What's New in Kids' Books - Spring 2016

Kids sitting in a bookcase reading
Spring Children's Books Buzz. Lisbeth Hjort/Cultura/Getty Images

Here’s a quick look at some of the big news in children’s books this spring.

The End of a Era: The Final Elephant and Piggie Book

The wonderful series of Elephant and Piggie books by Mo Willems is coming to an end on May 3, 2016 with the publication of The Thank You Book, the 25th book in the series. Multiple Elephant and Piggie books have been Theodor Seusss Geisel Award honorees for excellence in beginning reader books, and I highly recommend them.

For a list of all of the books and an overview of the series, see my article All 25 Elephant and Piggie Books by Mo Willems

The Thank You Book features Elephant and Piggie’s goodbye. Piggie is eager to thank everyone who’s been involved with the books and Elephant is worried she’ll forget someone. As she thanks other characters in the books, Gerald becomes increasingly upset with Piggie. When Piggie realizes she hasn’t thanked Gerald, she thinks that’s why he’s upset. However, when she thanks him, Piggie finds out that’s not what has Gerald upset. He’s upset because Piggie has not thanked the readers of the books. The Thank You Book provides a delightful ending for a delightful series that kids will continue to enjoy for years to come. (Hyperion Books for Children, an imprint of Disney Book Group, 2016. ISBN: 9781423178286)

DK Braille Books

DK has published five striking new children’s books for children who are visually impaired.

Because the books are written in embossed braille and in standard large print, sighted parents can share them with their visually impaired kids and blind parents will be able to read them to their kids. Young readers, whether they read braille or standard text will enjoy these beautifully designed books.

One of the things I like best about the books is the crisp and clear embossed illustrations, which provide an excellent tactile experience for children.

Two of the nonfiction books, Counting and Shapes, are simple concept books. The others are Animals, On the Move (about transportation vehicles) and It Can’t be True!, a reference book that is filled with tactile comparisons.  DK is known for its beautifully designed and illustrated books, including Knowledge Encyclopedia and Pictureopedia, so it’s not surprising that the braille books are so impressive.

The Jungle Book - The Book and the Movie

If you ask most kids about The Jungle Book, they will think you mean the Disney animated movie from the 1960s and/or the related Little Golden Books. Some may think you are talking about the new movie version of The Jungle Book. Very few will realize that both of the movies were inspired by The Jungle Book, a collection of stories by Rudyard Kipling that was first published in 1894. If you are looking for a nice edition of The Jungle Book to share with your kids, I recommend the one I bought, the edition of The Jungle Book that contains dramatic illustrations by Robert Ingpen (Sterling Children’s Books, ISBN: 781402782848), who also illustrated Rudyard Kipling’s Just So Stories.

How good is the new movie? That depends on who you talk to. For some, the 1960s animated version can’t be surpassed; for others, the digital animal creations alone are worth the price of admission to the new movie. To learn why About.com Movies Review Expert Christopher Campbell only gave the film two stars, read his movie review of .

Bestsellers and Buzz-Worthy Books

Rick Riordan’s middle grade fantasies continue to be popular, with Demigods & Magicians on bestseller lists, along with The Sword of Summer.  Kids who loved Riordan’s Percy Jackson and the Olympians series and The Kane Chronicles will be delighted with Demigods & Magicians, subtitled Percy and Annabeth Meet the Kanes, a collection of three fast-paced and exciting crossover adventures.  Kids eager for more myth-related fantasies are also reading The Sword of Summer, the first book in Rick Riodan’s new Norse fantasy series Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard.

Two-time Newbery Medal winner (for The Tale of Despereaux and Flora and Ulysses) Kate DiCamillo has an excellent new middle grade novel Raymia Nightingale. It’s about a ten-year-old girl whose father has just run off with another woman and her plan to get her father to come home.  Raymie thinks that if she learns how to twirl a baton and wins the Little Miss Central Florida Tire competition, her father will see her photo in the newspaper and come home. An unexpected outcome of the baton lessons is friendship with two other girls also dealing with big problems.  Set in 1975 Florida and loosely based on her own childhood and her father’s leaving, Kate DiCamillo describes Raymie’s story as “the absolutely true story of my heart.”

Kwame Alexander who won the 2015 John Newbery Medal for The Crossover has a new and also excellent sports-related middle grade novel in verse Booked. The sport is soccer, but Alexander covers a lot of ground, using a variety of poetry styles, as he focuses on friendships, bullying and racism, divorce and family, particularly father and son communication.

Other books I think are buzz-worthy include:

  • Where’s the Elephant?, a wordless picture book by Stéphane-Yves Barroux, which deals with deforestation with a hide-and-seek story told with collage, acrylic and pencil that will resonate with children 4 to 8, as well as older kids learning about the environment.
  • Apples and Robins, by Lucie Félix, a beautifully designed book that features crisp and colorful die cuts and focuses on bold colors and shapes in, and related to, nature.
  • Tree, a peek-through picture book that uses die cut pages, seasonal artwork and rhyming words to celebrate the seasons during a tree’s year in the forest along with the animals who live there.
  • Sea Change by Frank Viva, a 115-page middle grade illustrated novel about the impact a summer in Nova Scotia has on a boy’s life.