July is Disability Pride Month, so I recommend checking out children’s books with disabled characters by disabled authors. Some new releases for July include “Dancing Hands” (a picture book about Filipino sign language), “The Fire, the Water, and Maudie McGinn” (a middle-grade novel with an autistic main character), and “Once in a Blue Moon” (a historical middle-grade novel about a boy with agoraphobia). There are also clever nonfiction picture books, thrilling middle-grade fantasies, and heartwarming stories of communities coming together. Although there are fewer new releases this month, my top 12 picks are fantastic. I hope you find some great books to enjoy with your kids this summer. Reading is a wonderful way to escape the heat and have fun!
1. I Am Wriggly by Michael Rosen, Illustrated by Robert Starling
Experience the fourth installment of a hilarious new series by former Children’s Laureate Michael Rosen and rising star Robert Starling. This wriggly bunny is constantly in motion, swirling around, wriggling on the ground, and drumming a lively beat with its feet. The book captures the joyful energy of a child who simply can’t sit still, transitioning from the familiar to the absurd until they eventually run out of steam. With masterful rhymes from Michael Rosen and bold illustrations by Robert Starling, this exuberant read-aloud is perfect for sharing with little ones.
2. Abeni’s Song by P. Djèlí Clark
In the depths of darkness, a haunting melody serves as a guiding light, yet one must tread with caution when choosing which notes to heed. Abeni’s Song, crafted by award-winning author P. Djèlí Clark, unfolds a mesmerizing tale of adventure, drawing inspiration from West African and African Diaspora cultures. This enchanting story, tailored for middle-grade readers, introduces Abeni, a reluctant apprentice to magic, who embarks on a mission to rescue her captured villagers. Amidst the Harvest Festival, an older forest-dwelling woman delivers a grim message, foretelling the arrival of warriors brandishing blazing blades. A cursed flute and its bewitching tune ensnare the community, as Abeni’s loved ones are led toward ghostly ships bound for distant lands. Miraculously spared, Abeni is spirited away by the old woman, commencing an unwanted magical apprenticeship and a quest to free her people from captivity. Abeni’s Song initiates an ageless and enchanting fantasy adventure, featuring an unlikely apprentice, a spirited team of youths, and their unwavering determination to save their village.
3. Once In A Blue Moon by Sharon G. Flake
Experience the touching journey of James Henry, a young boy grappling with guilt and seeking healing after his mother’s tragic disappearance at a lighthouse. Months later, plagued by panic attacks and social anxiety, he finds solace in the protective presence of his feisty twin sister, Hattie. But in 1939, their small community lacks the medical help James Henry desperately needs. As he contemplates facing the truth about that fateful night, a rare blue moon emerges, offering the promise of endless possibilities. This beautifully crafted verse novel takes you on a transformative exploration of family, redemption, and the resilience of the human spirit.
4. Hope In The Valley by Mitali Perkins
Next in the Children’s Books list, twelve-year-old Indian-American Pandita Paul dreads change, especially as she faces starting middle school and leaving behind the comforts of her childhood. The recent loss of her mother adds to her reluctance. After a falling out with her best friend, Pandita plans to spend her summer in the abandoned yet magnificent mansion across the street, indulging in reading and writing. However, the unthinkable occurs when the town announces the mansion’s demolition for new housing. With her family divided on the issue, Pandita must find her voice and gather the strength to move forward, offering her community a glimmer of hope amidst the turmoil.
5. The Fire, The Water, And Maudie Mcginn by Sally J. Pla
In this captivating contemporary novel by the award-winning author of The Someday Birds, neurodivergent Maudie looks forward to spending a summer with her dad in California. But she carries a troubling secret about her home life, one that her mom warned her never to reveal. As Maudie contemplates confiding in her father about her stepdad’s anger, a wildfire forces them to evacuate to a beach town. Amidst the turbulent changes, Maudie glimpses surfers in the water every morning, igniting her desire to learn. With newfound friendships and the diminishing significance of her autism, Maudie must summon the courage to share her awful truth before summer ends, hoping to find a way to stay with her dad.
6. Light Comes To Shadow Mountain by Toni Buzzeo
In this award-winning historical fiction novel, Cora Mae Tipton is determined to bring electricity to her Appalachian community in 1937. Facing resistance, including from her own mother, Cora starts a school newspaper to spread the word and garner support for the Rural Electrification Act. This captivating debut explores themes of family, friendship, and the pursuit of a brighter future while showcasing the power of a mother’s love. The book includes informative back matter on the historical context and a “Quick Questions” trivia section. A Junior Library Guild Gold Standard Selection.
7. When Rubin Plays by Gracey Zhang
Next in the Children’s Books list, experience the captivating storytelling of Gracey Zhang, the creative force behind PW Flying Starts, in FORTE! This touching tale explores community, self-expression, and the pursuit of one’s passion. Rubin, captivated by the orchestra’s beautiful sounds, yearns to play the violin and create his own music. However, his attempts fall short of his imagination. Seeking solace in the forest, Rubin persists, despite the screeching notes. Surprisingly, an unlikely audience embraces his unique style. In this inspiring and lyrical picture book, Zhang, the acclaimed author of Lala’s Words, empowers those who strive to master difficult skills, emphasizing the importance of embracing one’s individuality. FORTE! showcases Zhang’s exceptional talent as one of today’s most gifted creators and features breathtaking illustrations that bring the story to life.
8. Dancing Hands by Joanna Que & Charina Marquez, Illustrated by Fran Alvarez, Translated by Karen Llagas
Experience the transformative power of reading as you delve into this captivating picture book, originally published in the Philippines in partnership with Room to Read. Follow Sam as she encounters her new neighbors whose hands gracefully dance to an unseen melody, piquing her curiosity about their communication. Through her friendship with Mai, Sam learns Filipino Sign Language, discovering the joy of connecting with a best friend. This beautifully illustrated book by Joanna Que and Charina Marquez celebrates the beauty of sign language and emphasizes the importance of understanding one another. It introduces young readers to topics of deafness, hearing or speech impairments, and global sign languages while providing educational content on their history. By purchasing this book, you also contribute to Room to Read’s global Literacy Program, supporting children’s literacy initiatives worldwide. Let the words and movements of Dancing Hands inspire you to read the world and change the world.
9. Haru, Zombie Dog Hero by Ellen Oh
Last one in the Children’s Books list, in this spine-tingling middle-grade novel by Ellen Oh, a Korean American boy named Luke and his canine companion, Haru, share an inseparable friendship. However, when Haru is wrongly accused of aggression and abducted by their malicious landlord, Luke, and his friends embark on a daring mission to rescue him. Their quest leads them to the ominous Painted Lake laboratory, owned by the sinister multibillionaire Mr. Thomas Sinclair, where they uncover disturbing experiments and fear for Haru’s safety and their entire town. As the mystery deepens, Painted Lake falls prey to a wave of zombie attacks, but the enduring love between Luke and Haru becomes their saving grace. Together, they defy boundaries and navigate a world in flux, ultimately prevailing and protecting their community from impending doom.
Which of the above Children’s Books do you wish to read in July? Share your picks in the comments below!