'Spot and Dot'
In the opening pages of Henry Cole’s wordless picture book “Spot and Dot” (Simon and Schuster, ages 3-8) a girl carries a stack of “lost dog” fliers as her neighbor and his black-spotted cat come out onto the sidewalk of their city street. Spot, the cat from Cole’s earlier book about feline adventures, is a bit of a detective, finding Dot and an overturned trash can nearby. Spot follows Dot, and the reader gets to go along, too.The action zips through the busy streets, and as it does, you’ll find yourself laughing out loud and searching the illustrations carefully to make sure our heroes — Spot the cat, Dot the dog, and the boy and girl who care about them — are all just fine. On every page, life goes on, with dogs in abundance and one dogged cat. A variety of people stroll past streetcars, browse antiques in an open-air market, walk their dogs in a park where musicians prepare to play and visit a friendly neighborhood library. After the book is closed, the lively story lingers, sparking the imagination in readers and non-readers alike, who can create their own narrative for this charming, immersive, superbly detailed saga.
'A Place to Land' and 'Troublemaker for Justice'
“We need, in every community, a group of angelic troublemakers,” declared Bayard Rustin in the late 1940s. A proponent of nonviolent resistance and a stalwart figure in the civil rights movement, Rustin organized a profound and peaceful milestone in American history — the 1963 March on Washington. “A Place to Land” (Holiday House, ages 7 to 10), written by Barry Wittenstein, focuses on the way Martin Luther King Jr. crafted and delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech 56 years ago this August. The opening pages feature King in the Willard Hotel lobby with Rustin and eight other advisers, debating the content of the speech the night before the march. The rest of the book, illustrated with enormous heart and rich textures by Jerry Pinkney, presents Dr. King’s inspiring words as part of an outsize pageant, featuring King, the crowds and others on the stage, including Mahalia Jackson, who urged King, “Tell them about the dream!” Aimed at older readers, “Troublemaker for Justice” (City Lights, ages 13 and up) describes not only how Rustin orchestrated the March on Washington in two months but also how he stood up for his Quaker principles throughout his life. The three authors, Jacqueline Houtman, Walter Naegle and Michael G. Long, show the difficulties Rustin faced as a gay black man in 20th-century America, and that he shouldered them with strength, intelligence, and a quest for peace and justice.
'The Hero Next Door'
“The Hero Next Door” (Crown, ages 8-12) shares 13 short stories about “ordinary people who do extraordinary things,” writes editor Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich in her foreword. This warmhearted middle-grade collection celebrates not the “larger-than-life icons” but “the risk-takers, the friend-makers, the dreamers and doers” whose caring and courage help create a kinder world. Part of the fun is discovering how the hero’s bravery and compassion manifest, whether quietly, over time, as in Hena Khan’s “Home,” about an older sister’s reaction to an overseas adoption, or suddenly, as in “The Save,” by Joseph Bruchac, in which a self-doubting Iroquois athlete deals with a real danger. Tales vary in tone and setting. Ronald Smith tells a deliciously spooky tale, “One Wish,” about an eerie encounter in the Deep South more than a century ago, while R.J. Palacio delivers a moving exploration of place and prejudice in 1970s Queens in “Reina Madrid.” In the witty “Ellison’s CORNucopia: A Logan County Story,” Lamar Giles takes readers to a contemporary farmers market where two talented black sister-sleuths tackle a local crime. As with the two previous anthologies from We Need Diverse Books, this collection admirably succeeds in making available to all readers a wider and more representative range of American voices and protagonists.