Faraway Fox

  • Faraway Fox
  • written by Jolene Thompson
  • illustrated by Justin K. Thompson
  • published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (2016)
  • Roar Score: 4/5

Most picture books with an environmental message (and there are a lot of them) practically hit you over the head with the moral or takeaway. Faraway Fox takes a subtler approach, though it’s still effective and powerful.

The story is told in the first person from the perspective of a small fox, lost and alone in suburbia. As he wanders through backyards, playgrounds, and parking lots, he’s recalling what everyplace was like before it was developed. When he was younger and still with his family.

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Field Guide to the Grumpasaurus

  • Field Guide to the Grumpasaurus
  • written and illustrated by Edward Hemingway
  • published by Clarion Books (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) (2016)
  • Roar Score: 4/5

Do you have a grumpasaurus in your home? Let me rephrase…do you have a child of basically any age in your home? You do? Then you also have a grumpasaurus.

I must also come clean right here at the top that I have a soft spot for books that disguise themselves as field guides for fictional creatures. (The same is true for travel guides to fictional places. Love ’em.)

So…a field guide to a grumpy toddler who’s incognito as an adorable stegosaurus? Yeah, you had me at hello.

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Henry & Leo

HenryAndLeo

  • Henry & Leo
  • written and illustrated by Pamela Zagarenski
  • published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (2016)
  • Roar Score: 4/5

“I guess we can never really know what makes one particular toy more special than another.”

Henry & Leo is a beautiful ode to the love we all have for our stuffed friends and what happens when they accidentally take a wrong turn and get lost. (We read another recent book on this same topic, which is admittedly near and dear to our hearts.)

This is the story of Henry and his favorite toy in the whole world – a stuffed lion named Leo.  Henry and Leo go everywhere together and are inseparable…until the day they are separated during a walk in the woods.

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When the World Is Dreaming

WhenTheWorldIsDreaming

  • When the World Is Dreaming
  • written by Rita Gray
  • illustrated by Kenard Pak
  • published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (2016)
  • Roar Score: 4/5

Reading this book to my kids at bedtime the other night, my daughter was immediately smitten by the protagonist. And it’s easy to see why. With her unkempt hair flying free in every direction and playing home to a stray leaf, my daughter proclaimed, “That’s me! A little outdoorsy tomboy!”

Be still my heart.

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Teen Boat! The Race for Boatlantis

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Just when I thought every original idea had already been taken, used, recycled, and rebooted to death, along comes Teen Boat! – perhaps the most original concept I’ve read all year.

I somehow missed the first book in the series, which came out 2012, but it’s not necessarily required reading before tackling the sequel: The Race for Boatlantis.

In a nutshell, our protagonist is Teen Boat, an ordinary high school teenager that happens to be able to transform himself into a boat. Yep. And there’s no secret identify nonsense. His entire school knows he can turn into a boat, and it’s apparently no big deal.

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The Whisper

whisper

  • The Whisper
  • written and illustrated by Pamela Zagarenski
  • published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (2015)
  • Roar Score: 4/5

The Whisper is an absolutely beautiful ode to creativity, discovery, and wonder. The story begins with a little girl borrowing a “magical book of stories” from her teacher. On the way home, all of the words spill out of the book, leaving her with a book full of gorgeous illustrations…but no text.

After an initial bout of disappointment, she’s prompted to let her imagination free and create her own stories, for “there are never any rules, rights, or wrongs in imagining – imagining just is.”

Indeed, any fan of David Wiesner, Aaron Becker, or Jerry Pinkney’s The Lion and the Mouse knows just how powerful wordless picture books can be.

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I Yam a Donkey!

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  • I Yam a Donkey!
  • written and illustrated by Cece Bell
  • published by Clarion Books (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) (2015)
  • Roar Score: 5/5

A children’s picture book whose entire reason for being is to make bad grammar jokes? Don’t mind if I do. Written and illustrated by Cece Bell? Oh my goodness, YES!

Bell is perhaps best known for the graphic novel El Deafo, for which she won the Newbery Honor and then the even greater honor of being part of our Questions from a Kid series. However, her background is more heavily focused on picture books…and I Yam a Donkey! is the latest and greatest.

The book centers on a “Who’s on First?” style dialogue between a donkey and a yam…which is where all great works of literature ultimately begin. The yam, being a stickler for correct grammar and pronunciation, can’t help but correct the slightly dim-witted donkey.

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