“Now,” by Antoinette Portis (Roaring Brook Press)

Antoinette Portis’s joyful picture book Now (Roaring Brook, Ages 2-6) perfectly captures a child’s lighthearted affection for the here and now. The book, by the author of the award-winning “Not a Box,” begins with a young girl dancing in the wind, hands in the air: “This is my favorite breeze.” A leaf, a hole in the sand, rain, a missing tooth — the girl declares each her favorite in an exuberant, unstudied celebration of small experiences both concrete and abstract. Bright red endpapers and the sturdy bold lines in these lively illustrations invite readers to pay attention, to feel that they are part of what’s happening. With each turn of the page, one moment gives way to another, and the repeated words, “this is my favorite,” come together to form a kind of poem. Some of the girl’s beloved objects are quite funny and demonstrate with simplicity that “now” is fleeting. “This is my favorite rain,” says the girl, in blue boots, launching a paper vessel. “That was my favorite boat,” she says as it slips away in the flowing water. “This is my favorite tooth,” says the girl as she holds a tooth and smiles to show off her gap, “because it is the one that is missing.”As the child names and declares each of these her favorites, their evanescence gives way to a lasting sense of delight. Even the very youngest listener will enjoy both the satisfaction of listmaking and the immediacy of this delicious, effervescent embrace of the moment.

Kathie Meizner

“Exploring Space: From Galileo to the Mars Rover and Beyond,” by Martin Jenkins (Candlewick )

For kids fascinated by the expansive universe, Exploring Space: From Galileo to the Mars Rover and Beyond (Candlewick, Ages 8 to 12) offers an excellent guide to what’s beyond the Earth’s atmosphere and how we have gathered this information. Martin Jenkins’s lively explanations and Stephen Biesty’s dynamic and detailed illustrations work together to elucidate some epic feats of engineering, starting with Voyager I, the unmanned spacecraft that has been journeying across the Milky Way since 1977. While Jenkins spells out the many challenges posed by space exploration, such as extreme temperatures and atmospheric changes, Biesty shows how technology has been developed to allow study nonetheless, such as telescopes (earthbound and orbiting), gigantic rockets, countless satellites and the International Space Station (ISS). Biesty offers up double-page spreads that reveal the inner workings of ingeniously constructed machinery. Look at all the gadgets of the latest spacesuit, then turn the page and see how Russians and Americans share the ISS. “Exploring Space” also looks into the future, foreseeing how a Mars colony and a space elevator from Earth might look. Jenkins notes that each would require massive expenditures of money and resources, but on a clear summer night, it does no harm to dream.

Abby McGanney Nolan

“Be True to Me,” by Adele Griffin (Algonquin Young Readers)

Set in the summer of 1976, Be True to Me (Algonquin, Ages 14 and up) probes the tensions between rival girls in an old-money beach community on Fire Island: privileged Jean Custis and “breezy, laid-back” Fritz O’Neill, the longtime guest of a prominent family. At first, their competitiveness focuses on the annual tennis championship, but it sharpens with the arrival of handsome Gil Burke. As the unknown nephew of another local family, Gil’s Southern roots make him as much of an outsider as Army brat Fritz. The two are immediately drawn to each other, but all three are aware that Jean’s influence and connections could smooth Gil’s future law-school plans. The girls tell the story in alternating chapters, which both deepens and complicates a reader’s understanding of events and characters. Like storm clouds banking over a glittering sea, this heady novel by two-time National Book Award finalist Adele Griffin builds to a dark, surprising climax. The historical details — monogrammed Bermuda bags, Bicentennial fireworks — ground the book in time and place, even as crisply observed reflections on first love and “sloppy remorse” explore the universal joys and regrets of the human experience.

Mary Quattlebaum

Young readers