Book Lists

Fresh Voices: Q&A with Amanda Linsmeier, author of Six of Sorrow

“Christopher Pike and Riverdale vibes will entice readers looking for subtle supernatural romance and small-town drama, all topped with a face-off against a menacing secret from the past.” Booklist

What inspired you to create SIX OF SORROW?

I was just coming off of writing STARLINGS which has some pretty heavy themes of generational trauma and sacrifice, lots of death, etc, and I wanted to create something light and fun! The funny thing is, this always happens—my stories begin as a response to a previous story that went darker than I anticipated and has left me *slightly* emotionally exhausted. So, I start the new, shiny ideas and inevitably, through the process of drafting and revisions, end up in the exact position I was trying to crawl my way out of! Now, there is lots of fun in SIX OF SORROW—it’s got a kind of nostalgic lightheartedness of 90s teen horror/thriller novels that I loved growing up—but there are certainly some more serious threads woven throughout as well. There are girls fighting an evil entity, witchy magic, sickly cheerleaders, a dramatic school dance scene, and more—those are some “fun” elements that carried over. And I’m so glad they stayed! But personally, I think one of the best things about it is the contrast between those elements and the other side—the eerie atmosphere, the lurking villain, the body horror. Those ideas combined is what makes this book what it is. And the cover is such a perfect representation of the story. That gorgeously-girly hot-pink—complete with a little blood.

What was the most difficult part about writing the book? What part was the easiest? 

The most difficult? Loaded question! I definitely suffered from “second book syndrome” like a lot of authors. I had this idea in my mind of what the story was, not just the tone of it, but the plot points. Through revisions—many, many rounds—I realized a lot of things had to change. My first few drafts were too complicated, too many elements. Multiple villains, multiple layers that didn’t quite melt together. It didn’t feel cohesive and I had a ton of worldbuilding issues. I couldn’t answer important questions, and that weighed down the believability. With the help of my editor, I was able to unravel these threads and simplify. It was all worth it in the end! But of course, during the process, my self-confidence and my confidence in the story took a big hit. I kind of doubted we would ever see the end of the process, so to be here, just two weeks out of publication, feels pretty amazing. I’m really proud of this book.

What element of the story do you identify with the most and why? 

There really is so much of me in this story. So many of my loves threaded into it. My editor said it feels like “an ode to being a teenage girl” which I just had to repeat in the acknowledgments (and now here too, I guess), but really, to me, it feels like an ode to being teenage me. So many things that helped form me, so many past (and current) obsessions, made their way into the story. It’s like a dash of this old book, and this old book, and this old book. The vibes of this movie and that movie. The feeling I had while reading/watching/singing/listening to that, that, that. The ache of first love and the complexities of growing up. It’s all kinds of experiences and loves and delights rolled up into one and wrapped in some of my fears, too. And so much of it wasn’t even intentional! I am still discovering moments within it that light up a bulb in my memory. It is the kind of book that would have delighted me at fourteen—and still does at forty-one!

What do you want kids to take away from this story? 

I’d love them to fall in love with the friend group, to find them as precious as I do. To champion the sweet queer love story. To find a favorite character that they resonate with. Mostly, I hope that teen readers enjoy the book. I hope they have a good time with the story. And I wouldn’t be mad if they got goosebumps once or twice.

What are you currently reading? 

Last night, I finished I WISH YOU WOULD by Eva Des Lauriers, a fellow Writing With the Soul alumni—a perfectly-angsty summer YA second-chance romance. So that means today I get to start LEGENDBORN by Tracy Deonn, which has been on my TBR forever. I just know I’ll love it!

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

In the end, I hope I’ve captured the complexities of friendships, particularly those we develop as adolescents. I hope I’ve portrayed these girls authentically—because they sure feel real to me. None of them are perfect, and their relationships with each other certainly haven’t always been. But we know humans aren’t perfect. That’s why we are interesting. That’s why we want to read stories about other humans. If everyone made the right decisions all the time, the smartest decisions all the time, there’d be no growth. No story. Nothing worth fighting for or reaching toward. Their history is messy and full of mistakes, which I think a lot of readers will resonate with, but it’s also full of love. I hope that shines through the pages.

The Fresh Voices series is in coordination with the RHCB DEI Book Club committee.

New Picture Books to Read and Share

Noodles on a Bicycle

Noodles on a Bicycle By Kyo Maclear; illustrated by Gracey Zhang

A vibrant historical picture book about Tokyo's bicycle food deliverers, or demae, who balanced towering trays of steaming hot noodles on their shoulders while navigating crowded city streets.

When the deliverymen set off in the morning, the children wait for the flicker of pedal and wheel. It's the demae-- delivery men-- setting off to deliver steaming trays of noodles to hungry customers all over the city. They are acrobats: whizzing past other bicycles, soaring around curves, avoiding the black smoke of motorcycles. When the children see them, they want to be them. And so they practice with bowls of wobbling water stacked on trays. The day passes, and, finally, exhausted, the demae return home, to their families, and, yes, to steaming bowls of noodles.

This beautifully crafted, visually exciting story by a powerhouse author and illustrator team is sure to be adored by food lovers, young and old.

The Greatest

The Greatest By Veera Hiranandani; illustrated by Vesper Stamper

In this poignant tribute to grandparents everywhere, a grandfather reflects on his loving relationship with his three grandchildren. This story beautifully captures how love can make anyone "the greatest" in someone's eyes.

From Newbery Honor author Veera Hiranandani and National Book Award finalist Vesper Stamper comes a poignant story about the love between grandparents and grandchildren.

Grandpa loves Sundays-- that's when his three grandchildren come to visit. They act out plays and catch fireflies in the yard and build a sukkot to celebrate the harvest. His grandchildren bestow affection and admiration on him. Sometimes, though, he wonders why they think he's so great? Should he tell them that he's just an average, ordinary man?

Here is a book that wonderfully captures how simple, everyday moments can turn into treasured memories, and how the power of love makes us all the "greatest" to somebody.

Leo's First Vote!

Leo's First Vote! By Christina Soontornvat; illustrated by Isabel Roxas

Get out the vote! In this kid-friendly picture book introduction to voting and elections, Leo's father teaches him about the importance of every single vote, and how to use their voices to uplift their community.

Leo's dad is voting in his first election as a naturalized US citizen, and he promises to take Leo to the polls with him. Leo can't wait! But, after his cousin Ray casts doubt on the importance of a single vote, it'll take Leo's class mock election results, as well as a talk with his dad to convince him that each and every vote matters. 

This lively picture book shows us how citizens decide who will be in charge, hitting key moments in an election, from voter registration to polling places, to staying in line, and features extensive backmatter for kids who want to dig deeper.

The Night Market

The Night Market By Seina Wedlick; illustrated by Briana Mukodiri Uchendu

Journey with a young girl as she explores the mesmerizing wonders of a Nigerian night market, where each stall is an adventure waiting to be discovered! Filled with vibrant illustrations, this captivating picture book invites young readers into a world of magic, mystery, and the joy of finding treasures in unexpected places.

The Night Market is here again, and all one girl needs is a bag of gold coins to enter. The market is alive with the sound of hawkers and traders. “A taste of tangy sweetness!” hollers a man behind a towering fountain of lemonade. “I’ll trade you a joke for a coin,” a little boy calls. “Home grown spices!” shouts a granny at a counter. What should the girl buy? But, wait! Do you hear that? It's the sound of an old African drum. Have a turn, then learn to make cards disappear when you shout Abracadabra! When the sun starts to rise and the night market winds down, the girl has one gold coin left—just enough to buy a return ticket to the night market.

With stunning illustrations by Nigerian artist Briana Mukodiri Uchendu, here is an enchanting read aloud about curiosity and the wonders that lie hidden in plain sight.

Ms. Rachel and the Special Surprise: Encouraging Speech and Learning Through Play and Music

Ms. Rachel and the Special Surprise: Encouraging Speech and Learning Through Play and Music By Ms. Rachel; illustrated by Monique Dong

Ms. Rachel—the fastest-growing phenomenon in children’s educational entertainment—brings her signature teaching style to her debut picture book! With favorite songs and language development techniques from her videos, Ms. Rachel asks young readers to help her find a very special surprise just for them. 

Ms. Rachel is looking for something very special, and she needs your help finding it!

With more than 20 important milestones featured—including gestures and speech—Ms. Rachel brings educational expertise to her debut picture book. Using key lessons from her YouTube channel and threading them into an interactive story, she shows kids and parents alike fun ways to engage and play!

Fans of Ms. Rachel will recognize characters and music from their favorite videos while Ms. Rachel guides readers through exercises like pointing and call and response. After the adventure ends, you can use the helpful tips included on the back to assist with brain and language development for your little one.

Kids are sure to read and reread this new classic! With fun song lyrics and recognizable phrases, there’s plenty to keep them delighted and engaged with their favorite teacher. And, as always, she makes sure they know just how special they are!

Narwhal

Narwhal By Candace Fleming; illustrated by Deena So'Oteh

Venture to the Arctic Ocean and discover real life underwater unicorns--narwhals--in this stunningly illustrated nonfiction picture book.

You are a narwhal.
Shy... Swift... Small...
Humans call you unicorn of the Arctic.

When winter ice covers the Arctic Ocean, a narwhal pokes his head through a patch of open water, his tusk--a six-foot long tooth--pointed to the sky.

Join this mammal as he jousts with another narwhal, floats with his pod, and uses echolocation to find his prey. When warmer weather arrives, he will migrate towards summer ground. But he must be careful! Predators--orcas and polar bears--will be hungry and looking for a meal.... How will the narwhal escape? Will he be able to return to the winter bay? 

Paired with atmospheric illustrations by debut illustrator Deena So'Oteh, nonfiction master Candace Fleming delivers a picture book, uniquely told in second person, that expertly explores the mysterious and fascinating unicorn of the Arctic.

The Bakery Dragon

The Bakery Dragon By Devin Elle Kurtz

The heroic tale of a tiny dragon with a heart of gold and a taste for treats! A scrumptious picture book for fans of funny fairytales and fantastic beasts.

Ember has always been different from the other dragons. His fearsome roar sounds more like a polite sneeze, and when he breathes fire, the villagers just pat his head and say awwww.

Ember fears he’ll never collect a respectable hoard of gold until a chance encounter with a baker causes his fortunes to turn (and his stomach to grumble). As the little dragon soon discovers, the gold you make is way better than the gold you steal—and gold that is shared? That’s best of all.

Magic shimmers on every page of Devin Elle Kurtz's feel-good picture book that celebrates baked goods, dragons, and generosity in equal measure. Filled with adorable illustrations, this is a perfect read aloud for bedtime or brunchtime!

Tamales For Christmas

Tamales For Christmas By Stephen Briseño; illustrated by Sonia Sánchez

Before the first Christmas light is strung, Grandma is hard at work, making thousands of tamales to sell so she can buy gifts for her family! This heartwarming tale, based on a true story, explores a grandmother's boundless generosity, and the irresistible magic of tamales.

When the weather changes, but way before the Christmas tree is decorated, Grandma begins her preparations. With so many children and grandchildren in her family, she finds a way to put gifts under the tree-- she sells as many tamales as she can! Masa in one hand, corn husks in the other, Grandma’s just getting started. 15 dozen tamales. As Halloween passes, and Thanksgiving, Grandma is still toiling away in the kitchen: 150 dozen tamales, 700 dozen tamales, 850 dozen tamales. When it’s time to string the lights for Christmas, she’s inching closer to 1000 dozen tamales! Enough to give some to those in need and enough to sell to earn money for Christmas gifts.

Based on the author’s own grandmother, who was the heart of the familia, here is a warm story about Christmas, generosity, and, yes, tamales.

The Creature of Habit Tries His Best

The Creature of Habit Tries His Best By Jennifer E. Smith; illustrated by Leo Espinosa

The Creature of Habit is back in this humorous picture book that tackles a perennial challenge for every kid – learning to ride a bike! This story celebrates the power of persistence and reminds us that sometimes, it's not about being the best but about giving it your best try!

On the island of Habit, there lived a very big creature who was about to go on the ride of his life!

While he’d recently learned to try new things, the very big creature had also learned that he wasn’t always very good at everything. It turned out trying was hard! The kind of hard that made him stomp his feet and roar his biggest roar . . . and sometimes even feel like quitting. And learning to ride a bike? That was really hard—every time he tried, he wobbled and fell right off.

But the very big creature wouldn’t give up. He might not ever be the best at riding a bike, but maybe—just maybe—he could be the best at trying to ride one. After all, trying was a lot like sticking with something—and he was already an expert at that!

Charming and vibrantly illustrated by award-winning artist Leo Espinosa, Jennifer E. Smith’s picture book about a character with big feelings tackles the ups and downs of learning something new with humor, reminding readers to take pride in each effort to try again — big or small.

Preschool Favorites

Preschool Favorites

From Vera Ahiyya’s Getting Ready series to Richard Scarry, you’re sure to find new classics in these preschool favorites.

Getting Ready for Preschool

Getting Ready for Preschool By Vera Ahiyya; illustrated by Debby Rahmalia

Get Ready for Preschool in this exciting new series for kids embarking on new adventures!  Vera Ahiyya, the Tutu Teacher, knows everything your family needs to get ready... and to celebrate every precious moment!

GET READY... for an exciting new series focusing on BIG moments in the lives of kids!


It’s almost the first day of preschool and everyone is busy getting ready. A young boy and his family meet the teacher, post a family photo on the classroom wall, send a special lovey for naptime, pack a healthy lunch, and take a special photo . . . but is that everything he will need for his big first day? Maybe just one more hug first!

Get your little one ready with this joyful story about what to expect on their very first day of preschool! 

This edition includes an adorable punch-out sign for first day photo opps!

Getting Ready for Kindergarten

Getting Ready for Kindergarten By Vera Ahiyya; illustrated by Debby Rahmalia

Get Ready for Kindergarten in this exciting new series for kids embarking on new adventures!  Vera Ahiyya, the Tutu Teacher, knows everything your family needs to get ready... and to celebrate every precious moment!

GET READY... for an exciting new series focusing on BIG moments in the lives of kids!


It’s almost the first day of school and everyone is busy getting ready. A young girl and her parent pack a healthy lunch, fill her backpack with supplies, pick out a colorful outfit, and take a special photo . . . but is that everything she will need for her big first day?

Get your little one ready with this joyful story about what to expect on their very first day of Kindergarten! 

This edition includes an adorable punch-out sign for first day photo opps!

Richard Scarry's Sounds of Busytown

Richard Scarry's Sounds of Busytown By Richard Scarry

Visit Richard Scarry’s Busytown in this interactive board book featuring 12 different sounds! Children will love to spot the icons, press the buttons, and listen to the fun, noisy and silly sounds of Busytown!

Introduce little ones to Richard Scarry’s Busytown with this interactive board book. From noisy Main Street to a crowded supermarket, the twelve sounds featured in this Busytown storybook are sure to make kids chuckle and smile! 

With simple text and bold, colorful illustrations, this sound book is the perfect gift for new parents and a new generation of Richard Scarry fans.

This book includes colorful sound buttons, a handy on/off switch, and batteries that can be easily replaced.

Richard Scarry's Cars and Trucks Sound Book

Richard Scarry's Cars and Trucks Sound Book By Richard Scarry

Take a drive through Richard Scarry’s Busytown with Dingo Dog and Officer Flossy in this interactive board book featuring 12 different sounds! Children will love to spot the icons, press the buttons, and listen to the fun, noisy and silly sounds of Busytown cars and trucks!

Introduce little ones to the cars and trucks in Richard Scarry’s Busytown with this interactive board book. From noisy trucks to bouncy tires, the twelve sounds featured in this cars and trucks storybook are sure to entertain and delight even the youngest children! 

With simple text and bold, colorful illustrations, this sound book is the perfect gift for new parents and a new generation of fans who love Richard Scarry's cars and trucks!

This book includes colorful sound buttons, a handy on/off switch, and batteries that can be easily replaced.

Richard Scarry's Cars and Trucks Fold-and-Find!

Richard Scarry's Cars and Trucks Fold-and-Find! By Richard Scarry

Search for Richard Scarry's wild and wacky cars and trucks in this interactive Busytown fold-and-find storybook! Introduce babies and toddlers to Cars and Trucks and the Busy world of Richard Scarry with books made just for them! Perfect for children ages 2-5!

Richard Scarry's Busytown is a busy, busy place with so much to see and do. Now children ages two to five can join the fun with this fold-and-find book. Kids can open the gatefold pages and search for their favorite cars and trucks on each spread! A great way to introduce children to Officer Flossy, Dingo Dog and other characters in Richard Scarry's Busytown.

Grumpy Monkey Get Your Grumps Out

Grumpy Monkey Get Your Grumps Out By Suzanne Lang; Illustrated by Max Lang

Funny monkey Jim Panzee, star of the #1 New York Times bestselling series, tries to show emerging readers how to get rid of a bad mood.

Grumpy Monkey Jim Panzee wakes up one morning and decides that it’s time for a new Jim. He asks his jungle friends to get him so mad that he can get rid of all his grumpy feelings. It seems to work until his friend Norman reminds Jim that it’s best just to be himself, grumps and all.

Easy-to-read words and colorful illustrations will hook young readers on the lifelong habit of reading.

For more easy reading fun, look for Grumpy Monkey Ready, Set, Bananas!

Step 2 readers use basic vocabulary and short sentences to tell simple stories. They are perfect for children who recognize familiar words and can sound out new words with help.

Cooking with the Sneetches

Cooking with the Sneetches By Astrid Holm; illustrated by Erik Doescher

Dr. Seuss’s beloved Sneetches return for a beach barbecue in this Step 1 reader! Watch them sizzle, burn, and eat by a bonfire in this giggly, rhymed cooking adventure perfect for beginner readers that know their ABC’s and are eager to start reading.

In this rhymed and easy-to-read story, the Sneetches roast hot dogs and marshmallows over a beach bonfire! An ideal choice for children learning to read, foodies, and of course, Dr. Seuss fans. Celebrate cooking together and sharing a meal with loved ones with the titular characters from Dr. Seuss's classic story, The Sneetches

Step 1 Readers feature big type and easy words for children who know the alphabet and are eager to begin reading. Rhyme and rhythmic text paired with picture clues help children decode the story.

Look for all these books featuring classic Dr. Seuss characters:
Cooking with the Cat
Cooking with the Grinch
Cooking with Sam-I-Am
Cooking with the Lorax
Cooking with the Birthday Bird!

I'm a Garbage Truck

I'm a Garbage Truck By Dennis R. Shealy; illustrated Brian Biggs

Truck-loving preschoolers will love reading about Hopper the Garbage Truck and her very important job in this fun picture book!

I bang and I clang! I creak and I squeak! I rumble and bump as I drive up your street.

Young boys and girls will love hearing all about how garbage trucks keep our neighborhoods clean in this awesome tale narrated by the garbage truck herself! This Little Golden Book is written by the author of the bestsellers I'm a Truck and I'm a Monster Truck and has adorable full-color artwork by the illustrator of I'm a T. Rex.

Fresh Voices: Q&A with Rukhsana Khan, author of Rabia’s Eid!

"Rahmalia’s bright and cheery illustrations beautifully capture the cultural aspects of Eid." —School Library Journal

What inspired you to write Rabia’s Eid? 

I wanted to see if I could explore this new genre of early reader books with an Eid story that says something new. I remember my learning to read journey. Back then the books were very limited! I never saw anyone in them that looked like me or celebrated Eid!

Right now, there are a plethora of lovely Eid books out there and I wondered if I could come at it from a new perspective. I think this is the first early-to-read book about the subject.

Click here to watch a Youtube video for Rabia’s Eid.

What was the most difficult part about writing the book? What part was the easiest? 

What was the most difficult? The format! With easy readers you can’t overwhelm the reader with too much text. There are all kinds of specifications that I wasn’t aware of. And fitting a story within those line breaks etc. was challenging. It’s really given me an even greater respect for these types of books!

What part was the easiest?

Remembering how a little girl like Rabia would experience Ramadan!

What element of the story do you identify with the most and why?

The moment I identify most with is when Rabia’s father asks Rabia to put the ‘Fitr’ (the mandatory charity of feeding one poor person for each person in your family) in the box, she looks out at the crowd and realizes all of them gave enough to feed a poor person for the day. That was the moment that I realized it, too.

I’ve been going to Eid prayer for over fifty years, and I witnessed thousands of people gathered. It never occurred to me that our very presence meant thousands of poor people had been fed. The focus was always on the end of the month of fasting, but that’s not what the holiday is called! In fact, Eid ul Fitr is the first day of the month AFTER Ramadan, Shawwal. And it’s called Eid ul Fitr because of that mandatory charity we give.

What do you want kids today to take away from this story?

I want them to know there’s a time for fun stuff (the henna and pretty dresses) and there’s a time to do good stuff (give charity to help others). The best times in our life do both!

What are you currently reading?

I am currently reading about the idea of pride and honor in the antebellum South.

If you could share one aspect of being an observant Muslim with young children, what would it be?

When I first started practicing Islam it looked like it would be so hard. I find Islam to be simple and easy. If you pray five times a day, fast for one month in a year, help feed the poor, dress modestly, be honest and nice to people—God will love you and you’ll go to heaven.

The Fresh Voices series is in coordination with the RHCB DEI Book Club committee.

Heatwave Q&A

Heatwave

Heatwave By Lauren Redniss

A picture book from an award-winning artist that uses vibrant reds and blues to stunningly evoke the intensity of a heatwave and the refreshing relief that comes with an unexpected downpour of a cooling rain.

Sweltering. Sweating. It’s 100 degrees… even in the shade.
Games are canceled, temperatures reach record highs. The sun is hot.

Finally, a wind picks up. One rain drop. Then another. A downpour. The sun sets and the moon rises, Relief at last.

Heatwave is a book that vividly evokes a universal feeling--when the air is so hot and heavy you can barely move, when the sun is so bright your eyes play tricks on you. Renowned artist, writer and MacArthur genuis grant recipient, Lauren Redniss’s choice to use just two vibrant and contrasting colors in her artwork and spare text makes for a bold and interesting exploration of extreme weather. Even the book itself is saturated in red as if the book itself is burning up.

Random House Teachers and Librarians