Summer Constellations: 2023 Stars So Far

By Megan Ciskowski, Associate Publicist

It’s time to look up and celebrate the stars! Keep reading to discover which 2023 titles have earned review recognition for excellence and quality from the first six months of the year.

Picture Books

The Babka Sisters

Grade Level: PreK – 2
Age Level: 3 – 8

Dueling baker sisters Esther and Hester meet their new neighbor Sylvester, who gladly becomes their babka tester, determining which shvester’s (sister’s) Babka is the best. With cat Lester and dog Chester, the new friends enjoy a delicious Shabbat. But whose Babka is the best?

★”This book’s ingredients of wordplay, dessert, and family combine smoothly into a delicious treat.”―starrred, Booklist

The Bear and the Wildcat

Grade Level: K – 3
Age Level: 5 – 9

When the little bird dies, bear is inconsolable. How will he face life now? This two-color picture book shows a way through paralyzing grief and simultaneously tells the story of a hopeful new friendship.

★”Quietly contemplative, mingling hope and healing, this is a book that will offer comfort to many.”—starred, Kirkus Reviews

★”Elegant, understated spreads over scumbled black backdrops by Sakai divide the story, the first half dark with Bear’s misery, the second half dawning with light. Hirano’s fine translation renders Bear’s transition in simple, natural-sounding English, and Yumoto’s sensitive characterization makes the story a touchstone for talking about loss.”—starred, Publishers Weekly

Never Give Up: Dr. Kati Karikó and the Race for the Future of Vaccines

Grade Level: K – 4
Age Level: 5 – 10

This picture book biography introduces Hungarian American biochemist Katalin Kariko, who played a critical role in developing the mRNA vaccine for COVID-19. Follow the journey of Katalin (Kati) Kariko from her childhood in rural Hungary.

★”Bright, beautiful illustrations are rendered in pencil and finished digitally. . . . Informative as well as inspiring, this book shows how Karikó’s tenacity is proof to never give up. A first purchase for all biography collections.”—starred, School Library Journal

Rise to the Sky: How the World’s Tallest Trees Grow Up

Grade Level: K – 4
Age Level: 5 – 10

What are the tallest living things on Earth? Trees! Discover what growing trees need so they can rise to the sky in this poetic look at the tree life cycle.

★”Varied composition and realistic textures heighten the appeal of Posada’s attractive illustrations. Created with cut-paper collage and watercolor, they capture the trees’ soaring height and dignity . . . Written with clarity and illustrated to help viewers understand the ideas discussed, this handsome book offers an appealing, informative introduction to trees.”—starred, Booklist

★”A well-focused, beautiful, and informative introduction to the arboreal world.”—starred, Kirkus Reviews

★”Hirsch teaches basic plant biology through the example of the world’s “tallest living thing”—trees—in this awe-inspiring text. . . . Washed in earthy browns and vivid emerald greens, Posada’s expertly rendered cut paper collage provide texture that feels touchable.”–starred, Publishers Weekly

Stars of the Night: The Courageous Children of the Czech Kindertransport

Grade Level: 2 – 5
Age Level: 7 – 11

Discover the powerful and sensitively told true story of the Czech Kindertransport, which rescued 669 children from Nazi persecution on the eve of World War II.

★”A not-to-be-missed, inspirational book about courage, heart, and the necessity of caring for others.”—starred, Kirkus Reviews

★”A necessary and inspirational book about a little-known light amid a dark period of history, this book should find a home in all libraries.”—starred, School Library Journal

★”[Q]uiet but immediate. . . . The in-the-moment text combines with emotional acrylic, colored-pencil, and collage illustrations in Alko’s signature style to create a dreamlike atmosphere.”—starred, The Horn Book Magazine

Middle Grade

Indigo and Ida

Grade Level: 5 – 7
Age Level: 10 – 13

Indigo, an eighth-grade investigative reporter, is torn between fighting a racist school policy and keeping her friends—until she discovers a series of letters written by Black journalist and activist Ida B. Wells.

★”Indigo is a relatable and sympathetic character, and the social justice issues she champions at her school are timely and ring true. Readers will be inspired by Indigo’s passion and compelled to read more about Wells, too.”—starred, Booklist

★”[A] powerful and climactic contemporary novel.”—starred, Shelf Awareness

A Pocketful of Stars

Grade Level: 5 – 8
Age Level: 10 – 14

When Safiya’s mother falls into a coma, Safiya comes to terms with their complicated relationship and discovers more about herself through dreams that transport her to her mother’s childhood in Kuwait.

★”Bushby writes with nuance and skill about a mother-daughter relationship fraught with misunderstanding, and Safiya’s eventual realizations are equal parts uplifting and heartbreaking. A poignantly written novel that is hard to put down and even harder to forget.” —starred, Kirkus Reviews

Young Adult

One Summer in Vancouver

Grade Level: 8 – 12
Age Level: 13 – 18

Tom has run away from his non-affirming parents and lands in Vancouver during the Gay Games! Is it time to come out?

★”[E]njoy this delightful book not only in the summer but year round.” —starred, Booklist


Hidden Creature Features

Grade Level: K – 3
Age Level: 5 – 9

Animals have adaptations to help them survive. But some of those traits can be hard to spot at first glance. Rhyming text and eye-catching photos introduce eight creatures with hidden features.

★”High marks for presentation and showy cast alike.”—starred, Kirkus Reviews

Patterns Everywhere

Grade Level: K – 3
Age Level: 5 – 9

When you take the time to look, you’ll find that nature is full of patterns. Rhyming verse and stunning photographs introduce young readers to patterns throughout the natural world.

★”With content that will appeal to a wide range of readers, this beautiful book about patterns is an excellent choice for elementary libraries.”–starred, School Library Journal

The Big Backyard: The Solar System beyond Pluto

Grade Level: 8 – 12
Age Level: 13 – 18

Deep space holds materials left over from the formation of the solar system. Astronomers have been making exciting discoveries on the outermost fringes and the New Horizons spacecraft brings new insights into the origins of the sun and planets.

★”Hugo award-winning author and illustrator Miller brings his experience illustrating for NASA to this engaging book, taking curious readers on a fact-filled tour of the outer reaches of our solar system. . . . packed with information but also thoroughly entertaining.”—starred, School Library Journal

Men of the 65th: The Borinqueneers of the Korean War

Grade Level: 6 – 12
Age Level 11 – 18

Nicknamed the Borinqueneers, the 65th Regiment was the envy of generals and the pride of Puerto Rico. How could a regiment known for honorable service in two world wars lay down their arms and refuse to fight in the Korean War?

★”An excellent choice for those interested in military or Puerto Rican history; a great pick for U.S. history courses or research.”—starred, School Library Journal

Nearer My Freedom: The Interesting Life of Olaudah Equiano by Himself

Grade Level: 5 – 12
Age Level: 10 – 18

Explore Olaudah Equiano’s life story—his childhood in Africa, enslavement, liberation, and life as a free man—through “found verse,” a creative approach to primary source analysis. The authors selected excerpts from Equiano’s autobiography to create the poetic retelling, adding annotations to deepen understanding.

★”In this unique work of nonfiction, Edinger and Younge transform the words of Olaudah Equiano’s 1789 autobiographical slavery narrative into found-verse poetry. . . . [An] absorbing, singular creation.”—starred, Booklist

★”Highly readable as well as informative. An excellent way to understand a remarkable individual and his times.”—starred, Kirkus Reviews

★”Without losing the source text’s emotional heft, Edinger and Younge’s visceral poems respectfully provide an effective entry point into the seminal work.”—starred, Publishers Weekly

★”[T]he story makes for compelling reading that moves quickly. . . . This important and unique work introduces this pivotal man to a new audience and will make for interesting classroom discussions.”—starred, School Library Journal

★”Monica Edinger and Lesley Younge—former fourth grade co-teachers—brilliantly transform the autobiography into ‘found poems’ by cutting and rearranging Equiano’s original into verse . . . Their deft transformation of Equiano’s odyssey is well-equipped to inspire and empower new generations.”—starred, Shelf Awareness

Roads to Family: All the Ways We Come to Be

Grade Level: 6 – 12
Age Level: 11 – 18

Examine—and appreciate—the many ways in which people can create a family. This informative compendium goes beyond the basics of sexual reproduction to examine the diversity of methods people use, including in-vitro fertilization, surrogacy, adoption, and more.

★”Within each chapter, Ginocchio tells engaging, lengthy stories, based on interviews, of several racially and ethnically diverse parents, from same-sex relationships to individuals who wanted to be parents to heterosexual couples struggling with infertility, and how they brought children into their lives. . . . Supplemental facts and figures as well as enlightening graphics enhance this much-needed and inclusive resource.”—starred, Booklist

Need some more star gazing? Take a look at last year’s stand-out titles.

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