Like a lot of passionate readers, I fell in love with children’s books as soon as I was old enough to sound out words on a page. And, like some readers—maybe like you?—I never fell out of love. If we ever happen to bump into each other at the library, please pass me a stunningly illustrated picture book, a laugh-out-loud chapter book romp, or a young adult novel so emotionally resonant that I can’t help remembering exactly what it feels like to be a teenager; I’ll happily take them all.
I’ll be even happier, actually, to recommend a few of my favorite new children’s books to you. Hundreds of honestly excellent titles, from the simplest board books to the most lyrical and complex novels, are published for young readers every year, and it can be hard for those of us looking for a great new read for our kids, our students, or ourselves to know where to begin. (Even I, a professional children’s book author and amateur mom, get easily overwhelmed at the bookstore.)
But I hope you’ll use this column as a starting point in your search. Every month, I’ll let you know about some of the new releases that have caught my eye: the ones I can’t wait to share with my kids, the ones I admire for their artistry, and the ones I can already tell I won’t be able to put down.
Here are ten books publishing this January (except for You’re Breaking My Heart, out February 6) that I’m looking forward to enjoying throughout the new year:
Jordan Scott, Angela’s Glacier (illustrated by Diana Sudyka)
(recommended for ages 4-8)
This picture book—about a girl who grows up in Iceland near the glacier Snæfellsjökull—is a small marvel. Its text, by Jordan Scott, moves with the rhythms of poetry; it’s the sort of thoughtful language that quickly engages young audiences without growing stale for grown-ups after multiple readalouds. Its art, by Diana Sudyka, is similarly appealing for all ages, with breathtaking watercolor-style spreads full of playful details. And the book’s description of a child’s deep connection with the natural world will resonate even with those who haven’t had the pleasure of meeting a glacier in person. Adults who don’t speak Icelandic will be relieved to note the phonetic guide to pronouncing Snæfellsjökull at the beginning of the book; after a few recitations, both readers and listeners will be pros.
Brittany J. Thurman, Forever and Always (illustrated by Shamar Knight-Justice)
(recommended for ages 4-8)
Olivia loves her dad, and when he goes off to work as an EMT each day, she can’t help but worry about him. She sometimes sees men on the news, Black men like her dad, who don’t come home safe to their families at the end of the day, and she searches for ways to calm her fears: cooking breakfast, making art with her mom, counting the cars that pass by, and eventually braiding a bracelet for her father “to protect you always.”
Brittany J. Thurman’s gentle, expertly crafted text is perfect for sharing with even the tiniest readers, providing an opening for more complex conversations with kids who struggle with worries like Olivia’s while also offering understanding to any child who misses their parent. Shamar Knight-Justice’s illustrations of family life feel as warm and comforting as a bear hug.
Laura Gehl, Who Laid These Eggs? (illustrated by Loris Lora)
(recommended for ages 2-4)
If a young child in your life is passionate about books full of flaps to flip, you’ll need a copy or three of this vibrantly illustrated board book. The clutch of eggs on each spread can be raised to reveal the kind of animal that laid it—an ostrich, a salmon, an alligator.
But the real hidden gems are the science facts included on the inside of each flap: interesting enough to capture adult readers’ attention, concise enough to read aloud quickly before your little one slams the flap shut, and occasionally weird enough to share with friends during circle time at preschool (did you know that the pigments that color salmon eggs are the same as the ones found in carrots?).
Emma Bland Smith, The Fabulous Fannie Farmer: Kitchen Scientist and America’s Cook (illustrated by Susan Reagan)
(recommended for ages 7-10)
This picture book biography of 19th-century culinary expert Fannie Farmer should be a hit with kids who love to mess around in the kitchen. The accessible, cheerfully feminist text celebrates Farmer’s application of scientific principles to the process of preparing a meal, and the extensive endmatter is a great launchpad for any reader who wants to do more rigorous research of their own.
Recipes for two notoriously tricky cooking projects, popovers and angel food cake, are included in the text; I’m hoping they’ll give me some of Farmer’s confidence in the kitchen when my family tests them out.
Lisa Yee, The Misfits: A Royal Conundrum (illustrated by Dan Santat)
(recommended for ages 8-12)
I’ve been a devoted fan of Lisa Yee’s writing ever since I picked up her hilarious and heartwarming debut novel, Millicent Min, Girl Genius, twenty years ago. For Yee’s latest project, the first in a series, she’s teamed up with illustrator (and recent National Book Award winner) Dan Santat to create an art-filled adventure about a strange, secretive boarding school that turns out to be a training ground for a group of crime-fighting kids called the Misfits.
New arrival Olive and her classmates have to stop a villain and save the school, all while providing plenty of chuckles and thrills for middle-grade readers.
Zetta Elliott, The War of the Witches
(recommended for ages 8-12)
If my daughter were writing this list, The War of the Witches would make an appearance for sure; it’s one of her most anticipated reads of the year. It’s the fifth book in the Dragons in a Bag contemporary fantasy series—but it’s also the final book in the series, which means you can start reading Dragons in a Bag right now and zip through all five installments without having to wait a year between adventures.
Jaxon, who was first entrusted with delivering a brood of baby dragons from Brooklyn to the magical realm back in book one, goes on increasingly exciting and dangerous magical missions as the series continues, and in The War of the Witches, he’s not just saving dragons. He’s got to save the entire human realm from a creature called the Scourge that wants to drain the world’s magic.
Linda Crotta Brennan, The Selkie’s Daughter
(recommended for ages 8-12)
There are countless tales of selkies, the seal folk of Celtic legend, but this debut middle grade novel from author Linda Crotta Brennan feels fresh and surprising. Brigit is half-selkie, half-human, and completely out of place growing up in her small village on the coast of Nova Scotia. When someone in the village begins killing young seals, the selkie king takes his revenge, and Brigit sets out to try to save her family and her community.
Brigit’s narration is compelling, and the story has a sense of place so strong that when you turn the pages, you can practically feel the sea salt under your fingers.
Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich, You’re Breaking My Heart
(recommended for ages 12 and up)
Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich has written a number of excellent books for younger readers, and I’m looking forward to her new genre-busting YA novel that combines emotionally resonant writing with elements of speculative fiction to explore how we come to terms with grief. Harriet Adu is reeling from sadness and guilt after her older brother’s death in a school shooting and her own subsequent move to a new high school in Harlem.
Her world is recognizable and utterly believable, but there’s a hint of the strange and fantastic shimmering at its edges that will pull readers onward as they try to figure out what’s really happening to Harriet, and whether reality is something that can—or should—be changed.
Amber McBride (editor), Taylor Byas (editor), Erica Martin (editor), Poemhood: Our Black Revival
(recommended for ages 13 and up)
A poetry anthology for teens will always pique my interest, and this one, which explores and celebrates Black culture and folklore, looks particularly thoughtful and well curated. The selections include work by classic and contemporary Black poets, which means that famous forebears like Gwendolyn Brooks and Audre Lorde share space on the page with much-loved writers working today like Ibi Zoboi and Kwame Alexander.
The editors, accomplished poets themselves, provide context at the end of each poem to guide readers of all ages who may be unfamiliar with historical references or new to the experience of reading poetry.
Sally Nicholls, Yours from the Tower
(recommended for ages 14 and up)
Historical fiction told through correspondence between teenage girls? I’m on board faster than you can say I Capture the Castle, A Brief History of Montmaray, or Sorcery and Cecelia. A UK import making its stateside debut this month, Yours from the Tower is set in late-Victorian England and Scotland, where good friends Sophia, Polly, and Tirzah have each set out on new adventures after leaving boarding school.
Sophia is tasked with finding a husband during the London Season, Polly works at an orphanage in Liverpool, and Tirzah is stuck in Perthshire with her grandmother, relying on letters from the others for entertainment. The girls’ voices sparkle with personality and humor, making this exactly the sort of novel I’d love to sink into for a few chilly winter hours.