Can you believe it’s the last month of 2022!? It seems unbelievable. December is a big month for me — not only do I have the holidays to worry about, but my daughter’s birthday is this month. She’s turning 5, which also seems impossible. This will be her first birthday party since the pandemic, and we’re having it at a playground, where I’m hoping it won’t be too cold! Tennessee weather can go either way in December. In case you’re wondering what books we’re giving her for her birthday or Christmas, I plan to gift her the Kitty Quest graphic novels and perhaps some of the Mindy Kim and Critter Club early readers. She loves those!
I’ve also reviewed many books in this list of December children’s book releases that will make great last-minute present ideas or ways to spend any bookstore gift cards you receive. There’s a new board book in the First Conversations series, a new picture book by Stacey Abrams, and a new Enola Holmes graphic novel. While December tends to be a slow publishing month, I found plenty of books I loved releasing this month. I hope everyone has a lovely holiday season filled with good books and good company!
December Children’s Book Releases: Board Books
Together: A First Conversation About Love by Megan Madison and Jessica Ralli, Illustrated by Anne/Andy Passchier (December 27; Rise x Penguin Workshop)
The most recent First Conversations board book explores love and the many forms love takes. Like the previous books in the series, it embraces diversity, and the illustrations capture many different types of families and love, from a family reading a book with an incarcerated caregiver online to a queer couple getting married. The book also provides back matter to help caregivers have essential conversations about love and relationships with their children. It’s an interactive read-aloud that will encourage conversations, perfect for preschool-aged kids.
December Children’s Book Releases: Picture Books
Dark on Light by Dianne White, Illustrated by Felicita Sala (December 6; Beach Lane Books)
This poetic picture book contrasts dark and light as siblings explore nature at sunset and after: “Inviting the trail. Timid the fawn. / Dark the hedge that borders the lawn. / Lavender blooms, fragrant and bright. / Hedge and trail and dark on light.” White’s hypnotic prose will have young readers chanting and making up their own lyrics. Sala’s gorgeous, warm illustrations perfectly balance the dark/light theme as the children explore the many wonders in nature. It’s a lovely ode to the night and that nebulous time between waking and sleeping.
Stacey’s Remarkable Books by Stacey Abrams, Illustrated by Kitt Thomas (December 13; Balzer + Bray)
The followup to Stacey’s Extraordinary Words follows a young Stacey Abrams as she shares her joy of the library with a new student who is still learning to read English. During recess, Stacey loves to read books, and that’s where she meets Julie for the first time. Julie loves reading, too, but can’t join in with Stacey. Stacey can’t wait to show Julie the library on Thursday, during library time, and their librarian Mr. McCormick is very welcoming. Together, Stacey and Julie explore the magic of books, and soon, more kids from their class join in. This is a lovely ode to books, libraries, and friendships; one every book-lover will adore, no matter their age.
The Universe in You by Jason Chin (December 13; Neal Porter Books)
Caldecott medalist Jason Chin follows up his big-picture nonfiction Your Place in the Universe with a microscopic journey into the minute building blocks of life. It opens with the calliope hummingbird, the smallest bird in the United States. Each page moves smaller as Chin explores microns, cells, atoms, elementary particles, and so much more, ultimately connecting it all to the universe. Anyone familiar with Chin’s work will be unsurprised by the gorgeous illustrations. The book also has extensive back matter to learn more. While not part of the narrative, the main child character is a Brown wheelchair user, which is refreshing to see.
Keyana Loves Her Family by Natasha Anastasia Tarpley, Illustrated by Charnelle Pinkney Barlow (December 13; Little, Brown Books for Young Readers)
Keyana is a girl with lots of ideas and the drive to tackle them. She decides to host a family movie night and immediately gets to planning so everything is perfect. However, when her twin cousins cause a raucous during the movie, everything is ruined. The screen falls, popcorn and cookies go flying, and the projector breaks. How will Keyana fix everything? Thankfully, her love of family and big ideas helps her find a different way to celebrate movie night with her family. This is a super fun picture book about familial love and addressing disappointment.
The Catalogue of Hugs by Joshua David Stein and Augustus Heeren Stein, Illustrated by and Elizabeth Lilly (December 27; Rise x Penguin Workshop)
This delightful series of hugs written by a father/son team is part picture book, part gift book for parents. Each page illustrates a different type of hug, from “The Necklace,” where a child hangs from an elderly man’s neck while he attempts to drink coffee and look at his phone, to “The Rolling Hug,” where a child perches on a motorized wheelchair’s arm hugging a male caregiver while another child runs beside them. Each illustration is tenderly drawn with splashes of color and minimal to no background, focusing instead on a diverse array of caregivers and children sharing special, cuddly moments. The back lists even more hugs for children to try out.
Tomorrow Is New Year’s Day by Aram Kim (December 27; Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
In this delightful picture book, Mina shares with her class Korean customs for the Lunar New Year, Seollal. She wears her hanbok, shows the class sabae (a respectful greeting for elders), plays Korean games, and her mom brings in Korean candies for everyone’s bokjumoni — their lucky bags. But when Mina’s little brother shows up and throws a temper tantrum because his hanbok is too itchy, Mina worries the day is ruined. However, the other students in class help cheer up her brother, and they continue celebrating Seollal. The end pages show how to fold a paper bokjumoni. This is an excellent book for classrooms to use during the Lunar New Year, and great for home, too! I will definitely be making a bokjumoni with my daughter.
December Children’s Book Releases: Middle Grade
Ode to a Nobody by Caroline Brooks DuBois (December 6; Holiday House)
This lovely middle grade novel-in-verse takes place in the aftermath of a tornado. Eighth grader Quinn doesn’t feel like she’s much good at anything, but as long as she has the few things she enjoys — her best friend Jack, her hamster, and skateboarding — she’s fine. She has to write poems daily for English class, which becomes the novel. When the tornado hits, Quinn has to move out of her destroyed home while her dad repairs it. She and her family have a complicated relationship: her mother and father have split, which Quinn blames herself for, and Quinn’s Dad dotes on her older brother, who no longer lives with them. Things go from bad to worse when Jack makes a new friend who constantly bullies Quinn. Everything seems to be destroyed, and Quinn doesn’t know how to repair any of it. This is a beautifully written novel.
Enola Holmes: The Graphic Novels Book 2 by Serena Blasco (December 6; Andrews McMeel Publishing)
This is Serena Blasco’s second graphic novel compilation based on Nancy Springer’s popular middle grade historical mystery series. It contains three stories: “The Case of the Peculiar Pink Fan,” “The Case of the Cryptic Crinoline,” and “The Case of Baker Street Station.” In these stories, Enola investigates tea shops, saves kidnapped women, tries to find her mother, and receives many cryptic messages that need deciphering. Oh, and she dodges her pesky brothers Mycroft and Sherlock, of course. Blasco’s illustrations are vibrant and colorful, and it’s such a fun read, whether you’ve read the original novels or not.
Deadly Hearts: History’s Most Dangerous People by Michael Burgan (December 27; Penguin Workshop)
Middle grade readers who like the dark and disturbing will love this biography collection of 16 of the cruelest and deadliest people from ancient and contemporary history. From Attila the Hun to Hungarian serial killer Countess Elizabeth Báthory de Ecsed, these profiles, though brief, draw a disturbing picture of evil. Karl James Mountford illustrates each biography with black and white portraits.