Is there anything better than spending a summer afternoon with your kid and a good book? This season is brimming with incredible new titles that are sure to become fast favorites for parents and children alike. The youngest of bibliophiles will want to get their hands on new interactive titles: One challenges the reader to a staring contest, the other encourages the creation of a silly new language. Middle graders will find themselves lost in magical worlds where gators grant good luck and aliens peacefully cohabitate. Parents, don’t even think of packing up the beach bag without having at least one of these titles tucked inside.
Don’t turn your back, don’t look away, and don’t blink
Competitive readers will love this picture book from Tom Booth. A young girl kicks the tale off with a challenge: a staring contest. Before you can say “go,” she’s looking out at the reader, gaze friendly but unblinking (she won’t be easy to beat). A bird flies along and asks if it too can join in on the contest. Before the reader knows it, the pages are filling up with creatures determined to keep their eyes wide open. Can your reader beat an entire zoo at a staring contest? And don’t worry, Doctor Who-loving parents, there are no Weeping Angels here. It is safe to blink, if you must.
On shelves: June 6
Beneath the surface
Erin Pike grew up hearing the fishermen’s tales of the legend of Black Rock, an ominous and ever-moving creature shaped like a half-submerged mountain that destroys every boat in its path. While the men and women of her village fear Black Rock, Erin is determined to see it for herself, so she stows away on her mother’s fishing boat. What Erin discovers is that Black Rock isn’t a dangerous creature: In fact it’s kind and the home to a variety of sea creatures. But the townspeople are afraid and when they decide to attack Black Rock, Erin must find a way to stop them and save her new friend. Joe Todd-Stanton’s adventurous picture book proves that people (and giant rock creatures) are often more than they appear to be. It also serves as a gentle reminder to treat our environment with care.
On shelves: June 13
Just keep sailing, just keep sailing
James Kwan’s tale of a boat at sea will delight young readers. “You are a boat,” the story begins, before introducing the reader to the different inhabitants of the ship: a chef, an octopus, a little boy who sings. Each character represents a feeling that exists within all of us. The boat itself serves as a metaphor for weathering life’s ups and downs. When the ship crashes, it’s tempting to give up. Instead, “piece by crooked piece” it is rebuilt and it remains strong. Some of the metaphors may sail straight over the heads of the youngest readers, but they’ll be captured by the antics of the silly shipmates, and they’ll easily understand the important message of working together to move forward.
On shelves: July 4
No day but today
Do you have a favorite leaf? Hole? Breeze? This young narrator does. Antoinette Portis’ gentle picture book proves how joyful it can be to take life moment by moment. A young girl takes readers through her day, pointing out her favorite things (covering everything from clouds to paper boats). She reveals, in a moment wise beyond her years, that each item is her favorite because it is the one in her life at that time. It’s a sweet tale that will remind readers of all ages to take pleasure from the little things and to find happiness in their everyday lives.
On shelves: July 11
Are you ready to start a whole new language filled with Ohs, Ahs, and a few Waahoos? Can you invent a few words of your own? Hervé Tullet’s latest interactive picture book is sure to provide parents and children with endless hours of silly fun. Each new page provides a direction, usually starting with putting a finger on a colorful dot, followed by encouragement to make a sound. Some noises are whispered softly, others are meant to be cheered loudly, and all are certain to entertain. This is a must-have for little goofballs.
On shelves: August 1
Knowledge is power
If you’re anything like us, you like to pretend that the summer will last forever. But going back to school isn’t so bad with Buddy the dog and Earl the hedgehog at your side. The two are ecstatic when their owner, Meredith, announces that they’ll be going to school. Earl sees it as his first step in becoming the first hedgehog dentist, though he’s a bit disappointed when he sees that their other classmates are just toys. When Meredith is called away, Earl decides to take charge and instructs Buddy in lessons on sniffing, tail-chasing, and concludes with a final exam on scratching itches. Author Maureen Fergus and illustrator Carey Sookocheff team up to deliver another winning adventure from our favorite dog and hedgehog.
On shelves: August 1
Felix Yz’s father died when a science experiment backfired. During that same accident, three-year-old Felix became fused with Zyx, a being from the fourth dimension. Zyx is friendly, and they’ve shared Felix’s body for ten years. But the bond makes simple movements and speech incredibly painful for Felix, and in 29 days they’ll undergo an operation to separate them. It’s risky procedure and one or both of them could die, which is why Felix wants to spend this next month living fearlessly. He wants to stand up to bullies, spend time with his family, and find the courage to approach Hector, his crush. In a starred review Kirkus called Lisa Bunker’s novel “Joyful, heartbreaking, completely bonkers, and exuberantly alive.”
On shelves: June 6
Breaking the curse
Fifth grader Joplin Danforth discovers the broken pieces of a beautiful platter in her grandfather’s house and decides to fix it. Once repaired, the surface of the platter reveals the image of a young girl beside a lake. Joplin, who is quite lonely, wishes that she could be friends with the girl in the picture or at least have a friend at school. And to her surprise, her wishes come true. Joplin befriends a boy named Barrett and Sofie, the girl from the platter. Sofie reveals that she’s been trapped for hundreds of years, forced to grant wishes to whoever owns the magical platter. Joplin and Barrett agree to help Sofie escape her curse, and the three set off to find a way to take Sofie 400 years into the past back to her Dutch village.
On shelves: June 13
Crown thy good with sisterhood
Karen English’s middle grade novel takes place in Los Angeles in the year 1965. Sophie, a young black girl, is struggling to fit into her new neighborhood and hates the idea of living there without her sister Lily, who is soon leaving for college. In their time together, the two girls become close with Nathan, the son of their housekeeper—and a romance begins to blossom between him and Lily. Sophie believes things are bad when her mother forbids Lily from seeing Nathan. Things only become worse when Nathan is arrested during the Watts riots. This is a thoughtful and moving novel that explores the nuances of race, class, prejudice, and colorism during a contentious time in American history.
On shelves: July 11
No human being is illegal
In this harrowing and important novel, Alan Gratz weaves together the stories of three refugees from different times and places. The first is Josef, a Jewish boy whose family is fleeing Nazi Germany to avoid being sent to concentration camps. The second is Isabel, a young Cuban girl living in 1994. As riots rage in the streets of her home town, she prepares to leave on a raft with her family in the hopes of reaching America. The third is Mahmoud, a Syrian boy living in 2015. His family is traveling to Europe to escape the violence in Aleppo. Our protagonists each face the unimaginable challenge of risking their lives to leave the only home they’ve ever known, in the hopes of finding safety, understanding, and acceptance in a different land. Their stories, each all too real, will stay with readers for a long time after they turn the final page.
On shelves: July 25
On the case
Kids itching for a hilarious mystery to solve will want to dive right into James Ponti’s second T.O.A.S.T. Mystery. In this volume Florian Bates is, unsurprisingly, a bit bored at Alice Deal Middle School. Math class just can’t compare to helping the FBI solve the mystery of an art theft or uncovering a spy ring in DC. But his dull life is soon interrupted when he gets a call from the FBI inviting him to investigate a series of seemingly-harmless pranks involving the daughter of the President of the United States. Florian and his best friend Margaret begin to investigate, just as the pranks evolve from innocent to dangerous.
On shelves: August 22
Luck be a gator tonight
There’s a legend about a golden alligator named Munch who appears every 100 years during the red moon and grants good luck to anyone brave enough to ask. One night in 1817, he’s found by two people at the same time and the luck splits down the middle. Good fortune seems to skip a generation for the descendants of the two: Some live out wonderful lives, while others are cursed. Tumble Wilson and Blue Montgomery, the youngest descendants of the original two, decide to take fate into their own hands and undo the terrible mistake their ancestors made. Cassie Beasley’s tale is infused with magical realism, and it’s sure to enchant readers.
On shelves: August 29