Fall 2017’s Best Children’s and Middle Grade Books: Birthdays, Brontës, and Big Adventures

Fall 2017’s Best Children’s and Middle Grade Books: Birthdays, Brontës, and Big Adventures

Lace up your boots and button up that flannel: We’re going on an adventure. This fall is bringing an incredible crop of new titles, and young readers won’t want to miss out on a single one. Picture book readers can journey to a world inspired by Korean folklore or visit an old fairytale favorite, Humpty Dumpty. Meanwhile middle graders can hunt for unicorns with the Lumberjanes or spend some time with the Brontë family. The best part of these literary travels? Once you’ve finished one, you can come back to start another.

Picture Books

When’s My Birthday?

A very merry unbirthday to you

This delightful picture book asks a very important question: “When’s my birthday?” And the inevitable follow up: “How many days until my birthday?” Whether the birthday is near or far, there is planning to be done and the book explores all of the wonderful things that can happen on a birthday, from dancing and gleeful jumping to eating treats and receiving loving kisses. Julie Fogliano’s text and Christian Robinson’s illustrations go together like candles and cake, perfectly capturing a child’s energetic spirit and joy.

On shelves: September 5

The Antlered Ship

The SS Friendship

Marco is a fox with questions, but none of the other foxes seem to care about why trees never talk or how deep the sun sinks into the sea when it sets. When a ship crewed by deer lands near his forest, Marco decides to hop aboard in search of a skulk of foxes who are as inquisitive as he is. On their journey, the travelers encounter menacing pirates and fierce storms. As they sail the seas, Marco realizes that the bonds he’s made with his new friends may be exactly what he’s been looking for all along.

On shelves: September 12


The life and surprising adventures of a reader

Peter Sís’ latest picture book is inspired by an event from his childhood. Young Peter narrates the tale and arrives at his school’s costume party decked out in fur. He loves his Robinson Crusoe outfit, but his friends (dressed as pirates) taunt him. Later, in the safety of his bedroom, Peter dreams of finding himself on Crusoe’s island. There he encounters friendly animals, feasts nightly, and enjoys his solitary paradise. When he awakens, Peter discovers that his friends have come to apologize for their mocking. This is a tale that not only tells readers that it is okay to be different, but also celebrates the magic of imagining yourself in your favorite stories.

On shelves: September 26

Where’s Halmoni?

Through the Korean doors

A sister and brother can’t wait to see their halmoni (grandmother in Korean), but when they arrive at her house, she’s gone. The only clue to her disappearance is a track of animal prints that lead towards a pair of Korean doors. The siblings follow the footprints and soon find themselves in a strange world inhabited by creatures from Korean folklore—everything from goblins to a nine-tailed fox! Some of the beings are harmless cookie-stealers, while others are more threatening, but the girl and boy never show their fear. They’d face any obstacle to find their halmoni. Young readers who adore classic fairytales will want to escape into this story again and again.

On shelves: October 3

After the Fall

Fall down seven times, get up eight

Most kids can tell you about Humpty Dumpty’s great fall, but this new picture book explores how everyone’s favorite egg learned to face his fears and get back on the wall. Few know that Humpty is quite the ornithophile, and he would sit on top of the wall for a better look at birds he adored to study. After his fall, Humpty finds himself terrified of heights of any kind—even his bed is too high off of the ground. But Humpty refuses to let fear stop him from doing what he loves, and page by page he finds the courage to get back up.

On shelves: October 3

Before She was Harriet

Abolitionist, conductor, suffragist, spy

This stunning free verse biography begins with Harriet Tubman riding on a train and thinking back on her life’s journey. Traveling back in time, readers are introduced to Harriet as a child and a slave. They see her strength and resilience in the face of oppression, and watch as Harriet grows into a compassionate woman willing to risk everything to help others escape from slavery and find freedom. The train Harriet is riding on is segregated, showing the work left to be done, but readers know that she lived her life planting seeds for a better future.

On shelves: November 7

Middle Grade

The Glass Town Game

Courage, dear heart

When life becomes sad or boring or tedious, the Brontë siblings like to play Glass Town. Charlotte, Emily, Anne, and Branwell send their toy soldiers into battle against Napoleon in a make-believe land where no one dies. They play often in the days leading up to Charlotte and Emily’s departure for boarding school. Just as they’re preparing to say their goodbyes, the impossible happens: They’re transported to Glass Town. But it isn’t quite like they’d imagined it to be. Here soldiers can and do die, and Napoleon rides a fire-breathing rooster. Before they can figure out how to return home, Anne and Branwell are kidnapped! Catherynne M. Valente’s adventurous novel is inspired by the Brontës’ actual childhood writings about Glass Town. Young readers may not be familiar with the family when they start the novel, but they’re sure to be obsessed with them by the end.

On shelves: September 5

The Stars Beneath Our Feet

Building a future

Twelve-year-old Lolly Rachpaul’s brother died in a gang shooting, and now that same crew is pressuring him to join their ranks. Lolly fears that his future with them is inevitable, until a surprise gift arrives. Yvonne, his mom’s girlfriend, gives Lolly a Christmas present: two huge bags filled with Legos. The bricks don’t come with any instructions, allowing Lolly to let his imagination run wild, and soon he’s building an entire Lego city for his community center. The center becomes a refuge from his too-quiet house and the Harlem streets where he’s hounded by gang members. Brick by brick, Lolly begins to heal and imagine a different future.

On shelves: September 19


The giving tree

Newbery medalist Katherine Applegate’s middle grade novel begins with a 200-year-old oak tree named Red, but most people in the neighborhood know Red as the “wishtree.” Once a year, residents scribble their wishes on pieces of cloth and tie them to the Red’s branches. This year, Red receives a wish from 10-year-old Samar, whose Muslim family just moved to the neighborhood. Samar hopes for a friend in a town that seems ready to drive her and her family away—a young boy even carves the word “leave” into Red’s trunk. Samar isn’t the only one being targeted; a woman in the neighborhood has begun a campaign to cut Red down. Applegate weaves together these two threads to create a powerful tale about understanding, kindness, and strength.

On shelves: September 26

Unicorn Power!

Friendship to the max

Summer may be ending, but Miss Qiunzella Thiskwin Pinniquiqul Thistle Crumpet’s Camp for Hardcore Lady Types is still open! Join April, Mal, Molly, Jo, and Ripley as they take to the forest to win their Living the Plant Life badge. Along the way they discover odd blue flowers, unicorns, and a color-changing mountain. Fans of the Lumberjanes comics will dive into this book faster than Ripley going after cookies, and new readers will finish this fun, feminist adventure and immediately want to find the comics.

On shelves: October 10

The Witch Boy

Toil and trouble

Molly Knox Ostertag’s graphic novel takes place in a world where girls are raised as witches and boys as shapeshifters. Thirteen-year-old Aster hasn’t shifted yet, and he doesn’t want to. More than anything, he wants to become a witch. Learning witchery is forbidden for boys, so Aster resorts to practicing alone in the woods. When a boy from his community is captured by a strange creature, Aster believes his magic can help. But revealing this secret could lead to his exile—is he willing to risk it?

On shelves: October 31

Tru & Nelle: A Christmas Tale

Faithful friends gather near to us

Last year G. Neri introduced young readers to Tru and Nelle, though older readers may know them as Truman Capote and Harper Lee. Inspired by true events, the sequel shows Nelle witnessing her father losing a court case where a black man was falsely accused. Older readers will recognize this as the inspiration for To Kill a Mockingbird, but middle schoolers without that background will still find themselves captivated by the events in Monroeville, Alabama and inspired by Tru and Nelle’s lasting friendship.

On shelves: November 7


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