The Kids Are All Right

Fairytales, Imaginary Friends, And More!

Happy Tuesday, kidlit friends! Yesterday, the ALA Youth Awards winners were announced, including the Caldecott and Newbery winners. I’m writing this before the awards, so I can’t provide any commentary on the winners, but I’m really excited to see who won!

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Today, I review two fantastic new releases and four fairytale retellings I love.

Bookish Goods

The StoryBook Tree by TheMoonsMusings

The StoryBook Tree by TheMoonsMusings

This print is gorgeous! I need this tree in my backyard and this art on my wall. $60

New Releases

Cover of Imagine You and Me by Benson Shum

Imagine You and Me by Benson Shum (PB)

This adorable picture book is about two very good friends, a little girl named Parker and a big white bear named Randall. Both are a little quiet and shy, but when Randall sees a group of bears playing, Parker encourages him to join in their play. However, the more Randall plays with his new friends, the less he sees Parker until he can no longer see her at all. This picture book will speak to kids who’ve had friends move away, friends who moved on to new friends, or imaginary friends.

Cover of Maybe It’s a Sign by E.L. Shen

Maybe It’s a Sign by E.L. Shen

This is a moving and sweet middle grade about friendship and grief. Seventh-grader Freya June Sun’s father died less than a year ago from a heart attack. When he was alive, he’d shared with her traditional Chinese superstitions, and he also encouraged her to play the viola. Since his death, Freya hasn’t been as interested in the viola, but when she sees two red birds on the way to a solo, she takes it as a sign from her father to continue playing despite her lack of enjoyment. But then she is partnered with Gus Choi for a cooking project in Home Ec, and she finds she loves cooking. She loves how calming it is, and she enjoys hanging out with Gus, which is surprising because she always thought he was kind of silly.

For a more comprehensive list of new releases, check out our New Books newsletter.

Riot Recommendations

I adore fairytale retellings and cannot get enough of them. Here are four I love!

Cover of Ra Pu Zel and the Stinky Tofu by Ying Chang Compestine, illustrated by Crystal Kung

Ra Pu Zel and the Stinky Tofu by Ying Chang Compestine, illustrated by Crystal Kung

This picture book is a delightful retelling of “Rapunzel,” set in historical China. Princess Ra Pu Zel loves cooking, though her family would rather she be working on her needlework and entertaining princes. To get away from their constant nagging, she and her dog move to the top of a very tall tower, where she can cook to her heart’s delight. However, once she’s gone, her parents miss her. They call on heroes to tempt her down, but the only thing that’s going to tempt Ra Pu Zel from her tower is something that smells delicious.

Cover of The Princess and the (Greedy) Pea by Leigh Hodgkinson

The Princess and the (Greedy) Pea by Leigh Hodgkinson

This is also a culinary fairytale retelling, this time of “The Princess and the Pea.” The writing follows the same story pattern as “There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly” and features a very hungry pea. As the pea eats everything it finds, it becomes bigger and bigger and bigger until it’s a really enormous pea. Then it takes a nap on the princess’s bed. This is a really funny retelling.

Cover of Stories of the Islands by Clar Angkasa

Stories of the Islands by Clar Angkasa

This is a lovely collection of three Indonesian fairytale retellings in graphic novel format for middle grade readers. I adore all three tales, which the author retells in a traditional way but with a feminist focus. The author bases the tales on stories from her childhood, retelling “Keong Mas,” “Bawang Merah Bawang Putih,” and “Timun Mas.” I could’ve read more! I’m not sure I know of any other books retelling Indonesian fairytales. If you know of any, let me know!

Cover of Alliana, Girl of Dragons by Julie Abe

Alliana, Girl of Dragons by Julie Abe

This magical Japanese retelling of “Cinderella” is set in the same universe as the Eva Evergreen series, but it can be read as a standalone. Alliana has grown up happily in her father’s inn on the edge of a magic preserve, but when her father dies, and then her grandmother, too, everything comes crashing down. Her stepmother demands she serve her and her two stepsisters, claiming Alliana owes them a debt. She despairs of ever being able to follow her dreams when a young dragon and witch befriend her.

Snow and creek, the kids are all right

The snow is pretty magical. Despite the cold, I took books outside to take pictures of for my Instagram account, ha! This week is supposed to get back up into the 50s, so the snow won’t last much longer.

If you’d like to read more of my kidlit reviews, I’m on Instagram @BabyLibrarians, Twitter @AReaderlyMom, Bluesky, and blog irregularly at Baby Librarians. You can also read my Book Riot posts. If you’d like to drop me a line, my email is

All the best,

Margaret Kingsbury