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May Picture Books on the Radar

Happy May, everyone! Is it just us or does the year feel like it’s flying by? Pretty soon, we’ll be at the midway mark of 2018. Before we get there, let’s check in, as we’ve been doing all of this year, to see what’s being published this month and what looks intriguing.


From poet and author Julie Fogliano comes A House That Once Was, the contemplative story of two children who enter an abandoned house and imagine who might have lived there. Illustrator Lane Smith uses two different mediums (one for present-day and another for the imagined scenes) and highly textured illustrations to tell this story about the places in-between. It’s captivating.


Julián Is a Mermaid has received a lot of love this year, and it just reached shelves. There’s a reason for all the adoration. It’s the poignant, but never cloying, story of a boy and his Abuela — a story of understanding and acceptance. We’ve absolutely no doubt we’ll be talking about it here at Calling Caldecott when things kick into high gear in the fall (and we think it’s a picture book we’ll all be talking about for a long time).


The Fan Brothers return with Ocean Meets Sky, the story of young Finn, who misses his grandfather and recalls his stories about a “place far away where ocean meets sky.” Finn builds a boat, one just right for the journey he had been planning to take with his grandfather before his death. He nods off and then wakes to discover his journey has already begun, filled as it is with fantastical creatures in the clouds and a lunar surprise. Eric and Terry Fan worked on this book as Sendak Fellows last year. Will the Caldecott committee take notice?


In Pie Is for Sharing, an inclusive community gathers for a summertime lakeside picnic as a contemplative but child-friendly text muses on the nature of sharing. Jason Chin’s illustrations capture the day (it turns out to be a significant one) with humor, poignancy, and a true understanding of family and childhood dynamics. The ending packs an emotional wallop.


Via watercolor and gouache illustrations, in New Shoes Chris Raschka tells the story of a preschooler’s walk to the shoe store with a parent to replace worn-out sneakers. The story is told from the child’s perspective, looking down at his or feet throughout the entire story. As the Horn Book review notes, Raschka “focuses on small moments of ordinary life that become significant,” as he’s in done in many of his previous books, including the Caldecott-winning A Ball for Daisy.


Aaron Becker’s ambitious and cinematic A Stone for Sascha is about several Big Things — loss, grief, and the cyclical patterns of life on Earth, no less. This is a story that provides new details and new understandings every time you read it. Will the Caldecott committee linger over it, too?


Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen are back with the second story in their Shape trilogy. Last year, we met Triangle and Square in Triangle, the first book of the trilogyIn Square, released this month, the story is all Square’s (and readers get to meet Circle, whose story will close the trilogy at a later date). It’s funny stuff, this story about nothing less than what makes an artistic genius. Perhaps this will be a book that Guessing Geisel discusses later this year, too? We’ll find out in the fall.


On that note, a book I think both Calling Caldecott and Guessing Geisel will likely discuss is Sergio Ruzzier’s Fox + Chick: The Party and Other Stories. We actually missed this book last month, as it was published in mid-April. Ruzzier returns to his love of comics for this series of three stories about two endearing characters, rendered in warm watercolors.

What did we miss? What have you seen this month that you love?


Julie Danielson About Julie Danielson

Julie Danielson writes about picture books at the blog Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast. She also writes for Kirkus Reviews and BookPage and is a lecturer for the School of Information Sciences graduate program at the University of Tennessee. Her book Wild Things!: Acts of Mischief in Children’s Literature, written with Betsy Bird and Peter D. Sieruta, was published in 2014.



  1. Katherine says:

    I LOVE The Honeybee by Kirsten Hall, illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault. I would be thrilled to read an interview with Isabelle Arnesault and her art director, Ann Bobco, who is part of the dedication.

  2. Ooh, I haven’t seen this, but I must remedy that immediately! Pretty sure Arsenault is not Caldecott-eligible.

  3. I love Michelle Cuevas’ and Catia Chien’s The Town of Turtle. Truly a marriage of words and pictures!

  4. Nothing new to add, but I just have to express my love for The House That Once Was! I read it three times in a row. Th text and illustrations go together perfectly!

  5. Nothing new to add, but I just have to express my love for The House That Once Was! I read it three times in a row. The text and illustrations go together perfectly!

  6. Oops, I do have one to add. Goldfish on Vacation by Sally Lloyd Jones and illustrated by Leo Espinosa. I thought he wasn’t eligible, but just read that he is living in the states.

  7. Allison Grover Khoury says:

    Hi Jules, every one of these looks so intriguing and beautiful. I haven’t had a chance to see any in person yet. Will report back when I do!

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