The Big Blue Thing on the Hill by Yuval Zommer
For the animals living in the Great Forest, it's a huge problem when A Big Blue Thing (a Volkswagen van) mysteriously shows up on an otherwise peaceful Howling Hill. It has to go. The bears, wolves and foxes try to scare it away, with no luck. Then the wise old owls recommend sending in the forest's tiniest creatures — bees, wasps and mosquitoes — a big bug flying squad. And it works. At least until the next mysterious big thing arrives on Howling Hill. Our kids love following the plan of attack, cheering for team-wildlife, and giggling at the surprise ending.
Meet the Dullards by Sara Pennypacker and Daniel Salmieri
The Dullards are boring. Everything they wear is gray. They enjoy watching (greige-colored) paint dry. They avoid exclamation marks. And they only eat vanilla ice cream — with the vanilla extracted. However, the naturally curious Dullard children, Blanda, Borely and Little Dud, are looking for some excitement. Guess who runs off to join the circus? The deadpan humor gives our kids the giggles, and the illustrations help tell the story perfectly.
Dinosaur Bob and his Adventures with the Family Lazardo by William Joyce
It’s rare that we come across a book that feels truly original, in the the very best kind of quirky way. After the adventurous, vacationing Lazardo family finds Dinosaur Bob, they bring him home to Pimlico Hills. They hope he’ll fit right in — since he can play trumpet, baseball and do the Hokey Pokey. But not everyone in Pimlico Hills agrees. And Bob’s future is at risk, until he becomes the town hero at a baseball game. If your kids are into dinos and baseball, this is a must-read. Bonus: The book ends with sheet music for The Ballad of Dinosaur Bob.
A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to School by Davide Cali and Benjamin Chaud
This is a story of wildly imaginative excuses. A boy is late for school because some giant ants steal breakfast. And a bunch of other reasons — involving evil ninjas, a huge ape, a giant blob, Yeti, mysterious mole people, time travel and dinosaurs. The book is beautifully illustrated by Benjamin Chaud (who brilliantly wrote and illustrated The Bear’s Song and The Bear’s Sea Escape). It’s one of the best new books of the year.
Niño Wrestles the World by Yuyi Morales
Niño dons a wrestling mask (with his tighty whities). “So superb are his talents that out-of this-world-contenders line up to challenge him." Like Niño vs. El Extraterrestre, Niño vs. El Chamuco, and — most challenging — Niño vs. Las Hermanitas (his little sisters)! “Ay, ay, ay, ajúa!” The book is a quick history lesson in luche libre — a theatrical style of professional wrestling involving masks and storytelling. It inspired our kids to make up their own luche libre masks and signature wrestling moves.
The Curious Garden by Peter Brown
Inspired by the story of New York City’s High Line, Peter Brown (author of our favorite Mr. Tiger Goes Wild) shares a not-at-all-preachy message of urban renewal. Charming illustrations show curious Liam transforming his dreary, concrete, smoggy town into a beautiful, green, growing community. And it gets our kids talking about how caring about a little green space can spark a lot of joy, one neighborhood at a time.
The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore by William Joyce
Based on an Oscar-winning short film, this beautiful book about books is one of our favorites — about life, the passage of time, and the magic of reading. When Morris Lessmore’s life is turned upside down in a Wizard of Oz-like storm, he comes upon a spectacular abandoned library — and spends the next few decades caring for the (flying) books inside, sharing them with others, and writing his own story. Morris’s beloved books care for him as he ages, and in a heart-tugging ending, his story lives on.
My Friend Rabbit by Eric Rohmann
Our pick for Easter baskets this year is a simple tale of an adventuresome rabbit and his less-adventurous buddy, named Mouse. “My friend Rabbit means well. But whatever he does, wherever he goes, trouble follows.” Bold illustrations tell most of the story — including one of rabbit’s disastrous ideas that involves piling an elephant, rhino, duck, deer, bear, hippo, alligator and squirrel on top of each other. It sparks discussions about how to be a good friend — and always gets laughs from our kids, who love to retell the story on their own.