What began as National Drop Everything and Read Day on April 12th (the birthday of popular children’s book author Beverly Cleary) has become an annual month-long celebration in classrooms in April. Join the 2022 D.E.A.R. celebration by dropping whatever you are doing to read for a period of time each day during April and then keep the celebration going throughout the year.
All Star: How Larry Doby Smashed the Color Barrier in Baseball. Audrey Vernick. Illus. by Cannaday Chapman. (2022). Clarion.
African American Larry Doby (1923-2003) grew up in a time when the color of his skin was a barrier to his playing Major League Baseball despite his remarkable athletic talent. When Jackie Robinson was drafted by the Brooklyn Dodgers, it seemed change was beginning. Doby, who was playing in the Negro League, became the second Black player in Major League Baseball and the first in the American League when he joined the Cleveland Indians in July 1947 (less than three months after Robinson made his debut in the National League). He faced racism from teammates, opposing teams, and fans alike. Audrey Vernick’s engaging text and Cannady Chapman’s vivid digital illustrations clearly depict Doby’s struggles to overcome racial discrimination in Major League Baseball. This biography would be a timely read-aloud choice for opening a discussion about the fight against discrimination in sports that still continues to this day.
Back matter includes an author’s note with additional facts about Doby’s life and accomplishments and a bibliography. (Gr 3-5)
Big Dog, Little Dog. Sally Rippin. Illus. by Lucinda Gifford. (2022). Kane Miller.
Big Dog had everything he needed and loved the life he lived with his human friend. However, all of that changed when Little Dog came into the picture. Once Little Dog moved in, Big Dog just had to find a way to get rid of him. In a series of amusing stunts, including stealing socks that he places on Little Dog’s bed and pulling bread off the dinner table that he drops in front of Little Dog, Big Dog makes his best effort to paint Little Dog as a troublemaker before adjusting to the addition of a new family member. This story of struggling to adapt to changes at home is effectively communicated through Sally Rippin’s simple text and Lucinda Gifford’s colorful illustrations. (PreK-Gr 2)
Endlessly Ever After: Pick Your Path to Countless Fairy Tale Endings! Laurel Snyder. Illus. by Dan Santat. (2022). Chronicle.
For lovers of fractured fairy tales, this book offers the classic story of Little Red Riding Hood with twists. Just how the tale turns out depends on the reader, who chooses the path of the storyline throughout the book. At the beginning, the reader assumes the role of Rosie, whose mama wants her to take a cake to her ailing grandmother. First, she has to choose which coat to wear. Will it be a “faux” fur coat or red cape? From there, her journey can take any number of paths depending on the choice the reader makes to the reoccurring question, “What next, Rosie?” The use of “endlessly” in the title is clever and fitting. As Laurel Snyder’s rhyming verse details Rosie’s misadventures, Dan Santat’s double-spread illustrations filled with characters and objects from other fairy tales add to the uncertainty, humor, or impending doom that comes from the path that is chosen. (PreK Up)
Eyes That Speak to the Stars. Joanna Ho. Illus. by Dung Ho. (2022). Harper.
This companion to Eyes That Kiss in the Corners (2021) carries a similar message of embracing oneself. The book starts with a young Chinese American boy lamenting his friend’s depiction of him in a “My Friends” drawing in which his eyes look like lines rather than round like those of his other friends. As he is reminded of his extraordinary heritage by his Baba (father) and Agong (grandfather), the refrain “eyes that speak to the stars” is repeated. Joanna Ho’s lyrical text is accompanied by Dung Ho’s stunning illustrations that vividly expand on the details shared in words. Readers can see what Agong’s eyes have seen over the years from rice paddies to night markets and how important cultural elements awaken his grandson’s pride in his heritage. (PreK-Gr 2)
Even Robots Aren’t Perfect! Jan Thomas. (2022). Beach Lane.
In three silly stories, the friendship of Blue Robot and Red Robot is tested. While painting, attempting to avoid rusting, and undertaking the “perfect plan,” one of the robots inevitably makes a mistake or says something wrong and offends the other. Nevertheless, by the end of each story, they realize that they can still be friends since even they aren’t perfect. This early reader in comic-book format features panels of humorous artwork, rendered digitally in a palette of primary colors, with the conversation between the two robots in speech bubbles. Jan Thomas takes readers on comical adventures and offers a valuable lesson about the ups and downs of friendship and the importance of forgiveness. (PreK Up)
It’s the End of the World and I’m in My Bathing Suit. Justin A. Reynolds. (2022). Scholastic.
In this hilarious middle grade novel, 12-year-old African American Eddie Gordon Holloway’s perfect plan to avoid doing his laundry goes terribly wrong when his mom discovers his huge pile of dirty clothes on the day of the town’s biggest event of the summer, Beach Bash. While Eddie is forced to stay home to do his laundry (dressed in his only clean outfit, a bathing suit), the power goes out before he has finished the first load. What follows is a tale of how he and four neighborhood kids cope with a potential apocalypse. With relatable characters (Eddie has ADHD) and an entertaining storyline, this book is sure to interest even the most reluctant reader. Justin Reynolds pulls in readers from the beginning by addressing them from Eddie’s point of view. The cliffhanger ending will leave readers eager for the sequel. (Gr 3- 5)
Just Help! How to Build a Better World. Sonya Sotomayor. Illus. by Angela Dominguez. (2022). Philomel.
Just as the title suggests, this book, based on U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s childhood memories, promotes a powerful message of the impact helping others can have. Each morning, Sonia’s mother asks, “How will you help today?” Readers follow Sonia throughout her day as children and adults work to make a difference. Sonia and her classmates carry out various service projects, such as making care packages for American soldiers overseas, having a park cleanup day, donating to those in need, and helping to get out the vote on Election Day. Angela Dominguez’s cheerful illustrations show a diverse group of children and adults participating in activities to help make their community and the world a better place. (PreK-Gr 2)
Once Upon a Tim. (Once Upon a Tim #1). Stuart Gibbs. Illus. by Stacy Curtis. (2022). Simon & Schuster.
Tim and his best friend, Belinda, are tired of living as peasants and willing to do whatever they can to change their station in life. When Princess Grace from the neighboring kingdom is kidnapped by a horrible monster with a “malodorous stench” known as the Stinx, they see it as their opportunity. They volunteer as knights and embark on the dangerous mission of saving the princess with their kingdom’s Prince Ruprecht and his wizard, Nerlim. Chock full of rich vocabulary comically defined along the way in “IQ booster” asides, this giggle-inducing chapter book takes readers on a precarious quest. Humorous black-and-white drawings interspersed throughout the book help tell the tale of their uncertain encounters. (Gr 3-5)
Pig and Horse and the Something Scary. Zoey Abbott. (2022). Abrams.
Pig wakes up feeling worried and visits her friend, Horse, in hopes of forgetting about what is bothering her. After Pig tells Horse that something in her head is scaring her, Horse suggests various activities—bike riding, swimming, and trying on silly hats—to help make what is scaring her go away. When these attempts prove unsuccessful, Horse suggests that they take “whatever-it-is” to tea so Pig can talk about what’s on her mind. It turns out that Pig has quite a bit to talk about. With whimsical illustrations accompanying the text, Zoey Abbott addresses the reality of fears and worries that many young children experience. Friendship and the value of talking about what you are going through with someone are clear themes in this delightful book. (PreK-Gr 2)
Wombat Underground: A Wildlife Survival Story. Sarah L. Thomson. Illus. by Charles Santoso. (2022). Little, Brown.
Through Sarah L. Thomson’s poetic language and Charles Santoso’s captivating, realistic illustrations, readers are introduced to several animals that live in the Australian outback: a wombat, a wallaby mother and her joey, an echidna, and a skink. While Wombat digs an underground burrow, each of the other animals is going about its normal activities in the bush until lightning strikes and starts a dangerous wildfire. As they flee for safety, Wombat’s underground home serves as a refuge for them all. In the author’s note, readers learn more about the realities of Australia’s fire season, especially the particularly devastating fires of 2019-2020 that destroyed somewhere between twenty-four and forty million acres of land. (PreK-Gr 2)
The Year We Learned to Fly. Jacqueline Woodson. Illus. by Rafael López. (2022). Nancy Paulsen.
Throughout the year, as a brother and sister navigate various feelings such as boredom at being cooped up in their apartment on a rainy day in spring, their grandmother encourages them to use their imaginations to take them someplace else. “Lift your arms, / close your eyes, / take a deep breath, / and believe in a thing.” Readers learn that the grandmother’s wise words come from her own experiences of “learning to fly” from her ancestors, who used their imaginations to withstand the horrors of slavery. Rafael López’s expressive mixed-media artwork done in bold colors helps bring the poetic text to life. In an author’s note, Jacqueline Woodson shares her inspiration, Virginia Hamilton’s The People Could Fly (1985), and asserts that imagining another way can be the first step towards change. (PreK-Gr 2)
Nicole Maxwell is an associate professor in the Elementary and Special Education Program at the University of North Georgia
These reviews are submitted by members of the International Literacy Association's Children's Literature and Reading Special Interest Group (CL/R SIG).