On your mark, get set, read! A new year means 365 more days to discover all the amazing new stories dreamed up by children's book authors and illustrators. From gorgeous picture books to page-turning chapter books to gripping middle grade novels, here are the 2021 releases we're excited to dive into.
The third collaboration between the author-illustrator team who created the Newbery Medal-winning Last Stop on Market Street, Milo Imagines the World introduces a memorable new character and features the friendly, colorful illustrations that have become a hallmark of Robinson's work. This is sure to be a new read-aloud favorite.
One Jar of Magic by Corey Ann Haydu
Katherine Tegen | February 9
Haydu is the author of several acclaimed YA novels as well as a series of chapter books, but her 2019 middle grade novel, Eventown, felt like an enormous creative leap forward for the writer. We're thrilled to see her return to middle grade with One Jar of Magic, which features the same blend of the contemporary and the magical that we found so enchanting in Eventown.
Ancestor Approved edited by Cynthia Leitich Smith
Heartdrum | February 9
Heartdrum, the first imprint within a major American publisher dedicated to publishing children's books from Native American creators, launches its inaugural season in the spring of 2021. One of the first books Heartdrum will publish is this anthology edited by the imprint's co-founder, children's author Cynthia Leitich Smith, that features contributions from the likes of Rebecca Roanhorse, Joseph Bruchac, Christine Day, Eric Gansworth and more.
Shy Willow by Cat Min
Levine Querido | February 16
We’re always on the lookout for beautifully illustrated picture books that leave us feeling hopeful, and Cat Min’s debut has piqued our interest. It’s the story of a very shy rabbit who lives in an abandoned mailbox and must figure out how to deliver a very important letter—to the moon.
The Raconteur's Commonplace Book by Kate Milford
Clarion | February 23
Calling all mystery readers! If you haven't yet discovered the world of Kate Milford's Edgar Award-winning Greenglass House, you are in for a treat. Milford returns to the world of these interlinked novels in The Raconteur's Commonplace Book, the premise of which is giving us serious Canterbury Tales vibes: A storm strands a group of strangers at an inn, and as they tell stories to pass the time, it turns out they all have as much to conceal as to reveal.
Simon B. Rhymin' by Dwayne Reed
Little, Brown | March 2
Dwayne Reed was a student-teacher in Chicago when a video he posted to YouTube that featured an original song he wrote and performed called "Welcome to the Fourth Grade" went megaviral. (Be warned that if you click this link to watch it, you will be singing it for the rest of the day.) Reed makes his debut as a children's author with this middle grade novel about a fifth grader who must find his voice in order to stand up for what's important. Best of all, the book features even more original rhymes from Reed!
The Old Boat by Jarrett Pumphrey and Jerome Pumphrey
Norton | March 2
Brothers Jarrett and Jerome Pumphrey created our favorite picture book of 2020, The Old Truck, so we're thrilled that a new picture book from them will be landing in our TBR stack so soon. We usually don't recommend judging books by their covers, but The Old Boat's cover does at least appear to promise the same classical-feeling custom stamp art that played a significant part in The Old Truck's appeal. We can't wait to open it up and discover the story inside!
Talk about a dream team! New York Times bestselling author Meltzer, creator of the Ordinary People Change the World series of picture book biographies, paired with Caldecott Medalist Santat (The Adventures of Beekle) to create a zany and extremely relatable story about the time that Sunday felt unappreciated and decided to quit her job, forcing the other days of the week to hold auditions to replace her. We sense a new storytime favorite in the making.
Amber & Clay by Laura Amy Schlitz, illustrated by Julia Iredale
Candlewick | March 9
Schlitz is a master of historical fiction, having received both a Newbery Medal and a Newbery Honor for books set in different historical periods. She rewinds the clock further than ever for Amber & Clay, all the way back to ancient Greece, to spin a tale that will be told in a unique combination of prose, verse and academic notes on historical artifacts. It sounds remarkably ambitious, but if anyone can pull it off and make it look effortless, it's Schlitz.
Here's a match made in children's literature heaven: Caldecott Honor illustrator Lauren Castillo (Nana in the City) brings to life a tale penned by Christina Soontornvat, the author of All Thirteen, one of our favorite middle grade books of 2020. The title of the The Ramble Shamble Children alone gives us goosebumps of anticipation, and we can't wait to discover the story that awaits the titular children.
The Tree in Me by Corinna Luyken
Dial | March 16
Corinna Luyken's picture books are like exquisitely illustrated poems. Her text, though lyrical, is often quite spare, but when paired with her dreamy and playful illustrations, her books invite readers to linger and return again and again to spot new details and to let new meaning unfold. We've only seen the cover of The Tree in Me, but that's all we need. Luyken's unique literary and artistic gifts are worth waiting for.
Doggo and Pupper by Katherine Applegate, illustrated by Charlie Alder
Feiwel & Friends | March 23
New York Times bestselling author Katherine Applegate turns from her recent spate of successful middle grade novels, including the Newbery Medal-winning The One and Only Ivan, to begin a new illustrated chapter book series. No one creates memorable animal characters like Applegate, and this story about an aging canine whose family adopts a new puppy, is sure to have young readers clamoring for more.
Wonder Walkers by Micha Archer
Nancy Paulsen | March 30
We thought Archer's illustrations for Patricia McLachlan's lush and nostalgic 2020 picture book, Prairie Days, were some of the most beautiful we encountered last year. Wonder Walkers will see Archer don her author's hat in addition to picking up her illustrator's palette and invite readers on a poetic and philsophical exploration of the natural world. At this point, we'll follow Archer anywhere.
Zonia's Rain Forest by Juana Martinez-Neal
Candlewick | March 30
We've loved seeing illustrator Martinez-Neal's work on picture book collaborations since her 2018 Caldecott Honor debut, Alma and How She Got Her Name. She's created the illustrations for three picture books, including Fry Bread (written by Kevin Noble Maillard) and Swashby and the Sea (written by Beth Ferry). But we loved Alma for Martinez-Neal's writing and storytelling as much as for her soft, delicate illustrations, so we're thrilled that she's taking another turn as author as well as illustrator with Zonia's Rain Forest, the story of a day in the life of a little girl who lives in the Amazon.
War and Millie McGonigle by Karen Cushman
Knopf | April 6
Few writers are as skilled at sweeping readers off to the past as Cushman, and now she's set her historical fiction gaze on the 20th century. War and Millie McGonigle's story, anchored in the experiences of an ordinary girl living during an extraordinary time, is sure to appeal to fans of Cushman's award-winning medieval novels, Catherine, Called Birdy and The Midwife's Apprentice.
Billy Miller Makes a Wish by Kevin Henkes
Greenwillow | April 6
Author-illustrator Henkes is probably best known for his many iconic picture books, including Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse, Chrysanthemum, Julius, the Baby of the World and his Caldecott Medal-winning Kitten's First Full Moon. But Henkes is also a prolific fiction writer, nabbing two Newbery Honors, including one for his 2013 novel, The Year of Billy Miller. Billy Miller Makes a Wish will pick up Billy's story right where it left off, in the summer after second grade, and we're eager to see what happens next.
Merci Suarez Can't Dance by Meg Medina
Candlewick | April 6
When we found out that Medina had written a sequel to her Newbery Medal-winning Merci Suarez Changes Gears, we almost fell out of our chairs, that's how excited we were. Merci Suarez Can't Dance sees Merci confront everything seventh grade can throw at her, and we can't wait to cheer her on.
Tag Team by Raúl the Third, colors by Elaine Bey
Versify | April 13
We couldn't be more thrilled that Pura Belpré Honor recipient Raúl the Third (¡Vamos! Let's Go to the Market) is launching an early-reader series; his detailed, vibrant art and seamless integration of Spanish vocabulary and phrases are perfect for kiddos beginning to read independently. El Toro & Friends is set to debut with two titles, both of which will be released on April 13, but Tag Team, in which lucha wrestling twosome El Toro and La Oink Oink must clean up El Coliseo the morning after the big match, is our favorite.
The Rock From the Sky by Jon Klassen
Candlewick | April 13
Five years after concluding his bestselling "Hat" trilogy (I Want My Hat Back, This Is Not My Hat and We Found a Hat), Caldecott Medalist Klassen makes his long-awaited authorial return. Rock From the Sky features Klassen's signature landscapes, strong design sensibilities and droll wit, but at 96 pages, sees him literally stretching the picture book form further than ever before.
Ophie's Ghosts by Justina Ireland
Balzer + Bray | May 18
New York Times bestselling author Justina Ireland broke out in a big way with a pair of alternate history YA novels set after the Civil War that explored how American history might have turned out differently had the dead not stayed dead after the battle of Gettysburg. The premise of Dread Nation and Deathless Divide was marvelously imaginative, but Ireland also demonstrated tremendous skill for capturing historical detail, which is why we're excited that her new middle grade novel also has a historical setting. Ophie's Ghosts is set in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in the early 1920s, and its title indicates it'll also contain some supernatural elements as well.
ALSO IN BOOKPAGE: Discover all of BookPage’s most anticipated books of 2021.