2023 Starred Reviews and Best of the Year Titles

As the year comes to a close, Lee & Low is busting a move and boogying down in celebration of these starred reviews and best of the year titles.

Breaking to the Beat! by Linda J. Acevedo & illustrated by Frank Morrison

📚 Kirkus Reviews Best Picture Books of the Year 2023

📚 New York Public Library Best of the Year 2023

📚 Denver Public Library 2023 Staff Picks for Kids – Picture Books

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★ “A picture book ode to break dancing and the Bronx. . . Graffiti-inflected art style makes smart use of changing perspectives, crowd scenes, and dance silhouettes to showcase a triumphant story.” —Publishers Weekly

★ “The writing captures the energy and determination of the sport and the illustrations fire it up. Morrison’s style is so fluid, the palette so bright and vivid, readers will feel the topic’s excitement and electricity.” —School Library Journal

★ “This joyous celebration of break dancing is a visual treat. Vibrant full-page illustrations pop off pages, perfectly complementing the spare but effective text.” —Booklist

★ “This lusciously illustrated picture book, with Morrison’s signature images of characters with elongated arms and legs, effectively captures Manolo’s initial hesitancy and later verve, bravado, and dizzyingly bodacious moves. A wonderful story of an important artistic form that, like jazz, emerged from Black and Brown communities.”  —The Horn Book

★ “With text full of punchy words and phrases, the author invokes the indelible zest of hip-hop in a way that inspires. Morrison’s hazy, graffiti-flavored artwork is spellbinding, with bodies etched in movement that leaps off the pages. An irresistible beat to get readers on their feet.” —Kirkus Reviews

Empty & Me: A Tale of Friendship and Loss by Azam Mahdavi, Illustrated by Maryam Tahmasebi & translated by Parisa Saranj

★ “Powerful while still sensitive to the target audience, this picture book follows the gradual journey of loss.” —Foreword Reviews

★ “The sepia and gray-toned images, although digitally rendered, mimic colored pencils and set a solemn tone that reinforces the girl’s loneliness in a vast world without her mom. The character of Empty is soft curves and bright white, the perfect complement for the sharp edges of loss… A strong purchase to introduce loss and, not incidentally, expose students to translated works.” —School Library Journal

The Moonlit Vine and Claro de luna by Elizabeth Santiago

📚 Kirkus Reviews Best Young Adult Books of the Year 2023

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★ “A beautiful ode to Puerto Rican history…Santiago’s writing sparkles, even as it draws upon hard realities that Puerto Ricans can face in their everyday lives and sense of cultural identity. Filled with arresting prose and historical stories, this novel brings Puerto Rican history into the present, mixing in realistic themes to which most readers will relate.” —Booklist

★ “Readers will cheer for the bold, resourceful protagonist as she uses her newfound power to bring everyone she cares about together . . . Mayle’s evocative black-and-white art and interstitial chapters centering Ty’s ancestors through the centuries round out the contemporary storyline . . . Deeply moving, beautifully written, and inspiring.” —Kirkus Reviews

Fresh Juice and Jugo fresco written & illustrated by Robert Liu-Trujillo

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★ “This essential story conveys the warmth of community in just one serving.” —School Library Journal

Speculation by Nisi Shawl

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★ “Shawl imaginatively winds suspense, humor, and loss in this story that shows how the past isn’t so far behind us. . . Readers see the importance of oral storytelling: The book celebrates it as a shining beacon for those of us who still have elders who can tell stories while offering space to mourn traditions and loved ones we’ve lost.” —Kirkus Reviews

Tenacious: Fifteen Adventures Alongside Disabled Athletes by Patty Cisneros Prevo, illustrated by Dion MBD

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★ “This upbeat offering promises profiles of 15 disabled athletes but delivers even more. . . Readers will come away with an enhanced understanding of the scope of adaptive sports (BMX, surfing, CrossFit) and great respect for these dedicated, tenacious athletes.” —Booklist

Montgomery and the Case of the Golden Key by Tracy Occomy Crowder

📚 Chicago Public Library Best of the Year 2023

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Listen to WBEZ Chicago’s The Rundown Interview with the author: Tracy Occomy Crowder wrote a children’s book she wanted to see for her son.