Current PLAY Nominations

The following titles have been nominated for the 2022 CLEL Bell Awards

in the category "PLAY."

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Fred Gets Dressed

by Peter Brown (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers)

Published May 4, 2021

When Fred's adults discover him dressed in his mother's clothes, the whole family takes part in a dress-up session. This is a great example of adults following the child's lead in play, as well as embracing nontraditional gender expression.

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Applesauce Is Fun to Wear

by Nancy Raines Day, illustrated by Jane Massey (Harry N. Abrams)

Published April 6, 2021

A playful, rhyming text about babies wearing and playing with their food. Yogurt on the tummy, toast as a hat and all the fun ways food can be joyful.

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Bindu's Bindis

by Supriya Kelkar, illustrated by Parvati Pillai (Sterling Children's Books)

Published March 16, 2021

Bindu loves the bindis her grandmother sends her. Each one helps her feel powerful, special, and playful. When her grandmother comes to visit, she sees the fully beauty of the bindi and how it is such an important part of her culture.

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by Jacqueline Davies, illustrated by Sonia Sanchez (Katherine Tegen Books)

Published May 4, 2021

Different families play in a swimming pool.

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I Like Trains

by Daisy Hirst (Candlewick Press)

Published March 2, 2021

This child loves playing with trains of all kinds. They especially love riding the train to visit grandma!

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Let's Move!

by Larissa Honsek (Familius)

Published May 25, 2021

Follow along with the clay characters to move your body!

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Off to See the Sea

by Nikki Grimes, illustrated by Elizabeth Zunon  (Sourcebooks Jabberwocky)

Published January 12, 2021

The parent motivates the child to take a bath by making it a time for pretend play.

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Pillow Places

by Joseph Kuefler (Balzer + Bray)

Published June 8, 2021

Two friends spend their sleepover discovering all the things a pillow can do and be. They play until they can't anymore and forge a bond stronger than a pillow fort.

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Sunny-Side Up

by Jacky Davis, illustrated by Fiona Woodcock (Greenwillow Books)

Published February 9, 2021

A little girl wants to go play outside, but it's raining. Now she has to entertain herself inside.

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This Is Ruby

by Sara O'Leary, illustrated by Alea Marley (Tundra Books)

Published May 25, 2021

Ruby is a curious girl. She explores her world through play and asks questions that lead her to great discoveries. What will you find when you play along with Ruby and her dog Teddy?

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Time for Kenny

by Brian Pinkney (Greenwillow Books)

Published January 12, 2021

A sweet story about a little boy's playful day, from getting dressed with Mom, Dad and Granddaddy through playing soccer with sister and finally bedtime.

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True Colors

by Gonçalo Viana (Princeton Architectural Press)

Published June 15, 2021


A green cloud? A white tree? That can't be right! Discover the weird and wonderful world in this innovative and interactive book about colors, emotions and how we see our world.

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We All Play

by Julie Flett (Greystone Kids)

Published May 25, 2021


Animals and kids both play. In this book we learn how we are connected to animals by the simple act of playing.

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We Became Jaguars

by Dave Eggers, illustrated by Woodrow White (Chronicle Books)

Published March 30, 2021


Grandmother comes to visit and the two pretend to be jaguars. They make jaguar shadows on the wall and go on an adventure outside, even going as far as the Himalayas!

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Grandpa Across the Ocean

by Hyewon Yum, (Harry N. Abrams)

Published April 27, 2021


The main character wants to play with his grandpa like he does with other kids, but they learn new ways to play together; some experiences are different because his grandpa lives in Korea.

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More Than Sunny

by Shelley Johannes (Harry N. Abrams)

Published May 11, 2021


An entire family explores the many different elements of the weather in a very playful way.

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I Want a Boat!

by Liz Garton Scanlon, illustrated by Kevan Atteberry (Holiday House)

Published June 22, 2021


A child uses the items in her room to create a playscape of a boat. The story builds to a climax and then deconstructs back down.

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Mel Fell

by Corey R. Tabor (Balzer + Bray)

Published February 2, 2021


A young kingfisher bird takes a leap of faith to see what is outside her branch. The other animals in the tree watch as she descends.

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Hair Twins

by Raakhee Mirchandani, illustrated by Holly Hatam (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers)

Published May 4, 2021


Father and daughter engage in imaginative play at home and with other "friends and grown-ups who love them."

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I Can Make a Train Noise

by Michael Emberley, illustrated by Marie-Louise Fitzpatrick (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers)

Published July 27, 2021


A child wants to make a train noise, and the story playfully takes that simple text over and over again ("I can make a train noise") to make the story.


by Helen Yoon (Candlewick Press)

Published October 26, 2021


A child enters her father's office to investigate and turns her curiosity into a full play session. When she realizes she should leave before it gets worse, she is in for a hilarious surprise.