The Best New Books For Children And Teens This Summer

With kids out of school for the summer, there is no better time for them to kick back with a good book. Especially at a time when there are no longer in-person birthday parties or days spent lounging at the pool, these summer reads are a perfect way to let a young person escape into another world.

On this edition of Talk of Iowa, it’s another summer book show. This time, it’s all for kids (although, there is no rule that says adults can’t read children’s books!) Find our adult summer reading list here. 

The titles were chosen by Sarah Prineas of Prairie Lights Books in Iowa City and Devin Redmond of Coralville Central Elementary.

Picture Books

"Outside In" written by Deborah Underwood, illustrated by Cindy Derby

This book is quite timely for a moment in which we are spending more time than ever at home. “Outside In” focuses on the multiple ways nature reaches our lives, even when much of our life is now spent indoors.

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"Stop! Bot!" written and illustrated by James Yang

This mystery book chronicles the story of a boy, who loses his “bot” when he tries to show it to a friendly doorman. The story follows the “bot” as it travels up every floor of the building, encountering wacky tenants and animals as it ascends like a balloon. 

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"Goodnight, Veggies" written by Diana Murray, illustrated by Zachariah OHora

By the end of the day, even the veggies in our garden need some shut eye! “Goodnight, Veggies” focuses on the importance of taking care of oneself and each other. 

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"Pride 1 2 3" written by Michael Joosten, illustrated by Wednesday Holmes

There are plenty of books to teach children how to count, but there aren’t many that do so by marching through a Pride Parade. This book celebrates the LGBTQIA+ community through representative characters and themes.

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"Before We Eat: From Farm to Table" written by Pat Brisson, illustrated by Mary Azarian

There are many places food goes before it hits the table. “Before We Eat” chronicles the life of our food as it makes its way through the food system. 

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"Hike" by Pete Oswald

This almost wordless book details the journey of a father and his child take to the woods. The detailed illustrations provide a look into the day-long adventure they experience.

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"Tad" by Benji Davies

This book tells the story of the smallest tadpole growing up in a big pond. 

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"A New Green Day" by Antoinette Portis

This picture books provides imagery to accompany various riddles about nature – everything from snails to tadpoles included.

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"The Old Truck" by Jarrett Pumphrey, illustrated by Jerome Pumphrey

Cars, to many, are so much more than just a vehicle that transports us from place to place. In “The Old Truck,” a young girl leans into the connection she made with the truck on her family farm when it’s her turn to run the show. 

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"In a Jar" by Deborah Marcero

Two rabbits, Evelyn and Llewellyn collect items and memories in jars. However, when Evelyn moves away, the two rabbits will have to find new ways to maintain their collection and friendship from afar.

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"Cat Dog Dog: The Story of a Blended Family" by Nelly Buchet, illustrated by Andrea Zuill

There are three main characters in this story: cat, dog and dog. Like the chaos that can initially come with adjusting to a new family lifestyle, “Cat Dog Dog” follows the life of Dog, whose human dad moves in with Cat and Dog’s human mom.

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"The Ocean in Your Bathtub" by Seth Fishman, illustrated by Isabel Greenberg

This picture book describes the impact you have on the ocean. Actions such as flushing the toilet or picking litter off the ground all tie back to the water surrounding us.

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Middle Grade

"Don’t Check Out This Book" written by Kate Klise, illustrated by M. Sarah Klise

Fifth-graders in Appleton know something fishy is going on in their town. Throughout the book, these young sleuths work to get to the bottom of the scandal – complete with plenty of apple puns! 

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"Pages & Co: The Book Wanderer" and "Pages & Co: The Lost Fairy Tales" (series) written by Anna James, illustrated by Paola Escober

Books one and two of the Pages & Co series follow the adventures of Tilly, a young girl who has the ability to “bookwander” and travel into any book story she chooses. Although it may sound like fun and games, Tilly and her other “bookwandering” friends encounter unexpected plots twits along the way.

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"Nevermoor: Trials of Morrigan Crow" and "Nevermoor: Calling of Morrigan Crow" (series) by Jessica Townsend

The Nevermoor Series follows the tale of Morrigan Crow, a young girl who has the curse of being born on the unluckiest day of the year. Because of her birthday, she is blamed for every bad thing that happens in her community, and is set to die on her eleventh birthday. Remarkably, she is swept up to Nevermoor, a town where she must prove she has an extraordinary talent in order to stay and escape her curse.

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"A Game of Fox & Squirrels" by Jenn Reese

Samantha is a young girl who lives with her family in rural Oregon. Her Aunt gives her a card game that includes a charismatic fox, Ashander. He promises her that if Samantha finds the “Golden Acorn” she can have anything she wishes.

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"The Only Black Girls in Town" by Brandy Colbert

Alberta and Edie are the only Black girls in a small California town. When the girls find an old box of journals in Edie’s attic, they uncover a history filled with disturbing secrets from the past.

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"Ways to Make Sunshine" by Renée Watson

This novel follows the story of Ryan, a young Black girl who is known for seeing the good in every situation. Although her life isn’t perfect, even in the dark moments she manages to fill her life with sunshine. 

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Children's Non-Fiction

"Find Your Voice: A Guided Journal for Writing Your Truth" by Angie Thomas

This guided journal provides step-by-step tips for young writers as they find their writing voices. It’s the perfect way to give your child writing outlets, especially when school is not in session.

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"The Power Book: What is it, Who has it, and Why?" by Claire Saunders, Georgia Amson-Bradshaw, Minna Salami, Mik Scarlet, Hazel Songhurst, illustrated by Joelle Avelino

This book covers questions about power – questions that are more topical than ever -- in a relatable way for young people. It discusses everything from sexism to homophobia, and outlines ways that power can also be used to enact positive change. 

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"Rise Up: The Art of Protest" by Jo Rippon

This book, which was created in collaboration with Amnesty International, encourages young people to engage in peaceful protest. It also provides historical written context as well as protest posters and photographs. 

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"The Illustrated Feminist: 100 Years of Suffrage, Strength, and Sisterhood in America" by Aura Lewis

This illustrated history book highlights 10 groundbreaking moments from each decade 1920-2020 for women. It also highlights the trailblazing women who made these moments possible. 

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Young Adult

"Burn" by Patrick Ness

Only the most disadvantaged have to hire dragons to help with work on farms. This is the situation Sarah and her father are in; they hire Kazimir, a dragon who seems to bring with him a hidden agenda.

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"Clap When You Land" by Elizabeth Acevedo

Yahaira and Camino Rios are sisters. However, they don’t know the other exists until their “Papi,” dies in a plane crash. This novel follows their grief, love, and newfound bond as they come together in their new sisterhood.

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"Tigers Not Daughters" by Samantha Mabry

The Torres Sisters are consumed by grief. Their oldest sister, Ana, died after she fell from her window. Since then, the younger sisters wonder if Ana is haunting them, and if she is, why?

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Graphic Novels

"When Stars Are Scattered" written by Victoria Jamieson and Omar Mohamed, illustrated by Iman Geddy

This graphic novel shares the story of author Omar Mohamed and his brother Hassan, who spend much of their childhood in a refugee camp in Kenya. 

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Poetry

"Woke: A Young Poet’s Call To Justice" written by Mahogany L. Browne, Elizabeth Acevedo, Olivia Gatwood, illustrated by Theodore Taylor III

This poetry collection features works by women of color. The poems cover everything from social justice to empathy, with the hopes of inspiring other young readers to become activists as well. 

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