5 Artistic Geniuses
Invite kids to meet some creative greats with these brand-new biographies.
Piano Starts Here
By Robert Andrew Parker. $16.99.
Parker’s simple yet touching watercolors and text illuminate the childhood of jazz pianist Art Tatum, who was born with poor vision but an ear for music. Your students will be drawn to make their own melodies after reading this pitch-perfect biography. Grades 1–4.
By Carmen T. Bernier-Grand. $18.99.
This latest attempt at making Frida Kahlo’s difficult life accessible to kids succeeds with a series of powerful poems. Each is more moving than the next. Grades 3–6.
Jazz on a Saturday Night
By Leo and Diane Dillon. $16.99.
The legendary picture-book duo delivers a foot-stomping, finger-tapping celebration of jazz, filled with swinging rhymes and tributes to musicians such as John Coltrane and Thelonius Monk. Grades K–3.
By Leonard S. Marcus. $19.95. A valuable addition to your study of picture-book authors, Marcus covers the illustrious careers of seven award-winning authors, including Robert McCloskey and Maurice Sendak. Grades 2–6.
Delicious By Susan Goldman Rubin. $15.95. Thiebaud may not be on your art history radar, but this gorgeous book evokes instant appreciation for the American painter, who created mouth–watering masterpieces depicting cupcakes, gumballs, candy apples, and more. Grades 3–6.
4 middle school must-reads
Tween bookworms complaining, “I’ve already read everything good”? Not so fast, kiddos.
By Roderick Gordon and Brian Williams. $17.99.
This fantasy debut has been compared to the exploits of a certain retired wizard. Fourteen-year-old Will discovers an abandoned tunnel underneath London, which opens into a new world. Grades 4–8.
By Jen Bryant. $15.99.
The author of the stunning Pieces of Georgia offers another must-read novel-in-verse, this one a historical take on the landmark Scopes trial, in which a high school teacher is taken to court for discussing evolution. Both timely and timeless.
Grades 6 and up.
to Glory By Charles R. Smith. $19.99. This picture-book biography of Muhammad Ali will find a home with younger readers, but given its high-interest subject and first-rate writing, it’s also a terrific choice to share with middle school report writers. Grades 4–8.
The Year of the Rat
By Grace Lin. $15.99.
In the sequel to Lin’s delightful The Year of the Dog, Pacy’s best friend moves to California and Pacy must learn to stand on her own. Based on Lin’s own childhood and accompanied by charming black-and-white illustrations. Grades 5–7.
3 Wintery Animal Books
‘Tis the season for penguins and polar bears! And these new books are better than a field
trip to the zoo.
Playful Little Penguins
By Tony Mitton. $15.95.
The title says it all—these cartoonish guys are waddling, jumping, and sliding all over the place, and Mitton’s cheery rhymes add to the fun. A nice read-aloud for the milk-and-graham-cracker crowd. Pair it with Lester’s classic Tacky the Penguin. Grades PreK–2.
By Juliana, Isabella, and Craig Hatkoff and Dr. Gerald R. Uhlich. $16.99.
From the authors of Owen & Mzee comes the true story of “how one little polar bear captivated the world.” Like Owen & Mzee, the photographs are the highlight of this book, covering Knut’s birth at a German zoo and his steady, fuzzy growth. Grades K–3.
By Seymour Simon. $16.99.
The latest in Simon’s series for the Smithsonian is loaded with top-notch photos and wow-them facts about everyone’s favorite flightless birds. Did you know penguins spend 75 percent of their time in the water? No? Well then, read up! Grades 1–4.
5 Fairy Tale Updates
Princesses, toads, wands, and fairies. Is there any greater cure-all for the winter blues?
Such a Prince
By Dan Bar-el. $16.
This fractured tale centers on a fumbling peasant who must jump through hoops in order to marry the lovely Princess Vera, but the real star is the narrator, a tabloid-reading fairy with more than a dose of cheek-pinching, grandmotherly wisdom. Perfect for launching your own fairy tale writing unit. Grades 1–3.
What the Dickens
By Gregory Maguire. $15.99.
The author of Wicked turns in his first children’s book, the story of “a rogue tooth fairy” who encounters 10-year-old Dinah, a gradual convert to the idea that a fantasy world lurks within our own. Smart humor and fast-paced adventure will hook readers. Grades 4 and up.
By Leah Wilcox. $16.99.
Everyone keeps telling Prince Charming that he has to kiss the girl to wake her up, but he has other ideas. A laugh-out-loud story from the author of the equally hilarious Falling for Rapunzel. Grades 1–3.
The Race of the Century
By Barry Downard. $15.99.
Downard reimagines the saga of the tortoise and the hare as a teeth-gnashing, no-holds-barred fight to the finish—and the result is hilarious. For example? Your kids will cackle at Harry Hare “preparing” for the race by donning a Saturday Night Fever-era suit and going dancing. Grades K–3.
A Curse Dark as Gold
By Elizabeth C. Bunce. $17.99.
Bunce’s retelling of the Rumpelstiltskin story will keep middle schoolers turning pages long past the bell, with its feisty heroine, Charlotte Miller, and her quest to save her family’s mill. Grades 6 and up.