Looking for that perfect something-to-read to wrap up your holiday gift shopping? Throughout 2023, 24 Carrot Writing has shared our favorite books in our Book Picks section. Browse this round-up of 2023 Book Picks, as well as some of our Book Pick authors' personal favorites. Stack them high under the tree and delight in the bright smiles and cozy reading parties that will follow!
Debora Underwood's Book Pick
In DEAR STRAY (Penguin Random House, 2023), by Kirsten Hubbard, illustrated by Susan Gal, a prickly girl and a spiky, scratchy cat bond in a realistic and heartwarming way. I love the perfectly imperfect characters—at one point the girl says, “I don’t scratch (anymore), even though sometimes I want to”—and the way their relationship evolves; even though they’re both prickly, we’re on their side from page one. Kirsten Hubbard uses epistolary format in a really interesting way, and Susan Gal’s illustrations are utter perfection.
WALTER HAD A BEST FRIEND (Beach Lane Books, 2022), by Deborah Underwood and illustrator Sergio Ruzzier is an important SEL book showing that friendship can change and sometimes end. But slowly, quietly…it will be okay. Read the full Book Pick here.
Nancy Tupper Ling's Book Pick
Ever read a picture book where you learn as much as the child? FOOD FOR THE FUTURE by Mia Wenjen, illustrated by Robert Sae-Heng (Barefoot Books, 2023) is that book! Here, you’ll take a fascinating look into all kinds of sustainable farming options, from ancient methods of preserving food, like salt farms, to newer possibilities, like rooftop gardens on landmarks. Certainly, young readers are encouraged to think beyond the “norm,” and into the future.
For writers, Wenjen provides a wonderful lesson in rhyming couplets. Different types of farming are described in short poems, which makes the facts easy to remember. By leaving the heavier details for the back matter, the author demonstrates how some of the best non-fiction for young readers combines science and poetry.
ONE PERFECT PLAN: THE BIBLE'S BIG STORY IN TINY POEMS (WaterBrook, 2023), written by Nancy Tupper-Ling and illustrated by Alina Chau features stories from the Bible, written in easy-to-understand “tiny poems," laced with affirming messages of love and hope. Read the full Book Pick here.
Dianne White's Book Pick
IN THE NIGHT GARDEN by Carin Berger (Neal Porter Books, 2023) evening arrives, inviting readers into a garden on a nighttime stroll of discovery. As the dark unfolds, gorgeous spreads of luminous blues and greens, orange-reds, and creamy shades of white pull the reader, accompanied by a cat, into a magical nighttime place where crickets sing, streams murmur, and owls soar. Illustrated by hand with cut paper collage from “found ephemera and scraps of paper,” IN THE NIGHT GARDEN is a stunning book and a soothing read before bedtime.
For writers, there is much to see, hear, and encounter IN THE NIGHT GARDEN. There, fireflies look like “fallen stars,” bats “swoop and glide in the bluing sky,” and moonflowers “unfurl and release their intoxicating perfume.” Rich in sensory details, strong verbs, and imagery, Carin Berger’s prose is a magic of its own.
In DARK ON LIGHT by Dianne White, illustrated by Felicita Sala (Beach Lane Books, 2022), the reader follows a trio of children heading out at dusk to search for their lost pup, frolicking and investigating nighttime wonders along the way. Read the full book pick here.
Megan Litwin's Book Pick
SOMETIMES IT'S NICE TO BE ALONE (Neal Porter Books, 2023) is a masterful book – not surprising, given that author Amy Hest and illustrator Philip Stead are both masters at their trade! In this book, an independent narrator declares (over and over) that “sometimes it’s nice to be alone.” Readers are treated to joyful images of her riding her bike, spinning in leaves, and making footprints in the sand. But…what if a friend comes along? With each page turn, a new and surprising friend shows up, and our narrator takes it all in stride. Because with a friend, you can make TWO rows of footprints! Imagine that.
This book is remarkable in its simplicity and directness. The repetitive pattern Hest sets up is conversational, personal, and almost mesmerizing. It’s like she is speaking directly to you. And she is! Look carefully to notice how she expertly threads the words “you” and “your” throughout. Simple words used to great effect.
DIRT AND BUGSY: BUG CATCHERS by Megan Litwin, illustrated by Shuana Lynn Panczyszyn (Penguin Young Readers, 2023) is an entertaining Level 2 book for progressing readers. Dirt and Bugsy are friends and bug catchers. They dig, lift, and sift to find all kinds of creepies and crawlies, but when it starts to rain, Dirt and Bugsy are concerned for their new bug friends. Also, make sure to grab DIRT AND BUGSY: BEETLE MANIA that hatched in June 2023. Read the full book pick here.
Other 24 Carrot Writing 2023 Book Picks
In HUNGRY CROCODILE (Tundra, 2022) written by debut author Eija Sumner and illustrated by John Martz, Crocodile, is hungry and visits various places such as the farmer’s market, grocery store, and even the community garden. Unfortunately, Crocodile’s efforts turn out to be fruitless and he quickly goes from hungry to hangry. Read the full Book Pick here.
In A WORK IN PROGRESS (Aladdin, 2023), Jarrett Lerner introduces the reader to Will Chambers, a middle school boy who struggles with self-acceptance and negative body-image. Written as Will’s personal notebook, this groundbreaking illustrated novel-in verse takes the reader deep into Will’s emotional pain and physical battle with eating disorders. Read the full Book Pick here.
LEO + LEA (Scholastic Press, 2022), written by Monice Wesolowska and illustrated by Kenard Pak tells the story of Leo, who is intrigued by numbers. He soon meets Lea who adores patterns and includes them in her artwork. Both art and text are inspired by the Fibonacci sequence. Read the full Book Pick here.
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