“Grandma” Gatewood is finally getting her due. Just this summer, the New York Times gave a long overdue obituary of Emma Gatewood, the first woman to hike the Appalachian Trail by herself in one season (at the ripe old age of 67). Gatewood was a mother of 11, a grandmother, and great-grandmother when she first hiked the trail. By the time she died 16 years after her first hike in 1973, she had completed the AT three times — setting the record as the first person to ever complete the trail more than once. Her story has also, finally, made it’s way to a children’s book this year, one whose clear, sparkling prose and beautiful illustrations by Jennifer Thermes give this real-life tale the inspirational platform it deserves.
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Funk is a software engineer with the nonprofit Girls Who Code so it’s no surprise that computer language saves the day in this story. While many would stumble with such an earnest conceit (coding is great kids!) this story, in which a young girl and her robot buddy solve a sandcastle building problem via coding techniques, introduces basic knowledge in a way that doesn’t feel forced or anything but genuine.
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Even if we didn’t spot the Tribe Called Quest and Mingus vinyl in the background,  Zach O’Hora’s tale of mistaken identity — Ralph for Niblet; Niblet for Ralph — has enough sophistication and nuance to amuse adult readers while the sweet simple message (be neighborly) and O’Hora’s strong illustrations (turquoise, ochre, thick black line) make it kiddie catnip.

“Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? from Bill Martin Jr. and Eric Carle. All of my babies have loved this book. We all have it memorized and when we are in the car and the youngest one gets fussy we all start reciting the book, with the same pace and inflection I did when they were all babies. I always give it as a gift for a baby shower or first birthday.” ― Wendy Fortner
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