Home in the Woods
By Eliza Wheeler (Nancy Paulsen Books/Penguin, $17.99)
"Dad lives with the angels now, and we need to find a new home." This poignant book by a Minnesota artist/writer begins in sadness as a widow and her eight children load their possessions into a wheelbarrow and trudge down the road to a tarpaper shack. Over the course of a year, they fix up the house, plant a garden, piece quilts, can vegetables, and learn to love this new, simple life. The book is based on the life of Wheeler's grandmother, whose family made a home in the Wisconsin woods during the Great Depression.
The Christmas Coat: Memories of My Sioux Childhood
By Virginia Driving Hawk Sneve, illustrated by Ellen Beier (South Dakota Historical Society Press, $9.95)
As the Driving Hawk children trudge to school, a shivering young Virginia thinks about the charity boxes that will soon arrive at their South Dakota reservation. She needs a winter coat, but as the daughter of the town's Episcopal priest, she gets last pick. The perfect coat does, indeed, arrive — but it is chosen by another girl. And then the plain brown coat that Virginia is given is taken away for someone who, Virginia's mother says gently, needs it more than she does. Will there be a Christmas miracle? This story of giving and receiving — back in print after eight years — is illustrated with paintings so evocative they will make you shiver.
By Alison Farrell (Chronicle Books, $17.99)
Three girls and a dog head out on a hike. They start at a dead run ("We run like maniacs," they say) and they are determined to get to the top of the mountain. Soon they slow down and begin paying attention to the details of the forest — berries, woodpeckers, animal tracks. They get lost. They study their map. They find their way again. They sketch what they see in a notebook. This breezy book of derring-do and friendship celebrates diversity and girl power as well as the glories of the natural world.
Jon Klassen's Hat Box
By Jon Klassen (Candlewick, $49.99)
At $50, this three-book boxed set is for those of us who simply cannot get enough of Klassen's wry, funny and mock-tragic stories about animals and hats. Two of the books ("This Is Not My Hat" and "I Want My Hat Back") won the Theodor Seuss Geisel Honor award and the Caldecott Medal. Klassen's hilarious and weird stories acknowledge our baser instincts ("This hat is not mine. I just stole it," says a fish) and our unreasonable hope that nobody will notice when we do wrong. If you are a rabbit, and it is a bear you have wronged, all I can say is: run.
The Shortest Day
By Susan Cooper, illustrated by Carson Ellis (Candlewick, $17.99)
When you pair a Newbery Medalist (Cooper) with a Caldecott Honor winner (Ellis), the result is a moving song about solstice, death and rebirth. Cooper's poem "The Shortest Day" has been performed each winter for decades. Ellis' awe-filled gouache paintings move seamlessly from ancient times to modern, reminding us of the eternal cycle of the year — sadness as the days grow shorter, ebullience at the reappearance of the sun.
Our Favorite Day
By Joowon Oh (Candlewick, $16.99)
Papa is a creature of habit: Get up, water the plants, go to the dumpling house for lunch. But on Thursdays something special happens — that is the day his granddaughter visits, the day they make crafts and fly kites. Joowon Oh's sweet story is dedicated to her father, and her bright watercolor-and-cut-paper illustrations have a fascinating 3-D pop. The two-page spread when granddaughter rushes into grandfather's arms is filled with joy.
The Night Is Yours
By Abdul-Razak Zachariah, illustrated by Keturah A. Bobo (Dial Books for Young Readers, $17.99)
On a hot summer night children play in their apartment courtyard while the father of one girl keeps watch and narrates the story. Under a full moon, they skip rope to the sounds of hip-hop coming from a window, they look at the stars, they scatter and play hide-and-seek. Little Amani, with her dark curls and dimples, finds the other children, one by one, until only one remains hidden. "I send you silent strength," her father thinks. "And see that you are more determined than ever. You know that some things aren't easy."
Thanku: Poems of Gratitude
Edited by Miranda Paul, illustrated by Marlena Myles (Millbrook Press, $19.99)
Quatrains and found poems, odes and narrative poems, acrostics and limericks, metaphors and echo poems — the pieces in this anthology are as diverse as their writers. Collected by Miranda Paul, a founding member of We Need Diverse Books, these poems by Sun Yung Shin, Lupe Ruiz-Flores, Sylvia Liu, Naomi Shihab Nye and others express gratitude for things large and small, concrete and abstract. "Paint the sunset with your eyes," writes Charles Ghigna. "Make your life a work of art." Stunning illustrations by St. Paul artist Marlena Myles glow with pinks and purples. The book gives bios of each writer and also explains each poetic form.
By James Christopher Carroll (Creative Editions, $19.99)
Mixed-media illustrations give a dreamlike quality to this poem. Carroll's words are few — no more than four to a page — giving space to his illustrations: swirls and circles, strange creatures and stylized trees, houses glowing with starlight. A girl hears a song and follows it into woods, where she encounters chickens and mice, alligators in harlequin pants, an elephant with a guitar. This gorgeous, mysterious book is published by a longtime Mankato publisher.
Franklin and Luna and the Book of Fairy Tales
By Jen Campbell, illustrated by Katie Harnett (Thames & Hudson, $17.95)
When an ancient book in a musty shop swallows up Neil the tortoise, his friends do not hesitate. Intrepid Luna and Franklin leap in after him to bring him back. "They find themselves in a dark forest. It smells of paper, ink and porridge." This rhyming adventure features a fearless redheaded heroine who encounters three little pigs, a boy who has sold his cow for magic beans, a yawning princess with some peas — the characters of your favorite fairy tales. How easy it is, this funny story shows, to get lost in a book.