New and Noteworthy Kids’ and YA Books: February 2022

While February may be the shortest month of the year, there’s no shortage of buzzy new releases. Young readers can discover the origins of the color most predominantly found in jeans, the secrets that lie behind long-forgotten stories, a murder mystery told through the eyes of the victim’s ghost, and much more.

Picture Books

Blue: A History of the Color as Deep as the Sea and as Wide as the Sky

Nana Ekua Brew-Hammond, illus. by Daniel Minter. Knopf, $18.99 (40p) ISBN 978-1-984894-36-6. Ages 4–8.

Brew-Hammond traces the origins of the color blue—including beliefs around the hue, methods of production and efforts “to make a blue that wasn’t so/ difficult or cruel to produce,” and even resulting idioms. Lilting free verse acknowledges the human pain and labor that went into procuring sources of blue over time, while highlighting the significance the color has held in art, fashion, and culture worldwide. The book received a starred review from PW.

Color the Sky

David Elliott, illus. by Evan Turk. Little, Brown, $17.99 (40p) ISBN 978-0-316-21207-6. Ages 4–8.

This read aloud uses the beauty of birds to invite readers to observe primary and secondary colors. With lyrical rhyme and pastel artwork, it beckons readers to answer the call of exploring the outdoors, and encourages children to embrace the differences within themselves and the world around them.

How to Say Hello to a Worm: A First Guide to Outside

Kari Percival. Rise x Penguin Workshop, $17.99 (40p) ISBN 978-0-593-22679-7. Ages 2–4.

Less of a traditional how-to and more of a how-to-appreciate, Percival’s sparse text paints an accessible picture of what a garden offers. The absence of an adult presence empowers readers to view the garden and its creatures through their own eyes, driven by curiosity and wonder. The book received a starred review from PW.

I Am Golden

Eva Chen, illus. by Sophie Diao. Macmillan/Feiwel and Friends, $18.99 (40p) ISBN 978-1-250-84205-3. Ages 4–6.

This picture book by Chen is an ode to the immigrant experience and a manifesto of self-love for Chinese American joy. The book received a starred review from PW.

Nigel and the Moon

Antwan Eady, illus. by Gracey Zhang. HarperCollins/Tegen, $17.99 (40p) ISBN 978-0-06-305628-2. Ages 4–8.

A young Black schoolboy strives to move past his fear of judgment to share his dreams with his class during career week. It’s easy to whisper his wishes to the moon, but not to his classmates—especially when he already feels out of place. The book received a starred review from PW.

Powwow Day

Traci Sorell, illus. by Madelyn Goodnight. Charlesbridge, $16.99 (32p) ISBN 978-1-58089-948-2. Ages 4–8.

River is recovering from illness and wants so badly to dance at powwow day as she does every year. In sensory-focused lines, Sorell, who is Cherokee, creates a hopeful tale about the healing power of community and tradition, deftly capturing the powwow’s essence. The book received a starred review from PW.

Rodney Was a Tortoise

Nan Forler, illus. by Yong Ling Kang. Tundra, $18.99 (40p) ISBN 978-0-7352-6662-9. Ages 3–7.

Bernadette and her tortoise Rodney are the best of friends. As the seasons pass, Rodney moves slower and slower, until one day he stops moving at all. Without Rodney, Bernadette feels all alone. She can’t stop thinking about him, but none of her friends seem to notice, except for Amar. The book received a starred review from PW.

Middle Grade

Cameron Battle and the Hidden Kingdoms

Jamar J. Perry. Bloomsbury, $16.99 (320p) ISBN 978-1-5476-0694-8. Ages 8–12.

Cameron Battle grew up reading about Chidani—a fabled West African country that cut itself off from the world centuries ago to protect the Igbo people from the dangerous slave trade. After Cameron’s mother and father disappear, The Book of Chidani is the only thing he has left of them.

The Counterclockwise Heart

Brian Farrey. Algonquin, $17.95 (352p) ISBN 978-1-61620-506-5. Ages 8–12.

The sudden appearance of a strange and frightening statue foretells darkness. Young Prince Alphonsus is sent by his mother, the Empress Sabine, to reassure the people while she works to quell the threat of war. But Alphonsus has other problems on his mind, including a great secret: he has a clock in his chest where his heart should be—and it’s begun to run backwards, counting down to his unknown fate. See our q&a with Farrey.

The Ice Cream Machine

Adam Rubin, illus. by Daniel Salmieri et al. Putnam, $17.99 (384p) ISBN 978-0-593-32579-7. Ages 8–12.

In this madcap middle grade debut billed as six “wildly different stories with the exact same name”—each illustrated by a different contemporary artist—Rubin varies genre, setting, and subtitle in tales that all feature ice cream as an integral component (and “have a half a dozen little wormholes in common, too”).

Just Harriet

Elana K. Arnold, illus. by Dung Ho. Walden Pond, $16.99 (208p) ISBN 978-0-06-309204-4. Ages 8–12.

Harriet isn’t thrilled to be spending summer vacation away from home on Marble Island. But when Harriet arrives, she discovers that it’s full of surprises, and even a mystery—one that seems to involve her father, back when he was a boy living on the island. The book received a starred review from PW.

Maizy Chen’s Last Chance

Lisa Yee. Random House, $16.99 (288p) ISBN 978-1-984830-25-8. Ages 8–12.

Maizy has never been to Last Chance, Minn., until now. Her mother’s plan is just to stay for a few weeks, until her grandfather gets better. But plans change, and Maizy has made some interesting discoveries at the Golden Palace—the restaurant that’s been in her family for generations.

Map of Flames

Lisa McMann. Putnam, $17.99 (384p) ISBN 978-0-593-32540-7. Ages 8–12.

Fifteen years ago, eight supernatural criminals fled Estero City to make a new life in an isolated tropical hideout. Over time, seven of them disappeared without a trace, presumed captured or killed. And now, the remaining one has died. Left behind to fend for themselves are their five children, each with superpowers of their own. See our q&a with McMann.

The Puffin Keeper

Michael Morpurgo, illus. by Benji Davies. Puffin Canada, $17.99 (112p) ISBN 978-0-7352-7180-7. Ages 9–12.

As a child, Allen is saved from a nautical disaster by Benjamin Postlethwaite, a solitary lighthouse keeper, cementing the beginning of a strong bond between the two. When Allen is called up to fight in WWII, he’s not sure he’ll see his mother or Benjamin again, but his memories of his time at the lighthouse keep him going. The book received a starred review from PW.

Solimar: The Sword of the Monarchs

Pam Muñoz Ryan. Disney-Hyperion, $17.99 (272p) ISBN 978-1-4847-2835-2. Ages 8–12.

On the brink of her quinceañera, and her official coronation, Solimar visits the oyamel forest to sit among the monarch butterflies. After the magical frenzy, she realizes she’s been given a gift—and a burden: she can predict the near future.

A Song Called Home

Sara Zarr. HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray, $16.99 (368p) ISBN 978-0-063044-92-0. Ages 8–12.

On her 11th birthday, fifth grader Louisa Emerson discovers a guitar on her San Francisco doorstep and, assuming it’s a gift from her estranged father, decides to learn to play, hoping the action will bring the two closer. Though she misses her dad, Lou is comfortable with the “we” comprising herself, her mother, and her adored teenage sister, Casey, but everything changes when her mom suddenly remarries. The book received a starred review from PW. See our q&a with Zarr.

Wreck at Ada’s Reef

Michael D. Beil, illus. by Torborg Davern. Pixel+Ink, $17.99 (320p) ISBN 978-1-64595-048-6. Ages 8–12.

Lark Heron-Finch is spending the summer on Swallowtail Island. When a close family friend tells Lark about a tragic boat accident that happened off the coast many years before, Lark is’s enthralled with the story, and the possibility that all isn’t as it appears. The book received a starred review from PW.

Young Adult

Bitter

Akwaeke Emezi. Knopf, $17.99 (272p) ISBN 978-0-593-30903-2. Ages 12 and up.

In this companion novel to Pet, after a childhood in foster care, Bitter is thrilled to have been chosen to attend Eucalyptus, a special school where she can focus on her painting surrounded by other creative teens. But outside, the streets are filled with protests against the deep injustices that grip the city of Lucille. See our q&a with Emezi here.

Cold

Mariko Tamaki. Roaring Brook, $18.99 (240p) ISBN 978-1-62672-273-6. Ages 12 and up.

Todd Mayer is dead. Now he’s some sort of ghost, hovering over his body, which has just been found in the town park. As detectives investigate Todd’s homicide, talking to the very people who are responsible, Todd replays the events that led him to his end in the park.

From Dust, a Flame

Rebecca Podos. HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray, $17.99 (416p) ISBN 978-0-06-269906-0. Ages 14 and up.

Hannah’s whole life has been spent in motion. Her mother has been keeping her and her brother, Gabe, on the road for as long as she can remember. But all that changes on Hannah’s 17th birthday when she wakes up transformed, a pair of golden eyes with knife-slit pupils blinking back at her from the mirror.

Howl

Shaun David Hutchinson. Simon & Schuster, $19.99 (432p) ISBN 978-1-5344-7092-7. Ages 14 and up.

Virgil Knox was attacked by a monster. Of course, no one in Merritt believes him. It must have been a bear, or a badger, or a gator—definitely no monster. Except he knows the monster is still out there. And if he isn’t careful, Virgil is afraid it’ll come back to finish him off, or worse—he’ll become a monster himself.

I Must Betray You

Ruta Sepetys. Philomel, $18.99 (336p) ISBN 978-1-9848-3603-8. Ages 12 and up.

Sepetys pulls back the curtain on life in Cold War Romania, the most closed-off nation in the Eastern Bloc that was ruled for more than two decades by the corrupt dictator Nicolae Ceaușescu. Her protagonist, 17-year-old Cristian Florescu, is forced by the secret police to become an informant and to collect information about both the American ambassador (for whom his mother cleans) and also his own friends and family. The book received a starred review from PW. See our q&a with Sepetys.

Ironhead, or, Once a Young Lady

Jean-Claude van Rijckeghem, trans. from the Dutch by Kristen Gehrman. Levine Querido, $18.99 (368p) ISBN 978-1-64614-048-0. Ages 12 and up.

In 1808 Ghent, Constance “Stance” Hoste, 18, proves stubborn and unruly, much to the chagrin of her parents and pious brother. After being forced to marry much older Lieven, who in return promises to pay her inventor father’s debts, Stance disguises herself as a man and takes an acquaintance’s place in Napoleon’s army. This celebration of historical gender nonconformity is as compelling as it is fun. The book received a starred review from PW.

No Filter and Other Lies

Crystal Maldonado. Holiday House, $18.99 (336p) ISBN 978-0-8234-4718-3. Ages 14 and up.

Max Monroe has it all: beauty, friends, and a glittering life filled with adventure. With tons of followers on Instagram, her picture-perfect existence seems eminently enviable. Except it’s all fake. Max is actually Kat Sanchez, a quiet and sarcastic teenager living in drab Bakersfield, Calif. The book received a starred review from PW.

Reclaim the Stars: 17 Tales Across Realms & Space

Edited by Zoraida Córdova. Wednesday, $19.99 (432p) ISBN 978-1-250-79063-7. Ages 12 and up.

Featuring 17 short stories from “a collective of science fiction and fantasy authors who spanned the Latin American diaspora”—including Romina Garber, Anna-Marie McLemore, Daniel José Older, and Mark Oshiro—this anthology invites readers to expand the bounds of their belief with each impossible creation. The book received a starred review from PW.

This Woven Kingdom

Tahereh Mafi. HarperCollins, $19.99 (512p) ISBN 978-0-06-297244-6. Ages 14 and up.

To all the world, Alizeh is a disposable servant, not the long-lost heir to an ancient Jinn kingdom forced to hide in plain sight. The crown prince, Kamran, has heard the prophecies foretelling the death of his king. But he could never have imagined that the servant girl with the strange eyes, the girl he can’t put out of his mind, would one day soon uproot his kingdom—and the world.

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