25 Outstanding New Picture Books, October 2023

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If you saw my photo on social media, you’ll know that I read about 100 newly published picture books this month. All new releases! Yes, I read every book I’m sent. But I can’t review them all. After reading, I picked my top 25 choices, books that are exceptionally written about a variety of subjects, including friendship, Christmas, and consent.

I LOVED all these books and starred the ones that stood out as extra special.

October 2023 picture books

New Picture Books, October 2023

Ten Word Tiny Tales to Inspire and Unsettle written by Joseph Coelho, illustrated by 21 Artists
You’ve probably heard of six-word memoirs. Now, there are ten-words stories. At least in this book! Whimsical and imaginative, these are tiny stories captured in ten words paired with amazing, wild, detailed, and interesting illustrations. Use these to inspire your child’s imagination in storytelling, art, and writing.

How This Book Got Red written by Margaret Ghiu Greanias, illustrated by Melissa Iwai
Two friends — a giant panda and a red panda — look through a book about pandas. But there are NO red pandas in the panda book! So, the red panda writes her own book which a group of other red pandas find in the trash and love it! Red continues writing her story so that other red pandas can see themselves in a book. And maybe be inspired to write their own. This is a relatable story that shares an important message about (lack of) representation.

Mae and Gerty and the Matter with Matter written by Elaine Vickers, illustrated by Erica Salcedo
I loved this clever introduction to matter and science using the baby sister’s antics and first word, “madda.” When little sister Gerty shouts “Madda” while popping Mae’s bubbles, Dad praises her for getting all three states of matter: solid, liquid, and gas. Frustrated at all the attention Gerty is getting, older sister Gerty decides she can ask questions, make messes, and try stuff out with her little sister. So they do!

One Perfect Plan written by Nancy Tupper Ling, illustrated by Alina Chau
What a lovely book! Gorgeous illustrations from Alina Chau and beautiful writing from Nancy Tupper LIng celebrate the beauty of a broken world through the stories of the Bible. One and sometimes two repeats throughout, giving the poems a cohesiveness that feels exciting. One couple prays for a child to love, one cry to God for freedom, one stone from David’s sling, leading us to one empty tomb, one Holy Spirit, and one heaven on earth. Beautiful in every way.

A Stone is a Story written by Leslie Barnard Booth, illustrated by Mare Martin
What a beautiful ode to stones and their many properties and likely backstories crushed, squeezed, transformed, whittled by ice, and scraped! With lovely muted watercolor illustrations, this gorgeous book feels gentle and instructive. The book ends with an invitation. The next time you pick up a stone to ask if it was part of lava, sand, or bone, and imagine all that it might become.

A Very Cranky Book written and illustrated by Angela and Tony DiTerlizzi
In this silly meta story that flips our expectations upside down, the book does NOT want you to read it. And he elaborates throughout the story why the reader shouldn’t read, suggesting other fun activities like walking or drawing. When the other books arrive for storytime, Cranky Book sits out. But not for long…

Holy Night and Little Star written by Mitali Perkins, illustrated by Khoa Le
With gorgeous illustrations and evocative language, this is the story of Little Star who is reluctant to help Maker with something exciting. But Maker asks her to be ready. When it’s time, she comforts Baby Maker when he is crying. Then she stays night after night, shining and shimmering in the sky, soothing Baby and watching the special visitors arrive.

Books Make Good Friends by Jane Mount
Lotti loves books. But she finds school and making friends hard. Even her family talks a lot more than she does. So she reads. When her family goes hiking, she brings a book, although she reluctantly notices some of the creatures in the Planet Earth book are cool. Especially when she sees one in real life. One day, she decides to try going to the store with her dad and drawing with her brother instead of reading. And to make people friends, even though books make great friends, too. She discovers that the real world isn’t so bad after all. The illustrations are packed with piles of favorite children’s books, from Where the Mountain Meets the Moon to Charlotte’s Web.

Harlem at Four written by Dr. Michael Datcher, illustrated by Frank Morrison
Dr. Datcher wrote this book for and about his daughter named Harlem. With juicy words, vivid imagery, and Morrison’s stretchy, emotionally charged illustrations, this is a love letter to a girl named Harlem who exudes confidence and loves science and her pink guitar and art museum trips with her dad and a love letter to Harlem in 1904 featuring Malxom X and Black pride.

Connor Kissed Me written by Zehava, illustrated by Sarah K. Turner
When Connor plants a kiss on Miriam, she’s surprised and shocked. She tells one adult after another, but their reactions are not helpful (we’ll move your seat, go play somewhere else, puppy love) until her mother asks, “Did you want him to?” And, no, Miriam didn’t want him to kiss her! So, her mother encourages her to say that to Connor. In reverse order, she tells the adults and finally tells Connor clearly: “I don’t want you to kiss me.” Not only is this a helpful book to introduce consent, but it’s also a reminder to adults to support a child’s boundaries and body safety with actionable answers.

365 How to Count a Year written by Miranda Paul, illustrated by Julian Chung
I listened to Miranda read this aloud to my SCBWI conference (after we all sang “Seasons of Love” together), and I fell in love with the emotional, gentle message of this book about literal time (in kid-lly examples) and making moments count. For example, savoring the flavors of ice cream and sleep-in Saturdays. Reading this book is instructive and inspiring. Learn, count, and reflect: “How will you count your year?

Wombats Are Pretty Weird: A (Not So) Serious Guide by Abi Cushman
What a delightfully adorable informational book about wombats! Abi’s done it again with funny fictional dialogue, the right amount of valuable informational text, and charming illustrations. Oh, and there’s cube-shaped poop–which is pretty weird but also, as the book says, quite wonderful.

Autumn Peltier, Water Warrior written by Carole Lindstrom, illustrated by Bridget George
Water narrates this tribute about the 7th generation of Indigenous Anishinaabe women fight like Grandma Josephine to protect the water, specifically activist Autumn Peltier, who speaks for the water. Vivid, saturated illustrations and strong, lyrical language.

Monsters at Christmas written by Laura Baker, illustrate by Nina Dzyvulska
If you need a gift book for a toddler or preschooler, this Monster series by Laura Baker will tickle their funny bone. It’s written in rhyme, making it a rollicking, delightful read aloud. (And you know I don’t usually like rhyming books!) Plus, the illustrations with silly monsters and exciting details add extra fun to the story. See if your reader will love to see the monsters prepare for Christmas!

My Grandfather’s Song by Phùng Nguyên Quang, illustrated by Huynh Kim Liên 
With the music of nature surrounding them and the songs within them, a boy and Grandfather are connected to their land where Grandfather built a house. The storms even have a song, and the boy learns to listen for it. And when there are predators, the Grandfather says to “make the song a shell and wrap it around you, hard as a turtle.” Their fishing community in Vietnam grows, and so do the notes and melodies. This style of artwork is my favorite — I would vote for it to win all the awards. It’s gorgeous, surreal, and cinematic.

I Think I Think a Lot by Jessica Whipple, illustrated by Josee Bisaillon
This girl thinks a lot about being good enough. She compares herself to other kids and worries she’s not a good enough friend, or will make a mistake, or uses too many words. She doesn’t like when her thinking turns into worries. But one thing she likes about thinking a lot about is being kind and doing good work. Back matter shares more about OCD and includes discussion questions.

The Great Banned Books Bake Sale by Aya Khalil, illustrated by Anait Semirdzhyan
A great story of activism, a group of kids discover their library doesn’t have many books left due to banning. Especially about kids of color or immigrant kids who look like a student named Kanzi. Kanzi’s class wants their books back, so her class decides to organize a bake sale and protest. With the money they raise, they’ll donate the books they buy to the Little Free Libraries. At the protest, Kanzi finds her voice to speak against book bans. The week after the sale and protest, the district reverses their book bans. The books are returned to the library! Talk about a timely and important message. I hope this book inspires your readers to consider taking action for something they believe in — like the freedom to read.

The Wishing Machine written by Jonathan Hillman, illustrated by Nadia Alam
It’s their last Sunday at the laundry mat by their apartment. Sam makes a wish on the laundry machine not to move. As Sam waits for the machines and talks to the other people, she waits for the wish. Will it come true? This story shows the grief of transition made better by the love between mother and child.

Patchwork Prince by Baptiste Paul, illustrated by Kitt Thomas
A speedy prince and his queen mom collect scraps of fabric that fell off the back of a truck in St. Lucia. Back in his kingdom, the queen makes him a patchwork cape. Beautiful art and writing celebrate the power of imagination and making the most of their limited resources.

If I Was a Horse by Sophie Blackall
Imagine if you were a horse. This child does — and imagines many wonderful adventures through a regular day as a horse instead of a kid. If they were a horse, they could wherever and give their sister a ride to school, and no one could make them take a bath. There are so many things to do if you were a horse! go

Lullaby for the King written by Nikki Grimes, illustrated by Michelle Carlos
The animals form a caravan of creatures going to Bethlehem with gifts for the Babe. Antelope, Asiatic Lion, Camel, Donkey, Crane, Jackal, and others. Creature after a creature travels to the stable where they serenade the Babe with a lullaby. Beautiful writing and art.

Dasher Can’t Wait for Christmas by Matt Tavers
You’ll love this sweet Dasher story about generosity and love. Dasher feels so excited for Christmas Eve that he follows the music…to a town lit up with Christmas lights and caroling sounds. But when a winter storm hits, Dasher gets lost in the snow. Dasher lands at a house where he meets a boy named Charlie. Charlie gives Dasher a compass and teaches him how to use it. The compass guides him home.

Esperanza Caramelo the Star of Nochebuena written by Karla Arenas Valeti, illustrated by Elissa Chavarri
It’s Christmas Eve in the Pastelería and Esperanza, a sugar-spun ornament on the cake, comes to life. She and the other cake decorations celebrate together until a cat ruins the cake. What will they do? The figures work together to fix everything just in time for Christmas Day.

Santa Shark: A Great White Christmas by Mike Lowery
Shark and his friend Crab prepare for Santa Shark to arrive. With puns galore, Shark explains the Santa Shark story while they decorate, bake treats, and sing corals. But how will they get snow so Santa Shark knows where they live? Fun!

Ninja Nate by Markette Sheppard, illustrated by Robert Paul Jr.
A young boy dreams of being a ninja, Ninja Nate. In a surprise reveal on the first day of school, he wakes up as Nathaniel with a robotic leg. And his sword is a walking cane. He’s thrilled to discover that he can be a boy with ninja moves and a boy named Nathaniel.

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