I can’t believe it’s already November, and there are only two more months until 2023! Even though I’ve already started reading 2023 book releases, I am not ready for the year to end. I still have so many tasks I wanted to complete this year and so much to prepare for: my daughter’s fifth birthday, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and just mentally and physically preparing for cold weather. Winter is my least favorite month, but November is still solidly fall, so I plan on hitting as many trails as I can this month!
November and December tend to be slower publishing months, but I still read plenty of excellent November children’s book releases. As I was compiling this list, two themes stood out: joy and community. Several of my November picture book picks are laugh-out-loud funny and center themes of finding joy in self, family, community, and nature. Though my selections for November’s middle grade releases range in genre and tone, these books share a similar theme of kids embracing their passions and finding ways to participate in their communities by doing what they love, regardless of family pressures or expectations. All of these November children’s book releases would make excellent gifts for upcoming holidays.
November Children’s Book Releases: Picture Books
Sallie Bee Writes a Thank-You Note by Susan Verde and Courtney Sheinmel, illustrated by Heather Ross (November 1; Abrams Books for Young Readers)
I read this over the weekend with my daughter, and she immediately started writing thank-you notes. This is a sweet read about a young girl, Sallie, who receives a knit scarf from her grandmother and writes her first thank-you note while waiting on her mom to stop texting. When her mom explains what thank-you notes are, Sallie begins writing them to everyone in town, from the lunch lady to the crossing guard. The picture book gives helpful tips on how to write thank-you notes. It’s a fun read about kindness and community. I have never been particularly good at remembering to write thank-you notes, but this even inspired me to give it a go!
No Snowball! by Isabella Kung (November 1; Orchard Books)
Kung’s follow-up to No Fuzzball! is even more hilarious than the first. Queen NoFuzzball’s kingdom is imperiled when her subjects bring home a new kitten. NoFuzzball has her work cut out for her in training this tiny, white, and admittedly adorable floof of a kitten how to be a royal princess. NoFuzzball has given up hope when her subjects suddenly start shouting, “NoSnowball! NoSnowball! NoSnowball!” which NoFuzzball interprets as their worship of the new kitten. Maybe NoSnowball has a chance at becoming royalty after all. This series is an absolute delight for young cat lovers.
My Fade Is Fresh by Shauntay Grant, illustrated by Kitt Thomas (November 1; Penguin Workshop)
In this adorable, rhythmic read-aloud, a young Black girl goes to the barbershop for a haircut. She wants something fresh and fun, but her mother and other clients keep suggesting hairstyles that just aren’t what she’s looking for. When she finally makes her voice heard and communicates her personal style, she gets the freshest fade on the block and feels on top of the world. From Grant’s sing-song rhymes to Thomas’s colorful and adorable illustrations, this is such a fun read centering self-expression and Black joy.
Scaredy Bath by Zoe Foster Blake, illustrated by Daniel Gray-Barnett (November 15; Penguin Workshop)
This super funny picture book is told from the perspective of a reluctant bathtub. Scaredy Bath does not like bath time. Kids are too loud, chaotic, and dirty. When the family leaves for vacation, Scaredy Bath breathes a sigh of relief. Finally, some peace and quiet! But as the days pass, Scaredy Bath’s relief turns into boredom. By the time the kids are back and ready for a bath, Scaredy Bath is eager to run the water and get bath time going. Even when the family’s newest member poops in Scaredy Bath’s nice clean water, Scaredy Bath realizes it’s better to be part of the family. This book gets big belly laughs from my daughter.
Luminous: Living Things That Light Up the Night by Julia Kuo (November 22; Greystone Kids)
This lyrical and gorgeously illustrated nonfiction picture book elegantly combines poetry with descriptions of the science behind bioluminescence. Against stark black pages, a young child and adult explore all the glowing things in the dark, from caves alight with glowworms in New Zealand and Australia to deep in the ocean, where anglerfish, crown jellyfish, bristlemouth lightfish, and more use bioluminescence to survive. It’s one of my favorite nonfiction picture books of the year. The illustrations are simply stunning, and I love how Kuo weaves science into each page.
November Children’s Book Releases: Middle Grade
Moongarden by Michelle A. Barry (November 1; Pixel+Ink Books)
There have been quite a few reimaginings of The Secret Garden lately, but this is one of my favorites. It takes place in a dystopian future where toxic plants have made Earth uninhabitable, so people have colonized the moon and other planets. Myra attends an elite magic boarding school on the moon, and everyone assumes she’ll follow in her brilliant parents’ footsteps and become a number whisperer. But she doesn’t enjoy working with numbers and knows she will let everyone down. When she discovers a hidden garden in the school, she finally finds what she’s good at — working with plants. This is a lovely middle grade that combines sci-fi and fantasy.
Looking for True by Tricia Springstubb (November 1; Margaret Ferguson Books)
While 11 year olds Jude and Gladys — an adoptee — have very different personalities, they have a lot in common, like helping their families take care of young children while their parents struggle to balance work and life. They’ve never hung out together until they discover a mistreated dog and rescue it. They hide the dog in Jude’s secret fort, knowing that neither of their families can handle a pet right now, and worried about giving the dog, who they name True, to a kill shelter. As their families deal with layoffs and employees quitting, Jude and Gladys find a safe place in the fort with True. This is a lovely, heartwarming novel for animal lovers.
Morning Sun in Wuhan by Ying Chang Compestine (November 8; Clarion Books)
This contemporary middle grade takes place during the early pandemic days in Wuhan, China, and I can easily see it becoming a classic. Thirteen year old Mei’s physician mother has recently died, and her father is a doctor, too. Mei loves cooking and playing a video game about helping soldiers fight against zombies by making their meals. When the pandemic hits, Mei’s father is tied up at the hospital for long hours at a time, and she spends much of her time alone in their apartment, where Mei notices how hard it is for her neighbors to find food. Her aunt is the director of a middle school, where a chef prepares meals to give to families during the pandemic. With some cajoling of her father, Mei convinces him to let her volunteer in the kitchen. I love the community focus of this powerful novel, and it includes recipes!
Futureland: Battle for the Park by H.D. Hunter, Illustrated by Khadijah Khatib (November 8; Random House Books for Young Readers)
In 2048, Cam Walker’s parents own the traveling, flying theme park Futureland, where visitors can live their wildest dreams. Staffed primarily by robots, Futureland floats above cities as it travels, but this time, it’s staying for an entire year in Atlanta, Georgia, so Cam can get to know his grandmother and attend public school. While most people expect Cam to work in the park when he’s older, he dreams of becoming a detective. Things immediately start going wrong in the park when it stops in Atlanta. Kids are disappearing, and authorities are investigating Cam’s parents and uncle in their disappearance. He will have to use his detective skills now and fast if he wants to save his family, the park, and the missing kids. This action-packed, super-fun read includes some comic sections with Cam as a detective!