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    Friday, June 21, 2024

    Check out these gorgeous new picture books for children this spring

    This spring’s crop of picture books for children focuses on friendship, history and nature. With belly laughs!

    “Go and Get With Rex,” by David LaRochelle, illustrated by Mike Wohnoutka. (Candlewick Press, $17.99)

    A perfect book for kids who know the alphabet but aren’t yet strong readers — or for any kid who likes to laugh. The Theodor Seuss Geisel Award-winning Minnesota duo (whew!) of LaRochelle and Wohnoutka gives us a lesson in things that start with certain letters: F is for frog. M is for moose. But for every letter, Rex the dog fetches a duck. And it turns out that each time, Rex is right! With comical illustrations and a brief, easy-to-read text, this book is both funny and subversively educational.

    “The Rock in My Throat,” by Kao Kalia Yang, illustrated by Jiemei Lin. (Carolrhoda Books, $18.99)

    A powerful, melancholy book, with no tidy ending. Born in a refugee camp, young Kalia stops speaking everywhere except at home after her family moves to St. Paul. “I don’t want to be like the many people who speak English,” she says, as she watches how her mother is treated by strangers. She stays silent in school — so silent she cannot make friends. This sensitive book is about a Hmong girl who keeps control the only way she knows how. Yang publishes a second picture book May 28 — “Caged,” illustrated by St. Paul artist Khou Vue. It’s about living in — and leaving — the Thai refugee camp where she was born.

    “Oskar’s Voyage,” by Laura Purdie Salas, illustrated by Kayla Harren. (Minnesota Historical Society Press, $17.95)

    Minnesota writer Salas spent a week in 2019 sailing the Great Lakes on a freighter and has turned her experience into a wonderful tale of a stowaway. Oskar the chipmunk follows a crate of tomatoes onto an ore boat and ends up sailing from Duluth to Cleveland and back again. In gentle rhyme, Salas takes us on a tour of the giant boat, from the spotless galley to the pilothouse to the rumbling engine room. Harren’s bright paintings bring the big boat and the wide-open lake to life. An informative, entertaining book for young boat-watchers.

    “Fresh Juice,” by Robert Liu-Trujillo. (Lee & Low, $19.95)

    Art and his dad head to the farmer’s market to buy ingredients for a super juice that will knock out Dad’s cold. Art particularly wants fresh ginger: “My teacher says the stuff in it kills germs.” Every booth at the market is sold out of ginger, but every each vendor offers something else delicious instead: carrots, apples, collard greens. “Fresh Juice” — and its Spanish-language companion, “Jugo Fresco” — is a celebration of caring, healing and friendship. With its diverse cast of characters, this is a story of love and inclusiveness as well as good food.

    “Stars of the Night,” by Caren Stelson, illustrated by Selina Alko. (Carolrhoda Books, $19.99)

    In graceful prose, Minneapolis writer Stelson tells the true story of the Kindertransport of Prague during World War II, when Jewish children were sent to England to avoid the Nazi camps. It’s a tricky topic for a book for young children but Stelson tells it beautifully, with poignant words and an ending as happy as she could realistically make it. Alko’s illustrations — paint, colored pencil and collage — give us the beauty of pre-war Prague, fears of the parents, and hopes and prayers of the children. A stunning, powerful book.

    “Mouse on the River,” by Alice Melvin (Thames & Hudson, $19.95, due May 14)

    Scottish author/illustrator Melvin returns with another gorgeous nature book, made interactive with charming die-cut fold-outs and doors and flaps that open to reveal secrets. Early one morning, intrepid Mouse sets out down the river in a red canoe. He passes geese and ducks, bitterns and cormorants. Nothing much happens — a storm comes up, he camps for the night, he keeps going until he reaches the point “where the river meets the sea.” A lovely, quiet book to pore over, scouring the detailed illustrations for birds and flowers and other wonders of nature.

    “The Mango Tree (La Mata de Mango),” by Edel Rodriguez. (Abrams, $18.99, due June 11)

    In a lush jungle, two boys find everything they need in the branches of a mango tree — fruit to eat, a vantage point from which to fly kites, sanctuary from the wild dogs and gators on the ground. And then a great storm blows up and sends the boys, tree and all, out to sea. Cuban-American artist Rodriguez gives us a fantastic, fabulous world in explosive, vivid illustrations. This wordless story lets children’s imaginations run free so they can tell the tale any way they want, and an author’s note (in English and Spanish) gives the story-behind-the story.

    “Bros,” by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by Reggie Brown. (Candlewick Press, $17.99)

    There are few words in this book, but it doesn’t need many — the illustrations shine with friendship, energy and joy. Five young Black friends go through their day laughing, playing, having each other’s backs. “We smile. We style,” reads the rhyming text, just two words per page. “Bros dare. We care.” There’s plenty of room for a young reader’s imagination to fill out the story of these buddies. It’s a wonderful book of pride, happiness and unabashed male friendship.

    “How the Birds Got Their Songs,” English text by Travis Zimmerman, Ojibwemowin text by Marcus Ammesmaki/Aanikanootaagewin, illustrated by Sam Zimmerman/Zhaawanoogiizhik. (Minnesota Historical Society Press, $17.95)

    The bird that flies the highest, the Great Spirit decrees, will be given the most beautiful song. And so the eagle soars. “He flew so high and came so close to Grandfather Sun that the tips of his feathers got burnt and turned black.” He didn’t know that on his back napped the hermit thrush, who awoke, leapt off the eagle and flew higher than anyone else. This tale, passed down to the author by his father, is illustrated with glorious paintings depicting the eagle as a noble, powerful creature with a beaded head.

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