February is the shortest—and, in many parts of the country, most wintry—month of the year, yet its 28 days are jam-packed with holidays and commemorations. Perhaps they serve to distract us from polar vortexes and endless rainstorms? With our book picks we try to honor just a handful of this month’s many reasons to celebrate.
For Infants and Toddlers
by Vashti Harrison (LB Kids $8.99) Age 2-4
For children too young to take on Harrison’s acclaimed “Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History,” an in-depth profile of 40 barrier-smashing heroines for readers 7-12, this abridged version is a perfect choice to observe Black History Month with toddlers.
Employing the same engaging artwork, which illustrates 18 trailblazing black women from all eras and walks of life (including astronaut Mae Jemison, mathematician Katherine Johnson and entertainer Oprah Winfrey), this sturdy board book inspires little girls to aspire to great things and provides a rewarding early reading experience at the same time.
Note: if you’re a parent reading one-on-one, consider getting the older kids’ version now. Each full-page illustration is a great conversation-starter–you can explore questions like, “Why do we remember this woman? What has she taught us through her actions?” The accompanying text can guide the read-along adult with biographical facts to layer in as your child’s comprehension grows.
by Anna Membrino and Fatti Burke (Random House $7.99) Age 2-4
On February 1, the US Supreme Court celebrated its 229th anniversary. Okay, maybe it isn’t the month’s most prominent holiday, but it does provide a great incentive to introduce young readers to one of today’s star “Supremes,” the currently trending Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
She’s appeared in the headlines, featured in a recent documentary AND biopic, and her strong history of advocating for human rights and fair jurisprudence makes her an excellent role model for boys and girls alike. Citing universal attributes such as, “She’s smart” and “She’s strong,” the book doesn’t even try to explain the nuances of her legal career or personal life; those lessons can come later. Ginsburg makes a compelling animated character in this board book, with big eyeglasses and black robe with trademark white lace collar; our favorite fun illustration shows her hoisting the multi-columned Supreme Court building above her head (a nod to her well-known weight-lifting regimen).
For Preschool and Beyond
by Grace Lin (Little, Brown $17.99) Age 4-7
February’s Lunar New Year features several symbolic food traditions, and while Chinese mooncakes are more closely associated with the Mid-Autumn Festival, Grace Lin’s charming picture book—which just received a 2019 Caldecott Honor award—deserves a mention for its engaging story and clever astronomy lesson.
With stunning and luminous illustrations so evocative that words seem unnecessary, Lin introduces Little Star, eager to nibble on the enormous mooncake she’s just baked with her mother. In a Sendak-ian nighttime adventure, she begins to nibble away at the round cookie, a little each night, not realizing she’s slowly altering the shape of the full moon until it’s just a slender crescent.
Eventually Little Star’s mother is forced to bake another mooncake for the sky, but not before her daughter—and all the young readers—have learned a valuable science lesson about the phases of the moon!