From a Shady Baby sequel to the adventures of everyone's favorite friendly neighborhood Spider-Man, EW previews the best picture books and middle-grade releases to keep your kids reading this summer.
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Sun's out, fun's out! EW's 2022 Summer Preview has dozens of exclusive looks at the most anticipated TV shows, movies, books, and music of entertainment's hottest season. Continue to visit ew.com throughout the week for more previews of what you'll be watching, reading, and listening to in the months to come.

The challenge: Keep the kiddos reading once school's out for summer. The solution: Find stories to enthrall them. EW has curated the best tales for young bookworms, from the first children's books by the Scarlet Witch herself, Elizabeth Olsen, and acclaimed novelists (and spouses) Zadie Smith and Nick Laird, to sequels to bestsellers Shady Baby and Amari and the Night Brothers.

Age 3+

Publisher ‏ : ‎ Nancy Paulsen Books
Credit: Nancy Paulsen Books

The World Belonged to Us by Jacqueline Woodson, Illustrated by Leo Espinosa

For the children of Generation X and Millennial parents who spent their summers out in the concrete jungle, The World Belonged to Us is a perfect vacation read with illustrations reminiscent of old-school Sesame Street. A lovely ode to a childhood before smartphones and video games kept kids inside, the book's Brooklyn neighborhood kids play double-dutch, stickball, and kick the can, and run with glee for the ice cream truck. If you grew up in a city (or just wish you did), The World Belonged to Us will remind you and your child of the simple pleasures of playing outside on a long, warm day.

I Want to Be a Vase

I Want to Be a Vase by Julio Torres, Illustrated by Julian Glander

This brightly colored picture book by comedian Julio Torres is a feast for the eyes, with super-saturated images of everyday household objects that are secretly dreaming of a different life. When the toilet plunger decides they'd rather be a beautiful flower vase, chaos erupts as all the other objects start rethinking their roles as well: The pot decides to become a trash can, the mirror would rather be a pillow, and the plain old coffee mug wants to be a light. While some of these new roles aren't natural fits, eventually even the dissident vacuum cleaner has to admit that some of these changes are awfully handy. Offbeat and engaging, I Want to be a Vase encourages kids to follow their dreams no matter their size, shape, or what the world has predetermined they should be. 

Hattie Harmony, Worry Detective

Hattie Harmony, Worry Detective by Elizabeth Olsen and Robbie Arnett, Illustrated by Marissa Valdez

In this charming picture book by  WandaVision actress Elizabeth Olsen and her musician husband Robbie Arnett, the kids at Wildwood Elementary are a little worried about all the new experiences they might have during the first day of school. But lucky for them the ingenious Hattie Harmony, Worry Detective is on the case. With a chant of "Worry, Worry, Go Away! There's no time for you today!" Hattie helps her anxious friends deal with everyday worries like being afraid of talking in class, before tackling some anxieties of her own. From the appealing images of the spectacled kitty detective to practical advice about calming down when nerves get the better of you, Hattie Harmony, Worry Detective is a lovely addition to any young child's summer list. 

The Surprise
Credit: Viking Books for Young Readers

The Surprise by Zadie Smith and Nick Laird, Illustrated by Magenta Fox

What's a judo-playing guinea pig to do when she doesn't seem to fit in with the other pets in her new owner's home? That's the question posed by married novelists Zadie Smith and Nick Laird, who make their children's book debut with this delightful tale for little oddballs everywhere. Kids will love the wonderful illustrations by Magenta Fox as they read about Maud, the guinea pig who tries to fit in, but learns after a chance encounter with a kindly neighbor that being true to herself might just be the most marvelous thing of all.

Double Puppy Trouble

Double Puppy Trouble by Danica McKellar, Illustrated by Josée Masse

In this cute, cautionary tale about the perils of wanting more, the former Wonder Years actress and mathematician introduces us to Moxie Jo, who wants more of everything, including puppies. But things get out of control when her magic doubling stick malfunctions and puppies wind up everywhere. Cleverly teaching how numbers double as puppies multiply all over the page, McKellar might trick your little one into learning some math principles as they giggle along with this story of doggies run amok. 

Shady Baby Feels

Shady Baby Feels by Gabrielle Union and Dwyane Wade, Illustrated by Tara Nicole Whitaker

The plucky protagonist of 2021's best-selling Shady Baby (by actress Gabrielle Union and her husband, basketball star Dwyane Wade), returns in an adorable board book that teaches toddlers all about their feelings. Based on the couple's young daughter Kaavia and illustrated again by Tara Nicole Whitaker, Shady Baby discovers that baking cupcakes brings up all sorts of emotions, and her  adventure will help your littlest reader sort out their own feelings in the process. Just make sure you're not out of flour, because your child will probably want to make cupcakes after.

Age 8+

Miss Quinces
Credit: Graphix

Miss Quinces by Kat Fajardo

While Miss Quinces is intended for ages 8-12, my six year-old snuck off with my copy and has been reading it happily as her bedtime book. It's easy to see why. Favoring black clothes and manga comics, the last thing Suyapa wants is a fancy quinceanera for her 15th birthday. She thought her mother agreed, until their return to Honduras to see her ailing abuela put the event back on the table. Thrown into painful dance practices and shopping for teetering high heels, the reluctant teen goes along at first for her beloved abuelita, but eventually finds a way to please both herself and her family. Touching and warm-hearted, this graphic novel shows the joy in embracing family traditions while still being true to yourself. 

Zachary Ying and the Dragon Emperor by Xiran Jay Zhao
Credit: Margaret K. McElderry Books

Zachary Ying and the Dragon Emperor by Xiran Jay Zhao

As one of the only Chinese students in his school and a Muslim one at that, Zachary Ying feels like an outsider despite trying his best to fit in. He even goes so far to toss his mom's delicious cooking so he doesn't get picked on by his so-called friends. But when Zachary discovers his connection to the First Emperor of China, Qin Shi Huang, he gets sucked into adventure—with dire consequences for both his mom and the world at large if he doesn't seal a portal to the underworld in time. Weaving Chinese history in with questions about identity and belonging, kids will zip through this action-packed novel by Xiran Jay Zhao as they cheer on Zachary in his heroic quest. 

Valentina Salazar is not a Monster Hunter by Zoraida Córdova
Credit: Scholastic Press

Valentina Salazar is not a Monster Hunter by Zoraida Córdova

If you were bewitched by  Zoraida Córdova's The Inheritance of Orquídea Divina, your young reader might find her new middle grade novel Valentina Salazar is Not a Monster Hunter similarly enchanting. After suffering a family tragedy, Valentina's mom tries to retire from the family monster-protecting business, but her daughter can't let go of her duty to safeguard magical creatures, especially when a precious mythical egg turns up. Plunging headfirst into the epic adventures of Valentina and her siblings, Córdova spins a engaging tale that young fantasy fans will gobble up

Spider-Man's Social Dilemma
Credit: Marvel Press

Spider-man's Social Dilemma by Preeti Chhibber

If your kid would rather watch Marvel movies than do any summer reading, Preeti Chhibber's clever Spider-Man's Social Dilemma might be just the book to entice them away from the screen. Everyone's favorite web slinger has only been on the job for a few months and he's finding it difficult to balance his nightly heroics with getting his trigonometry homework done. Besides crushing on his neighbor MJ and starting his own Twitter account, Peter Parker has to deal with the villainous Sandman, recently released from prison. Chhibber channels Peter Parker's trademark wit and MJ's pluck in this appealing first novel in a planned trilogy.

Amari and the Great Game
Credit: Balzer + Bray

Amari and the Great Game by B.B. Alston

The sequel to 2021's bestseller Amari and the Night Brothers, Amari and the Great Game follows brave Amari Peters as she faces new trials in her first summer as a Junior Agent. After turning down the chance to be the new leader of the League of Magicians because she's already got too much to worry about, Amari finds herself pulled into the Great Game, a competition that will determine the fate of not only the magical world, but her brother Quinton's curse. With a fun, clever young heroine, and Alston's imaginative world building, Amari's story is impossible to put down. 

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