Whether I’m compiling books about man-eating tigers or deciding on the best kid-lit bears of all time, I love making lists, though somehow I never have enough room for everything. Looking over the riches of books this season, it was hard to winnow it down to 30, but I’m nevertheless delighted with our Fall Preview picture books. Here are some I’m especially anticipating.
Rustic life has never looked as enchanting as it does in Sophie Blackall’s Farmhouse (Little, Brown, Sept. 13) and The Sun Is Late and So Is the Farmer by Philip C. Stead, illustrated by Erin E. Stead (Neal Porter/Holiday House, Nov. 8). Both are sumptuous, lyrical, and tender—just what we’ve come to expect from these acclaimed creators.
Two familiar avian faces make appearances this season. In the two decades since his debut, Mo Willems’ Pigeon has kept us in stitches, and his latest outing, The Pigeon Will Ride the Roller Coaster! (Union Square Kids, Sept. 6), is no exception. A decade after Salina Yoon’s Penguin and Pinecone, Penguin proves he still has a knack for cementing strong bonds; Penguin and Penelope (Bloomsbury, Sept. 6) finds him helping a lost elephant reunite with her herd.
More than two years into the pandemic, many are finding that their social skills are a bit rusty. Thao Lam’s The Line in the Sand (Owlkids Books, Sept. 13) and Sung Mi Kim’s Say Hello? (Berbay Publishing, Sept 6), translated from Korean by Clare Richards, are ideal for little ones needing a refresher course; both center on characters who butt heads but eventually learn to coexist. Forever Cousins by Laurel Goodluck, illustrated by Jonathan Nelson (Charlesbridge, Sept. 20), about two Native American relatives who are separated when one moves to the Rez, is a reminder that relationships can endure even over distance.
Fantastic voyages are at the center of several upcoming books. Digestion! The Musical by Adam Rex, illustrated by Laura Park (Chronicle, Oct. 25), follows an intrepid piece of candy down the esophagus, into the stomach, and, well…beyond (as Rex puts it, “LET’S. GET. THIS. POTTY. STARTED”). Levi Pinfold’s strangely mesmerizing Paradise Sands: A Story of Enchantment (Candlewick Studio, Nov. 8) involves four siblings who, while traveling to visit their mother, are put to the test when they venture off the beaten path. Not everyone has had the freedom to journey where they like, however, as Going Places: Victor Hugo Green and His Glorious Book by Tonya Bolden, illustrated by Eric Velasquez (Quill Tree Books/HarperCollins, Oct. 4), makes clear. This compelling work centers on Green, whose guide helped Black motorists in the 1930s through the ’60s find safe lodging.
Many books on this season’s list are by authors well known to those outside the kid-lit sphere. With I Am Ruby Bridges, illustrated by Nikkolas Smith (Orchard/Scholastic, Sept. 6), the civil rights icon describes how, at 6, she integrated an all-White school. NBA legend Stephen Curry’s I Have a Superpower (Penguin Workshop, Sept. 6), illustrated by Geneva Bowers, offers words of wisdom to aspiring athletes and the sports averse alike. And actor Reese Witherspoon, whose book club picks have made her a favorite among bibliophiles, makes her picture-book debut. Illustrated by Xindi Yan, Busy Betty (Flamingo Books, Oct. 4) is the story of a child always on the go.
Finally, among my favorites are several soaring explorations of the natural world—Evan Turk’s Hello, Moon (Atheneum, Sept. 20), Carmen Agra Deedy’s Wombat Said Come In (Peachtree, Oct. 4), illustrated by Brian Lies, and Jason Chin’s The Universe in You: A Microscopic Journey (Neal Porter/Holiday House, Oct. 18) will have kids mulling the lunar cycle, the impact of Australian bushfires, and the infinitesimally tiny but crucial components that make up our world. (Read our interview with Chin.)
Mahnaz Dar is a young readers’ editor.