By Kevin Henkes, Greenwillow, ages 4-8, $17.99
Kevin Henkes is the stealthiest master of kids lit around. His titles — picture book favorites — "Owen" and "Julius, the Baby of the World," the quiet chapter book stunner "The Year of Billy Miller" and scores of other beloved books all get at the ways kids make emotional connections in the world. There aren't lessons learned or flashy designs. In their place are a precise understanding and demonstration of how kids think, a series of meaningful moments, and a sense of the fullness of time all warmly illustrated. His latest book, "Waiting," is specifically about the languorous nature of time in childhood, told from the point of view of toys instead of children or their animal stand-ins. "There were five of them and they were waiting." A pig with an umbrella, an owl, a dog on a sled, a bear with a kite, a rabbit with an accordion-shaped body all sit on a sill, looking out at the window, each with a specific desire: the moon, rain, wind, snow. All, that is, except the rabbit "who wasn't waiting for anything in particular." Will the animals get what they most want? During the journey to the answer — filled with delights and a little drama — Henkes creates a whole world on that windowsill and welcomes children in.
By Antoinette Portis, Roaring Brook, ages, 3-7, $16.99
Have you ever tried to walk purposefully with a toddler . . . say, to a neighborhood store and back in under four hours? Antoinette Portis — author of the picture book favorites "Not a Stick," "Not a Box," and "Froodle" — sees the challenge in getting from here to there in her story of a boy and his mom rushing through the day. The book uses only three words — "Hurry," "Wait," and a final, satisfying "Yes" to create a rhythm. As the mom strides through the streets, the boy holding her hand wants to linger and make discoveries and connections: A construction worker waves, a butterfly emerges from amidst flowers, the picture of a rainbow Popsicle that the boy notices on the side of an ice cream truck foreshadows the book's final image. The rewards unearthed by the boy are both ordinary and revelatory; to appreciate them you just have to be able to ride the wave of parental guilt — rushing, the bane of modern parenthood! — as it crests and breaks.