I used to be a summer girl, but now my favorite season is fall, and October is my favorite month of the year. After a September full of school viruses, I am ready to get outside and visit some pumpkin farms and jump in some leaf piles. My 4-year-old spent all year telling me she wanted to be Peter Rabbit for Halloween, and I was quite excited to dress up as Mr. McGregor and visit our community garden for a photo shoot. Sadly, she has now changed her mind and insists on being a black cat, which she was a few years ago. This isn’t wholly unexpected; she has always been obsessed with cats, especially black cats (#FutureWitch). But I was really looking forward to being Mr. McGregor! Now I need to think of a whole new literary reference. I’m considering going as the dragon from Kitty and Dragon by Meika Hashimoto, but that seems a bit complicated and possibly uncomfortable. We shall see. If you follow Book Riot’s newsletter, The Kids Are All Right, I’m sure I will post updates. The last time she was a black cat, I went as a witch, and I still have my witch costume (of course). So I might be a witch again.
Anyway, my must-read picks for October children’s book releases include several by Latine authors for Latine Heritage Month — which ends October 15th, but of course these books can be read all year long — some really silly picture books that get big belly laughs from both my kid and me, and so much more. It’s a great month full of excellent children’s book releases. There are even three picture books with cats (two black, one white), so my introduction isn’t totally irrelevant.
October Children’s Book Releases: Picture Books
This Story is Not About a Kitten by Randall de Sève & Carson Ellis (October 4; Random House Studio)
This super adorable picture book based on a true story claims it isn’t about a kitten, but it seems to be pretty much about a kitten, specifically, how an abandoned kitten under a car brings a community together. A little girl, her mom, and their dog discover a kitten under a car but are having trouble coaxing it out when neighbors step in to help. One by one, each neighbor offers their help until the kitten is finally inside its new home, receiving lots of love, and the neighbors gather together to celebrate. So okay, it’s also a picture book about community. The repetitive, lyrical prose where each line is repeated makes this a really great read-aloud, and Carson Ellis’s illustrations are as fantastic as they always are. We just received a copy of this in the mail and I’m anticipating it will become a favorite.
The Moonlight Zoo by Maudie Powell-Tuck & Karl James Mountford (October 4; Tiger Tales)
Like their previous picture book together, Last Stop on the Reindeer Express, The Midnight Zoo features peek-through pages and lift-the-flaps among beautiful, ornate illustrations. Luna’s cat has been missing for two days, and she’s so worried. Hearing animal noises under her bed at night, she crawls under the bed and discovers a magical zoo for lost pets and animals. Transported to the zoo, Luna searches for her beloved pet and finds many wondrous things along the way. Though it’s never mentioned in the story, Luna wears a hearing aid. I love seeing disability representation in stories like these.
Witch Hazel by Molly Idle (October 11; Little, Brown Books for Young Readers)
When I requested this picture book, I was not expecting to cry while reading it, but I’ve read it three times now and cried every time. So be warned. The child Hilda loves helping the witch Hazel around the house, and in return, hearing Hazel’s stories from long ago and watching the stories play out in magical dust. As the seasons pass, Hilda watches and listens to more and more of Hazel’s stories until one day, Hazel is no longer there, and Hilda sweeps the house only in the company of Hazel’s cat. But the magical dust still remembers Hazel and knows precisely what Hilda needs. Everything about this picture book is magical, from the sweet, lyrical prose to the sepia-toned illustrations.
Still Dreaming / Seguimos Soñando by Claudia Guadalupe Martínez & Magdalena Mora, Translated by Luis Humberto Crosthwaite (October 11; Lee & Low Books)
This bilingual picture book explores the 1930s Mexican Repatriation, when, amidst the Great Depression, the U.S. government forced U.S. citizens of Mexican descent into Mexico, even though many had lived on their land for many generations. The text itself never mentions the history, instead centering on a boy’s story about his sadness at leaving his home and how his family comes together to support one another during this time. The author’s end note explains more about the Mexican Repatriation movement. While it takes place in a specific moment in U.S. history, it’s also a universal story and feels very modern. Mora’s vibrantly colored, smudged illustrations are beautiful.
Tiny Spoon vs. Little Fork by Constance Lombardo, Dan Abdo, & Jason Patterson (October 18; Hippo Park)
This extremely silly picture book will get big belly laughs from young readers. Tiny Spoon and Little Fork both think they’re Baby’s favorite eating utensil. They both come from a long line of spoons and forks excellent at their jobs, and they both have photographic evidence of Baby enjoying some yum yums with their aid. When it’s time to eat, however, Baby throws both Tiny Spoon and Little Fork, sending them on a wild ride into the floor alongside Baby’s bunny lovey. Will Spoon and Fork find a way to cooperate instead of compete so they can return to Baby? This one is genuinely hilarious and so much fun to read aloud.
The Talk by Alicia D. Williams & Briana Mukodiri Uchendu (October 18; Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books)
The Talk is a beautifully written and heartfelt picture book about possibly one of the hardest conversations Black and Brown caregivers have with their children. Jay loves to race around the neighborhood with his friends and pretend he’s a wolf in his hoodie. His mother measures him in a doorway, but as Jay grows taller, his family begins to worry. His Grandma mentions people may see him as threatening now, and his dad explains how to act when police confront him. But Jay is still a kid and wants to act like a kid. How is it fair that he has to behave differently just because of the color of his skin? With lovely, warm illustrations and gentle prose, this picture book provides lots of room for caregivers to have tough but essential conversations with their kids. This picture book can also be a meaningful tool for white families to discuss the impacts of racism with their children.
Digestion! The Musical by Adam Rex & Laura Park (October 25; Chronicle Books)
Get your singing voice ready for this wildly inventive picture book about how digestion works, presented as a musical. It’s Lil’ Candy’s big chance to do something great, but the human body doesn’t want to eat Lil’ Candy. Lil’ Candy has nothing to offer the teeth, lungs, liver, etc. However, the tongue wants to give Lil’ Candy a chance, and in the stomach, Lil’ Candy makes a friend — Gum. With the help of four baby carrots, Gum, and a red blood cell, Lil’ Candy learns all about human digestion, and it turns out Lil’ Candy has a secret that will change how the rest of the body thinks of it. This book is hilarious, adorably illustrated, and very informative. I’m a big musical fan, so I love making up tunes and belting out the book. However, this has backfired, and my daughter will now only read the book with me, ha!
October Children’s Book Releases: Middle Grade
Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls: 100 Inspiring Young Changemakers Edited by Jess Harriton & Maithy Vu (October 4; Rebel Girls)
The fifth book in the Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls series features mini-biographies of young women who are changing the world for the better. From Gitanjali Rao, who helped invent water sensors to detect pollution, to Brazilian skateboarder Rayssa Leal, these biographers center girls from around the world pursuing numerous, varied goals. Each biography is accompanied by a gorgeous portrait illustrated by more than 60 young women and nonbinary artists worldwide. This entire series is worth collecting, and I love this latest addition.
A Rover’s Story by Jasmine Warga (October 4; Balzer + Bray)
This innovative and lovely middle grade is told from the perspective of Resilience (Res), a fictional Mars rover. NASA scientists Rania and Xander built Res to help find a lost rover on Mars and to test for signs of water and life there. During his testing period, Res begins to develop emotions alongside the more logical skills he needs to navigate Mars. Once on Mars, he befriends his drone, Fly, and seeks to prove himself worthy of one day returning to Earth. Meanwhile, Rania’s daughter Sophie becomes interested in the rover and writes him letters. She continues to write him letters for the many years Res is on Mars, relating her mother’s illness and school struggles. This is a heartwarming, emotional read for space lovers of all ages.
Undercover Latina by Aya de León (October 11; Candlewick)
I had so much fun listening to this contemporary middle grade spy novel on audio, narrated by Victoria Villarreal. Like her parents, 14-year-old Andréa Hernández-Baldoquín works as a spy for the Factory, an organization of non-white spies whose mission is to help protect people of color from terrorism and other major crimes. Andréa’s first lead mission is to pose as a white student to get close to the estranged son of a white supremacist and terrorist, Kyle, to uncover his father’s whereabouts. She soon realizes that the best way to befriend Kyle is to learn to play a card game and read the comic book series it’s based on. However, while learning about the game and befriending Kyle, she begins to have romantic feelings for Kyle’s best friend and roommate, Rámon. There’s lots of good stuff in here: excellent, nuanced discussions about race and being a light-skinned Latina, action-packed spy scenes, a look inside gaming and cosplay communities, and I love that the main character is 14, an underrepresented age in middle grade.
Dad’s Girlfriend and Other Anxieties by Kellye Crocker (October 18; Albert Whitman & Company)
Ava has recently been diagnosed with anxiety and is seeing a therapist for coping mechanisms. She especially struggles with surprises, and when her father informs her that they will be spending two weeks in Colorado to meet his girlfriend and her daughter at the last minute, Ava’s anxiety spikes. She doesn’t want to add people to their life, no matter how nice they are, and she definitely doesn’t want to go to Colorado, especially after reading about how dangerous it is online. She actually does find she likes her father’s girlfriend and her daughter Z; however, that doesn’t mean she’s prepared to upend her entire life to include them in it. This middle grade is a super fun, compulsive read, and the anxiety portrayal is so well done. There are even sections of Ava’s journal included where she lists some of the coping strategies she’s learned.
Frizzy by Claribel A. Ortega & Rose Bousamra (October 18; First Second)
Dominican middle schooler Marlene is tired of going to the hair salon to get her curly hair straightened or braided. She loves hanging out with her friends and playing — she does not love her mother’s constant criticism about how playing ruins her hair and how her hair must be “presentable” at all times. Marlene’s Tía Ruby keeps her hair natural, and Marlene has decided she wants to do the same. But how does she let her mom know without disappointing her? With beautiful, soft illustrations and a very lovable main character, this middle grade graphic novel is an empowering ode to Black and Brown hair and self-love.