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It’s November! Most of the trees in my backyard have turned beautiful shades of orange and gold, and the summer heat has finally faded into an, honestly, warm fall (I live in Tennessee, so the heat hangs on for a while). The year is almost over, and, as of writing this, my child still cannot get the Covid-19 vaccination. Sadly, I’m beginning to confront the possibility that it may be 2022 before our family can be fully vaccinated. *Insert panicked scream here.*
The end of the year tends to be a bit slower for new releases, but there are still plenty of excellent books releasing this month. Favorite middle grade authors Jason Reynolds and Wendy Xu return with new charming graphic novels, and two of my 3-year-old daughter’s favorite book series have new books being released in the series. There are also two gorgeous picture books celebrating Black history that I’m anticipating will be on some award lists next year. If you plan to buy books for the holidays (and I imagine people who don’t gift books probably aren’t reading this), I recommend going ahead and ordering your books now. Due to supply chain issues and shipping delays, the books may take a while to arrive. And now on to the book reviews of these 15 November children’s book releases!
November Picture Book Releases
Aaron Slater, Illustrator (The Questioneers) by Andrea Beaty & David Roberts
A new Questioneers picture book! Ada Twist, Scientist (The Questioneers) is currently my daughter’s favorite book, so we’ve collected all the books in the Questioneers series, and I plan to give a print version of this one to her for her birthday! This newest addition to the series has dyslexia representation, something nearly impossible to find in picture books. Aaron Slater dreams of writing his own books, but words swim in his vision, and he has trouble both writing and reading them. But Aaron realizes there are other ways to tell a story and that, while his dreams may have to shift in approach, he can still be a storyteller. Told in Beaty’s signature rhyme, this fantastic read-aloud is a must for Questioneer readers. See inside pictures on my Instagram!
The Spectacular Suit by Kat Patrick & Hayley Wells
Frankie is having a birthday garden party. Everything is ready and perfect, everything except her outfit. Her mom and siblings try to help her find the perfect outfit, but the dresses feel wrong, and she wants something really special. So she draws her dream outfit, a spectacular suit, and gives it to her mom. On the day of the party, she awakens to the best gift of all — the suit of her dreams. This is such a fun read-aloud that celebrates gender nonconformity. The illustrations are in vibrant yellows, oranges, and blue, and it would make a perfect read before a child’s birthday.
The Smart Cookie (The Food Group) by Jory John & Pete Oswald
Jory John and Pete Oswald have teamed up again for a new, standalone picture book in the Food Group series (The Bad Seed is the first). This cookie doesn’t feel so smart. She doesn’t make good grades at school, and she never raises her hands to answer questions because she can’t think of answers fast enough. Cookie feels so much school anxiety every day. However, when the teacher gives the students the freedom to choose their own assignment, Cookie discovers something they feel confident in doing. There is so much pressure for kids to “perform” well in school at young ages now, and to get perfect grades, making this a much-needed book for both kids and parents. It’s also a fun story, and, as always, the illustrations are adorable.
Dear Little One by Nina Laden & Melissa Castrillon
This celebration of the natural world has the kind of gorgeous illustrations I wish I could frame and hang on the wall. The lush illustrations pair perfectly with the simple, rhythmic text: “Investigate insects, / some glow and shine, / Inspect spiderwebs / and their lovely design.” Laden’s text addresses a young child exploring the outdoors with universal sentiments, while Castrillon’s verdant illustrations wrap and twirl around the child. This would make a perfect holiday present for young nature-lovers.
The Big Bath House by Kyo Maclear & Gracey Zhang
A little girl walks to a Japanese bath house with her aunties and grandmother in this beautiful, intergenerational celebration of Japanese culture. Once at the bath house, the family goes through their bath-time rituals until it’s finally time to soak in the warm water. With body-positive prose and illustrations, the family bathes together until it’s time to walk the quiet, dark streets and return home. Author Kyo Maclear based this quiet yet joyful story on her own childhood visits to Japan. Gracey Zhang’s warm illustrations are the perfect accompaniment for this sweet story.
Dream Street by Tricia Elam Walker & Ekua Holmes
Cousins Tricia Elam Walker and Ekua Holmes grew up in the same Boston neighborhood and teamed up to create this beautiful tribute to that neighborhood. According to the people who live on Dream Street, it’s the best street in the world, and, as the prose makes clear, the people are what makes the street so great. Each page spread examines the dreams and daily lives of each person that lives on the street, from Azaria’s prowess at Double Dutch to Ms. Sarah’s whispered stories. Award-winning illustrator Ekua Holmes’s collage illustrations are vibrant, warm, and jubilant.
Song for Jimi: The Story of Guitar Legend Jimi Hendrix by Charles R. Smith Jr. & Edel Rodriguez
Charles R. Smith Jr.’s rhythmic prose tells the story of famed musician Jimi Hendrix’s life, from his poor childhood to time in the military to playing at Woodstock. Through it all, music defined Jimi’s life and his aspirations. Edel Rodriguez’s intense and vivid illustrations bring Hendrix’s musical style to life, as does Smith’s ambitious prose. This unique, compelling picture book biography is sure to be up for some awards next year.
The 1619 Project: Born on the Water by Nikole Hannah-Jones, Renée Watson, & Nikkolas Smith
Nikole Hannah-Jones won a Pulitzer Prize for her essay with The New York Times’s 1619 Project, which commemorated the 400th anniversary of the beginning of slavery in the United States. She teams up with Newbery and Coretta Scott King Award-winning author Renée Watson in this series of powerful poems that chronicle the history of slavery in the U.S. It opens with a teacher assigning a family tree project to a young, Black narrator. He at first feels shame, but when his family tells him the proud origins of his history, his shame is transformed into empowerment. From their West African ancestors to the first Black enslaved child born in the U.S. to Civil Rights and contemporary activists, this picture book tackles a broad history of the Black experience with beauty and lyricism. The poems are accompanied by stunning paintings by illustrator Nikkolas Smith.
Room for Everyone by Naaz Khan & Mercè López
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.
Interrupting Chicken: Cookies for Breakfast by David Ezra Stein
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.
November Middle Grade Releases
The Swag Is in the Socks by Kelly J. Baptist
Twelve-year-old Xavier, AKA Moonie, isn’t the prime candidate for the elite Scepter League, a boys’ club for only the most confident kids. He wears braces, stutters, and prefers to play the Switch than talk to other people his age. His parents have recently been incarcerated, and he’s living with his great aunt Kat. When his great uncle sends him a letter of encouragement along with some snazzy new socks, Moonie decides to be brave and step out of his comfort zone. He decides to apply for the Scepter League, but first, he needs to prove his confidence. Charming and powerful, I loved how Moonie’s disability doesn’t define the novel.
Tidesong by Wendy Xu
I adore Wendy Xu’s Mooncakes, so when I heard she had a new graphic novel coming out, I had to read it. Tidesong is a delightful middle grade graphic novel about a family of witches who can control water. Sophie longs to attend the Royal Magic Academy, so she spends the summer with her great aunt and cousin, hoping they’ll be able to help her with her magic. Instead, her great aunt gives her piles of chores, and Sophie feels constantly demeaned and ridiculed by her. Filled with anxiety and the desire to prove herself, she accidentally transforms a water dragon, Lir, into a human. With her family admiring Lir and condemning Sophie’s actions, Sophie struggles with trying to help Lir while also trying to prove she’s good enough for the academy.
Stuntboy, in the Meantime by Jason Reynolds & Raúl the Third
Portico Reeves isn’t a normal kid; he’s the greatest superhero you’ve never ever heard of — Stuntboy! His superpower is keeping other superheroes safe, like his parents and friends. He lives in a castle (though some call it an apartment building) and takes his superhero duties very seriously. However, attacks of The Frets (AKA anxiety) often leave him paralyzed, and in the meantime, he faces his biggest challenge yet: getting his parents to stop fighting. Raúl the Third’s expressive illustrations give an old-school comic book feel to this middle grade graphic novel and pair perfectly with powerhouse writer Jason Reynolds’ simultaneously goofy and heartwarming story.
The Golden Hour by Niki Smith
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
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.
A version of this list was originally published on Book Riot.