August is here, a month where kids can enjoy the last vestiges of their summer break before returning to school, whatever school may look like for them this year. My daughter (3 years old) and I have been enjoying the summer lately by taking creek hikes where the shade of trees provides some barrier to the summer sun and picking blackberries at our local community garden. We’ve tentatively begun visiting vaccinated family and friends, and she saw both of her great-grandmothers this week, though I’ve decided to keep her out of preschool until she’s vaccinated against COVID-19. Come on, vaccine approval for kids! Much love to all the parents out there having to make extremely tough decisions about their children and school. My daughter has also begun being interested in longer books, and I read two books to her this week that were over 100 pages! I was not expecting to have longer read-aloud sessions for several more years, so I’m delighted we can dip into some early chapter books together.
And we have a lot of reading material to choose from in August’s children’s book releases. From cat problems to Black joy to immigrant experiences and so much more, there’s a book releasing for every kind of reader this month.
August Board Book Releases
Spookytale by Christopher Franceschelli & Allison Black (August 3, Abrams Appleseed)
This Halloween interactive board book is so much fun to read with toddlers. The story follows two children as they make their way through creepy woods to a haunted house. Almost every page has interactive elements. Toddler parents may already be familiar with Christopher Franceschelli’s very popular Block board book series (Alphablock, Dinoblock, etc.), as well as Allison Black’s illustrations (Go, Girls, Go!). Spookytale is the first book in a new board book series called Abrams Trail Tale, which takes readers on holiday-themed adventures.
August Picture Book Releases
Cat Problems by Jory John & Lane Smith (August 3, Random House Studio)
Prolific children’s book author and illustrator Jory John and Lane Smith team up in this hilarious picture book that follows the day in the life of a bored house cat. Whether he’s staring at the wall, investigating boxes, demanding food, or harassing his fellow cat friend, this house cat manages to be constantly dissatisfied with his life. Even when a squirrel gives him a rundown on all the ways the cat has it easy compared to its own life, the cat refuses to be moved. This picture book got lots of big laughs out of my cat-loving toddler.
Ergo by Alexis Deacon & Viviane Schwarz (August 10, Candlewick)
Ergo is a delightful and surprisingly philosophical picture book. When a chick hatches from an egg, at first, she’s only aware of herself: her toes, her legs, her beak, her wings. She wonders if she is the whole world. However, using her senses, she begins to notice everything around her and realizes the world is much bigger than she thought. Told in engagingly simple and repetitive prose and paired with adorable, bright illustrations, this picture book is sure to be a hit for younger picture book readers.
Where Three Oceans Meet by Rajani LaRocca & Archana Sreenivasan (August 24, Abrams Books for Young Readers)
This lovely, intergenerational picture book tells the story of an Indian American girl, her mother, and her grandmother traveling to the southern tip of India and seeing the end of the Earth. Full of dialogue between the three, the story follows their different experiences visiting India. For the grandmother, it’s a place she knows well; for the mother, it’s the place she left; and for the daughter, it’s a place of discovery. The picture book ends when the family visits Kanyakumari, where three oceans meet.
Tomatoes for Neela by Padma Lakshmi & Juana Martinez-Neal (August 31, Viking Books for Young Readers)
Chef and Top Chef host Padma Lakshmi makes her picture book debut with the scrumptious Tomatoes for Neela, illustrated by award-winning author/illustrator Juana Martinez-Neal. I am usually not a fan of celebrity children’s books, but this one is an absolute delight. Today, Neela and her amma are buying tomatoes to use in Paati’s delicious sauce. Neela loves cooking with her amma, as well as writing down all the recipes. It’s a way for her to keep connected to her paati, who lives in India. With rich illustrations and simple yet descriptive prose, this picture book is a beautiful celebration of food and family.
The Library Book by Gabby Dawnay & Ian Morris (August 31, Thames & Hudson)
In rhyming prose, this picture book celebrates libraries. Zack doesn’t like reading, but his friend Ro is convinced she can convince him to love books as much as she does. He just needs to find the right one. So together the two go to the library and explore, and before long, Zack is having a blast. Ian Morris’s engaging watercolor illustrations are full of excitement and energy, as is Gabby Dawnay’s prose.
Negative Cat by Sophie Blackall (August 31, Nancy Paulsen Books)
Caldecott Award–winning author/illustrator Sophie Blackall is back with this adorable and sweet picture book about a child adopting a cat from a shelter. A boy picks the perfect cat from the shelter and names him Max. But Max isn’t like other cats and doesn’t do any of the normal things the boy’s family expects of cats. Max doesn’t play with the toy mouse; he doesn’t purr; he often sits and stares at the wall. The only person who loves Max is the boy. When his family spies the boy cuddling with Max while reading, they know Max is indeed the perfect cat.
August Middle Grade Releases
Accused: My Story of Injustice by Adama Bah (August 3, Norton Young Readers)
I, Witness is a new nonfiction middle grade series edited by Dave Eggers, Zainab Nasrati, Zoë Ruiz, and Amanda Uhle. Each book provides a platform for the author to tell their story of witnessing a major event. Accused: My Story of Injustice is the first book in the series. In it, author Adama Bah relates her experiences as a 13-year-old Muslim girl living in New York City in the wake of 9/11. Not only does she experience discrimination and harassment, when she is 16 years old, she and her father are arrested and wrongly accused of terrorism. She’s then held in a detention center where officials question her. This is a searing and informative read. Also, be sure to check out Hurricane: My Story of Resilience by Salvador Gómez-Colón, which also releases on the August 3 and is the second book in the I, Witness series. In this memoir, Salvador Gómez-Colón describes his experiences after Hurricane Maria in 2017 in Puerto Rico and how he came to found the Light and Hope for Puerto Rico nonprofit at just 15 years old.
Just Be Cool, Jenna Sakai by Debbi Michiko Florence (August 3, Scholastic)
This sweet contemporary middle grade is a standalone companion novel to Keep It Together, Keiko Carter. After her parents divorce and Jenna goes through her own breakup, Jenna Sakai decides she’s done with boys and romantic relationships. Instead, she’s going to concentrate on books and the school newspaper club. She’s aiming to win a big journalism scholarship; however, her chief competition is, of course, her ex-boyfriend Elliott. To escape Elliott, Jenna hides in a local Broadway-themed diner, where she ends up sharing a booth with artsy Rin Watanabe. At first, Rin irritates her, but as the two continue sharing a booth — and when Jenna’s research for the journalism scholarship reveals truths about Rin’s family — Jenna begins to see Rin, friendship, and journalism in a different light
Black Boy Joy: 17 Stories Celebrating Black Boyhood Edited by Kwame Mbalia (August 3, Delacorte Press)
This anthology of 17 stories celebrates Black boyhood in a variety of genres. Stories range from an homage to superhero fandom in “There’s Going to be a Fight in the Cafeteria on Friday and You Better Not Bring Batman” by Lamar Giles to putting together the perfect first-day-of-school look in “First Day Fly” by Jason Reynolds and a devil haunting a young Trinidadian immigrant in “Percival and the Jab” by P. Djèlí Clark. Other contributors include Jerry Craft, Tochi Onyebuchi, George M. Johnson, and so many more. This is a must-read anthology.
The Many Meanings of Meilan by Andrea Wang (August 17, Kokila)
Andrea Wang’s picture book Watercress, published earlier this year, is one of my favorite picture books of the year, so I had to pick up The Many Meanings of Meilan, which, in many respects, expands on the story told in Watercress. After a family feud, 12-year-old Meilan Hua and her parents and grandfather move from Boston’s Chinatown, the only home Meilan has ever known, to the rural town of Redbud, Ohio. Upon starting school, Meilan immediately experiences racism when the principal decides her name is too difficult to pronounce and calls her Melanie instead. Embracing the different meanings of her name, Meilan renames herself Mist, Blue, and Basket. When she’s blamed for a school vandalism and her grandfather goes missing, Meilan realizes she needs to embrace her identity and her name. I’m happy to say this lovely and powerful middle grade novel is just as good as Watercress.
The Last Cuentista by Donna Barba Higuera (August 24, Levine Querido)
In this high-stakes sci-fi, 12-year-old Petra Pena is one of a select group of humans chosen to leave Earth and colonize a new planet when a solar flare knocks Halley’s Comet off course, threatening the future of the human race. Because the journey will take four centuries, everyone is put into stasis until the journey is complete. While in stasis, a cult called The Collective takes over the ship and wipes away all memories of Earth in the ship’s sleeping inhabitants — all but one, that is. When they land on the planet Sagan, Petra is the only one who remembers Earth and, to save everyone from The Collective, she must rely on the Mexican folktales she grew up listening to. This is a stark but beautiful sci-fi novel that examines heritage and the importance of stories.
Fast Pitch by Nic Stone (August 31, Crown Books for Young Readers)
Shenice Lockwood is team captain for an all-Black girls softball team, and she has her eyes on winning the Fastpitch World Series. Not only will the team take home a trophy and $10,000 if they win, but they’d also get to show up the other super wealthy, white teams. However, when an uncle reveals that Shenice’s grandfather was falsely accused of a crime that ruined his baseball career, Shenice’s concentration slips. She has to find out what really happened, and her teammates are ready to help. Nic Stone manages to seamlessly pack in a lot of topics in this fast-paced read: racism, Black girl power, Black sports history, and more.