September and October are chock full of spectacular new releases for young readers. We have pulled a small sampling of some of the best together here.

Find more great books for kids this September with Kirkus.

Mouse & Lion

Retold by Rand Burkert; illustrated by Nancy Ekholm Burkert

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A visually stunning retelling of Aesop's fable set amid the Aha Hills of Africa...Mouse rushes over a “tawny boulder that lay in his path,” which, unfortunately, turns out to be King Lion, who traps Mouse and threatens to eat him...Mouse begs for release and asserts his bravery. Intrigued, Lion asks Mouse to demonstrate his mettle, and Mouse fiercely tilts with a blade of grass. The amused Lion releases Mouse, who prophesies, “You might need me someday, in a pinch.” While the elegantly simple text conveys King Lion’s transformation from negligent predator to appreciative victim, the exquisitely rendered brush, ink and pencil illustrations steal the show. Masterful use of white space, dramatic close-ups, arresting perspectives and meticulous respect for natural details memorialize the interaction between Line and Mouse. (Picture book. 3 & up)

new at the zoo What's New at the Zoo?

Betty Comden & Adolph Green; illustrated by Travis Foster

Can't all the animals just get along? Luckily for readers, no! An initial double-page spread shows dozens of disgruntled animals—walrus and crab and monkey and camel and others—crammed too close and uttering expletives. Then, bouncy lyrics of the title song by Comden and Green...take over, comprising the entirety of the text. It begins, " 'Ouch! You're stepping on my pouch!' to the bear said the kangaroo." Elsewhere in the zoo, the elephant and the gnu are getting into it, the seal is swallowing kippers...and the goose steps on the neck of the giraffe. "Let us out! Let us out!" Foster's ingenious illustrations feature antic cartoonish animals in an explosion of color against a background of gray lines wildly depicting other animals for a 3D, retro effect. A handful of pages have flaps with surprises underneath, a special treat for very young readers. (Picture book. 3-7) 

elizabeth My Name Is Elizabeth!

Annika Dunklee; illustrated by Matthew Forsythe

Don’t call her Betsy. After all, though she may seem part Olivia and part Lilly...the protagonist declares, “My name is Elizabeth!” She then lauds the virtues of her "nine letters long" moniker, concluding, “I also like that there is a queen named after me!” Alas, Elizabeth must fend off “Lizzy,” “Liz,” “Beth” and “Betsy’s” aplenty as her granddad, a neighborhood boy, a merchant and a crossing guard greet her with these nicknames...Forsythe’s restrained color palette and expressive line contribute to his brilliant rendering of Elizabeth’s character...This debut picture-book offering from Dunklee and Forsythe is close enough to perfect in its tone, pacing and interplay between words and pictures: Wonderful. (Picture book. 3-7)

dead end Dead End in Norvelt

Jack Gantos

An exhilarating summer marked by death, gore and fire sparks deep thoughts in a small-town lad not uncoincidentally named “Jack Gantos.” The gore is all Jack’s, which to his continuing embarrassment “would spray out of my nose holes like dragon flames” whenever anything exciting or upsetting happens. And that would be on every other page, seemingly, as even though Jack’s feuding parents unite to ground him for the summer after several mishaps, he does get out. He mixes with the undertaker’s daughter, a band of Hell’s Angels out to exact fiery revenge for a member flattened in town by a truck and, especially, with arthritic neighbor Miss Volker, for whom he furnishes the “hired hands” that transcribe what becomes a series of impassioned obituaries for the local paper as elderly town residents suddenly begin passing on in rapid succession…Characteristically provocative gothic comedy, with sublime undertones. (Autobiographical fiction. 11-13)

killer koalas Killer Koalas from Outer Space: And Lots of Other Very Bad Stuff that Will Make Your Brain Explode

Andy Griffiths; illustrated by Terry Denton

Sometimes bad can be very, very good indeed. Griffiths proves this time and again in this hilarious collection of rude, lewd and crude poems, jokes and cautionary tales. Deliciously revolting characters in stories like “The Old Woman Who Lived in a Poo” and “Mud Brown and the Seven Slobs” are sure to leave young, potty-humor–loving readers in stitches. Denton’s edgy, stick-figure illustrations only add to the fun...giving the collection a frenetic energy that makes the book nearly impossible to put down. With plenty of white space on each page and hilarious comic-strip–style illustrations that reinforce story matter, this book would make a great, though certainly untraditional, easy read. (Poetry/graphic short stories. 7-12)

poems Poems I Wrote When No One Was Looking

Alan Katz; illustrated by Edward Koren

So brisk and varied is the mix of wordplay (“I don’t like the ampersand. / You can’t hold it in your h&”), family humor and short meditations on food preferences, procrastination, peculiar traits of sibs, why there’s only one in a “pair” of underwear and like topics that it’s hard to stop reading—or reading aloud, for that matter. It’s all as child-friendly as can be, and the versifier’s casual tone finds echoes in the illustrator’s crosshatched sketches of figures showing a range of expressions while glancing bashfully or distractedly off to the side. As clever and funny as the poetry of Jack Prelutsky in his prime and less edgy than Shel Silverstein’s, this deserves and should have no trouble drawing chuckles and belly laughs from a wide audience. (Poetry. 7-11)

apprentice The Inquisitor's Apprentice

Chris Moriarty; illustrated by Mark Edward Geyer

Thirteen-year-old Sacha lives in New York City's Lower East Side at the turn of the 20th century. Or does he? The sights and sounds and smells, social ills and rampant racism and anti-Semitism all seem to be as they really were. But hexers are all around, and...Sacha can see magic even when it’s hidden...What follows are wild adventures involving spells and dybbuks and deathly struggles between good and evil. Moriarty beckons readers into this alternate universe and...employs rich language and syntax that please the ear and touch the senses...A marvelous, mystical romp that doesn’t ignore reality. A hint of a possible sequel whets readers’ appetite for more. (Fantasy. 12 & up)


greek myth Treasury of Greek Mythology: Classic Stories of Gods, Goddesses, Heroes, & Monsters

Donna Jo Napoli; illustrated by Christina Balit

Oft-told tales retold with uncommon verve and outfitted with resplendent Art Deco–style portraits. Napoli opens with the rise of the “mother force” Gaia and closes with the devastation of the Trojan War. In between, she introduces over two dozen immortals and heroes...She pays close attention to her narrative’s tone and sound, capturing the nature of each god or mortal with vivid turns of phrase... Applying rippling strokes of intense color, Balit opens with a shimmering family tree of Olympians, heads each chapter with a stylized full-body image of a mythological figure with associated emblems and symbols and also contributes interior illustrations and thumbnail portraits...Superb versions for reading alone or for sharing. (Mythology. 10-14)

swirl Swirl by Swirl: Spirals in Nature

Joyce Sidman; illustrated by Beth Krommes

“A spiral is a snuggling shape” is the somewhat homely observation that begins Sidman’s brief and graceful poem—she goes on to catalog and celebrate the ways that spirals manifest themselves in the physical and natural world in a way that will draw in the youngest listeners…The author and illustrator examine spirals as coiled and protective (fiddlehead ferns, a curled hedgehog) as well as bold and releasing (curls on ocean waves, a spiral galaxy). They further offer observations on the ways that plants and animals use the spiral structure for strength or support (a monkey’s tail clinging to a branch, a spider’s web constructed between twigs)…Exquisitely simple and memorable. (Informational picture book. 2-8)

st louis Saint Louis Armstrong Beach

Brenda Woods

This gripping [novel] pits an 11-year-old boy, a neighborhood dog and an elderly woman against [Hurricane Katrina] and [the] subsequent devastating flood. Narrator Saint is a gifted clarinetist with Juilliard dreams and a soft spot for Shadow, a black Lab mix he longs to fully claim. Families flee Tremé, but Saint’s mom, a dedicated hospital social worker, toils overtime as Katrina homes in…Fate tosses boy and dog in with stubborn neighbor Miz Moran, who’s evaded her own relatives in order to remain at home. Their attic confinement is a study in contrasts: The woman’s good planning yields battery-operated fans and freeze-dried ice cream, but unplanned-for issues include her worsening health and dog poop…Woods’ marvelous characterizations of Saint and Miz Moran more than stand up to the vivid backdrop of the flooded, chaotic city…A small gem. (Historical fiction. 9-12)