Fall’s Best Children’s and Middle Grade Books: Nightmares, Artists, and More!

Fall’s Best Children’s and Middle Grade Books: Nightmares, Artists, and More!

Though starting school may seem like a bummer after an adventure-filled summer, fall is packed with all kinds of activities that kids love: drinking warm apple cider, pumpkin picking, and jumping into giant piles of leaves! This season’s latest titles only add one more fun form of entertainment to fall’s roster. Televisions stars B.J. Novak and Jason Segel each take on the challenge of kidlit for the first time, while favorites like Ann M. Martin and Oliver Jeffers return with great success. From a new take on the ol’ alphabet to a graphic novelization of one of our favorite Neil Gaiman books, this fall has enough great books to keep you and the kids going all the way through Thanksgiving!

Picture Books

More than meets the eye
A nearsighted artist struggles to please his clients with his avant garde paintings. Things seem hopeless until a new canine friend lends a helping paw. Set in the city and surrounding picturesque countryside of Paris, Kevin Hawkes weaves a warm tale of friendship and working together. He even receives help of his own from Hannah E. Harrison who illustrates dog Lulu’s work. Kids are sure to love Remy’s eccentric ideas, while adults will chuckle when he insists on painting the “essence” of a person, not their “likeness.” It’s a perfect picture book for future artists and animal lovers alike!
On shelves: September 9


And now for something completely different
A picture book… without pictures? Former Office temp and new author B.J. Novak has our interest more than piqued. While a child’s initial reaction to the picture-less book may at first seem deflated, they’ll soon be laughing along as their parents read make-believe words like BLORK and BLUURF. Creative typography makes up for the lack of images, and the fun had is guaranteed to make this a staple read-aloud favorite. Those looking for a great companion book may also enjoy Bow-Wow’s Nightmare Neighbors, a spooky yet playful tale of a dog haunted by cats, told only in colorful comic-inspired panels.
On shelves: September 30


The good, the bad, and the prehistoric
Saddle up, partner, and get ready for some rootin’ tootin’ fun. Little cowboys and rodeo girls will love this tale of a small Western town terrorized by the Toad brothers and saved by the slickest kid sheriff this side of the Mississippi. Armed with only his wits and his trusty tortoise, the new sheriff has to come up with a plan to stop the Toads before they rob Drywater Gulch… well, dry.
On shelves: October 7

Going ape over animal rights
In this moving picture book, Katherine Applegate reimagines her Newbery-winning The One and Only Ivan. Based on a true story, Applegate conveys the story of a young gorilla taken from the jungle and placed in a shopping mall as an attraction for customers. Through this accessible telling, future animal advocates will find inspiration and hope in the knowledge that human compassion helped bring Ivan from the mall to Zoo Atlanta, where he was reunited with other gorillas. Ivan’s real story is included at the back making this a perfect introduction to animal rights and welfare.
On shelves: October 7


Messin’ around with the fourth wall
The sun is shining and Louie’s day is off to a great start… that is until a messy reader lets a giant dollop of jelly fall from his sandwich onto Louie’s page! As more sloppiness begins ruining Louie’s perfect day, his frustration boils over into a tantrum. After a deep breath, Louie comes to the realization that his story is still perfect—mess and all! Young readers who struggle with being tidy will giggle over the evolving chaos, and Louie’s reactions serve as a great segue into what to do when life doesn’t go according to plan.
On shelves: October 7


A is for adventures in learning the alphabet
The Day the Crayons Quit illustrator  Oliver Jeffers returns in this charming twist on the classic alphabet book. Most kids know that A is for apple, though do they know it’s also for the astronaut Edmund who was afraid of heights? Or that O is for the octopus and owl who travel the seas solving problems? Pairing letters with silly poetry and stories, Jeffers produces another winning work where letters make up words that create stories about the letters.
On shelves: October 14

Middle Grade Books

Electric currents
Even though he was adopted four years ago, 12-year-old Jaden can’t seem to shake the abandonment that haunts him. If his biological mother didn’t want him, who’s to say that his new parents do? As the budding family travels to Kazakhstan to adopt a baby, Jaden’s certain that he’s being replaced. Jaden’s emotions manifest in the form of stealing, lighting fires, and a strange obsession with electricity. He feels connected to nothing and no one… that is, until they’re in Kazakhstan, and he meets 3-year-old orphan Dimash. Newbery Medal winner Cynthia Kadohata’s story carefully tackles the complicated subject of older-child adoption and provides readers with a realistic, character-driven journey they won’t soon forget.
On shelves: September 2


Are you afraid of the dark?
If this is a dream, don’t wake us up. We’ve been ensnared in Jason Segel’s trap since Freaks and Geeks and are ecstatic to see our favorite goofball tackle a middle grade novel. Armed with experienced middle grade author Kirsten Miller as a cowriter, Segel’s first installment in the proposed trilogy has us hooked. After moving to a new house with his dad, brother, and stepmom, Charlie finds his dreams haunted by nightmares. When his frightening fantasies begin entering the real world and kidnap his brother, Charlie has no choice but to travel to the disturbing Netherworld to rescue him. As hilarious as it is haunting, Segel and Miller’s mash-up is a surefire hit.
On shelves: September 9


I’ve got the magic in me
After Ned and his twin brother are thrown from their raft into a river, Ned survives and his twin dies. Ned grows up believing (along with the rest of his village) that the wrong boy lived that night. But when the Bandit King comes after his mother, Ned surprises even himself by standing strong to defend her. He needs to protect the magic that his mother, a witch, entrusted him with, though he’ll need help. Could Áine, the daughter of the notorious Bandit King, be the key to his survival? Can they even trust each other? Kelly Barnhillconstructs a nuanced fairy tale full of friendship, magic, adventure, and the lines between good and evil.
On shelves: September 16


The pencil is mightier
Turning twelve meant big things for Amira. It meant more responsibilities, and it meant wearing traditional clothes for women, not girls. She did not think it meant that her whole world would change in an instant. When the Janjaweed, a dangerous militia group, arrive, she’s driven out of her once peaceful home in South Darfur. Forced to seek shelter in a refugee camp, she begins to express herself through art after a teacher gives her the gift of a red pencil. With Andrea Davis Pinkney telling the story in free verse and Shane W. Evansillustrating, the pair craft an affecting and inspiring story of finding hope in the darkest of times.
On shelves: September 16


The spark of change
Middle grade fans of stories about social justice are in luck this year. While Pinkney’s The Red Pencil takes its cues from real life, Eleanor Glewwe’s debut focuses on a fantastical realm featuring sparkers, who are members of an oppressed lower class in a magical society. When a plague begins ripping through the city of Ashara, sparker Marah teams up with magician Azariah to find a cure. Together they think they can save those they love, but they have no idea that they’re about to unleash so much more.
On shelves: September 30



It takes a graveyard
We fell in love with Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book in 2008 when it was originally released, though we just about died and went to the graveyard ourselves when P. Craig Russell announced a two-volume graphic novel edition. The first volume, released this past July, set the scene by introducing (or reintroducing) readers to Nobody Owens, a normal boy raised by a graveyard of ghosts after his parents are murdered by the man Jack. With each chapter illustrated by a different comic book great (from Kevin Nowlan to Galen Showman), we can’t wait to get our hands on the second volume.
On shelves: September 30


A climatic threat with a climactic ending
Readers young and young-at-heart will gravitate to the latest book from Ann M. Martin, creator of the beloved Baby-Sitters Club series. Rose Howard’s father doesn’t have the patience for his daughter’s OCD or Asperger’s syndrome, and he certainly doesn’t understand her obsession with homonyms. But when he brings home a lost dog, Rose finally has someone to spend time with and the two become inseparable. When a storm hits and the dog, Rain, goes missing, Rose must do everything she can to get her friend back—even leaving the safety of her routines. But what happens when Rain’s original owners find her too?
On shelves: October 7


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