Here are some must-read books from new releases this spring.

The Magic Shell by Jillian Christmas, illustrated by Diana G. A. Mungaray

Acclaimed spoken word artist and author Jillian Christmas’s new book for children The Magic Shell brims with the kind of optimism and love that Christmas wishes to shower upon all Black kids so that they’re proud of where they come from. The book’s protagonist is a little girl named Pigeon Pea who has a lot of questions about their family and ancestors. But all the adults at home are busy cooking and setting the table for lunch. So, Pigeon Pea’s auntie gives her a magic cowrie shell telling her that the shell contains the stories of their people across seas and distant lands. The shell whisks Pigeon Pea back in time and across continents to visit with their great-great-great-great-great-great grandmothers and others, including their orisha. The Magic Shell is a small book with a very big heart. The vibrant illustrations by Diana G. A. Mungaray perfectly complement Christmas’s story about finding one’s roots and understanding one’s past. Grades 1-3

Up and Adam by Debbie Zapata, illustrated by Yong Ling Kang

March 21st was World Down Syndrome Day, a day to raise awareness and understanding of this condition that occurs in about 1 in 1,000 babies born each year. Up and Adam is a moving story of a boy with Down syndrome who helps his neighbors in the aftermath of a storm in a way only he can. After listening to the news the day after a big storm in which the mayor calls up on members of the community to step out and help each other, Adam and his dog, Up, decide to lend their hand in the relief efforts. They clear the sidewalk, fix a birdhouse, and pass out cookies. But it turns out, Adam’s most important contribution to his community is one he doesn’t even think about – it is his infectious smile. Because when anyone sees Adam smile, they smile, too. Up and Adam features an endearing and authentic representation of a child with Down syndrome, focused on his abilities, not disabilities. Down syndrome is not referenced in the story but is addressed in the author’s note, which also includes information about the syndrome and resources. This book, thus, manages to convey its message in a way that is effective without being preachy. Grades Preschool-2

A Long Way Home by Jean Little, illustrated by Gabrielle Grimard

Celebrated children’s book author Jean Little wrote many acclaimed books during her lifetime. This delightful picture book, which touches upon the subjects of friendship, migration, and caring for the environment, was her last. In this book, we meet Maya, who is a quiet girl and a refugee, new to Canada, while her new best friend, Jane, is chatty and outgoing and has lived in the same place her whole life. One day they learn about monarch butterflies that have become endangered because there are no milkweed plants for the caterpillars to feed on. Jane and Maya decide to plant a milkweed garden and very soon, they see a monarch butterfly hatch and grow and eventually leave on its own migration journey, to Mexico. The story of the butterfly is similar to Maya’s own story. Her family had to leave their home and take a long journey to make a new home in Canada and it is thanks to a genuine friendship like the one offered by Jane that Maya feels loved and cared for. Gabrielle Grimard’s stunning pastel illustrations further drive home Little’s message about the importance of offering kindness, love, and friendship to humans and little creatures alike. Grades Preschool-3