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June Picture Books on the Radar

Happy June, everyone! We hope you’re all staying cool and are lucky enough to have at least a little bit of down time this summer. We are here to check in, as we’ve been doing all of this year, to see what’s being published this month and what looks intriguing. June’s selection of picture books is dominated by nonfiction titles. Let’s jump right in.

Katherine Roy’s detailed, fluid watercolors depict (as the book’s subtitle tells you) the record-setting dive of the Bathysphere — Otis Barton and Will Beebe’s historic 1930 journey into the depths of the ocean. Barb Rosenstock’s text in Otis and Will Discover the Deep is a gripping account of the historic expedition. The story is made even more nail-biting thanks to Roy’s dramatic perspectives and impeccable pacing.

Maria Gianferrari’s Hawk Rising, illustrated by Brian Floca in ink and watercolor, follows a red-tailed hawk through one day as he hunts for food for his family; meanwhile, human children watch and marvel. Moments of patient, quiet waiting are juxtaposed with moments of high drama; spectacular vistas alternate with intimate spot art — virtuosity that we’ve come to expect from Floca.

The 5 O’Clock Band is a companion book to the Caldecott Honor–winning Trombone Shorty (2015); here jazz musician Troy Andrews (aka Trombone Shorty) again revisits his childhood. Bryan Collier’s stylistic mixed-media illustrations use energetic lines and colors to evoke the music and people of the Tremé neighborhood of New Orleans that made Trombone Shorty the musician he is today.

In the first nonfiction picture book she’s illustrated, Barbara McClintock uses what she describes as a “nonliteral visual approach” to the story of a celebrated French mathematician in Cheryl Bardoe’s Nothing Stopped Sophie: The Story of Unshakable Mathematician Sophie Germain. McClintock, as Betsy Bird notes in her detailed review, had to make the invisible visible. And the results are impressive.

Minh Lê’s and Dan Santat’s Drawn Together is all about the power of art to bring people together  — in this case, a young Asian American boy and his Thai-speaking grandfather, who must spend the day together but have little to say to each other. Until, that is, the sketchbooks come out and “all the things we could never say come pouring out ….” Santat plays freely with color, scale, and styles in a book whose title says it all.

Eugene Yelchin’s Pip & Pup was released in April, but we missed it then. This is a wordless tale that speaks volumes with expressive characters and body language, as well as loads of visual humor perfectly suited to a preschool-aged audience. The energy and emotions are palpable in Yelchin’s colored pencil and oil-pastel illustrations.

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. Molly Sloan says:

    Thanks for these lists! They are a great early start on the Caldecott season. I look forward to tracking these books down soon!

  2. Allison Grover Khoury says:

    I really enjoyed Betsy’s review also. Thanks for including the link to that. These are some fine looking books. I’m anticipating some enjoyable reading and study when things calm down in a few weeks! Thanks for keeping us in books.

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