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The time to update your children’s bookshelves is now. Thankfully, there is no shortage of gorgeous modern literature for early readers. From Lupita Nyong’o to the presidential inauguration poet Amanda Gorman, here are some must-reads written by your celebrity faves.
‘The Tale of the Mandarin Duck: A Modern Fable’
Inspired by the real-life mandarin duck that reawakened glamour and fashion at the Pond in Central Park, a brilliant waterfowl is the main character in superstar Bette Midler’s modern fable. Illustrated by Joana Avillez, with portraits of New York City by Michiko Kakutani, this tale celebrates the joy in the little things like a rainbow-colored duck.
‘C Is for Country’
Learn your ABCs with crossover music sensation Lil Nas X. Like the multitalented fashion plate and rapper, this New York Times bestseller combines learning the alphabet with gorgeous illustrations by Theodore Taylor III. And yes, there’s plenty of country-meets-fashion moments when “B” is for boots, and the cowboys looks include a range of stitching and colors from pink, yellow, red, blue and brown.
‘Natalie Portman’s Fables’
The Oscar winner retells three classic fables: “The Three Little Pigs,” “The Tortoise and the Hare” and “Country Mouse and City Mouse.” Come for the rhyming tales; stay for artist Janna Mattia’s stunning illustrations.
An inspirational story kicked off by LeBron James’ charity foundation the “I Promise” program which promotes and motivates children to reach for the starts and “strive for greatness.” This rhyming narrative, with art by Nina Mata, encourages kids to dream big and that their goals are achievable if they work hard.
‘Sweet Child O’ Mine’
A re-telling of the Guns N’ Roses song “Sweet Child O’ Mine,” this picture book reimagines the power ballad as a story about two girls Maya and Natalia Rose who have grown up touring with the band. This book is quite literally the lyrics paired with sweet paintings from artist Jennifer Zivoin, and could be described as evoking a smile that, it seems to me, reminds me of childhood memories.
Written by Lupita Nyong’o and illustrated by Vashti Harrison, the story follows a Kenyan girl Sulwe who wishes she looked more like her family members. “Sulwe” is a beautiful story about self esteem and inspires children to see their own individual beauty. The academy award winning actress’ debut children’s book will soon be adapted into an animated musical for Netflix.
‘Change Sings: A Children’s Anthem’
The words of Amanda Gorman sparked hope at President Joe Biden’s inauguration, and now the poet wants to inspire the next generation with her “lyrical prose” picture book. The story follows a young girl on a musical journey who discovers she (and her friends) have the power to make a difference. Illustrated by Loren Long and available for preorder for a September release.