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It’s September! September feels like one of those in-between months, not quite summer, but not autumn either. At least not here in Tennessee. While October is packed with pumpkins and Halloween prep, and August is packed with pools and playgrounds right before school starts, September is right there. But while the month may seem a little mysterious, the September children’s book releases are amazing. I had the hardest time ever narrowing my choices down to 12 books. I could have made a list of 20. In the new editions of the picture book, some of my favorite authors and illustrators, such as Julie Fleet, Ryan T. Higgins, and Kate Messner, are returning with new books. In the new mid-tier editions, Kwame Alexander returns with perhaps his best book yet, and several books explore mental health in really helpful ways.
Several of the authors on this list have tweeted about how their books won’t be moved by Barnes & Noble after B&N’s decision to only put best-selling children’s books or first-selling books on the shelf for each publisher. This decision disproportionately affects the marginalized authors. I encourage my readers to buy locally or buy online from places like bookshop.org. If your local bookstore doesn’t carry a book you want, call them and ask them to stock it.
September Children’s Book Releases: Picture Books
Magnolia Flower by Zora Neale Hurston, Abram X Kennedy and Lovis Wise (September 6; HarperCollins)
Ibram X. Kendi (How to be Antiracist) has adapted one of Zora Neale Hurston’s short stories into this stunning picture book about the transcendent power of love. A magnolia flower is a child of two parents who has survived the trail of tears and bondage. When she falls in love with a poor, formerly enslaved person, her father forbids their marriage. But Magnolia Flower knows the best way to live is to follow her heart, so she and her lover ride a boat among the trees and find another place to live where they will be accepted. Decades later, Magnolia and her husband revisit their old home, particularly the three trees where their love first blossomed.
Above and Below the Waves by Kate Meissner and Christopher Silas Neal (September 13; Chronicle Books)
I adore this realistic series about nature, which I believe now contains six books. This latest release depicts the beauty of the sea as the family kayaking over the waves. Beneath the waves, swarms of silverfish swim, leopard sharks roam, and octopus juts into the rocks. Above the waves, humpback whales break the surface, kelp floats, and shorebirds sing. The child and their parents are watching everything. The back gives more information about the marine life shown in the illustrations.
Beatrice Loves the Dark By April Genevieve Tucholki and Joa Lo (September 13; Algonquin Young Readers)
This is Algonquin Young Readers’ first entry in picture books, and it’s a stunningly beautiful book about the fraternity. Sisters Beatrice and Rowe could not be different. Beatrice loves bats who wear lions and spiders, especially at night. While picnics in the cemetery in the middle of the night seem totally magical to Beatrice, they are a nightmare for Rowe. Roe loves to wear bright colors – like pink! Examine the flowers and pick strawberries, especially getting up early and enjoying the sun. She prefers to go for a walk in her house on the tree. Sisters often glow at each other. But when Roe goes through a nightmare, Beatrice shows her how to enjoy the night, and the next day Roe shows Beatrice that there are things to appreciate on this day. Despite their differences, they are close-knit sisters and brothers. Khoa Lee is one of my favorite children’s book illustrators, and it’s impossible to imagine this picture book illustrated any other way. It is perfection from start to finish.
Bubbie & Rivka’s Best-Challah (So Far!) by Sarah Rolle (September 20; Abrams books for young readers)
In this adorable, intergenerational Jewish picture book, a grandmother and granddaughter try to make God together. Despite being poor bakers, Bobby and Rivka are determined to make the perfect schlep. Every Friday they try a new recipe, but while they enjoy cooking and playing together, the challah is less than perfect. In fact, it is often inedible. But with a lot of trial and error, they finally succeeded in making the best torch ever. I’m always here for comic books that emphasize enjoying the process over the end result, and this book does that very well.
Hey Bruce! Interactive book by Ryan T. Higgins (September 20; Disney-Hyperion)
Ryan T. Higgins has written some of the funniest picture books ever. My daughter and I laughed until we cried with every book in the Bruce series, which begins with Mother Bruce (although they can be read in any order). Hey Bruce! It’s the first interactive book in the series, and let me say, it’s a blast. Interactive picture books are my daughter’s favorite. If you have a child from 3 to 6 years old or are teaching children between those ages, you should try interactive picture books with them if you haven’t already. In this book, the mice Robert, Thistle, and Nippes invite the reader to have some fun with Bruce, the grumpy bear who, though, has a big soft heart and a big mixed-species family as a result.
This Love Still Goes On by Buffy St. Mary and Julie Fleet (September 27; Grayston Kids)
Based on the song by award-winning original musician Buffy Saint Mary, this beautiful picture book celebrates family love and nature. The illustrations by Cree-Métis and illustrator Julie Fleet are gorgeous and cheerful, from a child running through a field of bright yellow summer flowers to dancers dancing to soaring songs. I want to frame some of these! The music note of the song is included in the back. This would make a lovely gift for a new parent.
September Children’s Book Releases: Middle Grade
Iveliz explains it all by Andrea Beatriz Arango (September 13; Random House books for young readers)
I listened to this middle class audiobook in verse narrated by Raquel Meredez in one sitting, and was appalled and deeply moved afterward. It’s beautifully written, about a young Puerto Rican girl who lives on the mainland and starts middle school. Suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and depression after her father died in a car accident while there, Iveliz struggles with anger and presence and often finds herself missing out on memories. She also hallucinates her father. When Abuela, who has Alzheimer’s disease, comes to live with Evelis and her mother, she is at first relieved that she is there. But her father’s mockery of Evelis’ drug and treatment sends her into an escalation. Iveliz’s experiences in mental health and therapy are well portrayed. It is a powerful book.
The Vanderbeekers on the Road by Karina Jan Glaser (September 20; Clarion Books)
In the sixth book in the Vanderbeekers series, which begins with The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street, the Vanderbeeker family goes on a road trip to celebrate their father’s 40th birthday. From New York to California in a pickup truck with nine people and four animals – nothing could happen, right? Ha! The car broke down on its way to pick up their father from a business trip in Indiana. Then the older siblings want to tour colleges in California while they’re there, but the younger siblings aren’t ready for their siblings to move away or leave the family. The family has to contend with the changing family dynamics on the journey, but they also have a lot of fun and adventures.
The Vanquishers by Calin Byron (September 20; Bloomsbury Children’s Books)
I love Kalynn Bayron’s novels for young adults (This Poison Heart, Cinderella is Dead) and the conquerors, her first appearance in middle class, was just as explosive. BFFs Boog, Cedrick and Jules unite at San Antonio Prep in their desire to keep their parents’ obsession with protection from vampires a secret. Although everyone knows the Vanquishers wiped out the last vampires decades ago, their parents didn’t understand it. When the group befriends new kid ‘Aaron’ and the school’s guidance counselor starts behaving a bit strange, their parents go on full alert for vampires. And to be honest, Pogg and her friends feel like something might be out of reach. But can vampires return? This is the perfect paranormal middle class for fall reading.
Deadly Underwear Invasion!: How to Spot Fake News, Disinformation, and Conspiracy Theories by Elise Gravel (September 20; Chronicle Books)
This middle-grade graphic novel is a masterful introduction to media literacy for children. Using humorous and super fun illustrations, author and illustrator Elise Gravel shows how kids can spot fake news and conspiracy theories. This is a must in today’s news cycle, where a lot of sheer nonsense is passed around as news. I was teaching introductory research and writing to freshmen in college, and if this book had been around at the time, I would probably have asked them to read it! Meanwhile, my 4-year-old son enjoyed reading snippets of silly illustrations and jokes. It really is a great accessible introduction that would work great in middle school classrooms.
Haven Jacobs Saves the Planet by Barbara Dee (September 27; Aladdin)
In this contemporary middle class, Haven Jacobs suffers from environmental anxiety. Climate change will likely destroy the planet, yet none of the adults seem to care enough to do anything about it. Haven isn’t the type to shut up when something bothers her. But what can she do? How can one person, especially a child, make any kind of meaningful change to help the environment? Her social studies teacher suggests she thinks sparingly. It may not be able to eliminate climate change globally, but it can focus on society. When the science class began studying the river that runs through the small town, Haven and the rest of the class began to notice a lot of problems. The frogs disappeared and found harmful chemicals when I tested the water. While Haven can’t solve the problem of climate change, perhaps it can help the river in its community. This middle class has a great representation of anxiety, and I loved how he showed kids how to take action against climate change at the local level and that it takes a process to initiate change. One action is not enough. The audio book narrated by Mehr Dodega is excellent.
The Door of No Return by Kwame Alexander (September 27; Small Brown Books for Young Readers)
This historical lyrical middle class in poetry takes place in Ghana in the nineteenth century. Eleven-year-old Kofi loves swimming, his family, and the girl Ama he adores. He hopes to impress her in an upcoming swimming competition, but before the swimming competition, his brother participates in a wrestling competition during a festival. Kofi’s life is turned upside down when his brother accidentally kills his opponent. Then slave traders invade his village. This first book in a scheming trilogy is a solid and essential read.
If your list of children’s book releases for September isn’t enough, check out my lists for June, July, and August, and also subscribe to Book Riot’s twice-weekly children’s newsletter.