I’m super excited about August because my daughter finally starts preschool! We’ve kept her at home during the pandemic, but now that she’s vaccinated, she’ll be attending preschool twice a week. She is more than ready, and talks about it every day. What I’m not so excited about are August’s temperatures. The humidity is at 90%, the temperatures are in the 90s or 100s, and I’m arriving home from my daily walks drenched in sweat — yay for summer. I’d say this is just another August in Tennessee, but it’s definitely hotter than normal. Also hotter than normal are August’s children’s book releases (see that clever transition?).
August has some truly brilliant releases, and while I didn’t intentionally include themes, several themes emerged as I wrote my reviews. Five books contain disability representation, and as a disabled mom and reviewer, I could not be happier about seeing more good inclusion of disabled characters. Three picture books depict loving grandmother and granddaughter relationships, and while I tried to narrow it down to just one or two, they’re all so precious and sweet that I had to include them all. Family relationships in general play into many of these books, from loving grandmothers to discovering an extended family of wrestlers. But while family plays an important role in August’s picture book releases, friendships prevail in August’s middle grade releases. There are also some silly and interactive books, too.
Whatever you (or your child) is in the mood to read, I’ve got recommendations in this list of August children’s book releases!
August Children’s Book Releases: Board Books
Big Green Garage by Jen Arena & Mike Dutton (August 2; Chronicle Books)
This rhyming interactive board book is perfect for little vehicle lovers. The story takes place in a green garage where mechanics (including a female mechanic, which I appreciate) work on a red car and a camper truck. Sliding doors, flaps, and spinning wheels keep little hands busy, and these interactive elements are surprisingly sturdy. It’s a lot of fun to read with toddlers and preschoolers.
August Children’s Book Releases: Picture Books
A History of Toilet Paper by Sophia Gholz & Xiana Teimoy (August 2; Running Press Kids)
I often find nonfiction picture books can be a bit clunky to read aloud, but such is not the case for this delightful and funny microhistory about toilet paper. I love finding nonfiction that both my 4-year-old and I enjoy equally and where we both learn new things. For instance, did you know that people used to wipe their butts with corn husks? This is a seriously hilarious and engrossing read.
Nana, Nenek & Nina by Liza Ferneyhough (August 9; Dial Books)
This warmly illustrated intergenerational picture book is both sweet and clever. Nina has two grandmothers — Nana in England and Nenek in Malaysia. Illustrated side by side, Nina visits Nana and Nenek, and readers can compare and contrast the similarities and differences between the two visits along with Nina. Both trips involve gardens, beach trips, and grocery shopping, but those activities sometimes look different in both places. However, some things don’t change regardless of which grandmother Nina visits: they both love her, and she loves them right back.
Something About Grandma by Tania de Regil (August 9; Candlewick)
This tender intergenerational picture book, which also explores traveling, is beautifully illustrated in soft pastel hues. The entire book is like a big, much-needed hug. Julia’s parents are expecting a baby, and Julia travels to her grandmother’s cottage near Mexico City until the baby is born. Everything is different at Grandma’s house, but Julia loves being with her grandmother, from hearing her old stories to playing outside. When Julia receives a letter from her parents, she feels a bit homesick, but Grandma’s love and snuggles are just what she needs to feel better. When Julia’s parents arrive, Julia is ready to share the love and support her grandmother showed her with her new sibling.
Fighting for Yes! by Maryann Cocca-Leffler & Vivien Mildenberger (August 9; Abrams Books for Young Readers)
I cannot overstate the importance of Judith Heumann and her work as a disability rights activist. This picture book biography about her life focuses on the many times she heard “No!” because of ableist institutions refusing to be open to wheelchair users and how she continuously pushed back until she heard “Yes.” It concludes with the passing of Section 504 of The Rehabilitation Act in the 1970s, which stated that any entity that received government funding had to be made accessible for disabled folk. This later led to The Americans with Disabilities Act, passed in 1990. Judith Heumann provides an afterword where she describes more details about her life. This is an essential picture book bio and a must for elementary classroom libraries.
Sam’s Super Seats by Keah Brown & Sharee Miller (August 23; Kokila)
Keah Brown, author of The Pretty One and founder of the #DisabledAndCute hashtag on Twitter, writes a delightful story centering disabled joy in her debut picture book. Like Brown, Sam has cerebral palsy. The first day of school approaches, and Sam and her friends decide it’s time to go back-to-school shopping at the mall. Sam loves shopping and dressing up, but unfortunately, it’s hard to find a super seat at the mall. Rest is just as important as style, but how will Sam find a good resting spot? I had a wonderful chat with Brown about this book for a piece I wrote for School Library Journal, and she told me how the complete lack of children’s books portraying disabled Black joy when she was a child inspired her to write this picture book. Accompanying Brown’s text are illustrator Sharee Miller’s equally joyful and adorable watercolor illustrations.
Holding On by Sophia N. Lee & Isabel Roxas (August 30; Atheneum Books for Young Readers)
Author Sophia N. Lee bases this intergenerational picture book on her childhood in the Philippines. A young girl spends her summers with Lolo, cooking and singing and dancing to an array of classics, from Nora Aunor hits in Tagalog to Ella Fitzgerald. When Lolo begins losing her memories, she grows quiet and no longer sings and dances like she used to. Now it’s the young narrator’s turn to remember her grandmother’s joy and music and share them with her. It’s a beautiful, nostalgic read, and the colorful paper cut collage illustrations bring a touch of whimsy and charm to the text.
August Children’s Book Releases: Middle Grade
Alliana, Girl of Dragons by Julie Abe (August 2; Little, Brown Books for Young Readers)
In this Japanese Cinderella retelling set in the same world as the Eva Evergreen series, a young girl tries to break free from her evil stepmother’s grasp with the help of a dragon and a witch. After Alliana’s innkeeper father dies in the Abyss — a forbidden place where magical creatures roam — her cruel stepmother forces her to work as a servant in the inn, claiming Alliana owes her money. When Alliana and her twin stepsisters turn 12, they’re invited to a royal ball to determine which 12-year-olds can enroll in the royal academy. Alliana’s stepmother immediately forbids her to go. Meanwhile, Alliana befriends a dragon after saving his life and agrees to a proposition from a young witch that might help her break free from her stepmother’s grasp. This fun, intense retelling can be read as a standalone.
Hummingbird by Natalie Lloyd (August 2; Scholastic)
Twelve-year-old Olive, like the author, has osteogenesis imperfecta (brittle bone disease) and is tired of being coddled by her overprotective mother, who’s homeschooled her. When her mother finally agrees to let her attend public school in their small town of Wildwood, TN, Olive is thrilled. While school gets off to a rocky start, Olive decides to try out for the school play about Emily Dickinson’s life to make friends and lands a speaking part. Meanwhile, a magical hummingbird has arrived in Wildwood — a hummingbird that will grant one wish to the person of its choosing. Olive wants that person to be her, and she organizes a group of other kids who also have wishes to try and find the hummingbird. This new middle grade is a beautiful, magical read.
Invisible: A Graphic Novel by Christina Diaz Gonzalez & Gabriela Epstein (August 2; Graphix)
This bilingual middle grade graphic novel beautifully grapples with some weighty topics in its relatively short format. The principal calls five Latine students at the same middle school into the office because they’ve failed to complete the required community service. He assumes they all speak Spanish and thus get along with one another and assigns them to work in the cafeteria every morning as a group. In reality, each student is very different and would not usually hang out with one another. They do not immediately mesh, and the racist cafeteria manager doesn’t help things. However, when they meet a little girl outside one day who lives in a van with her mother, they unite in their mutual desire to help the family. From secretly stealing cafeteria food to searching for work for the mother, the five give back to their community much more meaningfully than their principal desired. A lot more happens in these 200 pages with each of the five students. This is a must-read and one of my favorite graphic novels of the year.
Tumble by Celia C. Pérez (August 16; Kokila)
12-year-old Addie Ramirez’s stepfather has asked if he can formally adopt her as his daughter, but Addie isn’t ready to agree. She’s never met her biological father, nor does she know who he is. She and her best friend decide to do some sleuthing based on old photographs and discover Manny Bravo, a lucha libre wrestler, is Addie’s father. Addie’s scientist and expecting mother isn’t so happy that Addie has figured out who her father is, especially when Addie decides to meet him and her extended paternal family. Addie’s mom knows that Manny cannot be trusted, and when Manny fails to pick up Addie to visit his family and Addie’s stepfather drives her instead, it seems her mother’s fears are well-founded. But she’s immediately intrigued by this wrestling family, and when she’s cast as Maria in The Nutcracker at school, she convinces the director to include a wrestling scene and hopes to enlist Manny’s help. I love the family dynamics in this contemporary middle grade. The stepfather is amazingly supportive, and all the cast, from minor side characters to Addie herself, are so well drawn.
Ride On by Faith Erin Hicks (August 16; First Second)
This graphic novel is a must-read for horse lovers. Victoria loves riding horses, but she’s tired of the competitions and especially tired of the elitist attitudes at the stable where she rides. When she and her wealthy best friend Taylor have a falling out, Victoria decides it’s time to change stables and searches for a less expensive and less stressful stable. This time, she’s not going to try to make friends or compete. With that in mind, Victoria rebuffs the friendly overtures from Norrie when she starts riding at Edgewood Stables. Frustrated, Norrie immediately decides she doesn’t like Victoria, but when Victoria discovers Norrie is a fan of the sci-fi TV show Beyond the Galaxy like her, she realizes she might have been hasty. By becoming friends with Norrie and two other kids, Victoria realizes she doesn’t have to define herself by her riding and can have other interests.