From the Big Bang to the Barnyard: 10 New Picture Books

Talk about something for everyone! Whether your kids love to laugh at a funny book, be wowed by the wonders of science and nature, learn about interesting people from American history, or visit faraway lands, this crop of new picture books has just the story for them!

Business Pig, by Andrea Zuill
Jasper is what the farmer calls “a gen-u-wine Business pig.” Dressed in a suit and tie, eschewing mud play, and preferring to help with the bookkeeping, Jasper is a tough sell for people who come to the farm looking for an animal to adopt. But one day a little girl with a business streak of her own arrives on the farm, and the negotiations begin to look promising. Business Pig offers a fresh, funny take on not fitting in and finding where you belong through the story of a piglet at the Sunshine Sanctuary for Farm Animals who’s simply never heard of business casual.

Picturing America: Thomas Cole and the Birth of American Art, by Hudson Talbott
This lushly illustrated book tells the story of an immigrant who got the job done: Thomas Cole, whose family left England when their livelihood as artisans faltered during the Industrial Revolution. The family headed to America in 1818 and proceeded to move from Ohio to Pennsylvania to New York, searching for people who would buy their hand-painted floor cloths and window shades. But there was no room for young Thomas in the stagecoach, so he ended up walking across the land, getting to know the landscapes he would become famous for painting. Through mentorship, hard work, and some luck, Cole eventually became a landscape painter, part of the Hudson River school of art.

What Do You Do With A Voice Like That?, by Chris Barton and Ekua Holmes
This picture book will introduce an American hero, Barbara Jordan, to a new generation. Born in Houston during the Jim Crow era, Jordan stood out for her exceptional oratory—she even won a trip to Chicago on the strength of her speeches. She became a lawyer, then a Texas state senator and a United States congresswoman who played an important role in speaking out against the crimes of President Nixon. The chronicle of her rise is thrilling, but the next chapter of her life is just as instructive: when diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, she came home to Texas and kept giving to others, as a teacher. The dynamic collage illustrations by Caldecott winner Ekua Holmes convey Jordan’s vibrant energy.

The Stuff of Stars, by Marion Dane Bauer and Ekua Holmes
Artist Ekua Holmes has been busy—this is his second book published this fall. The illustrations for The Stuff of Stars are gorgeous, swirling dances of paint that might put you in mind of the mid-century, cosmic abstractions of painter Vance Kirkland. The images pair harmoniously with Marion Dane Bauer’s poetic, reverent description of the Big Bang and the origins of the universe that resulted in “all of us/ the stuff of stars.” 

Inky’s Amazing Escape: How A Very Smart Octopus Found His Way Home, by Sy Montgomery and Amy Schimler-Safford
Inky is a real octopus who was caught in a lobster trap and brought to New Zealand’s National Aquarium. But that’s not why he was famous. In 2016, Inky made a daring escape, squeezing through a drain in the aquarium and liberating himself back into the ocean in an exploit similar to that of the runaway octopus Hank in Finding Dory, which came out the same year. Amy Schimler-Safford’s collages offer a rich tapestry of color and pattern, and Montgomery, who first expressed his octopus love with 2011’s The Soul of an Octopus, tells the story with verve.

Interrupting Chicken and the Elephant of Surprise, by David Ezra Stein
Interrupting Chicken is back for more interjectory humor as her Papa attempts to read her a bedtime story all the way through—we can all guess how that goes! The little red chicken’s teacher has just taught her that all stories require “an elephant of surprise”—or that’s how she remembers her teacher’s instruction. So every story that Papa reads becomes a fractured fairy tale, with a delightful, surprise elephant popping up in classics from The Ugly Duckling to The Little Mermaid. My son cheered when instead of mushy romance at the end of Rapunzel, the prince found…an elephant!

Sylvia’s Bookshop, by Robert Burleigh and Katy Wu
No visit to Paris is complete without a trip to the famous English language bookshop, Shakespeare and Company, along a cobblestone street in the shadow of Notre Dame. Robert Burleigh tells the story from the perspective of the bookshop itself, which started out in its original space as a rather unpromising dusty space until Sylvia Beach transformed it, attracting Ernest Hemingway, Gertrude Stein, and F. Scott Fitzgerald. The bookshop flourished in the 1920s until German occupation in the 1940s, and its legend lives on today through stories and its new incarnation.

King Alice, by Matthew Cordell
Alice is ecstatic to have another snow day, even if her dad can’t muster the same energy and enthusiasm she has to greet the day. Alice declares herself King Alice and her father to be Sir Dad, and proceeds to rule over him, suggesting all kinds of messy adventures they can have. Dad, who never manages to change out of his pajamas the whole day, finally agrees to make a book with her about King Alice the First. Cordell captures both the exuberant vitality of a little girl who wants to seize the day, and the fatigue of parents to two young children.

Hiking Day, by Anne Rockwell and Lizzy Rockwell
A little girl goes on an autumn hike with her parents up Hickory Hill in this story about exploring the wonders of nature. You can practically smell the fall leaves giving off their sweet decay as the family crunches along up the trail, encountering a toad, a deer, a squirrel, and a woodpecker on their way to the summit.

Josie’s Lost Tooth, by Jennifer K. Mann
Josie can’t wait to lose her first tooth—she’s the only kid in her class who hasn’t lost one yet. Her friend Richard tells her all about the tooth fairy and when one of her teeth finally betrays that telltale wiggle, the friends do anything they can to coax it to fall out.

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