Crisp cool nights, changing leaves, the smell of woodsmoke in the air … fall has arrived! That makes it the perfect time to cozy up with a pumpkin spice latte and a good book. Here are the top new books we’re looking forward to checking out in October 2023.
Fiction Picture Books for October 2023
Empty and Me by Azam Mahdavi, illustrated by Maryam Tahmasebi
When a little girl loses her mother, she finds the space filled by Empty, who begins to follow her everywhere. Eventually, she learns to move on, and though Empty is always with her, it no longer dominates her life. Originally published in Iran, this book’s text appears in English and Persian. It’s a consoling read for any child experiencing a deep loss.
Buy it: Empty and Me on Amazon
I Want 100 Dogs by Stacy McAnulty, illustrated by Claire Keane
The narrator’s parents have lots of reasons why their family can’t have 100 dogs (or 90, or 80, or …). But in the end, everyone agrees one dog will be just fine. Parents beware: This book might be the trick your child needs to talk you into getting a pet!
Buy it: I Want 100 Dogs on Amazon
Penguin Huddle by Ross Montgomery, illustrated by Sarah Warburton
A group of penguins huddle for warmth each evening, but one night it’s so cold they all freeze together! Their charming and goofy antics as they try to get unstuck make for a fun read with good lessons about teamwork and perseverance.
Buy it: Penguin Huddle on Amazon
The Words We Share by Jack Wong
Angie is used to helping her dad with English words, since he’s more comfortable with their native Chinese. She even starts a business helping others create signs in English for their businesses. But when one customer gives her trouble, it turns out what matters most is the language they all share.
Buy it: The Words We Share on Amazon
Waiting for Tomorrow by Susan Yoon, illustrated by Julie Kwon
Sisters Haejin and Hanna decide to make their Appa’s favorite hotteok pancakes to celebrate his return home. When the batter is ruined, their fighting threatens to ruin the day, until they find a way to work together to make everyone happy.
Buy it: Waiting for Tomorrow on Amazon
Easy Readers/Chapter Books for October 2023
Cosmic Wonder by Ashley Benham-Yazdani
Halley’s comet is a mesmerizing traveler, one most people have a chance to see at least once in their lifetime. This clever book tells the story from the comet’s point of view, as it peeks into life on Earth from its earliest visits to its latest one in 1986, describing the changes it sees below.
Buy it: Cosmic Wonder on Amazon
Friend of Numbers by Priya Narayanan, illustrated by Satwik Gade
Srinivasa Ramanujan was a brilliant mathematician who could read numbers the way others read words. His captivating and all-too-short life is an excellent read for those who just can’t seem to find the magic in math.
Buy it: Friends of Numbers on Amazon
The Kitten Story: A Mostly True Tale by Emily Jenkins, illustrated by Brittany Cicchese
When a family decides to adopt a pet, they can’t decide whether to get a cat or a kitten, or even what to name it. After a series of misadventures, Mommy finally finds a cat that’s exactly right. Based on a true story, this is one that reminds us the best pets are the ones that need love the most.
Buy it: The Kitten Story: A Mostly True Tale on Amazon
New Middle Grade Books for October 2023
Alice Atheron’s Grand Tour by Lesley M.M. Blume
Historical fiction fans will enjoy Alice’s journey to the French Riviera in the days of Pablo Picasso and F. Scott Fitzgerald. Their shared adventures help her heal from the recent loss of her mother.
Buy it: Alice Atherton’s Grand Tour on Amazon
Green by Alex Gino
Alex Gino’s Melissa (originally titled George) was a smash hit, making the story of a transgender child readily relatable. Their latest is bound to be one of the best new books of October, telling the story of nonbinary Green as they join their school’s production of The Wizard of Oz to spend more time with their crush. It’s the kind of read that questioning preteens and their allies will be glad to find on the shelf.
Buy it: Green on Amazon
Montgomery and the Case of the Golden Key by Tracy Occomy Crowder, illustrated by Kristin Sorra
In 2008, Monty Carver finds a mysterious key in his neighbor’s Chicago garden. His search to discover what it opens leads him on a journey that explores the rich history of his local Black community, including a man named Barack Obama, who just might be the next president of the United States.
Buy it: Montgomery and the Case of the Golden Key on Amazon
Remember Us by Jacqueline Woodson
Woodson’s Brown Girl Dreaming won the National Book Award, so her latest offering is expected to be one of the best new October books. Seventh grader Sage and her family lose their house in a fire, one of many sweeping their neighborhood that summer. Sage is questioning just about everything, like many preteens do, and when a local child is killed in one of the fires, she must learn to make sense of her own losses and what they mean for her future.
Buy it: Remember Us on Amazon
Treasure Island: Runaway Gold by Jewell Parker Rhodes
What if Treasure Island were actually Manhattan, and the gold (and rich history) was left by Black men and women? That’s the premise of this innovative reimagining of the original pirate adventure Treasure Island, complete with skateboarding drama and an action-packed underground world.
Buy it: Treasure Island: Runaway Gold on Amazon
Young Adult Fiction for October 2023
Here Lies Olive by Kate Anderson
Looking for a good spooky story for October? Find it in the tale of Olive, whose town thrives on dark tourism. Seeking comfort after a loss, she summons Jay, the ghost of a hitchhiker who needs Olive’s help to find his lost grave. But is Jay more dangerous than he seems? To find out, Olive will have to face her own fears of death and loss.
Buy it: Here Lies Olive on Amazon
Plan A by Deb Caletti
Sixteen-year-old Ivy is facing an unwanted pregnancy in Paris, Texas, where legal abortion options have become extremely limited. She, her mother, and her boyfriend set off on a journey to find a safe legal abortion, meeting women along the way who open their eyes to the impacts of a world where women’s individual reproductive choices are no longer protected. No matter where you stand on the issue, this must-read book reminds readers that each woman’s story is personal, just like their choices.
Buy it: Plan A on Amazon
Salt the Water by Candice Iloh
This novel-in-verse follows a nonbinary teen who clashes with their school and one problematic teacher in particular. They and their friends are already dreaming of the freedom of a summer in California, when a violent clash with their teacher brings things to a head. The narrative poetry aspect won’t appeal to all teens, but those that embrace its cadence will be drawn into the tale.
Buy it: Salt the Water on Amazon
By Any Other Name by Erin Cotter
Travel back to Shakespeare’s London, where 16-year-old Will Hughes is playing a role both on stage and off. When his mentor Christopher Marlow is murdered, the queen names Will her next spymaster. The adventures that follow are unlike any he could ever have expected.
Buy it: By Any Other Name on Amazon
When We Become Ours edited by Shannon Gibney and Nicole Chung
Fifteen authors share their own adoption experiences through an anthology of stories that explore what it’s like when children and their adoptive parents don’t necessarily share a common heritage. Adoptees will see themselves reflected in many of the stories, while others can learn more about the adoption experience from their reading.
Buy it: When We Become Ours on Amazon
Nonfiction for Kids for October 2023
What You Need To Be Warm by Neil Gaiman, illustrated by Yuliya Gwilym
Unlike Gaiman’s usual fantasy stories, this book is instead a meditation on what we need to feel safe and comfortable. Inspired by his work for the United Nations on behalf of refugees, the author’s verse is accompanied by a series of illustrations from artists around the world. It’s a well-timed reminder that refugees need comfort and care, wherever they land. (Pre-K to grade 3)
Buy it: What You Need To Be Warm on Amazon
Kati’s Tiny Messengers by Megan Hoyt, illustrated by Vivien Mildenberger
The worst of the COVID-19 pandemic is beginning to fade into memory, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t still be celebrating its unsung heroes. This picture book relates the story of Katalin Karikó, whose mRNA research led to the groundbreaking development of a much-needed vaccine. It’s an inspiring tale for STEM lovers of any age. (Pre-K to grade 3)
Buy it: Kati’s Tiny Messengers on Amazon
What It’s Like To Be a Bird (Young Readers Edition) by David Allen Sibley
A few years ago, Sibley published his original What It’s Like To Be a Bird, intended for an adult audience. But the author had always envisioned it as a book for children, and in this version, his fascinating writing is transformed for a younger audience. Amazing bird facts are illustrated by vivid images throughout, making this the ideal reference for budding ornithologists. (Grades 4-8)
Buy it: What It’s Like To Be a Bird (Young Readers Edition) on Amazon
Dear Rebel: 125+ Women Share Their Secrets to Taking On the World by Rebel Girls
Letters from more than 100 inspiring women urge today’s girls to dream big! Recognizable names like Drew Barrymore plus lesser-known but amazing women across a spectrum of ages, backgrounds, and abilities share their own stories, ensuring every preteen girl will find new role models to admire. (Grades 4-8)
Buy it: Dear Rebel on Amazon
Rise Up and Sing! by Andrea Warner, illustrated by Louise Reimer
Music can be inspiring, and so can the stories of the people who create it. This book explores the relationship between civil rights and the music and musicians that support them. Older artists like Nina Simone and John Lennon appear alongside contemporary musicians like Beyoncé, Billie Eilish, and Lady Gaga. Chapters include their own recommended playlists, making this an immersive read for teens. (Grades 8-12)
Buy it: Rise Up and Sing! on Amazon
Graphic Novels for October 2023
Super Magic Boy: I Am a Dinosaur by Jarod Roselló
Draw in reluctant readers with the tale of Hugo, who transforms into a dinosaur to join his favorite toy in destroying everything in sight. When he realizes what he’s done, Hugo returns to the real world and sets about doing his best to fix the destruction. Hugo and his dinosaur pal are hilarious in both the tearing down and the rebuilding, bringing to mind such childhood heroes as The Cat in the Hat and Calvin and Hobbes. (Grades K-3)
Buy it: Super Magic Boy: I Am a Dinosaur on Amazon
Saving H’non by Trang Nguyen, illustrated by Jeet Zdung
H’non is an elephant in Vietnam that was forced to work, hauling heavy materials at construction sites and giving rides to tourists. Chang is a young wildlife lover who helps rescue H’non, then finds a mahout (elephant handler) who can help this brave animal learn to fend for herself in the wild. Based on a true story, this is one for all the animal lovers out there. (Grades 3-8)
Buy it: Saving H’non on Amazon
Mabuhay! by Zachary Sterling
Life has special challenges for first-generation Filipino siblings JJ and Althea. They both struggle to fit in at school, plus they have to spend their free time dressing up in a pig costume to advertise the family food truck. And their mom’s lessons from Filipino folklore seem anything but helpful. Things change when those folklore stories become a little too real, and these siblings have to embrace who they are to save the family. (Grades 3-8)
Buy it: Mabuhay! on Amazon
Look on the Bright Side by Lily Williams and Karen Schneemann
Four high school juniors are fast friends despite their differences. Readers will likely see themselves in at least one of these characters, and will definitely identify with their crushes, important life decisions, and the challenges of becoming a woman in today’s world. (Grades 7-12)
Buy it: Look on the Bright Side on Amazon
Begin Again by Oliver Jeffers
This nonfiction graphic novel traces the history of mankind through each of its great leaps from one society to the next. As it arrives in the present and imagines the future, Begin Again asks readers to think of humankind as “we” instead of “us and them.” It’s a timely message, brought to life by whimsical illustrations. (Grades 7-12)
Buy it: Begin Again on Amazon
Books for Teachers for October 2023
He/She/They by Schuyler Bailar
Gender identity is one of today’s hottest topics, and one every teacher should take time to consider more deeply. This new read by a well-known activist asks important questions and seeks to provides answers wherever possible. It’s a valuable read for transgender people and allies alike.
Buy it: He/She/They on Amazon
Stay Up by Khodi Dill, illustrated by Stylo Starr
This book was written with teens in minds, but reviewers note that it may actually have more value for educators. It’s a searing look at overt and internalized racism, with many suggestions for how schools can help empower today’s youth to fight on and make a difference.
Buy it: Stay Up on Amazon