David Small (Atheneum, $16.99) Henson's quiet celebrations of the joys of reading is based on documentary accounts of Kentucky's Pack Horse Librarians, the women who carried books into the Appalachians during the 1930s, in a project founded by Roosevelt's Works Progress Administration.
Emmanuel Cerisier, translated by R. M. Brent (Enchanted Lion, $19.95) An absorbing account of a golden age of accomplishment, when Muslim intellectuals, making breakthroughs from the 8th to the 15th centuries, pioneered concepts from the decimal system to medical diagnosis.
Yann Arthus-Bertrand, text by Isabelle Delannoy, illustrations by David Giraudon (Abrams, $24.95) From the renowned photographer of Earth from Above for Young Readers, a vivid, inspiring volume dramatizing how humans have affected their planet—and offering a way forward for the next generation of environmentalists and naturalists around the world.
Best Friends by Jacqueline Wilson (Roaring Brook Press, $15.95) The celebrated British author creates the irresistibly quirky tale of Gemma and Alice, "best friends since they were born on the same day in the same hospital," who discover that not even distance can come between true kindred spirits.
Jerry Pinkney (Random House/Schwartz & Wade, $16.99) The Newbery Honor author and Caldecott Honor artist together create a portrait of a Depression-era family in the rural South.
Fern Verdant & the Silver Rose by Diana Leszczynski (Knopf/Delacorte, $15.99) Hilarity and page-turning escapades meld in the author's comic novel, centered on the fearless Fern's quest to save her mother, an internationally renowned botanist, when she disappears without a trace.
Elisa Kleven (Chronicle, $16.99) A search for everyday magic serves as a window on the culture of childhood across the globe.
Arthur L. Dawson (Lee & Low, 17.95) In the world of segregated Daytona, Florida in 1899, a boy who would one day become a pioneer of the civil rights movement, dreams of remaining in school beyond the eighth grade. The kindness of friends and a stranger would light his way to the future.
Up and Down the Scratchy Mountains by Laurel Snyder (Random House, $16.99) The author's whimsical take on fairy-tale conventions introduces Lucy the milkmaid and her friend Winston (a prince through no fault of his own) to create an enchanted, enchanting world.
Doug Wechsler (Boyds Mills, $17.95) The rhythms of day-to-day life in one of the world's most productive and enthralling habitats, for every young naturalist on your list.