The Children’s Book Review | May 1, 2016
Hot New Releases & Popular Kids Stories
It’s time for the “Best New Kids Books” list! From beautiful, fun, engaging picture books to unforgettable middle grade books to feel-good young adult novels, May brings an abundance of great books …
Written by Jane Yolen
Illustrated by Bob Marstall
Publisher’s Synopsis: From iconic award-winning and NY Times bestselling children’s author of more than 350 books, Jane Yolen, and award-winning illustrator, Bob Marstall, On Bird Hill is a wonderful new picture book created in collaboration with the esteemed Cornell Lab of Ornithology, the world authority on birds.
On Bird Hill is first in a new Jane Yolen series created for the Cornell Lab, loosely based on the old cumulative nursery rhyme/song “The Green Grass Grew All Around,” a nursery rhyme first published as a song in 1912 with words by William Jerome and melody by Harry Von Tilzer. But in this version, it’s a boy and his dog who find the bird in a nest on a hill in a strange valley.
This beautiful and enchanting story is sure to attract interest from millions of readers and fans of Jane’s popular classics. As with all Cornell Lab Publishing Group books, 25% of the net proceeds from the sale of On Bird Hill goes directly to the Cornell Lab to support projects such as children’s educational and community programs.
Ages 3-5 | Publisher: Cornell Lab Publishing Group | May 10, 2016 | ISBN-13: 978-1943645022
Flora and the Peacocks
Illustrated by Molly Idle
Publisher’s Synopsis: The darling, dancing Flora is back, and this time she’s found two new friends: a pair of peacocks! But amidst the fanning feathers and mirrored movements, Flora realizes that the push and pull between three friends can be a delicate dance. Will this trio find a way to get back in step? In the third book featuring Flora and her feathered friends, Molly Idle’s gorgeous art combines with clever flaps to reveal that no matter the challenges, true friends will always find a way to dance, leap, and soar—together.
Ages 3-6 | Publisher: Chronicle Books | May 3, 2016 | ISBN-13: 978-1452138169
Written and Illustrated by Jonathan Fenske
Publisher’s Synopsis: Barnacle is stuck on the underside of a pier, wishing he had something to do. Every day is exactly the same. The tide comes in and Barnacle gets wet. The tide goes out and Barnacle dries off. Boring! Barnacle wants something EXCITING to happen. Then a colorful fish swims by. Barnacle bets the fish doesn’t have a boring life. In the end, it turns out exciting isn’t always better. . . This picture book is an irreverent and playful answer to any child’s declaration of boredom!
Ages 3-5 | Publisher: Scholastic Inc. | May 10, 2016 | ISBN-13: 978-0545865043
Written and Illustrated by Christopher Silas Neal
Publisher’s Synopsis: Everyone cries, everyone laughs, everyone sings—everyone. A celebrated illustrator explores the universality of feelings in his authorial debut.
Christopher Silas Neal, praised by the New York Times for his “stunning retro-style illustrations,” invites young readers to explore how we feel what we feel, and how everyone else feels it, too. From the animals in the woods to the neighbors in their homes nearby, everyone has feelings and shares them in this whimsical story. Vivid, childlike art in a limited palette conveys a full spectrum of emotion. Young children easily frustrated by a popped balloon or overjoyed by a sky full of stars will relish this simple exploration of empathy.
Ages 4-6 | Publisher: Candlewick | May 10, 2016 | ISBN-13: 978-0763676834
Written and Illustrated by Lisa Brown
Publisher’s Synopsis: Follow a family and the youngest member’s favorite sock monkey through all the inner and outer workings of an airport.
In a book that is as intriguing as it is useful and entertaining, we follow a family on its way through the complexities of a modern-day airport. From checking bags and watching them disappear on the mysterious conveyer belt, to security clearance and a seemingly endless wait at the gate to finally being airborne.
But wait! There’s more! The youngest family member’s sock monkey has gone missing. Follow it at the bottom of the page as it makes a journey as memorable as that of the humans above.
Ages 4-7 | Publisher: Roaring Book Press | May 10, 2016 | ISBN-13: 978-1626720916
Written by Brian Lies
Publisher’s Synopsis: From seemingly mundane tasks such as grocery shopping to more active pursuits like a romp at the park and fort-building, a loving and playful father alligator shows his gator kids that the simplest pleasures done together can make for an incredibly fun day.
Presented by New York Times bestselling author Brian Lies (Bats at the Beach), this heartwarming story demonstrates a series of very special ways children can connect with their fathers and should appeal to parents and little readers everywhere.
Ages 4-7 | Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers | May 3, 2016 | ISBN-13: 978-0544534339
Written and Illustrated by Salina Yoon
Publisher’s Synopsis: Big Duck likes to boss around her younger brother, Little Duck, and she fancies herself the leader of their trio–when joined by their gentle friend Porcupine. Little Duck doesn’t speak yet, but through his expressions and his actions, he shows that he has a better grasp on any situation than his older sister. Told entirely through dialogue and visual storytelling with subtle humor throughout, Little Duck ends up getting the trio out of whatever jam they are in.
Moving into an exciting new paper over board reader format, Salina Yoon’s early readers are perfect for fans of bestselling series like Elephant & Piggie and Ballet Cat, giving all her picture book fans a fantastic next step for reading fun.
Ages 5-7 | Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens | May 17, 2016 | ISBN-13: 978-1619637238
Written by Sherman Alexie
Illustrated by Yuyi Morales
Publisher’s Synopsis: Thunder Boy Jr. is named after his dad, but he wants a name that’s all his own. Just because people call his dad Big Thunder doesn’t mean he wants to be Little Thunder. He wants a name that celebrates something cool he’s done, like Touch the Clouds, Not Afraid of Ten Thousand Teeth, or Full of Wonder.
But just when Thunder Boy Jr. thinks all hope is lost, he and his dad pick the perfect name…a name that is sure to light up the sky.
National Book Award-winner Sherman Alexie’s lyrical text and Caldecott Honor-winner Yuyi Morales’s striking and beautiful illustrations celebrate the special relationship between father and son.
Ages 5-8 | Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers | May 10, 2016 | ISBN-13: 978-0316013727
Written by John Patrick Green
Publisher’s Synopsis: The zoo isn’t what it used to be. It’s run down, and Hippo hardly ever gets any visitors. So he decides to set off for the outside with his friend Red Panda. To make it in the human world, Hippo will have to become a Hippopotamister: he’ll have to act like a human, get a job, and wear a hat as a disguise. He’s a good employee, whether he’s a construction worker, a hair stylist, or a sous chef. But what he really needs is a job where he can be himself.
Ages 5-8 | Publisher: First Second | May 10, 2016 | ISBN-13: 978-1626722002
Written by Corey Rosen Schwartz and Rebecca J. Gomez
Illustrated by Dan Santat
Publisher’s Synopsis: New from the team behind The Three Ninja Pigs and Ninja Red Riding Hood
These ninja chicks are anything but chicken!
When Hensel and Gretel’s dad gets snatched by a fox, the sisters put their ninja skills to work to track him down before he can be stir-fried.
But are these two little chicks ready to take on a dark tangled forest, a tricky house made of corn bread, and an even trickier fox?
This plucky pair isn’t giving up without a fight! Kiya!
Ages 5-8 | Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers | May 24, 2016 | ISBN-13: 978-0399176265
Written and Illustrated by Lane Smith
Publisher’s Synopsis: When a young boy embarks on a journey alone . . .
he trails a colony of penguins,
undulates in a smack of jellyfish,
clasps hands with a constellation of stars,
naps for a night in a bed of clams,
and follows a trail of shells,
home to his tribe of friends.
If Lane Smith’s Caldecott Honor Book Grandpa Green was an homage to aging and the end of life, There Is a Tribe of Kids is a meditation on childhood and life’s beginning. Smith’s vibrant sponge-paint illustrations and use of unusual collective nouns such as smack and unkindness bring the book to life. Whimsical, expressive, and perfectly paced, this story plays with language as much as it embodies imagination.
Ages 5-9 | Publisher: Roaring Brook Press | May 3 2016 | ISBN-13: 978-1626720565
Written by Kate Klise
Illustrated by M. Sarah Klise
Publisher’s Synopsis: Everyone has a secret. But sometimes a little secret can become a big problem.
That’s what happens when circus mouse Gert’s secret pen pal, a pig named Pablo, runs away to join Sir Sidney’s Circus. Pablo doesn’t want to be sold to Prinkle’s Pork Chops. Farmer Farley doesn’t really want to sell Pablo, either, but he needs money to save his farm.
When the New Pork Times announces a pig race with a five-thousand-dollar prize, the members of Sir Sidney’s Circus–Gert, her brother Bert, Elsa the elephant, Leo the lion, and their friends–hope they’ve found a way to save Pablo and Farmer Farley’s farm, too.
The race is on in Secrets of the Circus.
Ages 6-8 | Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers | May 17, 2016 | ISBN-13: 978-1616205669
Written by Nanci Turner Steveson
Publisher’s Synopsis: Perfect for fans of Bridge to Terabithia and Walk Two Moons, this debut middle grade novel is the story of two girls and the unforgettable summer in which they learn about true friendship and loss.
Annie has been promised a summer of freedom in the country. Freedom from a difficult school year, freedom from her fake “friends” back in the city, and, most of all, freedom from her mom’s life-governing spreadsheets and rigid schedules.
When Annie meets California, who is visiting her grandfather’s farm, it seems she has found the perfect partner for the summer she’s always craved. Especially when California offers Annie a real-life adventure: if she and Annie can find the ponies her mom rode as a girl, surely it will remind her mom how wonderful the farm is—and fix what’s broken between her mom and her grandfather.
But Annie’s summer of freedom is sprinkled with secrets, and everything she has learned about bravery and love will be put to the test when the truth behind the ultimate secret changes her life forever.
Ages 8-12 | Publisher: HarperCollins | May 3, 2016 | ISBN-13: 978-0062374547
Written by Megan Frazer Blakemore
Publisher’s Synopsis: Mori and her friends live a normal life on Firefly Lane in their utopian community, Old Harmonie. In a world this safe and perfect, they’ve never had to question anything . . . never had to wonder about how their lives came to be. Until a new girl named Ilana moves in. She’s so perfect that Mori and her friends are curious . . . Where exactly did Ilana come from, and why does she act so strange sometimes? When Ilana’s secret is revealed, the kids on Firefly Lane must decide: is it finally time to start questioning the only world they’ve ever known?
In a stunningly imaginative story, critically acclaimed author Megan Frazer Blakemore takes readers on a journey with five friends–new and old–that will have everyone talking about not just what makes people human, but what makes them true friends.
Ages 8-12 | Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens | May 3, 2016 | ISBN-13: 978-1619636361
Written by Sarah Weeks and Gita Varadarajan
Publisher’s Synopsis: Joe and Ravi might be from very different places, but they’re both stuck in the same place: SCHOOL.
Joe’s lived in the same town all his life, and was doing just fine until his best friends moved away and left him on his own.
Ravi’s family just moved to America from India, and he’s finding it pretty hard to figure out where he fits in.
Joe and Ravi don’t think they have anything in common — but soon enough they have a common enemy (the biggest bully in their class) and a common mission: to take control of their lives over the course of a single crazy week.
Ages 8-12 | Publisher: Scholastic Press | May 10, 2016 | ISBN-13: 978-0545846608
Written by Rick Riordan
Publisher’s Synopsis: How do you punish an immortal?
By making him human.
After angering his father Zeus, the god Apollo is cast down from Olympus. Weak and disoriented, he lands in New York City as a regular teenage boy. Now, without his godly powers, the four-thousand-year-old deity must learn to survive in the modern world until he can somehow find a way to regain Zeus’s favor.
But Apollo has many enemies-gods, monsters, and mortals who would love to see the former Olympian permanently destroyed. Apollo needs help, and he can think of only one place to go . . . an enclave of modern demigods known as Camp Half-Blood.
Ages 8-12 | Publisher: Disney-Hyperion | May 3, 2016 | ISBN-13: 978-1484732748
Written by Claire Legrand
Publisher’s Synopsis: Reality and fantasy collide in this heartfelt and mysterious novel for fans of Counting by 7s and Bridge to Terabithia, about a girl who must save a magical make-believe world in order to save herself.
Things Finley Hart doesn’t want to talk about:
-Her parents, who are having problems. (But they pretend like they’re not.)
-Being sent to her grandparents’ house for the summer.
-Never having met said grandparents.
-Her blue days—when life feels overwhelming, and it’s hard to keep her head up. (This happens a lot.)
Finley’s only retreat is the Everwood, a forest kingdom that exists in the pages of her notebook. Until she discovers the endless woods behind her grandparents’ house and realizes the Everwood is real—and holds more mysteries than she’d ever imagined, including a family of pirates that she isn’t allowed to talk to, trees covered in ash, and a strange old wizard living in a house made of bones.
With the help of her cousins, Finley sets out on a mission to save the dying Everwood and uncover its secrets. But as the mysteries pile up and the frightening sadness inside her grows, Finley realizes that if she wants to save the Everwood, she’ll first have to save herself.
Ages 8-12 | Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers | May 17, 2016 | ISBN-13: 978-1442466012
Written by Lauren Wolk
Publisher’s Synopsis: Growing up in the shadows cast by two world wars, Annabelle has lived a mostly quiet, steady life in her small Pennsylvania town. Until the day new student Betty Glengarry walks into her class. Betty quickly reveals herself to be cruel and manipulative, and while her bullying seems isolated at first, things quickly escalate, and reclusive World War I veteran Toby becomes a target of her attacks. While others have always seen Toby’s strangeness, Annabelle knows only kindness. She will soon need to find the courage to stand as a lone voice of justice as tensions mount.
Brilliantly crafted, Wolf Hollow is a haunting tale of America at a crossroads and a time when one girl’s resilience and strength help to illuminate the darkest corners of our history.
Ages 10-12 | Publisher: Dutton Books for Young Readers | May 3, 2016 | ISBN-13: 978-1101994825
Written by Firoozeh Dumas
Publisher’s Synopsis: Zomorod (Cindy) Yousefzadeh is the new kid on the block . . . for the fourth time. California’s Newport Beach is her family’s latest perch, and she’s determined to shuck her brainy loner persona and start afresh with a new Brady Bunch name—Cindy. It’s the late 1970s, and fitting in becomes more difficult as Iran makes U.S. headlines with protests, revolution, and finally the taking of American hostages. Even mood rings and puka shell necklaces can’t distract Cindy from the anti-Iran sentiments that creep way too close to home. A poignant yet lighthearted middle grade debut from the author of the best-selling Funny in Farsi.
Ages 10-12 | Publisher: Clarion Books | May 3, 2016 | ISBN-13: 978-0544612310
Written by Karen Harrington
Publisher’s Synopsis: A powerful coming-of-age story about the importance of finding your voice
Wayne Kovok lives in a world of After. After his uncle in the army was killed overseas. After Wayne and his mother survived a plane crash while coming back from the funeral. After he lost his voice.
Wayne has always used his love of facts to communicate (“Did you know more people die each year from shaking a vending machine than from shark attacks?”). Without his voice, how will he wow the prettiest girl in school? How will he stand up to his drill-sergeant grandfather? And how will he share his hopes with his deadbeat dad? It’s not until Wayne loses his voice completely that he realizes how much he doesn’t say.
Ages 10-13 | Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers | May 24, 2016 | ISBN-13: 978-0316298018
Written by Stacey Lee
Publisher’s Synopsis: Cameron Boxer is very happy to spend his life avoiding homework, hanging out with his friends, and gaming for hours in his basement. It’s not too hard for him to get away with it . . . until he gets so caught up in one game that he almost lets his house burn down around him.
It’s time for some serious damage control–so Cameron and his friends invent a fake school club that will make it seem like they’re doing good deeds instead of slacking off. The problem? Some kids think the club is real–and Cameron is stuck being president.
Soon Cameron is part of a mission to save a beaver named Elvis from certain extinction. Along the way, he makes some new friends–and some powerful new enemies. The guy who never cared about anything is now at the center of everything . . . and it’s going to take all his slacker skills to win this round.
Ages 12+ | Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers | May 24, 2016 | ISBN-13: 978-0399175411
Written by Morgan Matson
Publisher’s Synopsis: From Morgan Matson, the bestselling author of Since You’ve Been Gone comes a feel-good story of friendship, finding yourself, and all the joys in life that happen while you’re busy making other plans.
Andie has a plan. And she always sticks to her plan.
Future? A top-tier medical school.
Dad? Avoid him as much as possible (which isn’t that hard considering he’s a Congressman and he’s never around).
Friends? Palmer, Bri, and Toby—pretty much the most awesome people on the planet, who needs anyone else?
Relationships? No one’s worth more than three weeks.
So it’s no surprise that Andie’s got her summer all planned out too.
Until a political scandal costs Andie her summer pre-med internship, and lands both she and Dad back in the same house together for the first time in years. Suddenly she’s doing things that aren’t Andie at all—working as a dog walker, doing an epic scavenger hunt with her dad, and maybe, just maybe, letting the super cute Clark get closer than she expected. Palmer, Bri, and Toby tell her to embrace all the chaos, but can she really let go of her control?
Ages 12-17 | Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers | May 3, 2016 | ISBN-13: 978-1481404549
Written by Jennifer L. Armentrout
Publisher’s Synopsis: From #1 New York Times bestselling author Jennifer L. Armentrout comes a riveting new story about friendship, survival and finding your voice .
For some people, silence is a weapon. For Mallory “Mouse” Dodge, it’s a shield. Growing up, she learned that the best way to survive was to say nothing. And even though it’s been four years since her nightmare ended, she’s beginning to worry that the fear that holds her back will last a lifetime.
Now, after years of homeschooling with loving adoptive parents, Mallory must face a new milestone–spending her senior year at public high school. But of all the terrifying and exhilarating scenarios she’s imagined, there’s one she never dreamed of–that she’d run into Rider Stark, the friend and protector she hasn’t seen since childhood, on her very first day.
It doesn’t take long for Mallory to realize that the connection she shared with Rider never really faded. Yet the deeper their bond grows, the more it becomes apparent that she’s not the only one grappling with lingering scars from the past. And as she watches Rider’s life spiral out of control, Mallory must make a choice between staying silent and speaking out–for the people she loves, the life she wants and the truths that need to be heard.
Ages 14 + | Publisher: Harlequin Teen | May 17, 2016 | ISBN-13: 978-0373212057
Written by Meredith Russo
Publisher’s Synopsis: A new kind of big-hearted novel about being seen for who you really are.
Amanda Hardy is the new girl in school. Like anyone else, all she wants is to make friends and fit in. But Amanda is keeping a secret, and she’s determined not to get too close to anyone.
But when she meets sweet, easygoing Grant, Amanda can’t help but start to let him into her life. As they spend more time together, she realizes just how much she is losing by guarding her heart. She finds herself yearning to share with Grant everything about herself, including her past. But Amanda’s terrified that once she tells him the truth, he won’t be able to see past it.
Because the secret that Amanda’s been keeping? It’s that at her old school, she used to be Andrew. Will the truth cost Amanda her new life, and her new love?
Meredith Russo’s If I Was Your Girl is a universal story about feeling different―and a love story that everyone will root for.
Ages 14+ | Publisher: Flatiron Books | May 3, 2016 | ISBN-13: 978-1250078407
Written by Evelyn Skye
Publisher’s Synopsis: Perfect for fans of Shadow and Bone and Red Queen, The Crown’s Game is a thrilling and atmospheric historical fantasy set in Imperial Russia about two teenagers who must compete for the right to become the Imperial Enchanter—or die in the process—from debut author Evelyn Skye.
Vika Andreyeva can summon the snow and turn ash into gold. Nikolai Karimov can see through walls and conjure bridges out of thin air. They are enchanters—the only two in Russia—and with the Ottoman Empire and the Kazakhs threatening, the tsar needs a powerful enchanter by his side.
And so he initiates the Crown’s Game, an ancient duel of magical skill—the greatest test an enchanter will ever know. The victor becomes the Imperial Enchanter and the tsar’s most respected adviser. The defeated is sentenced to death.
Raised on tiny Ovchinin Island her whole life, Vika is eager for the chance to show off her talent in the grand capital of Saint Petersburg. But can she kill another enchanter—even when his magic calls to her like nothing else ever has?
For Nikolai, an orphan, the Crown’s Game is the chance of a lifetime. But his deadly opponent is a force to be reckoned with—beautiful, whip smart, imaginative—and he can’t stop thinking about her.
And when Pasha, Nikolai’s best friend and heir to the throne, also starts to fall for the mysterious enchantress, Nikolai must defeat the girl they both love . . . or be killed himself.
As long-buried secrets emerge, threatening the future of the empire, it becomes dangerously clear . . . the Crown’s Game is not one to lose.
Ages 14+ | Publisher: Balzer + Bray | May 17, 2016 | ISBN-13: 978-0062422583
For more of the best new kids books and popular stories, follow along with our tag for Best New Kids Books.
We may receive a small commission from purchases made via the links on this page. If you discover a book or product of interest on this page and use the links provided to make a purchase, you will help support our mission to 'Grow Readers.' Your support means we can keep delivering quality content that's available to all. Thank you!