Happy Birthday Cupcake! by Terry Border; Philomel, $17.99, 32 pages, ages 5-7. (July 7)

Fans sweet on Terry Border’s previous children’s book, Peanut Butter and Cupcake, will jump for sugary joy with his latest confection, where Cupcake attempts to plan her birthday party. Her pal Blueberry Muffin rejects every one of her ideas – a boat party might lead to a seasick Soup, Donut might melt at the beach, and poor Hamburger doesn’t much care for makeover parties. The Bent Objects creator spared no sprinkle in the making of this book: Scenes of melted pastries and confetti-strewn landscapes are an unbridled ode to gustatory satisfaction. Health nuts may balk, but Border’s book is unapologetically fun and wacky – just right for carefree summer reading.

Stone Angel, by Jane Yolen, illustrated by Katie May Green; Philomel, $16.99, 40 pages, ages 5-8.

On April 16 the world paused to mark Holocaust Remembrance Day, called Yom HaShoah in Hebrew. Many children’s books aim to guide parents in explaining a horrific moment in global history, (A bibliography of such books, compiled by the United States Holocaust Museum, can be found here) and Caldecott Honor and Jewish Book Council award winner Jane Yolen adds another story to that list in her recently published Stone Angel.

Here, Yolen returns to the topic she covered in The Devil’s Arithemetic (1988), where a Polish family is sent to Auschwitz. In Stone Angel, we meet a young French girl whose family flees into the woods rather than be sent to concentration camps by the Nazis. They live in caves, forage for berries and onions, and cross mountains to eventually escape the Continent on a rickety boat bound for England. Despite great suffering, the girl feels protected by angels and often imagines being protected  by the stone angel carved into the side of her family’s Parisian apartment building. After the war, the family returns home, where they are greeted by that colossal 30 foot stone structure.  (There is indeed an angel at 57 Rue de Turbigo, the setting for Yolen’s story; it was built by architect Eugene Demangeat in 1860 and can still be visited today.) The appropriately dark and haunting illustrations by Katie May Green convey both menace and glimmers of hope – out of the dark and gloom, the young girl’s face is always illuminated, suggesting that this family will overcome their struggles. Stone Angel is a tale of survival, and while it doesn’t delve deep into the well-documented horrors of the Holocaust, it offers adults a graceful way to introduce young readers to a difficult subject.  

Once Upon An Alphabet: Short Stories for All the Letters, by Oliver Jeffers; Philomel, $26.99, 112 pages,  ages 3-5. (October 2014)


Bestselling author-illustrator Oliver Jeffers (The Day the Crayons Quit; Stuck) returns with another whimsical and unique offering for young readers. Here Jeffers dedicates an entire story to each of the letters of the alphabet. Quirky, ink on paper art fill the oversize pages with tales of elephants fitting in envelopes, the wonderful applications of jelly, and cucumbers that aspire to swim. The odd vignettes are captivating, amusing, and will entertain young readers time and again. The book may be too long for pre-schoolers to read in one sitting, but with one story for each letter, parents can easily combine which tales to tell, and children will likely have their favorites already in mind.