Brianna’s Books: April Favorites 2024

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Publishing is really picking up for the spring. I’ve got all kinds of new books on order that I don’t have time to tell you about! These four all come out at the beginning of the month, so you won’t have to wait too long for them.

Picture Books

coverAhoy!” written and illustrated by Sophie Blackall 

This is a fantastic example of imaginative play. A parent is trying to vacuum a large blue rug while their child plays nearby, gathering all sorts of household items. When the parent asks what they’re playing, the child responds, “I’M NOT PLAYING! I’M PREPARING TO SET SAIL!” They’re shouting because a storm is coming, and the child urgently convinces the parent to join them on their ship. Soon the blue rug is an ocean, paper towel tubes are telescopes, and the two embark on adventures on the high seas. The author perfectly balances fantasy and reality in the illustrations, while capturing the enthusiasm and joy of the child — not to mention their impressive nautical knowledge. I love that the parent is included in the adventure. My toddler is already teaching me so much about imagination that I’d forgotten as I grew up. He’s generally pretending to be a peregrine falcon or an ostrich (the faster the better!), but I have no doubt that we’ll be hoisting our own living room sails in a year or two.

coverMama in the Moon” written by Doreen Cronin and illustrated by Brian Cronin

This is another book that highlights the relationship between a parent and a child. Baby Sloth spends cozy nights high in the trees, snuggled in Mama’s arms between her and the moon. But when he tumbles to the leafy forest floor (a surprisingly frequent occurrence, even for adult sloths), he’s frightened and anxious without Mama. Mama reassuringly calls that she’s coming down to get him, but it’s a loooong wait! To help him stay calm, Mama Sloth encourages him to notice all the things around him, like the smell of the yellow flowers and the feel of the breeze from blue moths’ wings. Finally, Mama reaches the ground and Baby Sloth is safe in her arms once more. Full of practical examples of self-regulation, this beautifully illustrated bedtime book glows with love.

Chapter Books

coverSouth of Somewhere” by Kalena Miller

The relationship with mom is a lot more complicated in this one. Mavis is accustomed to a lavish lifestyle. Her mom Julie is a wealth manager, and often takes the family on vacations and shopping trips, always returning home to their affluent Chicago neighborhood. Except after a trip to Hawaii, the FBI is waiting at their home to arrest Julie. She had conveniently taken a different car at the airport, and now the shocked family is told that their mom is wanted for embezzlement. The FBI has frozen all their bank accounts and seized their house, so Mavis, her siblings and Dad have no choice but to move in with their estranged aunt. Life in Aunt Melissa’s basement is quite the adjustment, but as Mavis helps take care of her four-year-old cousin she learns that she likes babysitting. Concerned about the family’s lack of finances, Mavis starts a babysitting business with her new neighbor. Although things are going well, Mavis struggles to reconcile what she knows about her mom. Then Julie starts sending postcards from exotic locations, and Mavis and her siblings are determined to track her down. More than just a riches-to-rags tale, this book explores privilege, family and community with wonderfully nuanced characters.

coverA Game of Noctis” by Deva Fagan

This pick departs from the parent-child theme a bit! Pia and her grandpa live on the magical island of Dantessa, where all the citizens are players in the Great Game. Scores in the Game determine everything, from commerce to social standing. When Gramps’ score falls to a zero due to his failing eyesight, he’s banished to the Pawn Isles. Pia is desperate to rescue him, and joins a team of players who are planning to enter the dangerous noctis tournament which promises substantial prize money. Her new teammates all have their own reasons for competing, but they’ll need to learn to trust each other if they want to have a chance against the wealthier teams in the tournament who are able to buy advantages. As they train and compete, Pia begins to realize that following the rules isn’t always the best way — especially when those rules are designed to keep people like her down. With a Venetian-inspired fantasy setting and fascinatingly complex game structures, this fast-paced read is perfect for middle-grade readers who aren’t quite ready for “The Hunger Games.”