Picture Books


Each year, Cracking the Cover compiles a list of books that make great gifts. The following are picture books published and/or reviewed in 2019. Scroll down for the complete list or click or tap the following links to directly visit a section. Synopses in gray boxes are provided by publishers.  BOARD BOOKSAGES 2 AND UPAGES 3 AND UPAGES 4 AND UPAGES 5 AND UPAGES 6 AND UPAGES 7 AND UP • AGES 8 AND UP


DEEP IN THE OCEAN, by Lucie Brunellière, Harry N. Abrams, May 28, 2019, board book, $15.99 (ages 3-5)

A scientific team has boarded the submarine Oceanos to explore the ocean’s depths. Suddenly, it gets caught in a violent storm, causing it to drift thousands of miles off-course. From the glittering surface of the sea to the darkness of the abyss, Deep in the Ocean takes readers on a bewitching journey through fascinating waters — some warm, colorful, and crowded with sea creatures, others mysterious and turbulent. 

Deep in the Ocean is gorgeous. The lush illustrations invite readers to peruse all corners of each spread. Small font size requires kids and adults read together, which isn’t a bad thing.

DREAM BIG, by Joyce Wan, Cartwheel Books, July 9, 2019, board book, $9.99 (ages 0-3)

In this oversized board book, little ones will learn they can achieve anything they want — all by dreaming big! With illustrations of female trailblazers and icons of history and simple text, Joyce Wan creates a send-off for graduates of all ages. Included in the back is a simple guide to some of the bold dreamers who came before us who followed their dreams . . . and changed the world.

ALL ABOARD! THE AIRPORT TRAIN, by Nichole Mara and Andrew Kolb, Harry N. Abrams, Aug. 6, 2019, board book, $9.99 (ages 2-5)

This accordion-style book folds out car by car, taking readers on a tour of an airport train—inside and out. Readers are asked to help a girl bound for summer camp find her missing plane ticket, and as they search, they are introduced to all the passengers on the train. There are vacationing penguins, glamorous movie stars, traveling musicians, and other silly surprises. When readers flip the book over, they’ll discover a panoramic view of the airport — the control tower, runways, and parking lots — dotted with objects for readers to find and count.

OSCAR THE OCTOPUS: A BOOK ABOUT THE MONTHS OF THE YEAR, by Matthew Van Fleet, Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books, Aug. 27, 2019, board book, $17.99 (ages 2 and up)

Join Oscar as he introduces preschoolers to the months of the year, texture, colors, and fascinating sea creatures. The cleverly textured pages will tickle fingertips and funny bones while revealing clues to what Oscar will catch next from a shiny friend to a surprise pop-up ending!

Oscar is adorable and the interactive nature of this book makes it perfect for kids. My 5-year-old is too old for it, but that hasn’t stopped her from rereading it over and over.

APPLE, by Nikki McClure, Harry N. Abrams, Sept. 10, 2019, board book, $8.99 (ages 0-3)

The life cycle of an apple, illustrated by acclaimed cut-paper artist Nikki McClure

Nikki McClure’s cut-paper artwork is worth buying this book alone. Our favorite McClure book is How to be a Cat, which also tells a story one word at a time. It’s a great way for kids to learn context.

FARMBLOCK, by Christopher Franceschelli and Peskimo, Harry N. Abrams, Oct. 1, 2019, board book, $16.99 (ages 0-3)

It’s time to plant some crops, harvest the veggies, and make jam to take to the farmer’s market! In this follow-up to Alphablock, Countablock, Dinoblock, Cityblock, Buildablock, and Marvel Alphablock, readers are introduced to what life is like on the farm. Like the previous titles, Farmblock explores a concept—in this case, seasons. From a rooster crowing at the crack of dawn to picking pumpkins for Halloween, there is so much to do all year-round.

Any of the books in this series are fun, and Farmblock is no exception. Bold colors and adorable illustrations make this a delight for parents and kids alike.

ALPHABET STREET, by Jonathan Emmett and Ingela P Arrhenius , Nosy Crow, Oct. 8, 2019, board book, $17.99 (ages 2-5)

There’s so much to discover in this ingenious book! Read the funny rhyming text, lift the flaps, and learn the letters of the alphabet.

And when you’re finished, flip the book and have fun with the play scene on the reverse! 

This is such a cool book, but because of its accordion nature, its best supervised or for older toddlers.

MY MAGICAL DRAGON (MY MAGICAL FRIENDS), by Yujin Shin, Harry N. Abrams, Oct. 8, 2019, board book, $8.99 (ages 0-3)

Meet the sparkly dragon who brightens the world wherever he goes! Push, pull, spin, and slide your way through his enchanted land as he takes a prince and princess for a ride, stops for tea, and plays with his dragon friends. Readers spin a wheel to animate the character on the front cover, and holographic foil creates a truly impressive effect as the dragon’s body flows with magic.

My daughter is too old for this book — as well as the other ones in it — but that hasn’t stopped her from obsessively playing with it.

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BARK IN THE PARK!: Poems for Dog Lovers, by Avery Corman and Hyewon Yum, Orchard Books, March 26, 2019, Hardcover, $17.99 (ages 3-5)

In Bark in the Park readers get to meet canines of every size. Follow a young girl and her father as they walk to the park and meet everything from an Afghan hound, boxer and a beagle to a bloodhound, Daschshund and greyhound.

Each dog’s unique characteristic play out in fun rhymes and fun illustrations. We love this book at our house. It’s on repeat for bedtimes.

My Tree and MeMy Tree and Me: A Book of Seasons (Growing Hearts), by Jo Witek and Christine Roussey, Harry N. Abrams, April 2, 2019, Hardcover, $16.99 (ages 2-6)

One little girl has a very special friend, the tall ancient tree in her backyard. Through the seasons, she grows along with the tree, playing in its branches and basking in its shade. She can swing and have a picnic, draw the tree and play hide and go seek. Through her time with her tree, the girl learns to appreciate the natural world as something to be savored and protected and acknowledges her place within it.

My Tree and MeA Book of Seasons is the final book in the Growing Hearts series, which focuses on emotional development. We’ve loved these books — we now have five. And they’ve been a great resource for my growing daughter. From innovative page design to sweet illustrations and on-point text, they’re all worth reading.

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JUST LIKE RUBE GOLDBERG, by Sarah Aronson and Robert Neubecker, Beach Lane Books, March 12, 2019, Hardcover, $17.00 (ages 3-8)

From a young age, Rube Goldberg had a talent for art. But his father, a German immigrant, wanted Rube to have a secure job. So, Rube went to college and became an engineer. But Rube didn’t want to spend his life mapping sewer pipes. He wanted to follow his passion, so Rube got a low-level job at a newspaper, and from there, he worked his way up, creating cartoons that made people laugh and tickled the imagination. He became known for his fantastic Rube Goldberg machines—complicated contraptions with many parts that performed a simple task in an elaborate and farfetched way. Eventually, his cartoons earned him a Pulitzer Prize and his own adjective in the dictionary.

Just Like Rube Goldberg tells the story of the man behind the machines. The stylized illustrations are bright and engaging.

THE COOK AND THE KING, by Julia Donaldson and David Roberts, Harry N. Abrams, May 7, 2019, Hardcover, $16.99 (ages 3-7)

The king searches his kingdom far and wide for the perfect cook. He’s very particular, and none of the cooks can get the job done just right. Until the king meets Wobbly Bob. The king thinks Wobbly Bob might be the perfect fit, but there’s just one small hitch—Wobbly Bob is afraid of everything. He’s afraid that he’ll nick himself with the sharp kitchen knives, and he’s afraid he’ll get dirt from the vegetable garden on his new apron. Wobbly Bob needs a companion to help him feel brave, so the king himself tags along every step of the way. 

The pairing of Julia Donaldson (Gruffalo) and David Roberts (Rosie Revere, Engineer) is delightful in this laugh-out-loud book. This is a great for reading out loud, and the illustrations are a kick.

HOW DO YOU DANCE?, by Thyra Heder , Harry N. Abrams, Aug. 6, 2019, Hardcover, $16.99 (ages 3-7)

There are so many ways to dance! You can jiggle or wiggle or stomp. You can bop or bounce or go completely nuts. You can dance at the market or the bus stop, with your fingers or your face. You can dance because you’re happy or even because you’re sad.

In How Do You Dance?, author-illustrator Thyra Heder explores dance in all of its iterations. This book is full of humor and joy that just makes you want to dance.

ASTRO GIRL, by Ken Wilson-Max, Candlewick, Sept. 3, 2019, Hardcover, $16.99 (ages 3-6)

Astrid has loved the stars and space for as long as she can remember. “I want to be an astronaut!” she says to everyone who will listen. While her mama is away, Astrid and her papa have fun acting out the challenges an astronaut faces on a space mission — like being in zero gravity (“I can do that all day long!” she says), eating food from a kind of tube, and doing science experiments with the help of cookie sheets. When at last it’s time to meet Mama at the air base, Astrid wears her favorite space T-shirt to greet her. But where exactly has Mama been?

The publisher’s suggested age range for Astro Girl is 4-8, but this one is better suited for young kids who have a hankering for space travel.

JUST BECAUSE, by Mac Barnett and Isabelle Arsenault, Candlewick, Sept. 10, 2019, Hardcover, $17.99 (ages 3-6)

Why is the ocean blue? What is the rain? What happened to the dinosaurs? It might be time for bed, but one child is too full of questions about the world to go to sleep just yet. Little ones and their parents will be charmed and delighted as a patient father offers up increasingly creative responses to his child’s nighttime wonderings.

Just Because celebrates childhood imagination through gouache, pencil and watercolor illustrations. The publisher’s suggested age range is 4-8, but depending on the maturity and inquisitiveness of your child, definitely could work for some 3-year-olds.

I AM LOVE: A BOOK OF COMPASSION, by Susan Verde and Peter H. Reynolds, Harry N. Abrams, Sept. 17, 2019, Hardcover, $14.99 (ages 3-7)

Susan Verde and Peter H. Reynolds continue their collaboration with the fourth book in their bestselling wellness series. A celebration of love in all its forms, I Am Love asks readers to look inward when they feel afraid. Love allows us to act with compassion and kindness, to live with gratitude, and to take care of ourselves by practicing self-love.

I love books that help children understand all the big emotions they feel. This book checks all the boxes.

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PENGUIN FLIES HOME, by Lita Judge, Atheneum Books for Young Readers, Jan. 15, 2019, Hardcover, $17.99 (ages 4-8)

Penguin loves everything about flying: the wind beneath his wings, the song that rises from his belly, and the sight of new and wonderful places. Still, he misses his penguin friends in the South Pole. So, he flips and flaps back home, ready to teach them the magic of flight! But when he arrives, his enthusiasm for flying doesn’t get quite the reaction he expected. Will Penguin’s friends still like him, even if they don’t share his soaring dreams?

Penguin Flies Home is a charming story of friendship and embracing your dreams.

SAY SOMETHING, by Peter H. Reynolds, Orchard Books, Feb. 26, 2019, Hardcover, $17.99 (ages 4-8)

Peter H. Reynolds explores the many ways that a single voice can make a difference. Each of us, each and every day, have the chance to say something: with our actions, our words, and our voices. Perfect for kid activists everywhere, this timely story reminds readers of the undeniable importance and power of their voice. There are so many ways to tell the world who you are… what you are thinking… and what you believe. And how you’ll make it better. 

If you’ve ever picked up a book by Peter H. Reynolds, then you know his illustrations are bold and inviting. It’s a good way to inspire children to find their own voices.

BORN TO RIDE: A STORY ABOUT BICYCLE FACE, by Larissa Theule and Kelsey Garrity-Riley, Harry N. Abrams, March 12, 2019, Hardcover, $17.99 (ages 4-8)

Louise Belinda Bellflower lives in Rochester, New York, in 1896. She spends her days playing with her brother, Joe. But Joe gets to ride a bicycle, and Louise Belinda doesn’t. In fact, Joe issues a solemn warning: If girls ride bikes, their faces will get so scrunched up, eyes bulging from the effort of balancing, that they’ll get stuck that way FOREVER! Louise Belinda is appalled by this nonsense, so she strikes out to discover the truth about this so-called “bicycle face.”

Born to Ride is set against the background of the women’s suffrage movement, and captures the spirit of girls’ strength and ingenuity. Stylized illustrations pull the entire story together.

DANCING THROUGH FIELDS OF COLOR: THE STORY OF HELEN FRANKENTHALER, by Elizabeth Brown and Aimee Sicuro, Harry N. Abrams; First Edition, March 19, 2019, Hardcover, $18.99 (ages 4-8)

They said only men could paint powerful pictures, but Helen Frankenthaler (1928-2011) splashed her way through the modern art world. Channeling deep emotion, Helen poured paint onto her canvas and danced with the colors to make art unlike anything anyone had ever seen. She used unique tools like mops and squeegees to push the paint around, to dazzling effects. Frankenthaler became an originator of the influential “Color Field” style of abstract expressionist painting with her “soak stain” technique, and her artwork continues to electrify new generations of artists today. 

Dancing Through Fields of Color is a visually arresting biography about an artist who pushed the boundaries. This is a book you’d be happy to leave out on your coffee table.

ALONG CAME COCO: A STORY ABOUT COCO CHANEL, by Eva Byrne, Harry N. Abrams, March 19, 2019, Hardcover, $16.99 (ages 4-8)

In a time when children were meant to be seen and not heard, along came Coco, a small French orphan with an eye for style, a talent for sewing, and a big imagination. Coco grew up in an orphanage run by very strict nuns, but she wasn’t very good at following rules. At a time when girls were told to brush their hair 100 times until their arms were sore, Coco promised herself that one day she would snip away her locks so that she wouldn’t have to be so fussy—girls needed time for other things, and they needed some of the comforts that boys enjoyed. Why shouldn’t girls have pockets? And why did they have to wear corsets all the time?

Coco Chanel was a pioneer in clothing, changing the course for women. The watercolor, brush and ink illustrations are whimsical and charming. This is a delightful biography that children will love.

GONDRA’S TREASURE, by Linda Sue Park and Jennifer Black Reinhardt, Clarion Books, April 2, 2019, Hardcover, $17.99 (ages 4-7)

Gondra has inherited traits from both her eastern (Asian) dragon dad and western (European) dragon mom and enjoys them all. She’s especially happy that she’s a combination of both. Cheerful banter and hilariously adorable dragon portrayals present a warm, appealing family portrait.

This is a lovely story of a blended family. Whimsical illustrations make this one you’ll enjoy perusing time and time again.

THE HIDEOUT, by Susanna Mattiangeli and Felicita Sala, Harry N. Abrams, June 4, 2019, Hardcover, $16.99 (ages 4-8)

It’s time to go, but no one can find Hannah! That’s because she’s in the park with much to do. She needs to collect caterpillars and sticks, make a bow and arrow, and build a bed out of leaves. Deep in the shrubs, she sets up a secret hideout for herself and her companion, an Odd Furry Creature. Together, they hunker down over the campfire, lost in their own little world. But then a voice cuts through the branches and clearly says, “Where are you?” Hannah brushes off her paper, and the reader learns that Hannah was lost — not in the woods — but in her drawing.

The Hideout is an unexpected story that pushes the boundaries without ever leaving a bedroom.

Moon Earth's Best FriendMOON! EARTH’S BEST FRIEND (OUR UNIVERSE), by Stacy McAnulty and Stevie Lewis, Henry Holt and Co. (BYR), June 11, 2019, Hardcover, $17.99 (ages 4-8)

As with previous books in this series, Moon! Is told from the moon’s perspective. Moon is not just any hunk of rock, and she’ll be the first one to tell you. She’s Earth’s big hunk of rock — her best friend’s satellite. And as Earth’s satellite, Moon has some pretty important jobs like regulating ocean tides and using her gravity to keep Earth from getting too wobbly.

Because Moon! Earth’s Best Friend is an “autobiography,” readers get to know Moon’s unique personality. Coincidentally, Moon’s sense of humor does remind me a little bit of Luna on PBS Kids’ Let’s Go Luna!, but that could also be because of subject matter. Either way, we love them both at our house. The love affair comes, in part, from the simple and accessible information that answers a lot of basic questions and is easy for young readers to absorb. Stacy’s autobiographical approach makes the subject matter interesting and funny at the same time. And Stevie Lewis’ illustrations really bring Stacy’s “characters” to life.

Max Attacks Kathi AppeltMAX ATTACKS, by Kathi Appelt and Penelope Dullaghan, Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books, June 11, 2019, Hardcover, $17.99 (ages 4-8)

It’s Max’s nature to attack. That’s what cats do. At least that’s what Max does. From fish and birds to lizards and socks, nothing is safe from Max’s pouncing. But even with his mighty pounce, will Max be able to catch anything?

Max Attacks immediately caught my daughter’s eye. Bright, bold illustrations and fun rhythmical text makes it inviting and fun. My daughter eagerly flipped the pages, anxious to discover what would happen next. Max Attacks is fun to read aloud, and the illustrations truly bring out Max’s character.

ANGELINA BALLERINA, by Katharine Holabird and Helen Craig, Little Simon, Aug. 27, 2019, Hardcover, $17.99 (ages 4-8)

In an encore performance, Angelina Ballerina returns in this refreshed picture book from acclaimed author Katharine Holabird and celebrated artist Helen Craig. Angelina is a little mouse who wants nothing more than to be a ballerina. She dances all the time—at home, at school, even in her dreams! In fact, she’s so busy dancing that she forgets all about the other things she’s supposed to do, like cleaning her room and joining her family for breakfast! Her parents don’t know what to do—especially after her arabesques in the kitchen knock over the milk! Then one day they come up with an idea that will change Angelina’s life forever…

It’s been 36 years since Angelina Ballerina made her debut. This new edition of the book has been refreshed and rereleased. This classic book is a charming read for a new generation of dancers.

SPENCER’S NEW PET, by Jessie Sima, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, Aug. 27, 2019, Hardcover, $17.99 (ages 4-8)

When Spencer gets a new pet, he’s excited to do all the things that pets do—taking walks in the park, going to the vet, and attending parties together. There’s just one hitch: Spencer’s new pet is a balloon. And that means No. Sharp. Objects. No drooling dogs at the park. No prickly porcupines at the vet. And absolutely no pinning tails on any donkeys!

Spencer’s New Pet plays out cinematically. Like a silent movie, there are no words. The dynamic illustrations end with a twist that will surprise parents and children alike.

THE HUNDRED AND ONE DALMATIANS, by Dodie Smith, Peter Bently, et al., Harry N. Abrams, Sept. 3, 2019, Hardcover, $16.99 (ages 4-8)

Dalmatians Pongo and Missis live in London with their beloved owners. When Missis finds out she’s going to have puppies, they’re all thrilled! But, Missis doesn’t just have one puppy . . . or two . . . or three . . . she has fifteen! When the puppies go missing, Pongo and Missis know that there’s only one woman who can be behind the dognapping: the notorious Cruella de Vil. They strike out across the city and—with a little help from the street dogs of London—rescue their pups and many, many more from a terrible fate.

Most people don’t know Disney’s 101 Dalmatians is based on a novel by Dodie Smith. This adaptation comes from Peter Bently and Steven Lenton, and it’s bold and fun and definitely worth moving past the Disney version.

THE WORD PIRATES, by Susan Cooper and Steven Kellogg, Neal Porter Books, Sept. 24, 2019, Hardcover, $18.99 (ages 4-8)

Pirate Captain Rottingbones and his crew need breakfast. But these pirates can’t have just any ordinary breakfast…no, they need nice, fresh WORDS. And where better to get them than stealing them straight off the pages of all kinds of books? But when Captain Rottingbones and his cronies go after the Word Wizard and her extra delicious words that they steal from her extra juicy stories, they’ve finally gone too far…because not only does the Word Wizard believe words are precious things that belong in stories, but she also has a weapon stronger than any sword — a mighty pen.

The Word Pirates is a delightful read from Susan Cooper, author of the acclaimed Dark Is Rising fantasy series and illustrator Steven Kellogg. Kellog has been a favorite since I was a child and does not disappoint.

WELCOME TO JAZZ: A SWING-ALONG CELEBRATION OF AMERICA’S MUSIC, FEATURING “WHEN THE SAINTS GO MARCHING IN,” by Carolyn Sloan and Jessica Gibson, Workman Publishing Company, Oct. 15, 2019, Hardcover, $24.95 (ages 4-8)

In this interactive swing-along picture book with 12 sound chips, you’ll hear the instruments of jazz—the rhythm section with its banjo, drums, and tuba, and the leads, like the clarinet, trumpet, and trombone. And you’ll hear singers scat, improvising melodies with nonsense syllables like be-bop and doo-we-ah! Along the way, you’ll learn how this unique African American art form started in New Orleans, and how jazz changed over time as innovative musicians like King Oliver, Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, and Billie Holiday added their own ideas to it. 

This is the second musical interactive book from Workman Publishing. The first, Welcome to the Symphony has been a favorite in our house for three years. My only complaint is that Welcome to Jazz took so long to hit bookshelves.

PARKER LOOKS UP: AN EXTRAORDINARY MOMENT, by Parker Curry , Jessica Curry, et al., Aladdin, October 15, 2019, Hardcover, $17.99 (ages 4-8)

When Parker Curry came face-to-face with Amy Sherald’s portrait of First Lady Michelle Obama at the National Portrait Gallery, she didn’t just see the First Lady of the United States. She saw a queen—one with dynamic self-assurance, regality, beauty, and truth who captured this young girl’s imagination. When a nearby museum-goer snapped a photo of a mesmerized Parker, it became an internet sensation. Inspired by this visit, Parker, and her mother, Jessica Curry, tell the story of a young girl and her family, whose trip to a museum becomes an extraordinary moment, in a moving picture book.

Every child deserves to see themselves as something more. Parker Looks Up celebrates that promise in a sweet and resonating way.

WILD HONEY FROM THE MOON, by Kenneth Kraegel, Candlewick, Nov. 5, 2019, Hardcover, $17.99 (ages 4-8)

On a cold winter’s eve, deep in the woods, a mother shrew frets about her sick young son. His head is cold and his feet are hot, and there is only one thing that can cure him: wild honey from the moon. Mother Shrew does not stop to wonder how she will make such an impossible journey. Instead, she grabs her trusty red umbrella, gives her darling son a kiss, and sets out into the unknown. Along the way, Mother Shrew encounters one obstacle after another, from a malevolent owl to a herd of restless “night mares” to an island humming with angry bees. But each can prove no match for a mother on a mission.

This delightful picture book/early reader is fun to read aloud but also to pass on to advancing readers. The illustrations are detailed and enchanting.

WHO AM I?: A PEEK-THROUGH-PAGES BOOK OF ENDANGERED ANIMALS, by Tim Flach, Harry N. Abrams, Nov. 12, 2019, Hardcover, $18.99 (ages 4-8)

Who is that peeking through the page? Is it a giant panda munching on bamboo? Or perhaps a yellow-eyed tree frog hiding in a tropical forest? Who Am I? uses riddles and images by esteemed photographer Tim Flach (taken from his Abrams adult book Endangered) to introduce ten vital species-at-risk to readers.

Stunning photographs give young readers an up-close look at endangered animals. Flach has captured the animals’ startling personality with clarity and detail. A section at the end explains why these animals are special and why they are endangered.

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GITTEL’S JOURNEY: AN ELLIS ISLAND STORY, by Lesléa Newman and Amy June Bates, Harry N. Abrams, Feb. 5, 2019, Hardcover, $19.99 (ages 5-8)

Gittel and her mother were supposed to immigrate to America together, but when her mother is stopped by the health inspector, Gittel must make the journey alone. Her mother writes her cousin’s address in New York on a piece of paper. However, when Gittel arrives at Ellis Island, she discovers the ink has run and the address is illegible! How will she find her family?

Gittel’s Journey is based on a combination of two true stories — those of Lesléa Newman’s grandmother and family friend. This is a heartwarming story and the beautiful illustrations are full of emotion.

TITANOSAUR: DISCOVERING THE WORLD’S LARGEST DINOSAUR, by Diego Pol, Jose Luis Carballido, et al., Scholastic Press, Feb. 26, 2019, Hardcover, $18.99 (ages 5-7)

This book tells the story of the discovery of this new dinosaur from the mouths of the paleontologists who led the dig! From its discovery by a local herder, to the organization and completion of the excavation, this riveting story will have readers on the edge of their seats, and the beautifully painted illustrations will mesmerize. The final spread will open up into a gatefold showing a photograph of the full Titanosaur skeleton on display at the museum.

Titanosaur is a great choice for your resident dinosaur addict. It’s written by two of the men behind the discovery of the Titanosaur. In addition to their story, there’s informative snippets included on each spread. Back matter include a glossary and extra information and photographs from the dig, and an inside jacket poster of the Titanosaur.

WHERE’S WALDO? DOUBLE TROUBLE AT THE MUSEUM: THE ULTIMATE SPOT-THE-DIFFERENCE BOOK, by Martin Handford, Candlewick, Oct. 8, 2019, Hardcover, $18.99 (ages 5-9)

Waldo is wandering through the museum, where there are some devilishly difficult differences to decipher. Finding Waldo and his buddies is hard enough, but who can spot the minutiae that separate one Egyptian tablet from another? The dastardly details that make two maritime scenes unalike? The itty-bitty discrepancies between the vintage books and scrolls? With more than five hundred differences to be delineated, this brand-new spin on the art of spotting Waldo will have fans of all ages lining up to take a look.

Sofia ValdezSOFIA VALDEZ, FUTURE PREZ, by Andrea Beaty and David Roberts, Harry N. Abrams, Nov. 5, 2019, Hardcover, $18.99 (ages 5-7)

Every morning, Abuelo walks Sofia to school . . . until one day, when Abuelo hurts his ankle at a local landfill and he can no longer do so. Sofia (aka Sofi) misses her Abuelo and wonders what she can do about the dangerous Mount Trashmore. Then she gets an idea—the town can turn the slimy mess into a park! She brainstorms and plans and finally works up the courage to go to City Hall—only to be told by a clerk that she can’t build a park because she’s just a kid! Sofia is down but not out, and she sets out to prove what one kid can do.

Like its predecessors, Sofia Valdez, Future Prez features engaging and rhythmic text that is a delight to read aloud. David Roberts’ detailed illustrations are vibrant and playful. I love how this series continues to grow. It started with engineering and science and moved on to architecture and now community activism. Sofia Valdez, Future Prez has made its way into our reading rotation, where it will stay for the foreseeable future.

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A RAY OF LIGHT, by Walter Wick, Scholastic Press, Feb. 26, 2019, Hardcover, $17.99 (ages 6-8)

Walter Wick’s photographs paired with simple text and scientific observations help readers understand the secrets and complexity of light. You will learn what light is made of and how it fits alongside everything else in the world. Walter introduces readers into the mystery behind incandescence, light waves, the color spectrum, and iridescence as well as how we perceive light in our world and beyond.

A Ray of Light is a fun and informative observation of light in a number of iterations. The book incorporates the early disciplines of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

CHILDREN’S DISCOVERY ATLAS: TRAVEL THE WORLD IN ONE BOOK! by Anita Ganeri and Sara Lynn Cramb , QEB Publishing, March 19, 2019, Hardcover, $14.95 (ages 6-9)

This first atlas is packed with illustrations and photos on every page, and covering all areas of the world. Regions are shown using physical and political maps, and feature iconic animals, natural wonders, famous landmarks, and much more. Each spread includes ‘sight-seeing’ features to whet young explorers’ appetites, as well as a Fast Facts panel, great for learning all the top stats at a glance.

MOTH, by Isabel Thomas and Daniel Egnéus, Bloomsbury Children’s Books, June 25, 2019, Hardcover, $18.99 (ages 6-10)

Moth is the evolution story that captures the struggle of animal survival against the background of an evolving human world in a unique and atmospheric introduction to Darwin’s theory of Natural Selection.

Moth is a fascinating story of the natural world. The beautiful illustrations are bold and stark and in perfect keeping with the subject matter.

MARY BLAIR’S UNIQUE FLAIR: THE GIRL WHO BECAME ONE OF THE DISNEY LEGENDS, by Amy Novesky and Brittney Lee, Disney Press, Aug. 13, 2019, Hardcover, $17.99 (ages 6-10)

Even as a child, Mary Blair loved color, and all she wanted to do was to make art. But becoming an artist wasn’t easy. Her parents worked hard to provide her paper and paints, and Mary worked hard to enter contests and earn a spot at a school for the arts. She even had to work hard to find her place at the Walt Disney Studios. But Walt was easily impressed by Mary. When she joined his trip to South America, Mary had never seen such color. She collected that color and used it in her concept art for Cinderella, Alice in Wonderland, and Peter Pan, and even the It’s a Small World attraction at Disneyland. This beautifully illustrated picture book shares Mary’s story, in all its inspiring flair.

Like the creations of Mary Blair, the illustrations in this book are gorgeous. Brittany Lee has adeptly assumed Blair’s style to create eye-popping spreads that make you want to learn more.

FEED YOUR MIND: A Story of August Wilson, by Jen Bryant and Cannaday Chapman, Abrams Books for Young Readers, Nov. 12, 2019, Hardcover, $17.99 (ages 6-9)

August Wilson (1945–2005) was a two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright who had a particular talent for capturing the authentic, everyday voice of Black Americans. As a child, he read off soup cans and cereal boxes, and when his mother brought him to the library, his whole world opened up. After facing intense prejudice at school from both students and some teachers, August dropped out. However, he continued reading and educating himself independently. He felt that if he could read about it, then he could teach himself anything and accomplish anything. Like many of his plays, Feed Your Mind is told in two acts, revealing how Wilson grew up to be one of the most influential American playwrights. The book includes an author’s note, a timeline of August Wilson’s life, a list of Wilson’s plays, and a bibliography.

I love books like Feed Your Mind. They have the ability to transport some readers to completely new and foreign places while bringing others straight back home. The ink, colored pencil, acrylic paint and cut paper illustrations perfectly compliment the lyrical prose.

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PREHISTORIC: DINOSAURS, MEGALODONS, AND OTHER FASCINATING CREATURES OF THE DEEP PAST, by Kathleen Weidner Zoehfeld and Julius Csotonyi, What on Earth Books, Sept. 3, 2019, Hardcover, $18.99 (ages 7-11)

Discover fascinating creatures, including hungry dinosaurs and enormous mammoths. Infographics reveal the secrets of Earth’s geology and environments, linking ancient creatures and places to our own time and to some of the major issues facing societies right now, such as climate change, deforestation, and extinction events.

This science-based book is full of bold illustrations and small snippets that are easily digestible.

SUFFRAGETTE: THE BATTLE FOR EQUALITY, by David Roberts, Walker Books US, Oct. 8, 2019, Hardcover, $25 (ages 7-11)

Imprisonment, hunger strikes, suffrajitsu — the decades-long fight for women’s right to vote was at times a ferocious one. Acclaimed artist David Roberts gives these important, socially transformative times their due in a colorfully illustrated history that includes many of the important faces of the movement in portraiture and scenes that both dignify and enliven. He has created a timely and thoroughly engaging resource in his first turn as nonfiction author-illustrator. Suffragette: The Battle for Equality follows the trajectory of the movement in the U.K. and visits some key figures and moments in the United States as it presents the stories of Millicent Garrett Fawcett, Emmeline Pankhurst, Ida B. Wells, Susan B. Anthony, and many more heroic women and men — making it a perfect gift for young readers of today. Dr. Crystal Feimster of Yale’s Department of African American Studies contributes a foreword that speaks to the relationship and differences between the British and American suffrage efforts.

Suffragette is a beautiful book that all girls — and boys — should read. We’ve come to a point in history where people take certain things for granted. This book forces readers to really think about the past and really understand why voting rights are still an important topic.

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DEGAS, PAINTER OF BALLERINAS, by Susan Goldman Rubin and The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Harry N. Abrams, April 16, 2019, Hardcover, $19.99 (ages 8-12)

Edgar Degas is one of the most celebrated painters of the impressionist movement, and his ballerina paintings are among the most favorite of his fans. In his artwork, Degas captures every moment, from the relentless hours of practice to the glamour of appearing on stage, revealing a dancer’s journey from novice to prima ballerina. Observing young students, Degas drew their poses again and again, determined to achieve perfection. The book includes a brief biography of his entire life, endnotes, bibliography, where to see his paintings, and an index. 

Every young girl who’s taken ballet lessons knows who Degas was. This biography of the beloved artist is told through his paintings, sketches and sculpture. This is a good option for dancers and art enthusiasts alike.

Trees: A Rooted History, by Piotr Socha and Wojciech Grajkowski, Harry N. Abrams, April 9, 2019, Hardcover, $24.99 (ages 8-12 or 5 and up with grownup help)

Trees explores the important roles trees play in our ecosystem, takes an up-close-and-personal look at the parts of trees (from roots to leaves), and unpacks the cultural impact of trees from classification systems (like family trees) to art forms (like bonsai trees). Looking forward, Trees also addresses the deforestation crisis.

The amount of text requires a strong reader, but the illustrations practically call out to readers of all ages. My child loves nature, trees and plants. She’s drawn to Trees, and so I cherry-pick elements tailored to her current questions and interests. I have no doubt that as her reading abilities strengthen, so will her love of this book.

A BOOK ABOUT WHALES, by Andrea Antinori, Harry N. Abrams, May 14, 2019, Hardcover, $19.99 (ages 8-12)

Acting as a first book of whales, A Book About Whales teaches young readers everything they need to know about the largest mammals on earth: how they have evolved over millions of years, what and how they eat, their migration patterns, and more! The book discusses a variety of whales one by one so readers learn to tell the differences between a blue whale and a humpback whale, among others, and what makes each of these whales unique. Packed with facts and playful in tone, it includes a bibliography and index. 

The black-and-white illustrations are what make A Book About Whales special. The lack of color highlights the features and give a sense of movement.

MANHATTAN: MAPPING THE STORY OF AN ISLAND, by Jennifer Thermes, Harry N. Abrams, Aug. 6, 2019, Hardcover, $19.99 (ages 8-12)

From before its earliest settlement to the vibrant metropolis that exists today, the island of Manhattan has always been a place of struggle, growth, and radical transformation. Humans, history, and natural events have shaped this tiny sliver of land for more than 400 years. In Manhattan, travel back in time to discover how a small rodent began an era of rapid change for the island. Learn about immigration, the slave trade, and the people who built New York City. See how a street plan projected the city’s future, and how epic fires and storms led to major feats of engineering above and below ground. Through dramatic illustrations, informative sidebars, and detailed maps inspired by historic archives, Manhattan explores the rich history that still draws people from all around the world to the island’s shores today. From The Battery downtown up to Inwood, every inch of the island has a story to tell.

PENCILS, PENS & BRUSHES: A GREAT GIRLS’ GUIDE TO DISNEY ANIMATION, by Mindy Johnson and Lorelay Bove, Disney Press, Aug. 13, 2019, Hardcover, $18.99 (ages 8-12)

Based on Mindy Johnson’s critically acclaimed Disney Editions title, Ink & Paint: The Women of Walt Disney’s Animation, this nonfiction picture book loos at many of the women who have worked at Disney Animation over the years-from Story Artists, to Animators to Inkers and Painters, all with unique personalities and accomplishments, such as becoming a record-holding pilot, or designing Hollywood monsters, or creating an international club for tall people.

The illustrations practically dance off the pages of this vibrant picture book. The animation process is fascinating, and the women in the book are awesome.

PAPER WORLD: PLANET EARTH, by Bomboland, Big Picture Press, Sept. 17, 2019, Hardcover, $24.99 (ages 8-12)

Paper World: Planet Earth uses paper cutouts to reveal the details of our planet, from bubbling volcanoes to rushing rivers to the boiling hot interior of the Earth. With detailed art by studio Bomboland, a fact-filled text, and flaps and die-cuts on every spread, this one-of-a-kind novelty book.

This geology book is bold and beautiful and one that you’ll immediately want to pick up.

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© 2019, Cracking the Cover. All rights reserved. Unless otherwise noted, all books — digital and physical — have been provided for free by publishers in exchange for honest and unbiased reviews. All thoughts and opinions are those of the reviewer.


About Author

Jessica Harrison is the main reviewer behind Cracking the Cover. Prior to creating Cracking the Cover, Jessica worked as the in-house book critic for the Deseret News, a daily newspaper in Salt Lake City. Jessica also worked as a copy editor and general features writer for the paper. Following that, Jessica spent two years with an international company as a social media specialist. She is currently a freelance writer/editor. She is passionate about reading and giving people the tools to make informed decisions in their own book choices.

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