April 2020 New YA Books to Wake Your Brain Cells

Here are some of the new teen titles being published in April. These all have received praise and starred reviews:

Dancing at the Pity Party by Tyler Feder

The Dark Matter of Mona Starr by Laura Lee Gulledge

Deeplight by Frances Hardinge

Heads Up: Changing Minds on Mental Health by Melanie Siebert, illustrated by Belle Wuthrich

Kent State by Deborah Wiles

Lightness of Hands by Jeff Garvin

Little Universes by Heather Demetrios

The Lucky Ones by Liz Lawson

They Went Left by Monica Hesse

This Is My Brain in Love by I. W. Gregorio

We Are Power: How Nonviolent Activism Changed the World by Todd Hasak-Lowy

We Didn’t Ask for This by Adi Alsaid

News to Wake Your Brain Cells – April 3


10 empowering books to read to your children in honor of Women’s History Month – Simplemost

15 picture books for comfort – This Picture Book Life

Baek Heena wins 2020 Astrid Lindgren Award – Publishers Weekly

Children’s book roundup – the best new picture books and novels – The Guardian

Favorite children’s books about art – MoMA

‘One big virtual love-in’: how children’s book authors are creating online sanctuaries – The Guardian

These digitized collections let you read thousands of historic children’s books for free – My Modern Met

Why the Judy Blume renaissance can’t come soon enough – Vogue


Libraries get creative with e-books and other online offerings – NPR

The magic of libraries: where fantasy meets reality – Tor

Need wi-fi during the coronavirus social distancing limits? Try a library’s parking lot. It’s OK. – Syracuse.com

Virtually visit 8 world-class libraries – Library Journal


12 great YA reads for Trans Day of Visibility – Buzzfeed

14 April YA book releases to TBR – Book Riot

All the new young adult SFF books arriving in April – Tor

The Hate U Give author Angie Thomas announces new novel, Concrete Rose: ‘I expect it to get banned’ – People

Jason Reynolds is the bard of black YA fiction. Now he’s written a totally different kind of book. – Washingtonian

So many free books from Simon Teen to read right now! – Book Riot

April 2020 Middle-Grade Books to Wake Your Brain Cells

Here are a bunch of new middle-grade books coming out in April that have gotten praise and starred reviews:

Daring Darleen, Queen of the Screen by Anne Nesbet

Echo Mountain by Lauren Wolk

A Game of Fox and Squirrels by Jenn Reese

In the Role of Brie Hutchens by Nicole Melleby

The Incredibly Dead Pets of Rex Dexter by Aaron Reynolds

Into the Tall, Tall Grass by Loriel Ryon

The List of Things That Will Not Change by Rebecca Stead

On the Horizon by Lois Lowry, illustrated by Kenard Pak

Rick by Alex Gino

The Water Bears by Kimberly Baker

What Lane? by Torrey Maldonado

When Stars Are Scattered by Victoria Jamieson






Almost Time by Gary D. Schmidt

Almost Time by Gary D. Schmidt

Almost Time by Gary D. Schmidt and Elizabeth Stickney, illustrated by G. Brian Karas (9780544785816)

Ethan finds it really hard to wait for the maple sap to start running in the late winter. He knows the signs of the time approaching. It’s when he doesn’t have maple syrup for pancakes or oatmeal. His father explains that the days have to get warmer for the syrup to run as well as the nights getting shorter. Ethan thinks he notices it changing, but sometimes gets too eager like not wearing his winter coat anymore. When Ethan’s tooth gets loose, his father tells him that it should fall out around the same time as the sap starts running. Now Ethan has two things to wait for, but one that he can perhaps make happen a bit faster by wiggling it. Still, it takes some time for his tooth to loosen and for the weather to change. Then one day, it’s finally time both for maple syrup and for his tooth to fall out.

Schmidt and Stickney have created a classic tale about patience and waiting for things to happen. Ethan is wonderfully impatient and yet also able to wait, though not really without asking again and again about it. As the darkness refuses to lessen and the days refuse to warm, readers will understand his anticipation. The use of breakfasts to mark a lack of syrup is clever and homey, just to add even more warmth and love to the book. It’s great to see a book with a caretaker father which is not about the lack of a mother or being in a unique family. It’s particularly wonderful to see such a skillful and loving dad.

Karas’ illustrations capture the dark days of winter, the snow that refuses to disappear, and the slow process of the arrival of early spring. The darkness lurks against the warm yellow of the interior of the home, offering real contrast as the pages turn.

A sweet but not syrupy picture book about fathers, patience and food. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from library copy.

April 2020 Picture Books to Wake Your Brain Cells

Here are some fiction and nonfiction picture books to look forward to in April!

Box: Henry Brown Mails Himself to Freedom by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by Michele Wood

The Boy Who Dreamed of Infinity: A Tale of the Genius Ramanujan by Amy Alznauer, illustrated by Daniel Miyares

Cat Dog Dog by Nelly Buchet, illustrated by Andrea Zuill

Don’t Worry Little Crab by Chris Haughton

Exquisite: the Poetry and Life of Gwendolyn Brooks by Suzanne Slade, illustrated by Cozbi A. Cabrera

How to Solve a Problem: The Rise (and Falls) of a Rock-Climbing Champion by Ashima Shiraishi, illustrated by Yao Xiao

In My Anaana’s Amautik by Nadia Sammurtok, illustrated by Lenny Lishchenko

In the Woods by David Elliott, illustrated by Rob Dunlavey

Madame Badobedah by Sophie Dahl, illustrated by Lauren O’Hara

One Little Bag: An Amazing Journey by Henry Cole

Outside In by Deborah Underwood, illustrated by Cindy Derby

Rosie: Stronger Than Steel by Lindsay Ward

Sorry (Really Sorry) by Joanna Cutler, illustrated by Harry Bliss

Summer Song by Kevin Henkes, illustrated by Laura Dronzek

The Cat Man of Aleppo by Irene Latham and Karim Shamsi-Basha, illustrated by Yuko Shimizu

The Next President: The Unexpected Beginnings and Unwritten Future of America’s Presidents by Kate Messner and Adam Rex

Why Do We Cry? by Fran Pintadera, illustrated by Ana Sender

William Shakespeare’s The Tempest by Georghia Ellinas, illustrated by Jane Ray


Tigers, Not Daughters by Samantha Mabry

Tigers, Not Daughters by Samantha Mabry

Tigers, Not Daughters by Samantha Mabry (9781616208967)

San Antonio is not a comfortable place for the Torres sisters. Their mother died giving birth to Rosa, the youngest sister, and their father never recovered from her death, drowning his feelings in drink. When the oldest sister, Ana falls from her window and dies, it takes a great toll on the entire family. A year later, the cracks are beginning to become even larger. Their father is rarely home and when he is he is verbally abusive, demanding, and drunk. Jessica, who got Ana’s bedroom and clothes, mourns her sister by dating the same boy she did. The relationship is violent and controlling, but Jessica can’t seem to move on. Iridian has stopped going to school, reads the same book over and over again, and writes her own stories. She finds herself caught indoors, unwilling to leave their horrible house. Rosa seeks the hyena that is loose in their neighborhood, wondering what special gift she might have and searching for it outside and in religion. The girls all want to escape, and it may just take Ana returning as a ghost to get them free.

Mabry’s novel is exceptional. Her writing is achingly beautiful, telling a story of profound grief and pain. Yet throughout, each of the sisters has bursts of hope, their own unique way forward potentially, if they could just take it. It’s tantalizing writing that creates its own unique emotional tug and writing that offers gem-like moments of clarity before succumbing under the weight of grief once more. The flashes of anger are like lightning on the page, bursts where one thinks things are about to change.

The sisters are all wonderfully crafted and unique from one another. The interplay of their relationships feels like sisterhood, lifting one another up unexpectedly, injuring each other inadvertently and fighting like hell to save the others.

A great teen novel about sisterhood, grief and ghosts. Appropriate for ages 14-18.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Algonquin.

YA Book Prize 2020 Shortlist

The shortlist for the 2020 YA Book Prize has been announced. The prize celebrates the best of YA literature from the UK and Ireland. The judge panel includes librarians, authors, and teens. Here are the short-listed titles:

The Black Flamingo by Dean Atta

Crossfire (Noughts & Crosses, #5)

Crossfire by Malorie Blackman

The Deathless Girls

The Deathless Girls by Kiran Millwood Hargrave

Deeplight by Frances Hardinge

Furious Thing by Jenny Downham

The Gifted, the Talented and Me

The Gifted, the Talented and Me by William Sutcliffe

A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson

Meat Market

Meat Market by Juno Dawson

The Places I've Cried in Public

The Places I’ve Cried in Public by Holly Bourne

The Quiet at the End of the World

The Quiet at the End of the World by Lauren James

Paper Kingdom by Helena Ku Rhee

Paper Kingdom by Helena Ku Rhee

Paper Kingdom by Helena Ku Rhee, illustrated by Pascal Campion (9780525644620)

When Auntie Clara can’t watch Daniel while his parents go to work at night, he goes along with them to their janitorial job. Daniel had been warm and snuggly in his bed, but had to get dressed and ride downtown. As his parents get their tools and equipment ready to go, they begin to tell him about The Paper Kingdom, which is the land that they clean every night. The throne room is a large room with a long table with papers strewn everywhere. The king is nowhere to be seen. His parents warn Daniel to not upset the queen and to be on the lookout for dragons who seem to like hiding in the bathrooms. Daniel gets upset when he sees how much cleaning work all of the kingdom has left for his parents. They encourage him to instead focus on becoming the paper king in the future and ruling differently. 

In her author’s note, Rhee tells of her own childhood as a daughter of night janitors and being taken with them to work sometimes. The playful world created by the parents in the book is warm and loving. Yet it also subtly speaks to the role of power and wealth in the system in a way that children will understand. The hard work by Daniel’s parents is emphasized throughout the picture book with the parents doing physical labor and sneezing and rubbing sore muscles. 

The illustrations also emphasize the extent of the workload of the parents, the sweat pouring from them and them often working on hands and knees. The imaginative playfulness is also shown with the red dragons lurking around. 

A winning look at parents who work nights. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Random House.

From My Window by Otavio Junior

From My Window by Otavio Junior

From My Window by Otavio Junior, illustrated by Vanina Starkoff, translated by Beatriz C. Dias (9781782859772)

Visit a beautiful favela district in Brazil via this bright picture book. A favela is an area in Brazil that is not managed by the government but by the people who live there. Because of this, water and electricity can be difficult to access. From their high vantage point of a window, the narrator can see throughout their favela. They see roofs and windows and people. Sometimes the people are using water to get cooler. At night the lights dim that fireflies appear on the paths. Grey days are brightened with occasional rainbows. Sometimes the air is full of music and poetry, other times the sounds of sadness come. Rain falls, children head to school, and the favela bustles with activity.

Originally published in Brazil, Junior writes of his own home in a favela in this picture book. He plays with themes of dreams and treasure, but also keeps the book firmly grounded in reality. His clear vision of both joy and sadness in the crowded and busy neighborhood keeps the book from being too light, grounding it in the occasional gray day and leaking roofs.

Starkoff’s illustrations are done in acrylic using tropical colors of bright yellows, pinks, greens and blues. The illustrations show so many different types of people, all enjoying the neighborhood together. The images that pull back and show the full favela are incredibly detailed and worth looking at closely.

A dynamic look at a unique type of Brazilian community. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Barefoot Books.