The Caldecott and Newbery awards were recently announced. The Caldecott awards are for exceptional illustrations in picture books. The Newbery award is for outstanding fiction and/or nonfiction books.  This year the Caldecott medal winner is We Are Water Protectors illustrated by Michaela Goade and written by Carol Lindstrom.  The honor books are: Me & Mama by Cozbi A. Cabrera, The Cat Man of Aleppo illustratedby Yuko Shimizu and written by Karin Shamsi-Basra, Outside In illustrated by Cindy Derby and written by Deborah Underwood, and A Place Inside of Me: A Poem to Heal the Heart illustrated by Noa Denmon and written by Zetta Elliott.  The Newbery Medal winner is When you Trap a Tiger by Tae Keller. The honor books are: A Walk in the Dark by Christine Soontornvat, Fighting Words by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley, We Dream of Space by Erin Entrada Kelly and Box: Henry Brown Mails Himself by Carol Boston Weatherford.

A most special holiday is right around the corner and I have some special books just for the occasion.  Valentine’s Day is especially nice because it celebrates friendship and love.  The first four books are board books.  The next five books are picture books good for ages three through seven, unless otherwise indicated.  The last two books are good for teens through adult.

Made with Love: Pancakes!, by Lea Redmond, and illustrated with browns and beige and renders in gouache and watercolor by Flora Waycott, is a cleverly shaped little board book in the shape of a pancake. What’s better to start your morning with than a heaping plate of delicious pancakes?  With the turn of every page, more and more delicious delectables are added.  But at the end of this scrumptious book you find one ingredient that has been added throughout: LOVE!

All You Need is Love, by John Lennon and Paul McCartney, and delightfully illustrated by Marc Rosenthal, celebrates this ever-popular classic song with wonderfully expressive illustrations.  Sweet-looking Bear wakes up to a mother bird singing to her baby.  As they fly, he follows as they enter the town.  Animals and then people are all following by books’ end and a vibrant splash of color is on display.  The theme and word found throughout is Love.

We Love You, Mr. Panda, by Steve Antony, has the return of the adorable Panda Bear and he comes with open arms.  However, no one seems eager to get a hug from him.  There is also the return of his friends: Skunk, Croc, Elephant, Mouse, Sloth and Ostrich.  They are enjoying each other but will sweet Mr. Panda be receiving love as well?   Beware, there is a surprise waiting for our Bear friend at the end!

Tiny T. Rex and the Perfect Valentine, by Jonathan Stutzman, and brightly illustrated by Jay Fleck, is a continuation in a charming series but this time Tiny is attempting to find the best Valentine he can make for his best friend. However, he discovers he may already have something better than he could have imagined.

Bear Meets Bear, by Jacob Grant, is a tale about overcoming shyness and making friends.  Bear has an unusual friendship with a tiny spider. (This is the third book in this sweet series about Bear and his little friend.)  Bear orders a teapot and another Bear, Panda, delivers it.  However, even though he is most interested in this girl bear, he finds he’s too afraid to say anything to her.  But he decides to keep ordering teapots to get the courage to speak to her.  The end result is delightful and a bit humorous.  The ethereal illustrations were done in charcoal, crayon and ink and then colored digitally.                                                             

Share Some Kindness, Bring Some Light, by April Stout, has a wonderful message that young Coco’s grandma used to say: When life gets dark as winter’s night, share some kindness, bring some light.  Bear is sad.  He feels the other forest animals think he’s mean because he’s so big.  Coco comes up with a plan after reciting her grandma’s little poem.  She feels by baking cookies and making little lanterns and helping Bear share these the animals will see how nice Bear is.  But both Bear and Coco are about to learn what kindness truly means.  This is a new favorite book of mine for the important lessons learned and the beauty of the watercolor illustrations.

My Creepy Valentine, by Arthur Howard, showcases how quickly Valentine’s Day can change when there is a love interest. Mitzi, a young witch, never liked this holiday – until she met Spencer.  Now all she wants is to make him a Valentine so that he will notice her.  Her poems are funny and what her family does is even funnier.  But ultimately how she becomes his Valentine will bring smiles to all.  The bright illustrations were done with mixed media.

A Ben of all Trades: The Most Inventive Boyhood of Benjamin Franklin, by Michael J. Rosen, and drawn with pencil and gorgeously painted digitally by Matt Tavares, is an oversized book that will inspire all who pick it up to read.  The book shows the variety of jobs young Franklin tried, and became bored with, including candle maker and boot closer.  But through all these trials, he took bits of all that he learned while moving on to other jobs. Throughout his young life, this variety helped make the creative genius he became.  The exceptional paintings that take up two pages give an inside view of an inquisitive childhood.  Be sure to check out the back notes rich with more facts.  This book and the next book are good for all ages.

Hamilton, by Frank Keating, and beautifully painted with oil on canvas by Mike Wimmer, was vital in helping bring our country victory during the founding of America.  He was a Constitutional Convention delegate and the first secretary of the U. S. Treasury.  But he had very humble beginnings. However, he rose above being an orphan, with no standing in society and with very little money, to become George Washington’s right-hand man.  This spectacularly illustrated book is rich in both pictures and information.

Show Me History, by Mark Shulman, and illustrated by Kelly Tindall, is a series of graphic novels that easily show readers the history of important historical people in a unique and interesting way. Each book has a byline at the bottom of the cover summarizing that person’s great accomplishment. Some of the books include: Susan B. Anthony – Champion for Voting Rights and Abraham Lincoln – Defender of the Union!

For Which We Stand: How Our Government Works and Why It Matters, by Jeff Foster, with wonderful illustrations and photos to help promote the written material by Scholastic Inc., is an easily accessible book for kids through adults to grasp and understand.  I like to think of this book as more of a handbook to understand our government, how it works, where it came from and how we can change parts we feel necessary to change.  This book could not be more important than right now!