12 Of The Best New Children’s Books Out June 2023

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Margaret Kingsbury

Contributing Editor

Margaret Kingsbury grew up in a house so crammed with books she couldn’t open a closet door without a book stack tumbling, and she’s brought that same decorative energy to her adult life. Margaret has an MA in English with a concentration in writing and has worked as a bookseller and adjunct English professor. She’s currently a freelance writer and editor, and in addition to Book Riot, her pieces have appeared in School Library Journal, BuzzFeed News, The Lily, Parents,, and more. She particularly loves children’s books, fantasy, science fiction, horror, graphic novels, and any books with disabled characters. You can read more about her bookish and parenting shenanigans in Book Riot’s twice-weekly The Kids Are All Right newsletter. You can also follow her kidlit bookstagram account @BabyLibrarians, or on Twitter @AReaderlyMom.

Get your sunscreen and TBR stacks ready because it’s June, when kids are no longer in school, summer reading programs begin, and my daughter and I spend every weekend at the pool. June is also LGBTQIA+ Pride Month. My daughter has asked to attend a Pride event, and I confess to being a little worried about doing so here in Tennessee, with its rampant anti-LGBTQIA+ legislation and where a recent shooting has occurred. I feel absolutely heartbroken that safety is even a concern at what should be such a joyful event — sending so much love to queer readers who live in red states and/or feel unsafe being themselves.

This month I think it’s really vital for queer allies to speak up about the rampant anti-trans and anti-queer legislation that’s being passed. Returning to June children’s book releases, I have many recommendations for readers this summer. For June picture book releases, there are laugh-out-loud read-alouds, a fantastic biography collection of disabled athletes, intergenerational stories, and more. For June middle grade releases, there’s a stellar Hawaiian fantasy, several books that will make you cry, and even a novel about periods and activism. For Pride reads, there’s a picture book about wearing the clothes you like, plus a book about gender identity for early chapter book readers. There are plenty of books to choose from in this list of June children’s book releases.

June Children’s Book Releases: Picture Books

Cover of The Boy Who Cried Poop by Requena

The Boy Who Cried Poop! by Alessandra Requena, illustrated by Guilherme Karsten (June 6; Frances Lincoln Children’s Books)

This hilarious picture book is also extremely relatable. A Papa, big sister, and younger brother Marc are excited to be the first at a pool, but when they get in the water, Marc immediately says he needs to poop. So back up the stairs they trudge, all 168 of them, but once he’s in the bathroom, Marc doesn’t feel like he needs to poop anymore. They go back and forth between the pool and bathroom three times — encountering ever more ludicrous sights on the stairs — before Papa gives up. He can’t go up those stairs one more time. It’s in that moment of defeat that Marc finally poops…in the pool. Every single parent has had a moment like this, and, as the people at the pool share, so have adults! It’s a very silly book but also body positive. Kids will love it.

Cover of Papa's Magical Water-Jug Clock by Trejo

Papá’s Magical Water-Jug Clock by Jesús Trejo, illustrated by Eliza Kinkz (June 6; Minerva)

Mexican American comedian Jesús Trejo’s debut picture book features a young Jesús helping his landscaper Papá for a workday. Papá puts Jesús in charge of the magical water jug. When the water is all gone, he tells Jesús, it means it’s time to go home. Jesús is eager to help, but as his Papá works hard on properties, Jesús gets a little overzealous with the water. Peacocks look thirsty, as does a sweater-clad dog. And, of course, Jesús needs water, and it only makes sense to cool himself down by splashing himself with water. With all this water waste, the magical water jug empties fast, and to Jesús this means it’s time to go home. But they’ve only finished three houses, and Papá says there are 11 more to go. Thankfully, Jesús is able to refill the water jug and learns a valuable lesson about water waste. This is a really fun father/son picture book with Spanish words interspersed throughout the text.

Cover of The Midnight Babies by Greenberg

The Midnight Babies by Isabel Greenberg (June 12; Abrams Books for Young Readers)

This magical and absurd bedtime read is reminiscent of Maurice Sendak. Each night, a new baby takes the lead on the march of the Midnight Babies, whose goal is to go anywhere except to the land of Sleep. They venture through the Forest of Nightlights, swim through the Sea of Stories, dodge the Army of Teddies, and more. However, as they journey through each land, some babies are wooed to sleep until only the intrepid leader remains. Will the leader also succumb to sleep, especially when faced with cuddling? My daughter and I have read this imaginative picture book many times now.

Cover of Joy Takes Root by Wallace

Joy Takes Root by Gwendolyn Wallace, illustrated by Ashleigh Corrin (June 20; Kokila)

Joy visits her grandmother’s house in South Carolina every summer, but this is the first summer she’s helping Grammy in the garden. Grammy teaches her more than just basic gardening skills; she teaches Joy how to listen to the Earth’s heartbeat and to remember her ancestors who cared for the soil before her. At first Joy doesn’t hear the Earth’s heartbeat, and she struggles to understand what Grammy means. But by consistently practicing mindfulness throughout the summer as the pair plants spinach, okra, and more, something clicks, and by the end of their time together, when Joy listens to the Earth, she hears its heartbeat. This is a beautiful story about the connection between gardening, heritage, and intention, with vibrant illustrations.

Cover of Molly's Tuxedo by Johnson

Molly’s Tuxedo by Vicki Johnson, illustrated by Gillian Reid (June 27; Little Bee Books)

Kindergartner Molly is so excited for picture day at school. There’s already a spot waiting for her first school picture on a wall of family photos. She wants this picture to be perfect; however, her mom thinks she should wear a poufy dress, which is not Molly’s style. She packs her brother’s tuxedo to wear instead, and when it comes time for pictures, Molly ditches the dress and struts out in the tuxedo. While it’s not the look her mom expected, she loves her daughter exactly how she is, unique style and all, and proudly hangs up the picture. This is an affirming picture book published in partnership with GLAAD about letting kids be their authentic selves.

Cover of Tenacious by Prevo

Tenacious: Fifteen Adventures Alongside Disabled Athletes by Patty Cisneros Prevo, illustrated by Dion MBD (June 27; Lee & Low Books)

This is an amazing nonfiction biography collection about disabled athletes that I could immediately tell was written by a disabled author. Many books about disabled athletes either focus on being inspirational or on trauma; this collection instead shows the complexity and nuance of the disabled experience and allows the athletes to speak about both the daily challenges and joys of being disabled. For example, dancer Annabelle Geib, who has spastic diplegia cerebral palsy, describes the difficulty in navigating her middle school’s hallways and her worry about falling, while she also takes joy in dancing TikToks with her sister. There’s a lyrical storyline from beginning to end, while each page has a one-paragraph biography of the disabled athlete illustrated. In addition to Geib, there’s paralympic champion Will Groulx, who competes in recumbent hand cycling, and adaptive CrossFit star Dr. Andrea Woodson-Smith. At the end of each paragraph-long biography, Prevo asks the athlete to describe a daily challenge and joy.

June Children’s Book Releases: Early Chapter Books

Cover of Gender Identity for Kids by Passchier

Gender Identity for Kids by Andy Passchier (June 6; Little, Brown Books for Young Readers)

While I can think of picture books, board books, and middle grade nonfiction about gender identity, this is the first early chapter book I know of that addresses the topic. It’s also the first book Andy Passchier has both written and illustrated, though their illustrations are well known in other queer-friendly children’s books, like the First Conversations series and The Young Activist’s Dictionary of Social Justice. It’s divided into five heavily illustrated chapters that discuss sex vs. gender, gender identity, the gender binary, gender expression and explorations, and challenges and support. After each chapter, Passchier provides a brief summary and lists questions to consider. It’s an essential introductory text for chapter book readers.

June Children’s Book Releases: Middle Grade

Cover of Lei and the Fire Goddess by Maunakea

Lei and the Fire Goddess by Malia Maunakea (June 6; Penguin Workshop)

Twelve-year-old Anna/Leilani spends her summers with her grandmother, Tutu, in a small village near a volcano, though Anna wishes she could spend time with her former best friend in Paris instead. Since Anna was little, Tutu has been teaching her Indigenous Hawaiian folklore, traditions, and language in the hopes that Anna will remember and carry her Hawaiian heritage proudly. However, after a falling out with her best friend in Colorado, Anna believes that if she embraces her Hawaiian heritage, she’ll become a social outcast. At first she tries to reject her Tutu’s teachings, but when she picks the wrong flower in a fury, she triggers the Hawaiin goddess Pela’s rage. The goddess kidnaps Anna’s best friend in the village, and the only way she can save him is to remember the stories her Tutu has taught her, and, most importantly, remember who she is and honor that first. This is such a special middle grade fantasy with a great cast of characters, an excellent character arc, and wonderful Hawaiian stories. I listened to this on audio, excellently narrated by Jennifer Robideau.

Cover of Half Moon Summer by Vickers

Half Moon Summer by Elaine Vickers (June 6; Peachtree)

This is a beautifully written contemporary middle grade novel set in a small town and told from two perspectives, one written in prose and the other in verse. Drew and Mia were born on the same day in the same hospital, but Mia’s family moved away soon afterward. The two reconnect 12 years later when Mia returns to live with her grandmother for the summer. They both decide to train together for a half marathon along with Drew’s dad, but in the meantime, both are dealing with very serious problems: a parent with Lou Gehrig’s Disease, moving away from home, temporary separation from a father, a dying grandmother, losing a home, financial woes, and friends moving away. Both are good kids trying to make the best out of tough situations. While sad, it is ultimately a hopeful read and just such a tender and lovely book. I listened to the audiobook narrated by Mark Sanderlin and Charley Flyte.

Cover of Code Red by McCullough

Code Red by Joy McCullough (June 13; Atheneum Books for Young Readers)

Eden has recently had to abandon a promising gymnastics career after a serious injury, and is having a bit of an identity crisis. When her mom, the CEO of the period products company MySecret, presents at Eden’s middle school discussing periods, Eden is verbally bullied by another classmate. She and her friend Maribel fight back, and the bully ends up with a broken wrist and the two girls are suspended. They end up spending their days volunteering at a community center, where they learn about and decide to become involved in a period equity nonprofit. However, when Eden begins protesting and advocating for free period products in schools and food pantries, her mom becomes angry. She believes Eden’s activism is a threat to her business. This is a really fantastic conversation starter for middle school students. I also love that it includes trans characters and shows that period products are not just for girls and women.

Cover of Call Me Adnan by Faruqi

Call Me Adnan by Reem Faruqi (June 13; HarperCollins)

This heartbreaking novel-in-verse centers a Muslim family in crisis. Twelve-year-old Adnan loves table tennis, is color blind, and is extremely specific about what he will and won’t eat. He’s very close to his older sister and 2-year-old brother, and his mom is pregnant and he can’t wait to meet his newest sibling. He’s thrilled to make the finals in a table tennis tournament being held in Florida. The tournament occurs during Eid, so the whole family decides to visit cousins in Florida to celebrate Eid together so Adnan can participate in the tournament. Unfortunately, a horrific tragedy occurs, and Adnan’s younger brother drowns in a pool. This beautiful and complex novel shows how the family and community pull together in a time of immeasurable grief.

Cover of How to Stay Invisible by Rudd

How to Stay Invisible by Maggie C. Rudd (June 27; Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR))

Survival stories tend to be popular with middle schoolers, and I have found a new favorite with this very realistic, moving read, one I imagine will be on some award lists next year. Twelve-year-old Raymond has never had much stability in his life. His parents move constantly, and he’s been in and out of children’s homes. They recently moved into a trailer in River Mill, North Carolina, but when they leave without Raymond and turn their trailer keys in to the landlord, Raymond has nowhere to stay. He finds a hollow tree trunk in the woods behind his middle school for him and his dog to sleep in and checks out a survival book from the library. He’s able to make this work for a long time, with his grades only suffering a bit, but several complications force him to ask for community help: a coyote attacks his dog, a snake bite, and difficulty finding food in the winter. But community members and fellow students are willing to listen, respect, and help where needed.

If you’d like to read about more new children’s book releases, check out my list of March children’s book releases, April children’s book releases, and May children’s book releases. If you want to check out even more June children’s book releases, sign up for the twice weekly The Kids Are All Right newsletter, where middle grade author Karina Yan Glaser and I review new children’s books and books on a theme.

And you can find a full list of new releases in the magical New Release Index, carefully curated by your favorite Book Riot editors, organized by genre and release date.