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September is here! September seems to be one of those odd transitional months, neither quite summer nor quite fall. Certainly not in Tennessee. September is merely there, in contrast to October, which is full of pumpkins and preparation for Halloween, and August, which is full of pools and playgrounds just before school starts. Although the month may seem a little hazy, September’s new children’s book releases are amazing. I had the most trouble ever limiting my choice to 12 novels. I could have easily come up with 20 items. Some of my favorite authors and artists, including Julie Flett, Ryan T. Higgins, and Kate Messner, have just published new picture books. Kwame Alexander is back with what may be his finest book yet for middle school readers, and many other novels examine mental health in profound ways.
Numerous writers on this list have expressed their disappointment that Barnes & Noble would no longer carry their books as a result of B&N’s decision to only stock the top 1-2 bestselling children’s books from each publisher. Marginalized writers will be disproportionately impacted by this choice. I recommend that readers purchase items locally or online from stores like bookshop.org. Call the shop and ask them to order the book if they don’t already have it in stock.
BY ZORA NEALE HURSTON, IBRAM X. KENDI, & LOVEIS WISE
(SEPTEMBER 6; HARPERCOLLINS)
A short story by Zora Neale Hurston is adapted by Ibram X. Kendi into a magnificent visual book on the transformative power of love. Magnolia Flower was born to parents who both escaped slavery and the Trail of Tears. Her father prohibits their marriage when she falls in love with a destitute former slave. Magnolia Flower, however, is aware that the best course of action is to follow her heart, so she and her partner sail a boat through trees in search of a new home where they will be welcomed. Years later, Magnolia and her husband return to the house where they originally fell in love, paying particular attention to the three trees there.
OVER AND UNDER THE WAVES
BY KATE MESSNER & CHRISTOPHER SILAS NEAL
(SEPTEMBER 13; CHRONICLE BOOKS)
This nature-themed nonfiction series, which I think currently includes six volumes, is one of my favorites. The most recent episode has a family kayaking above the waves to capture the beauty of the ocean. Schools of silver fish, leopard sharks, and an octopus that mixes in with the rocks may all be seen swimming beneath the waves. Humpback whales breach the surface of the waves, kelp drifts by, and shorebirds chirp. The kid and their parents watch everything happen. More details regarding the marine creatures portrayed in the drawings are provided in the back matter.
BEATRICE LIKES THE DARK
BY APRIL GENEVIEVE TUCHOLKE & KHOA LE
(SEPTEMBER 13; ALGONQUIN YOUNG READERS)
This picture book about sisters is Algonquin Young Readers’ first step into the picture book market. Beatrice and Roo, sisters, are very unlike to one another. Beatrice adores the darkness, spiders, wearing all black, and bats. Beatrice finds it totally wonderful to have picnics in graveyards in the middle of the night, while Roo finds it to be a nightmare. Pink is one of Roo’s favorite vibrant colors to wear! — exploring flowers, gathering strawberries, and especially rising early to take advantage of the light. A picnic in her treehouse is something she would much prefer do. The sisters frequently exchange angry looks. However, after Roo has a nightmare, Beatrice teaches her how to enjoy the night, and the next day, Roo demonstrates to Beatrice that there are positive aspects of the day. They are sisters, and sisters remain together despite disagreements. It’s tough to envision this picture book being illustrated in any other manner; Khoa Le is one of my favorite children’s book artists. Everything about it is flawless.
BUBBIE & RIVKA’S BEST-EVER CHALLAH (SO FAR!)
BY SARAH REUL
(SEPTEMBER 20; ABRAMS BOOKS FOR YOUNG READERS)
Attempting to make challah together are a grandmother and granddaughter in this lovely Jewish picture book for all ages. Bubbie and Rivka are motivated to prepare the best challah despite their lackluster baking skills. Every Friday, they experiment with a new recipe, but even though they like playing and cooking together, their challah always turns out imperfect. It’s frequently inedible, un fact. But after many trial and error, they eventually manage to create the finest challah ever. This book does such a great job of promoting picture books that emphasis loving the process over the final product.
HEY BRUCE! AN INTERACTIVE BOOK
BY RYAN T. HIGGINS
(SEPTEMBER 20; DISNEY-HYPERION)
Writer of some of the funniest picture books ever, Ryan T. Higgins. Every book in the Bruce series, which starts with Mother Bruce, has made my daughter and I cry with laughter (though they can be read in any order). Hello, Bruce! is the series’ first interactive book, and may I just say that it’s a blast? My daughter’s favorite picture books are the interactive ones. If you have a child between the ages of 3-6 or educate kids in that age range, you must attempt interactive picture books with them. The mice Rupert, Thistle, and Nibbs encourage the reader to have fun with Bruce, a grouchy bear who still has a giant soft heart and a sizable mixed-species family as a result, in this story.
STILL THIS LOVE GOES ON
BY BUFFY SAINTE-MARIE & JULIE FLETT
(SEPTEMBER 27; GREYSTONE KIDS)
This lovely picture book, based on the song by the celebrated Indigenous artist Buffy Sainte-Marie, honors nature and familial love. Julie Flett, a Cree-Métis author and illustrator, creates beautiful and joyful images, including scenes of jingle dancers dancing to soaring music and a youngster rushing through a field of bright yellow summer flowers. A few of them I want to frame! The song’s sheet music is located at the back. A new parent would appreciate receiving this as a gift.
IVELIZ EXPLAINS IT ALL
BY ANDREA BEATRIZ ARANGO
(SEPTEMBER 13; RANDOM HOUSE BOOKS FOR YOUNG READERS)
I listened to the middle grade in verse audiobook spoken by Raquel Merediz in one sitting and was left feeling raw and profoundly affected. Beautifully written, it tells the story of a young Puerto Rican girl starting middle school while she lives on the mainland. After her father passed away in a vehicle accident while she was there, Iveliz developed PTSD and despair. She also issues with anger and being in the moment, and she frequently finds herself missing memories. She is also seeing her father in her dreams. She first finds solace in the company of her Alzheimer’s-affected grandmother when she moves in with Iveliz and her mother. But Iveliz’s grandmother’s mockery of her meds and counseling pushes her into a tailspin. The portrayal of Iveliz’s struggles with treatment and mental health is excellent. It’s an influential book.
THE VANDERBEEKERS ON THE ROAD
BY KARINA YAN GLASER
(SEPTEMBER 20; CLARION BOOKS)
The Vanderbeeker family takes a road trip to celebrate their father’s fortieth birthday in the sixth installment of the Vanderbeekers series, which starts with The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street. Nothing could possibly go wrong traveling from New York to California in a van with nine humans and four animals, could it? Ha! On the way to pick up their father after a business trip in Indiana, the automobile breaks down. The older siblings then want to visit universities in California, but the younger ones aren’t prepared for their older siblings to leave the house or relocate so far away. On the vacation, the family must deal with shifting family dynamics, but they also enjoy a lot of fun and experiences.
BY KALYNN BAYRON
(SEPTEMBER 20; BLOOMSBURY CHILDREN’S BOOKS)
I adore Kalynn Bayron’s young adult books (This Poison Heart, Cinderella is Dead), and her middle grade debut, The Vanquishers, is equally entertaining. Boog, Cedrick, and Jules, three middle school friends from San Antonio, share the urge to conceal their parents’ preoccupation with warding against vampires. Their parents simply don’t get it, despite the fact that everyone is aware that the Vanquishers exterminated the last of the vampires decades ago. Their parents become fully aware of the vampire threat when the gang meets new student Aaron and the guidance counselor at the school begins acting strangely. To be really honest, Boog and her companions do feel that something is a little odd. But is it possible that vampires are back? The ideal paranormal middle grade book to read this autumn is this one.
KILLER UNDERWEAR INVASION!: HOW TO SPOT FAKE NEWS, DISINFORMATION & CONSPIRACY THEORIES
BY ELISE GRAVEL
(SEPTEMBER 20; CHRONICLE BOOKS)
This visual nonfiction book for middle schoolers is a brilliant way to introduce youngsters to media literacy. Author and illustrator Elise Gravel demonstrates how children may recognize fake news and conspiracy theories through humor and incredibly entertaining drawings. In today’s news cycle, where so much utter garbage is presented as news, this is a must. If this book had been around when I was teaching college freshmen the basics of research and writing, I definitely would have assigned them to read it! My 8-year-old also loved reading passages because of the humorous visuals and quips. It’s an excellent, approachable introduction that would be useful in middle school settings.
HAVEN JACOBS SAVES THE PLANET
BY BARBARA DEE
(SEPTEMBER 27; ALADDIN)
In this modern middle grade novel, Haven Jacobs struggles with eco-anxiety. Although climate change may ultimately lead to the destruction of the earth, it appears that no adults are concerned enough to take action. When something bothers Haven, she is not the kind to keep her mouth shut. What, then, can she do? How is it possible for one person, much alone a child, to produce any type of significant environmental change? Think tiny, advises her social studies instructor. She might not be able to stop climate change on a global scale, but she might concentrate on local issues. Haven and the other students in her science class start detecting several issues as soon as they start examining the river that flows through the little town. When they examine the water now that the frogs are gone, they discover dangerous substances. Although Haven cannot stop climate change, she might be able to save the river in her neighborhood. This middle grade book contains excellent portrayal of worry, and I enjoyed how it portrayed young people taking localized action to combat climate change and that change requires time. One action is insufficient. Excellent narration may be found in Mehr Dudeja’s audiobook.
THE DOOR OF NO RETURN
BY KWAME ALEXANDER
(SEPTEMBER 27; LITTLE, BROWN BOOKS FOR YOUNG READERS)
This middle school historical poetry book is set in 19th-century Ghana. Kofi, an eleven-year-old boy, adores swimming, his family, and Ama, the girl he secretly fancies. He wants to win her over in a swimming competition that is coming up, but his brother is competing in a wrestling match earlier in the festival. When his brother accidently murders his opponent, Kofi’s life falls apart. Slave traffickers then attack his community. This first volume in a trilogy is a potent and crucial read.
I hope this list helps you find some good books for your small and not so small kiddos. Which ones will you try out? Let me know.