Riot Headline 10 Exciting Books to Read this Summer

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

This content contains affiliate links. When you buy through these links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

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.

I hope everyone is surviving the heat! This is the last extremely hot month here in Tennessee, which is a great reason to stay inside with a cold drink and a good book. My daughter starts kindergarten on August 8, and she’s so excited! We have been participating in two summer reading challenges that end this month, and she’s read every single one of the picture books on this list of August children’s book releases for the challenges. Her favorite? Night Owl Night, which appears on her summer reading list at least 20 times. There are also picture books about butterflies, big emotions, hearts, and more. I am looking forward to being able to read her middle grade novels in a few years, but until then, I so enjoyed reading these middle grade August children’s book releases, which include two books by Indigenous authors and starring Indigenous main characters, a mystery about books, friendship problems, toilets, and more.

I had a giant long list of August children’s book releases, which made it difficult to narrow it down to these 12! Make sure you sign up for Book Riot’s The Kids Are All Right newsletter to get more reviews of August children’s book releases! I write it along with middle grade author Karina Yan Glaser.

August Children’s Book Releases: Picture Books

Cover of River of Mariposas by Ortega

River of Mariposas by Mirelle Ortega (August 1, Cameron Kids)

This lovely magical realist picture book was inspired by the author’s experiences in Veracruz. A young girl dreams of a world covered in butterflies and decides to make mariposas for her birthday party decorations. She, her father, and her mother cut and hang so many mariposas, but then it rains, and the butterflies all fall to the ground. The girl is initially heartbroken, but when she begins picking up the crafted butterflies, they turn into real ones! A river of amarillo mariposas begin fluttering through the city, all thanks to the girl’s dream.

Cover of Sometimes I Kaploom by Vail

Sometimes I Kaploom by Rachel Vail, illustrated by Hyewon Yum (August 1, Orchard Books)

Katie Horner considers herself to be a brave kid. She can climb very high and tries at least one bite of food even when she doesn’t like the smell. However, when it’s time to say goodbye to her mother and stay at school (or daycare), she kaplooms. Katie cries, screams, grabs onto her mother’s legs, and roars. She doesn’t know how to stop, and she can’t hear the voices speaking around her amid her own whirlwind of kaplooming emotions. When she calms down enough to sit in her mother’s lap, she admits that sometimes it’s hard to be brave. But with her mother’s reassuring words, she realizes that you can be brave and scared and sad all at the same time, and that’s okay. This is a very relatable picture book for parents and kids, and Yum’s illustrations, as always, perfectly capture child emotions.

Cover of Night Owl Night by Richmond

Night Owl Night by Susan Edwards Richmond, illustrated by Maribel Lechuga (August 8, Charlesbridge)

Sova’s mother is a scientist who studies birds, and every October, she helps band saw-whet owls at night as they migrate. More than anything, Sova wants to accompany her mother at night and help band saw-whet owls. She asks every October, but her mother has told her she’s too young. This year is different. This year, Sova is finally big enough to accompany her mother! They set up a saw-whet owl call on nets in the forest and then wait in a cabin. As the night passes and no saw-whet owls have flown into the net, Sova despairs. But right when they’re about to leave, a saw-whet owl finally flies into the net, and Sova is able to help her mother band it. This picture book immediately captured my daughter’s heart and imagination. We even set up a banding station at home for her stuffed animal birds, and we visited an aviary so she could see an owl, though sadly it wasn’t a saw-whet owl.

Cover of Hopefully the Scarecrow by Houts

Hopefully the Scarecrow by Michelle Houts, illustrated by Sara Palacios (August 8, Flamingo Books)

This picture book is the sweetest fall read, told from the perspective of a scarecrow. While Hopefully the scarecrow doesn’t remember how he was made, he does remember the girl who placed him in the garden and named him. “Hopefully, the scarecrow will keep the birds away,” she had said, and he liked that she had named him Hopefully. He also liked that she came every day to read him books. He loved listening to her stories, but one day he was put into the shed. As the seasons pass, the girl takes him out again and continues to read him stories. Years pass, and one day, the girl doesn’t come to visit Hopefully to read to him. He doesn’t see her for a long time and falls into disrepair. But when the girl finally arrives, Hopefully is given a second chance. Librarians especially will love this one!

Cover of Your One and Only Heart by LaRocca

Your One And Only Heart by Rajani LaRocca, MD, illustrated by Lauren Paige Conrad (August 15, Dial Books)

This is a beautifully written collection of poems centering the heart. Dr. LaRocca explores the heart from a scientific perspective in her poems, from how the heart fills with blood between lub and dub and how it speeds up when doing something active. The colorful papercut illustrations show a variety of children and adults as they learn about their hearts. The back matter includes more details about the heart and a diagram of the heart. It’s a special and powerful picture book, and it unexpectedly led to a really meaningful conversation between my daughter and me about death and dying when one page explores what happens when hearts stop.

Cover of Remembering by Gonzalez

Remembering by Xelena González, illustrated by Adriana M. Garcia (August 29, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers)

A child and their family grieve for their beloved dog in this moving and beautifully illustrated picture book. The child remembers their dog by laying out food in their favorite dog dish, whistling the notes that heralded a walk, gathering favorite toys, and more. They let the dog’s memories sing in their heart and recognize that grieving is sometimes slow. The family puts together an ofrenda centering the dog for Día de Muertos. This is a really beautiful book, and the author and illustrator — who also collaborated on Where Wonder Grows and All Around Us — base the story on experiences of losing their own pets.

August Children’s Book Releases: Middle Grade

Cover of The Year My Life Went Down the Toilet by Arlow

The Year My Life Went Down the Toilet by Jake Maia Arlow (August 1, Dial Books)

This funny and very relatable middle grade novel stars a disabled, queer, and Jewish main character — like the author. I love seeing this kind of intersectionality! It seems like everything is changing for 12-year-old Al Schneider. First, she has bathroom problems. Major bathroom problems. She has to rush to the bathroom at school all day long, and it seems like she spends more time on the toilet scrolling through TikToks than she does outside the toilet. Several trips to the doctor and a colonoscopy later and she’s diagnosed with Chron’s Disease. As if that weren’t enough to deal with, her mom has started dating her best–and only–friend Leo’s mom, and Al has a crush on a girl in her IBD support group. This is definitely a book I wish I’d had as a tween.

Cover of We Still Belong by Day

We Still Belong by Christine Day (August 1, Heartdrum)

Because 12-year-old Wesley Wilder is a quarter Indigenous, she’s not allowed to be an official member of the Upper Skagit tribe, but she identifies and has been raised in the culture of the Upper Skagit by her single mother and grandfather. This partly inspired her to write a poem for Indigenous Peoples’ Day, which appears in the local newspaper. She had hoped she could read it at school for extra credit, but her teacher won’t allow it. Meanwhile, Wesley has a crush on a fellow gamer and is trying to get up the courage to ask him to the school dance when she finds out he’s attending with someone else. This lovely and nuanced novel is one of my favorites from the year.

Cover of No Place Like Home by Bird

No Place Like Home by James Bird (August 8, Feiwel & Friends)

This moving and emotional middle grade is on my list of award contenders and is based on the author’s experiences. Twelve-year-old Ojibwe Opin and his mother and older brother Emjay are unhoused. They’re trying to make it across California in their old Ford Pinto to Los Angeles to move in with Opin’s uncle. But every time they make a stop, Emjay disappears for several days, slowing their trip down. They struggle to find shelter and food along the way, too. When Opin finds and adopts a puppy as part of the family, he feels hopeful that things will improve. It’s hard to hold onto that hope, however, amid everything that seems to be against him and his family ever finding stability again.

Cover of Make a Move, Sunny Park by Kim

Make a Move, Sunny Park! by Jessica Kim (August 15, Kokila)

Friend drama takes center stage in this very fun contemporary middle grade. Seventh grader and K-Pop enthusiast Sunny Park has always taken her cues from her best friend, Bailey. When Bailey quit ballet, Sunny did too, even though she had a nice part in The Nutcracker. Sunny has a lot of social anxiety and prefers to let Bailey be the guide. Bailey’s parents are divorced, and when their middle school holds auditions for a school dance team, Bailey plans an elaborate and faulty scheme that will bring her parents back together, but only if she’s on the dance team. She convinces Sunny to try out as well, but on the day of the auditions, Sunny tries out — and makes the team — but Bailey does not. At first, Sunny decides she’ll drop out of the dance team to show Bailey her support, but it turns out that she actually loves dancing and gets along so well with the other kids on the team. Her grandmother Halmoni convinces her to stay on the team, but this drives a wedge between Bailey and Sunny, especially when Bailey starts spying on her mom’s new fiancé and expects Sunny to help. This is the second novel I’ve read this year centering a shyer main character with anxiety allowing a more gregarious friend to make all the decisions (the other is The Many Masks of Andy Zhou). Both are fantastic novels about the importance of knowing and loving yourself.

Cover of Totally Psychic by Martin

Totally Psychic by Brigid Martin (August 15, Inkyard Press)

This magical series starter is delightful! Everyone in 12-year-old Paloma’s Cuban-American family can communicate in some way with the afterlife, and Paloma has finally come into her powers! For Paloma, messages from the dead appear to her as flowers, and it’s up to her to translate their messages. She adores her grandmother, a famous medium for celebrities, and hopes she can go on tour with her. However, Paloma’s parents have insisted they move from Miami all the way to Los Angeles. Paloma is convinced that if she’s good enough and flashy enough with her powers, her parents will have to let her be with her grandmother. But Paloma’s schemes cause a major problem when she attempts to show off to new friends.

Cover of The Lost Library by Stead

The Lost Library by Rebecca Stead and Wendy Mass (August 29, Feiwel & Friends)

This is another book librarians and book lovers will adore, and co-written by two well-known middle grade authors. It’s told in three alternating voices: 5th grader Evan, who is dreading the start of middle school; Mortimer the cat, custodian of a mysterious little free library; and Al, the ghost of a librarian. When Evan finds a little free library in his small town of Martinville, he notices some strange coincidences about all the books inside: they were all checked out on the same date, November 5, 1999. One of the books has his father’s name in it, but his father refuses to answer any questions about the book. After a little research, Evan discovers that the Martinsville Public Library burned down on November 5, 1999, but all the adults again refuse to talk to him when he asks why it wasn’t rebuilt. I highly recommend listening to this on audio. The three narrators do such a good job with character voices.

If you’d like to read about more new children’s book releases, check out my list of May children’s book releases, June children’s book releases, and July children’s book releases.

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.