It’s finally Fall! Time for pumpkins, scarves, leaf jumps, and all things cozy — and nothing says cozy like books, right? A book and a pumpkin scone, maybe? With tea. It’s still warm where I live in Tennessee, but leaves have begun to fall and the temperatures are slightly lower, so my daughter and I are spending lots of time outside, often bringing books with us. In fact, I brought Mr. Watson’s Chickens (a picture book on this list) with us on a walk to the community garden’s chicken coop last week and had a delightful time showing the book to the only surviving chicken there. She loved it! She walked right up to the book and gently clucked at me the entire time I read it. She was quite possibly hoping I would feed her, but it was a delightful experience nonetheless.
October children’s book releases have new books in popular series, popular authors making their children’s book debuts, and new authors with instant classics. Community is a common theme amongst all age groups. The newest Innosanto Nagara board book, Together, celebrates togetherness, the picture book Room for Everyone shows a bus in Zanzibar welcoming everyone along the way, and Gayle Forman’s middle grade debut Frankie & Bug depicts the importance of found family for marginalized communities. October’s new releases have an excellent selection of books for every reader.
October Board Book Releases
Together by Mona Damluji & Innosanto Nagara (October 5, Triangle Square)
In Innosanto Nagara’s third board book (A is for Activist, Counting on Community), he teams up with activist Mona Damluji for a simple and powerful call for community. Stars, bees, trees, instruments, and more can all be beautiful taken as individuals, but they can also do great things when part of a community. Nagara’s vibrant illustrations depict scenes from nature alongside scenes of activism and social justice. Damluji’s prose is short and lyrical, perfect for board book readers.
October Picture Book Releases
Mr. Watson’s Chickens by Jarrett Dapier & Andrea Tsurumi (October 5, Chronicle Books)
When three chickens turn into 456 chickens, two gay men find themselves with a bit of a chicken problem. While the excess chickens don’t bother Mr. Watson in the least, Mr. Nelson can’t stand all the chaos. Finally, Mr. Watson concedes and the two haul all their chickens to the market to sell. But when one errant chicken escapes and captivates an audience with her song, she shows the two men the bright side of having chickens. This book is hilarious and gets lots of giggles from both my daughter and me. It’s such a good read aloud with lots of fun wordplay, and I love that it features a gay couple in a story that’s not centering their sexuality (which is important too, but children need to read picture books that normalize being LGBTQ+).
All Eyes on Ozzy! by K-Fai Steele (October 5, Balzer + Bray)
Ozzy loves being the center of attention and really wants to impress her music teacher, Ms. Boomba. She decides to pick the loudest instrument of all— the drums — so Ms. Boomba will notice her. But the problem is when Ozzy tries to show off on the drums, it messes up the entire song, and she struggles to stay in beat. With some guidance, Ozzy realizes that being part of a group can be just as good as being the center of attention. This is a delightful read aloud with colorful illustrations, fantastic facial expressions, and engaging prose. Ozzy is such a fun character, one kids will root for.
Ten in a Hurry by Lo Cole (October 5, Sourcebooks Jabberwocky)
Lo Cole’s follow-up to Ten on a Twig is just as engaging, funny, and eye-catching as his first toddler counting book. Just like the first book, Ten in a Hurry is creatively designed so that each page is a different length; in this case, each page shows a brightly colored fish, and, as the reader turns the pages, a bigger fish gulps one of the colored fish and grows bigger and bigger with each gulp. Finally, the last and smallest fish has had enough and shouts at the now giant fish to spit out the other fish so they can get to school on time. The simple, repetitive text combined with the unique design, colorful illustrations, and hilarious story make this a big hit for toddlers. I believe I’ve read this with my toddler approximately 5,000 times. Sourcebooks is also publishing it as a board book.
Everybody in the Red Brick Building by Anne Wynter & Oge Mora (October 12, Balzer + Bray)
Anne Wynter makes her picture book debut with this playful, rhythmic picture book filled with onomatopoeia. It’s late at night when city noises awaken several children and a cat from sleep, from the “Waaaah” of a baby to the “weehooweeehoo!” of a siren. But the city provides comforting sounds as well, and the children in the red brick apartment building find themselves being lulled back to sleep. Oge Mora’s always stunning collage illustrations are perfect accompaniments to Wynter’s lyrical text. This is such a delightful and vibrant read aloud.
Interrupting Chicken: Cookies for Breakfast by David Ezra Stein (October 12, Candlewick)
David Ezra Stein returns to his clever, intertextual Interrupting Chicken series with this hilarious picture book. It’s bright and early when the little red chicken wakes her papa and demands cookies for breakfast. Papa, still sleepy, decides to tell her stories instead, but the little red chicken cleverly inserts her own cookie-centered storyline into each tale. Clearly, the old woman who lived in a shoe made the place smell yummy instead of stinky by making cookies for breakfast. I loved this one just as much as the previous two. These are the kind of picture books parents will find just as enjoyable as their children.
Hello, Star by Stephanie V.W. Lucianovic & Vashti Harrison (October 19, Little, Brown Books for Young Readers)
This gorgeous picture book combines STEM themes with social/emotional learning. When a young girl learns that the light in the sky is from a star dying, her heart aches. She decides to keep the star company and talk to it every night. As the years pass, the girl learns more about science even as she continues to speak to the dying star. Then, as an adult, she realizes she can and should do more. Vashti Harrison’s always stunning illustrations accompany Lucianovic’s compassionate story. I can’t wait to read a print copy of this to my science-loving daughter.
Room for Everyone by Naaz Khan & Mercè López (October 26, Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books)
This is another rhythmic, repetitive picture book that’s a delight to read aloud. Set in Zanzibar, a young boy on a crowded bus tries to convince the driver and his parents to stop picking up people on the side of the road. He argues that there’s no room, but with some “wiggles and giggles,” there’s room for everyone, from fruit sellers to goat herders (and their goats) and a bicyclist with sweaty feet. López’s gorgeous and vibrant artwork is the perfect accompaniment to Khan’s rhythmic prose.
October Middle Grade Releases
Playing the Cards You’re Dealt by Varian Johnson (October 5, Scholastic)
Ten-year-old Anthony “Ant” Joplin loves to play spades, and now that he’s 10, he’s old enough to play in the spades tournament, a tournament his father and his older brother once competed in and won. Ant wants so much to be like his father and make him proud, but when he pairs up with Shirley for the tournament, he’s worried his father will be disappointed because she’s a girl. Shirley makes Ant question the toxic masculinity his father has taught him, and, meanwhile, his father is struggling with alcohol addiction. This is a character-driven middle grade that tackles a lot of big issues while also retaining that middle grade hopefulness that I love best in books targeting this age.
Scribbles, Sorrows, and Russet Leather Boots: The Life of Louisa May Alcott by Liz Rosenberg & Diana Sudyka (October 5; Candlewick)
Louisa May Alcott comes to life in this beautiful middle grade biography of her life. From her struggles to write and make a name for herself in a time when women weren’t allowed to be independent to her advocacy of the women’s suffrage movement to abolition, this is a powerful biography of one of the most famous American women writers. The black and white illustrations by Diana Sudyka are lovely. I’ll be honest, I imagine adults will enjoy this just as much or more than their middle graders, but it’s also a great way to introduce Alcott to young readers
Frankie & Bug by Gayle Forman (October 12; Aladdin)
Set in 1987, popular YA author Gayle Forman (If I Stay) shows what it was like to be a trans boy and a biracial child during the ’80s. Frankie’s father does not understand why he doesn’t wear dresses and acts so much like a boy. His mother decides to send Frankie to live with his uncle in California, where Frankie is accepted as a boy. Bug is half Salvadoran, though everyone assumes she’s Mexican. Her single mother struggles to balance work with parenting her two children, and when Bug isn’t able to go to summer camp, she finds herself hanging out with Frankie, who she completely accepts as a boy. This brilliant novel depicts how important found family is for kids not deemed “normal” by their family and peers, as well as important historical topics from the ’80s, such as the AIDS crises and racial violence.
Haven’s Secret by Melissa Benoist, Jessica Benoist-Young, & Mariko Tamaki (October 19; Amulet Books)
Supergirl star Melissa Benoist teams up with her writer sister Jessica Benoist-Young and popular author Mariko Tamaki (Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up with Me) in this action-packed middle grade fantasy with lots of girl power. Sisters Ellie and Parker McFadden both have magical powers, though they couldn’t otherwise be more different. Ellie has intuitive magic and can sense what others are feeling, and can even speak with animals. Parker has kinetic magic and can manipulate fire and cause shocks to the earth. They inherited these gifts from their mother, though they didn’t realize it until two unknown relatives take them to Haven, an isolated farm. Ellie loves the farm and their new lives, but Parker wants to go back to the city. As they slowly untangle the secrets behind their magic, they unearth an even more dangerous secret.
Keeping It Real by Paula Chase (October 19, Greenwillow Books)
Mari feels like she doesn’t quite fit in anywhere. She’s a wealthy Black girl in a predominantly white school. Despite her wealth, she doesn’t fit in with the white kids, and despite being Black, her wealth sets her apart from the other Black kids her age she knows. But one thing she knows — she loves fashion. It should be the best summer ever when her parents let her intern at their hip hop fashion company Flexx Unlimited. But she feels out of place with the other interns, and one girl in particular seems to hate her. When Mari finds out why, everything changes. Chase combines fashion, music, and social justice themes in this super engaging read.
The Golden Hour by Niki Smith (October 26, Little, Brown Books for Young Readers)
This beautiful and compassionate middle grade graphic novel depicts the aftermath of a school shooting. Manuel Soto saved his art teacher from a school shooter, and now he’s dealing with PTSD and anxiety following the attack. His mother and a therapist are helping him cope, and he finds photography to be his greatest aid during his panic attacks. Every day is a monotonous struggle for normalcy. Then he’s teamed up with Sebastian and Caysha for a group project, and he finds solace in Sebastian’s farm and the newborn calf Sebastian is raising. He decides to help Sebastian and Caysha with their plans for the 4-H fair and, as he does so, a romance begins to bloom between Manual and Sebastian. I loved how Smith uses color to depict Manuel’s PTSD and dissociative episodes.
Living With Viola by Rosena Fung (October 26, Annick Press)
It’s the beginning of 6th grade at a new school for Chinese Canadian Livy, and she’s brought along Viola to her first day of class. Viola is Livy’s anxiety. Viola prevents her from hearing her name called in class; she makes her feel embarrassed about every little thing that happens. No one else can see Viola, but she haunts everything Livy tries to do. When Livy makes friends at school, it seems like Viola might be fading away. However, the pressure from her traditional parents to be something other than an artist combined with racist microaggressions at school sends Livy into a spiral, and the spiral feeds Viola. Fung’s cute and colorful illustrations in this middle grade graphic novel bring this deeply personal mental health story to life.
Looking for more new children’s books beyond these October children’s book releases? Check out my July, August, and September lists. Also make sure you’re signed up for Book Riot’s kid lit newsletter, which reviews weekly new releases.