Baby Bear Sees Blue
By Ashley Wolff
(Simon & Schuster/Beach Lane Books, $16.99; ages 2-6)
Colors, nature's wonders and childlike curiosity are the focus of this portrait of a young bear's awed reaction to his first spring. The bear's questions ("Who is warming me, Mama?") get tender, direct answers, and Wolff's bold linocut illustrations revel in the beauty — and palette — of sunshine, berries, birds and more.
By Mac Barnett, illus. by Jon Klassen
(HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray, $16.99; ages 4-8)
Barnett and Klassen knit a cozy fable about creativity and generosity starring a girl who brings color to her snow-white and soot-black world. Her limitless supply of yarn helps her create sweaters for everyone and everything she cares about — including animals and trees — and triumph over the greedy forces that try to steal her magic.
And Then It's Spring
By Julie Fogliano, illus. by Erin E. Stead
(Roaring Brook/Neal Porter Books, $16.99; ages 4-7)
It's been an oddly mild winter throughout most of the United States, but that doesn't mean we're not all eagerly awaiting the arrival of spring. In this gentle and poetic ode to those final brown and gray weeks of winter, a boy plants seeds in his garden and anticipates those first signs of green. His patience is richly rewarded.
Question Boy Meets Little Miss Know-It-All
By Peter Catalanotto
(Simon & Schuster/Atheneum/Richard Jackson Books, $16.99; ages 4-8)
Suburbia gets a superhero makeover in this comedic faceoff between two determined children with abilities that won't seem farfetched to some readers. Question Boy vanquishes neighborhood figures like Mailman and Paperboy with his endless interrogations, but he may have met his match in a girl who has answers to his every query — and more.
One Cool Friend
By Toni Buzzeo, illus. by David Small
(Dial, $16.99; ages 5-8)
The eerie resemblance between pet owners and their beloved animals certainly applies to quiet, tuxedo-wearing Elliot and his brand-new pet, a penguin. Their friendship is central to this tale, but it's Elliot's relationship with his outwardly dissimilar father that gives the story its heart.
FOR THE ELEMENTARY SET
The Boy on Cinnamon Street
By Phoebe Stone
(Scholastic/Arthur A. Levine Books, $16.99; ages 8-12)
In this coming-of-age story, a diminutive seventh-grader tries to cope with a move into her grandparents' condo, a new school, a crush on an older boy and — hanging over everything — a dark family secret. The pain in Louise's past is balanced by her newfound friendships and by the author's confident, delicate handling of the material.
Earwig and the Witch
By Diana Wynne Jones, illus. by Paul O. Zelinsky
(HarperCollins/Greenwillow, $15.99; ages 8-12)
The late author's final book is a short and sweet fairy tale packed to the gills with subversive humor. When orphaned Earwig is adopted by a cruel witch named Bella Yaga, she takes matters into her own hands: Earwig uses magic, determination and quick wits to engineer a well-deserved victory.
The One and Only Ivan
By Katherine Applegate, illus. by Patricia Castelao
(Harper, $16.99; ages 8-12)
A silverback gorilla, held in captivity in the decrepit Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade, narrates this poignant story written in short chapters that recall free verse. Ivan's friendship with — and sense of responsibility for — a baby elephant that joins his makeshift family spurs him to find a better life for them all.
Same Sun Here
By Silas House and Neela Vaswani
(Candlewick, $15.99; ages 9 and up)
Two contemporary 12-year-olds — one an immigrant Indian girl in New York, the other a boy who has grown up in Kentucky coal country — become pen pals in this honest and authentic exploration of the similarities and differences in their lives. Despite some bumps along the way involving housing, family and ecological issues, both children pull through with help from the other.
The Mighty Miss Malone
By Christopher Paul Curtis
(Random House/Wendy Lamb Books, $15.99; ages 10-14)
Set in 1936, this companion to Curtis's Newbery Medal–winning novel Bud, Not Buddy stands confidently on its own. Curtis adeptly weaves important pieces of African American history throughout the story of 12-year-old Deza Malone, whose family moves from Gary, Ind., to Flint, Mich., in a bid to survive the Great Depression.
By Marissa Meyer
(Feiwel and Friends, $17.99; ages 12 and up)
Meyer imaginatively transports the classic story of Cinderella far into the future. The star: Cinder, a teenage cyborg mechanic living with her adoptive family in New Beijing. Plague, prejudice and — of course — a prince all play their parts in this thrilling science-fiction adventure.
The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight
By Jennifer E. Smith
(Little, Brown/Poppy, $17.99; ages 12 and up)
A missed connection offers a chance at true love for 17-year-old Hadley, who is en route to her father's wedding in London. When she meets a charming boy on her rescheduled flight — and promptly loses track of him on touchdown in England — the stage is set for a cinematic and utterly romantic adventure.
By Nina LaCour
(Dutton, $16.99; ages 14 and up)
Rock 'n' roll road trip! With Colby's post–high school plans in disarray, he agrees to drive his friend Bev's (truly bad) all-girl band on their West Coast tour. Life lessons about love, disappointment and opportunity come from unexpected sources in a story that's just the thing for soon-to-be grads.
The Fault in Our Stars
By John Green
(Dutton, $17.99; ages 14 and up)
Bestselling author Green's latest (and probably greatest) novel is the heartbreaking, funny and razor-sharp story of two teens in love. Both are battle-scarred from bouts with cancer — Augustus lost a leg, Hazel's lungs are in bad shape — and their tentative, star-crossed romance is not to be missed. Grab this one as soon as your teen finishes it.
By Francesca Lia Block
(HarperTeen, $17.99; ages 14 and up)
This prequel to the groundbreaking series of books that began with Block's 1989 novel Weetzie Bat is the perfect opportunity to introduce a new generation to the author's singular vision of life in Los Angeles. Here, readers get a peek at protagonist Louise as a seventh-grader who is just beginning to recognize the magic of the world around her.