Happy Tuesday, kidlit friends! Have you been keeping track of all the “Best of 2023” children’s book lists? I would mostly choose different books than the ones I see on lists, but I do like this selection from the New York Public Library. For Book Riot’s Best of 2023, I chose Parachute Kids. For my last send of the year, I plan to review my favorite children’s books of the year, so stay tuned for more!
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This week, I review two middle grade new releases with neurodivergence rep and four children’s books about Hanukkah.
Menorah/Star of David Double Hanukkah Bookmark by LetsGetLiterary
This double-sided Hanukkah bookmark is laminated and very pretty. $4
Different Kinds of Minds by Temple Grandin, adapted by Ann D. Koffsky
This is a fascinating middle grade nonfiction that delves into how the brain works, visual thinking, and neurodivergence. It has lots of history, facts, and anecdotes and includes sections on animal brains, how genius is defined, a visual thinking test (I scored 6 out of 18, making me more of a verbal thinker, which I would’ve guessed), and more. Probably most adults know who Temple Grandin is — a professor of animal science and neurodivergent speaker — but this is a great introduction for middle schoolers to both her work and who she is.
Ink Girls by Marieke Nijkamp, illustrated by Sylvia Bi
Nijkamp is also autistic, and while one of the main characters isn’t explicitly labeled as neurodivergent in this middle grade graphic novel, she reads as such. Another character is a cane user. It’s a visually stunning graphic novel that takes place in an Italian Renaissance-inspired fictional world. It’s about censorship, freedom of the press, journalism, kids seeking justice, and friendship. It’s diverse in many ways (people of color, disability, LGBTQ+) and is such a fantastic read.
For a more comprehensive list of new releases, check out our New Books newsletter.
Hanukkah begins in just over a week, so I wanted to share some Hanukkah children’s books. The first is a board book, and the last three are picture books. If anyone has read and enjoyed any middle grade or chapter books centering Hanukkah by Jewish authors, I would love to know! My email is at the bottom.
Latke’s First Hanukkah by Alan Silberberg
This hilarious counting board book follows a young Latke as they count down the eight nights of Hanukkah. On the first night, Latke lights the menorah. On the second, the latke toppings get into an argument. On the seventh, the presents wrestle. It’s a really funny read; the illustrations are colorful and expressive. Toddlers and preschoolers will love it.
Hanukkah, Here I Come! by D.J. Steinberg, illustrated by Sara Palacios
This simple, rhyming picture book depicts diverse children from several homes celebrating Hanukkah. It also includes a brief history of Hanukkah and how to play dreidel. Sara Palacious is one of my favorite children’s book illustrators, and I love how warm and joyful the illustrations are in this one.
Hanukkah Upside Down by Elissa Brent Weissman, illustrated by Omer Hoffmann
This new picture book has become one of my all-time favorite Hanukkah reads. It’s about two cousins who live on opposite sides of the world. In Aotearoa, New Zealand, Nora celebrates Hanukkah in the summer. In New York City, Noah celebrates in the winter. Which season is the best time to celebrate Hanukkah? Parallel illustrations depict the similarities and differences between their celebrations. It’s such a charming picture book, and I love how it shows that Jewish people live everywhere, celebrating the same holidays.
A Wild, Wild Hanukkah by Jo Gershman and Bob Strauss
This gorgeously illustrated new picture book for animal lovers also feels like it could become a Hanukkah classic. Written in lyrical verse, a new animal invades an alarmed child’s home on each of the nights of Hanukkah. On the first night, it’s a polar bear; on the fourth, it’s four artsy armadillos; and on the eighth, it’s eight punk rock, dreidel-spinning penguins. It’s a funny and delightful Hanukkah read.
My daughter has begun reading Diary of a Wimpy Kid. I’ll admit that I’m not a huge fan of this extremely popular series, and five seems too young to read them. However, she and another kid were reading sections of it at school (the poop jokes lol), and she wanted to finish it, so we checked it out from the library. We mostly read it together and are having conversations about how words have the power to hurt (stupid and moron are not words we use) and what it means to be a good friend. It’s working well, and she still gets to laugh at the poop jokes and share what she’s read with her friend at school. Seems like a pretty good solution.
If you’d like to read more of my kidlit reviews, I’m on Instagram @BabyLibrarians, Twitter @AReaderlyMom, and blog irregularly at Baby Librarians. You can also read my Book Riot posts. If you’d like to drop me a line, my email is email@example.com.
All the best,