It’s hard to believe it’s 2024 and time to write this list of January children’s book releases! A new year full of excellent new children’s book releases. It feels like just last week, I was getting ready for Halloween, and now I’m bundling up for the winter.
Are you planning to participate in any reading challenges this year? I am once again participating in Book Riot’s reading challenge as well as a fairy tale Goodreads reading challenge for a group I moderate. I also want to read more middle grade this year, though I’m not actively participating in a middle grade reading challenge — yet. I could very well be convinced to join one. If you’re participating in any children’s reading challenges, this list of January children’s book releases is a great place to start!
January children’s book releases are full of excellent reads for the new year. January picture book releases include several fantastic new books by well-loved authors and illustrators like Frank Morrison, Joanna Ho, Lesa Cline-Ransome and James Ransome, Jerome Pumphrey and Jarrett Pumphrey, and more. There are also a few new-to-me authors and illustrators. January picture book releases explore farmers’ markets, adoption, fairy tales, mindfulness, and more. In January middle grade releases, several books depict tweens with disabilities or chronic illnesses. There are also several familiar authors, like A.J. Sass, Anne Ursu, and Lisa Yee, as well as some debut authors. I so enjoyed reading all of them, and I hope you do too!
January Children’s Book Releases: Picture Books
Ra Pu Zel and the Stinky Tofu by Ying Chang Compestine and Crystal Kung (January 2; Rocky Pond Books)
This delightful retelling of “Rapunzel” takes place “long ago in China.” Princess Ra Pu Zel loves to cook, but her mother thinks it’s unladylike to cook and take big bites of food, her governess would rather she not stitch bao into her needlework, and her father would prefer it if she entertained princes. In frustration, Ra Pu Zel moves into a tower with her trusty dog companion, Bao. Together, they cook and eat to their heart’s delight. The emperor declares that anyone who can tempt Ra Pu Zel out of her tower can marry her. Many try and fail, but then, one day, the scent of stinky tofu wafts through Ra Pu Zel’s window. I love this delicious twist on the classic fairytale. The illustrations are warm, inviting, and funny, and there’s a stinky tofu recipe included in the back matter.
My Block Looks Like by Janelle Harper and Frank Morrison (January 2; Viking Books for Young Readers)
This rhythmic celebration of the Bronx depicts a young Black girl’s joy as she strolls through her neighborhood. She watches fancy footwork on the subway, passes kids playing in a fire hydrant’s spray, springs across a crosswalk head held high, and so much more. Morrison’s artwork, as always, is stunning, capturing graffiti-splashed streets and so much movement. Both illustrations and the lyrical text work together to capture the vibrancy and energy of life in the Bronx.
Fighting with Love: The Legacy of John Lewis by Lesa Cline-Ransome and James E. Ransome (January 9; Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books)
This phenomenal picture book biography follows the life of Civil Rights activist and politician John Lewis. It opens with his childhood on an Alabama farm surrounded by love but then shows the racism in the world surrounding his family with segregated restaurants, water fountains, schools, and more. Lewis is inspired by a speech he hears by Martin Luther King Jr. on the radio. When he travels to Nashville, Tennessee to attend college as a teenager, he begins marching. He joins the NAACP, and there, he and other activists practice nonviolence in the face of the white violence they will encounter at sit-ins, protests, and marches. This is a moving picture book biography. It’s hard not to tear up at the closing illustrations. It’s a great book to read in conjunction with discussions on the Civil Rights Movement.
Eyes That Weave the World’s Wonders by Joanna Ho and Liz Kleinrock and Dung Ho (January 23; HarperCollins)
Joanna Ho and Dung Ho are back with another gorgeous and affirming picture book about Asian identity. This time, they’ve paired up with educator, author, and transracial adoptee Liz Kleinrock. That’s because the third book in this picture book series centers on an adopted child who loves her eyes that “kiss in the corners.” Even though her parents’s eyes look different, she knows that somewhere, there are people with eyes just like hers. She embraces her birth culture and celebrates both the special bond she has with her adopted parents and the love they have for her and her birth heritage and culture. It’s a really special children’s book about adoption.
The Last Stand by Antwan Eady, Jerome Pumphrey, and Jarrett Pumphrey (January 30; Knopf Books for Young Readers)
This poignant, beautiful picture book from the creators of Nigel and the Moon and The Old Truck depicts a young boy helping his grandfather on the farm in preparation for the farmer’s market. Papa used to have five stands at the farmer’s market, but now it’s down to one. The boy gathers hen’s eggs, pumpkins, plums, and more. Then they go to the farmer’s market, where Papa knows everyone and just what customers need. However, when Papa can’t make it to the market one day, the community helps him, cooking food from his produce to help the family through hard times.
Today by Gabi Snyder and Stephanie Graegin (January 30; Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books)
In this quiet, meditative picture book written in the second person, a child waits for the summer to begin and a family vacation to commence. But when it does, the child is stuck in a car on the way to the vacation rental, then gets a bee sting, and then has to wait for the fireworks. So many fun moments come in between, and Snyder encourages the child (and the reader) to stop, breathe in and out, to take in and remember the day, and to be present in the moment. Back matter includes a discussion of mindfulness and exercises children can practice to feel less anxious and to be more present in the moment.
January Children’s Book Releases: Middle Grade
The Misfits #1: A Royal Conundrum by Lisa Yee and Dan Santat (January 2; Random House Books for Young Readers)
This really entertaining middle grade crime novel is about a group of undercover spy tweens who are assigned to investigate a jewelry thief in San Francisco. It follows one of the group’s members, Olive Cobin Zang, whose parents take her to the private boarding school RASCH when they, once again, have a long work trip coming up. She can immediately tell RASCH isn’t like other boarding schools, and after a bizarre round of testing, she’s placed in the super secret spy group with four others. They dub themselves the misfits and train to be spies with two teachers. This is an action-packed and fun novel with a great cast of characters, hilarious moments, and friend drama that will appeal to middle schoolers. Santat’s illustrations are fantastic. I’m looking forward to reading the second book!
The Curse of Eelgrass Bog by Mary Averling (January 2; Razorbill)
This spooky, supernatural fantasy adventure has lots of plot twists. 12-year-old Kess Pedrock and her older brother Oliver live in their family’s Unnatural History Museum and are trying to keep it running while their parents are on a research trip in Antarctica. Kess doesn’t attend school, and her only friend is a talking demon’s head in a jar until Lilou Starling moves to town. Lilou enlists Kess to help her with a cryptic message her grandfather left before he died, but their quest to find answers leads them to the Eelgrass Bog, where witches and monsters lurk. That doesn’t stop the two. I don’t want to summarize the plot too much and give away plot twists, but middle grade readers will love this one!
Not Quite a Ghost by Anne Ursu (January 16; Walden Pond Press)
This is a beautifully told retelling of “The Yellow Wallpaper” that grapples with chronic illness through the lens of a ghost story. A lot is changing in Violet’s life: she has a new dad, her half-brother lives with them now, her family is moving into a new old house, and she’s starting middle school. Her bedroom in the creaky old house is in the attic and covered in peeling yellow wallpaper. When Violet begins feeling constantly tired and sick, doctors tell her it’s psychosomatic. But it doesn’t feel that way, and meanwhile, it’s becoming increasingly obvious that her attic bedroom is haunted. Readers do not need to be familiar with “The Yellow Wallpaper” to love this one. It’s impossible for me not to connect to this one on a personal level. I have a chronic illness (postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome) that is often initially dismissed by doctors as anxiety. I started showing symptoms when I was a little younger than Violet. The author bases Violet’s experiences on her own illness, chronic fatigue syndrome.
Shark Teeth by Sherri Winston (January 16; Bloomsbury Children’s Books)
Seventh-grader Kita has a lot going on in this powerful novel. Her mother had Kita and her two siblings when she was really young and has struggled with alcoholism. The siblings have been in and out of foster care, but now their mother claims to have her life together and has bought a home in a nice neighborhood where they all live together. Kita is starting a new school, and immediately kids dub her “Sharkita” because she has hyperdontia, two rows of teeth. She’s used to being teased about it at this point. She’s constantly worried about her mom messing up again and social services getting involved, so she’s always telling the school and counselors that everything is fine, and she does a lot to take care of her two younger siblings. She does join a baton team and makes friends, finally doing something for herself. This is a touching, realistic novel with a fantastic main character.
Just Shy of Ordinary by A.J. Sass (January 30; Little, Brown Books for Young Readers)
I loved this middle grade novel about a nonbinary, genderfluid homeschooler, Shai, starting public school for the first time. Shai immediately makes two great friends, but they’re unsure about sharing their pronouns just yet. For an English class project, Shai decides to explore their Jewish heritage. While their grandparents are active in the Jewish community, their mother is not for unknown reasons, and they haven’t been raised Jewish. They hope to discover more about their heritage, but this seems to set their mother on edge. Meanwhile, they’re keeping a secret from everyone. When their mother lost her job, and the two moved in with Indigenous friends, Shai began picking at their arms. This is a fantastic book exploring LGBTQ+ and Jewish identities with excellent friendships.
Alterations by Ray Xu (January 30; Union Square Kids)
This is an excellent debut middle grade graphic novel, both funny and full of heart, depicting the lives of an immigrant family. It’s 1994, and Chinese Canadian middle schooler Kevin Lee is having a rough year. His mother is recently divorced and works so much overtime as a tailor. His Po Po from China has moved into Kevin’s room, and he now sleeps in the same room as his teenage sister, who is not happy about losing her space. While he’s always been a bit of an outcast at his school as one of the few kids of Asian descent, his school status plummets even further when he brings a century egg for lunch, and the smell sends kids screaming away. Kevin loves comics and art, and between the main story are sections from his favorite comic book series. I loved every member of Kevin’s family. This is a really unique and engagingly illustrated graphic novel.
If you’re looking for more new children’s book releases beyond this list of January children’s book releases, check out my list of October new children’s book releases, November new children’s book releases, and December new children’s book releases. I review more in Book Riot’s The Kids Are All Right newsletter as well.
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.