Choosing the 15 books on this list of September children’s book releases out of the many fantastic children’s books releasing this month was hard. More books tend to be published in the early fall months, and while it’s not quite fall, there were still more excellent children’s books to choose from than in previous months. I shout out the ones that didn’t quite make this list at the end.
This month’s picks are full of multicultural children’s books, from an early chapter book about a multi-generational Indian family (Sona Sharma, Very Best Big Sister?) to an exciting middle grade fantasy steeped in Islamic folklore (Amira & Hamza: The War to Save the Worlds). A common theme I noticed this month is books about borders. The picture books Bright Star and My Two Border Towns both have characters crossing borders, as does the middle grade graphic novel Borders. The picture book biography Playing at the Border explores both literal border crossings and the transcendent power of music as a means of crossing borders. I was also thrilled to see Amanda Gorman’s debut picture book publishing this month as well.
These September children’s book releases have a lot of must-reads, and it’s probably going to break some people’s book-buying budget!
September Board Book Releases
A Cub Story by Kristen Tracy & Alison Farrell (September 28, Chronicle Kids)
In this adorable board book, a bear cub leads the reader through the four seasons, comparing themself to their fellow animals. Compared to elk, the bear cub is slow, but compared to snails, the bear cub is fast. When winter comes, the bear cub grows sleepy and snuggles into their den with their mama. Alison Farrell’s (The Hike) colorful illustrations are beautiful and pair perfectly with Kristen Tracy’s simple, playful text. This is a perfect nature read for babies and toddlers.
September Picture Book Releases
Bright Star by Yuyi Morales (September 7, Neal Porter Books)
Pura Belpré Award-winning author/illustrator Yuyi Morales follows up her bestselling picture book Dreamers with this lovely and empowering story of a mother and fawn crossing the U.S.-Mexico border and taking note of the new wildlife. The fawn’s mother encourages the frightened young deer as they navigate the Sonoran Desert, even when their pathway is blocked. The sparse and lyrical text accompanies Morales’s complex and lush digital artwork.
My Two Border Towns by David Bowles & Erika Meza (September 14, Kokila)
Based on author David Bowles’s experiences, this picture book also explores the U.S.-Mexico border, but this time through the eyes of a young boy visiting family and friends. Every other Saturday, the boy travels with his father just across the bridge and through U.S. customs to his hometown’s twin. The two eat at their favorite restaurant, visit family, pick up medicine and, most importantly, drop off supplies to the asylum seekers along the border. Accompanied by Erika Meza’s vibrant illustrations, this empathetic and touching picture book is beautiful.
Change Sings: A Children’s Anthem by Amanda Gorman & Loren Long (September 21, Viking Books for Young Readers)
National Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman makes her picture book debut with this lyrical call to action. Anyone can make a change, big or small, the text encourages. I haven’t managed to get my hands on a copy yet, but I can’t wait to read this one. Illustrator Loren Long has illustrated many famous picture books, like the Otis series. Read more about how Amanda Gorman became the youngest inaugural poet.
Roxy the Unisaurus Rex Presents: Oh No! The Talent Show by Eva Chen & Matthew Rivera (September 28, Feiwel & Friends)
My daughter and I are big fans of Roxy the Last Unisaurus Rex, so we can’t wait to read a hard copy of the second book in the series. In the first book, Roxy tries to make friends with the dinosaurs at school, but nobody wants to be friends with her because she looks different from them. There’s no one else like her. But then she meets Dexter, another unisaurus. In the second book, the two are preparing for the school talent show. This series is adorable and great for back-to-school readers. They also make great read-alouds.
Nina: A Story of Nina Simone by Traci Todd & Christian Robinson (September 28, G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers)
Nina Simone is one of my all-time favorite jazz musicians, and Christian Robinson is one of my all-time favorite illustrators, so I definitely squealed when I first saw this picture book biography announced. It follows Nina’s life from childhood learning to play piano to performing during the Civil Rights Movement. Traci Todd’s prose manages to be informative without being too dense to read to young children, and I believe these are my favorite illustrations from Christian Robinson thus far, and that’s saying something. I wonder if we’ll get some Target Nina Simone merchandise? (If you haven’t heard of Christian Robinson’s Target line, check it out!)
Playing at the Border: A Story of Yo-Yo Ma by Joanna Ho & Teresa Martinez (September 28, HarperCollins)
Joanna Ho follows up her stunning picture book debut Eyes That Kiss in the Corners with this equally stunning picture book biography of the famous cellist Yo-Yo Ma. Ho takes a poetic approach to Ma’s biography, freely meandering between periods to connect to a central theme in the musician’s life: bridging cultures and communities. “[F]eet planted on the soil of one nation,” Ho writes, “eyes gazing at the shores of another.” Martinez’s muted, lovely illustrations that give the suggestion of brush strokes are a perfect accompaniment to Ho’s poetic prose.
September Early Reader Releases
Science School by Laura Minter & Tia Williams (Sept. 7, Button Books)
With 30 experiments accompanied by science facts about how the experiments work, this is a super fun activity book for elementary-aged kids. For once, the ingredient list for each experiment is actually things most people will be able to find at home. I’ve only had to purchase a few ingredients for some of the experiments. The experiments range in complexity, from the simple (mixing colors with food coloring, paper towels, water, and bowls) to the complex (making a moveable hand with straws and thread). While the book is listed for ages 5–11, my 3-year-old daughter and I have been going through the experiments one by one and having a blast. She doesn’t understand the terminology yet, but she loves seeing the science in action.
Sona Sharma, Very Best Big Sister by Chitra Soundar & Jen Khatun (September 14, Candlewick)
Sona Sharma’s Amma (mother) is pregnant, and Sona isn’t so sure how she feels about it. The only child in a large, multi-generational Indian family, Sona likes getting all the attention and feels understandably anxious about sharing her life with a new sister or brother. Her mother explains that there’s always room for more stars in the sky, and Sona tries to come to terms with that idea. With the Hindu baby-naming ceremony approaching, Sona decides to find the best name for their sibling. This lovely chapter book contains a glossary in the back of the Indian terms used in the book.
September Middle Grade Releases
Borders by Thomas King & Natasha Donovan (September 7, Little, Brown Books for Young Readers)
A Blackfoot brother longs to visit his sister in this emotional graphic novel about identity and borders. The unnamed protagonist’s sister Laetitia has moved from Canada to Salt Lake City in Utah. Because her father is a part of the Chippewa-Cree tribe in the U.S., she’s able to navigate the border between Canada and the U.S. without trouble. However, when the boy and his mother try to cross, the border guards refuse to allow them entry either way, not acknowledging their Blackfoot identities. The two remain in limbo between borders, unable to enter the U.S. to visit Laetitia and unable to reenter Canada. This graphic novel is based on a short story by Cherokee/Greek author Thomas King, and the illustrations by Métis illustrator Natasha Donovan are simple yet lovely.
Last Gamer Standing by Katie Zhao (September 21, Scholastic)
It’s so hard to find good middle grade science fiction, so I was so glad to come across this propulsive read by Katie Zhao, who has a previous middle grade fantasy series (The Dragon Warrior). No one knows that the identity behind the gamer profile TheRuiNar is 12-year-old Reyna Cheng, and she means to keep it that way. She’s well aware of how girls are treated in the gaming community, and the anonymity gives her the ability to rule the gaming world without being trolled. However, when she joins a big gaming competition, an anonymous troll threatens to dox her. This is a super fun read and such a realistic portrayal of sexism in the gaming community.
The Insiders by Mark Oshiro (September 21, HarperCollins)
When Héctor Muñoz changes schools, he finds himself hiding in the janitor’s closet, feeling more lonely than he’s ever felt as a gay middle schooler. No one minded he was gay at his old school, but this new school is completely different. With the school bully targeting him, he takes refuge in the janitor’s closet. But one day, when he opens the closet door, he finds his favorite drink, his abuela’s horchata. Now every time he escapes into the Room, it gives him something else he needs. Then he steps inside and finds another student who doesn’t even live in the same state. The Room becomes a refuge for three students hiding from the bullies in the real world. This is Mark Oshiro’s middle grade debut, and it’s as beautiful and character-driven as his previous two YA novels, Anger is a Gift and Each of Us a Desert.
Amira & Hamza: The War to Save the Worlds by Samira Ahmed (September 21, Little, Brown Books for Young Readers)
Best-selling author Samira Ahmed makes her middle grade debut with this adventure-filled fantasy based on Islamic myth. It opens with 12-year-old Amira and her little brother Hamza at a museum attending an exhibit on medieval Islamic astronomy. When Hamza touches the Box of the Moon, he accidentally unleashes the mythic in their contemporary world, and these mythic forces could cause the end of everything. Amira and Hamza must step into ancient prophecy and journey to the mythical land of Qaf to face the jinn and save the world. Compelling and action-packed, fantasy readers will absolutely love this.
Beasts and Beauty: Dangerous Tales by Soman Chainani & Julia Iredale (September 21, HarperCollins)
This collection of fairytale retellings by the author of The School of Good and Evil is incredibly dark. Chainani retains much from the disturbing themes of classic tales, though he also twists and subverts narrative tropes in fun ways, like by making the protagonist in “Sleeping Beauty” male. His retelling of Peter Pan is told from Wendy’s point of view, and his Little Red Riding Hood finds a way to survive by acknowledging who the real wolves are in society. I read an early copy of this on my kindle, so I didn’t quite get to enjoy the illustrations, but I can’t wait to get a hard copy. There’s nothing better than an illustrated collection of fairytales (I own an entire bookshelf’s worth!), and Julia Iredale’s art looks gorgeous.
Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls: 100 Real-Life Tales of Black Girl Magic Edited by Lilly Workneh (September 28, Rebel Girls)
The next installment of the nonfiction biography series Good Night Stories focuses on Black girl magic. It features 100 biographies of Black women and girls accompanied by gorgeous illustrated portraits. Written and illustrated by more than 60 Black women and nonbinary folk, it’s the kind of book everyone needs on their bookshelf, regardless of age. With biographies of author Toni Morrison, poet Amanda Gorman, gymnast Gabby Douglas, astronaut Jeanette Epps, Vice President Kamala Harris, and so many more, it shows Black women rocking it in every way, from science to politics to athletics to art.
Here are some more middle grade novels publishing in September I highly recommend checking out as well!
- Born Behind Bars by Padma Venkatraman (September 7, Nancy Paulsen Books)
- Partly Cloudy by Tanita S. Davis (September 7, Katherine Tegen Books)
- Lotería by Karla Arenas Valenti (September 7, Knopf Books for Young Readers)
- Barefoot Dreams of Petra Luna by Alda P. Dobbs (September 14, Sourcebooks Young Readers)
- Cuba in My Pocket by Adrianna Cuevas (September 21, Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
- The Cursed Carnival and Other Calamities edited by Rick Riordan (September 28, Rick Riordan Presents)