10 Great New Children’s Books to Throw in Your Beach Bag

Reading for pleasure is my favorite pastime all through the year, but it feels especially well suited to the longer, lazier days of summer, when school’s out and young readers might not even need a flashlight to stay up long past bedtime with a good book. My kids and I kicked off the season with a visit to our local library, where we signed up for the summer reading program and lugged home armfuls of books we’ll hope not to smear with sunscreen, dot with ice cream drips, or fill up with sand. (I’m sorry, librarians. It’s very hot outside, too hot to make promises.)

Whether you’re traveling this summer or camping out under the ceiling fan at home, I hope that you and your family will have plenty of opportunities to read just for the joy of reading. To get you started, I’ve rounded up some particularly fun new releases for children and teens. From sweet romances and thrilling heists to magical adventures and laugh-out-loud hijinks, there’s something for everyone’s beach bag.


Janik Coat, Onomatopanda
(Abrams Appleseed, July 16)
Recommended for ages 2-4

A tiny spark of genius in board-book format, Onomatopanda is as much fun for grown-ups as it is for little ones. The concept is simple enough: A panda goes about their day, from a walk in the rain to a birthday party to bedtime, all the while demonstrating the onomatopoetic words that make up the entirety of the text. Panda puts on a raincoat (zip), drives in a little red car (vroom), and gets a bit too fluffy after a bathtime blow-dry (POOF!). In only a handful of words, author-illustrator Janik Coat has managed to give this straightforward concept book a real narrative flow. It’s got a great sense of humor, too; I can’t look at Panda’s subtly shifting facial expressions without giggling. There’s enough delight and silliness here to make the inevitable re-reading requests a genuine pleasure.


Allan Ahlberg, Under the Table
illustrated by Bruce Ingman
(Candlewick, July 2)
Recommended for ages 3-7

To devoted children’s book lovers, Allan Ahlberg needs no introduction: He’s the author of The Jolly Postman, Each Peach Pear Plum, and over 100 more published books, many illustrated by his late wife, Janet. Under the Table is Ahlberg’s latest offering for young readers, a wonderfully absurd tale of a family that keeps finding the most unusual animals under their dining table. For a while, the family puts each animal to work around the house, asking Nathaniel the elephant to wash the car and Abigail the kangaroo to unload the groceries. As the animals multiply, though, Mom decides that the only proper thing to do with them is take them on vacation. Acclaimed illustrator Bruce Ingman, who’s been Ahlberg’s creative partner on several previous books, provides colorful, playful art that suits the joyful spirit of the text.

Angélica and la Güira

Angie Cruz, Angélica and la Güira
illustrated by Luz Batista
(Kokila, July 30)
Recommended for ages 5-8

Here’s a vibrant readaloud to make you feel like you’re out on the sidewalk playing music with your friends on a warm night. Angélica has spent the summer visiting her extended family in the Dominican Republic, and when it’s time for her to return home to New York, Angélica’s abuelito gives her a güira, a percussion instrument that’s been passed down through their family for generations. Angélica can’t wait to share la güira’s musical powers with her neighbors back in Washington Heights, but no one there seems to understand how special it is—until Angélica figures out how to use it to bring her community together. Both author Angie Cruz and illustrator Luz Batista make their picture book debuts here; much like their heroine, they’ve already discovered how to make their instrument sing. A Spanish-language edition, Angélica y la güira, publishes simultaneously.

fowl play

Kristin O’Donnell Tubb, Fowl Play
(Katherine Tegen Books, July 30)
Recommended for ages 8-12

Mystery novels are my favorite kind of beach read, and I can’t wait to stretch out under an umbrella with this funny and heartwarming new middle grade caper from author Kristin O’Donnell Tubb. Chloe’s beloved uncle has died, and Chloe learns at the will reading that she’s inherited his African grey parrot, Charles Featherington the Second (but call her Charlie). When Charlie says, “It was murder,” Chloe starts to wonder if her uncle died from natural causes. She enlists her older brother and her true-crime-obsessed grandmother to help her find out what really happened to Uncle Will, and their engaging investigation leads Chloe to uncover some important truths about her uncle and the whole family that loved him.

Farrah Noorzad and the Ring of Fate

Deeba Zargarpur, Farrah Noorzad and the Ring of Fate
(Labyrinth Road, July 2)
Recommended for ages 8-12

If your middle-grade reader loves mythology-inspired fantasy, hand them this fresh and compelling new addition to the genre. Twelve-year-old Farrah longs to have a closer relationship with her dad, but when a birthday wish goes wrong, she learns that her father is a jinn—and that her wish has trapped him inside a magical ring. To undo her mistake and free her dad, Farrah and some new acquaintances venture into a fantastic realm inspired by Persian and Islamic legends. Farrah’s strong narrative voice makes this series starter a true page-turner, and readers will enjoy exploring the rich, immersive fantasy world of the novel alongside her.


Sarah Tolcser, Majestica
illustrated by Antonio Caparo
(G.P. Putnam’s Sons, July 2)
Recommended for ages 8-12

Are you a map person? I always have been, by which I mean that when I open a novel and find a map inside, I know I’m about to have fun. Majestica, a sort of middle grade Jurassic Park with magical creatures instead of dinosaurs, begins with this kind of map and makes good on its promise of excitement and adventure. Hattie is a thirteen-year-old maid at the Hotel Majestica in Ridgewell’s Fantastical Creature Park, a nature preserve for unicorns, griffins, wyverns, and other magical beings. When snooty Evelyn Ridgewell comes to the park for a wilderness tour, Hattie is assigned to attend to Evelyn’s needs. But their train journey meets with disaster, and the girls must work together—and with their new acquaintance Jacob, a government sorcerer’s apprentice—to stay alive and save the creatures that call the park home.

sunrise nights

Jeff Zentner and Brittany Cavallaro, Sunrise Nights
(Quill Tree Books, July 9)
Recommended for ages 13 and up

Jeff Zentner and Brittany Cavallaro, both talented YA authors in their own right, have joined forces to write this sweet, well-crafted romance. Two teens, Florence and Jude, meet on Sunrise Night, the last night of the summer at a camp for artistically gifted teens. Florence is a dancer facing a medical diagnosis that threatens her long-term career; Jude is a photographer who lets Florence know when they meet that he already has a girlfriend. But the pair agree to meet up again one year later on the next Sunrise Night, and the story—told in both verse and prose—tracks their relationship over the course of the summers that follow. Instantly likeable characters and a winning concept make Sunrise Nights an ideal read for your own long, dreamy summer evening.

time after time again

Chatham Greenfield, Time and Time Again
(Bloomsbury, July 23)
Recommended for ages 13 and up

Phoebe Mendel has lived through August 6th twenty-six times in a row so far, and it’s always pretty much the same. She eats blueberry pancakes for breakfast, goes to her dad’s house for a game of Scrabble, does some research on how to break free from the impossible time loop she’s gotten herself trapped in, and suffers through the painful IBS flare-up that she suspects might have started the whole Groundhog Day-style situation in the first place. Then, something changes: Phoebe’s it’s-complicated crush, Jess Friedman, hits Phoebe with their car, and all of a sudden, Jess is trapped in the time loop, too. If time doesn’t stop repeating itself, Phoebe might never get to meet with the gastroenterologist who could help treat her IBS… but if August 6th eventually ends, she might lose the budding relationship she’s building with Jess. Chatham Greenfield mixes romance with speculative fiction to great effect in this charming debut.

such charming liars

Karen M. McManus, Such Charming Liars
(Delacorte, July 30)
Recommended for ages 14 and up

I came late to Karen M. McManus’s books, but once I finally picked up her breakout bestselling YA thriller, One of Us Is Lying, I was captivated. McManus’s twisty plots and complex characters are easy to love, and I’m counting down the days until her latest novel lands on shelves. In Such Charming Liars, we meet Kat, who lives on the fringes of her mother Jamie’s exciting, dangerous life as a jewel thief. When Jamie tries to move on from her less-than-legal employment, she’s given one last impossible heist to pull off. Kat decides she wants to come, too, not realizing it’ll result in a reunion with Liam, the former stepbrother she hasn’t seen in years. Then there’s a murder, of course, and a few surprising twists, with lots of appealing suspense along the way.

grief in the fouth dimension

Jennifer Yu, Grief in the Fourth Dimension
(Amulet, July 16)
Recommended for ages 14 and up

When we first meet Kenny Zhou, he’s in a blank white room. Blank, but friendly and accommodating: When he wishes for a sofa, one pops into being, transforms itself into a less pretentious recliner to suit Kenny’s tastes, and reupholsters itself with yellow smiley faces to cheer him up. This is a tricky task, because Kenny is dead. So is his high school classmate Caroline Davison, who’s never interacted much with Kenny until she turns up in the same mysterious room in the afterlife. The television on the wall lets the teens watch their grieving families’ lives as they continue on Earth, and author Jennifer Yu invites readers to watch, too, as Kenny and Caroline become more familiar with the intersections and complexities of each other’s stories. With creativity and humor, this unique novel explores nuanced themes of grief, privilege, and connection.

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