A 10-year-old is a lucky kid. There are so many excellent books waiting to be read! This list of the best books for 10-year-olds includes choices from across many genres from realism to fantasy, even graphic novels and nonfiction. There are long books, short novels, verse novels, mysteries and sports stories.
In short, something for every 10-year-old, no matter their interest!
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YOU ARE HERE: CONNECTING FLIGHTS, edited by Ellen Oh
This compelling middle grade novel is a collection of interwoven stories detailing the experiences of several Southeast Asian and East Asian American families at a Chicago airport. The stories are written by twelve different authors and explore identity, friendship, and family relationships. Some of the interactions of the characters cause ripple effects throughout the airport, and the protagonists of the stories learn how to speak up for themselves. I found it hard to put down this book, and so will young readers.
THE TAKEOUT by Tracy Badua
Mila has recently moved to a new town, where her father and his business partner operate a food truck that serves up a delicious fusion of Filipino and Indian food. A pair of celebrity chefs are planning to open up a new restaurant nearby and Mila is excited to meet them, until she tastes their food and realizes they stole their recipes from the food truck! She and her friend, Ajay, hatch a plan to prove the chefs are frauds and save the food truck.
AN OCCASIONALLY HAPPY FAMILY by Cliff Burke
Theo is not looking forward to a camping vacation with his dad and sister in the desert. It's also clear that something suspicious is going on since his dad is keeping part of the vacation plans a secret. I read this book out loud to my son and although there is a serious side to Theo's story, we spent much of the time in stitches, laughing at the hilarious characters that Theo encounters and the misadventures that befall him.
ROLL WITH IT (series) by Jamie Sumner
Ellie loves to bake! Her cerebral palsy means her mom is a bit overprotective, and that she has to spend more time than she would like with doctors. Ellie's grandfather has Alzheimer’s disease and so Ellie and her mom move in with her grandparents to help out. Starting a new school means Ellie finally finds some good friends and feels like she fits in somewhere. Roll With It is a marvelous book, tackling so many themes, but with good humor and likable characters.
NOWHERE BOY by Katherine Marsh
13-year-old Max, an American boy whose family has come to live for a year in Brussels, is resentful that he has to repeat a grade and go to a French-speaking school. Ahmed, a 14-year-old Syrian refugee was separated from his father on the water crossing to Greece. Ahmed was able to make his way to Belgium and hides out in Max's basement. When Max discovers him, the two become friends and hatch a plan to help Ahmed get out into the world again. A timely, sensitive book about friendship, family and taking charge of one's life.
FROM THE DESK OF ZOE WASHINGTON (series) by Janae Marks
I adored this book about Zoe, a 12-year-old girl who, after starting a correspondence with her incarcerated father, Marcus, sets out to prove his innocence. Zoe's mother always kept Zoe from having a relationship with her father, who was serving time for murder, but one day, Zoe discovers a letter addressed to her from him and decides to write back. Zoe and her friend, Trevor, start to investigate Marcus' trial conviction, learning about systemic racism in the justice system. While the subject is certainly very serious, Janae Marks has written a marvelously accessible story with likable, nuanced characters.
INSIGNIFICANT EVENTS IN THE LIFE OF A CACTUS (series) by Dusti Bowling
This funny and moving book is fantastic! Aven Green and her family move from Kansas to Arizona, where her dad has taken a job as the manager of a western theme park. Aven, who was adopted as an infant, was born without any arms but that hasn't stopped her from accomplishing anything–she just does it with her feet! Aven narrates her own tale with a humorous, clever and truth-telling eye. With the help of her new friends, she sets out to solve a mystery and learn the secrets of Stagecoach Park.
THE TRUTH AS TOLD BY MASON BUTTLE by Leslie Connor
Connor is a skilled author and in this masterful mystery, she tells the story of Mason Buttle, a seventh grader, who wants to understand how his friend, Benny, died. Mason, who is severely dyslexic, and suffers from extreme sweating, has been relating his story through voice to text dictation to the detective on the case. However, when Mason's new friend, Calvin, goes missing, Mason is worried there is a connection with Benny's death. Connor's narration flows as she brings the pieces of the puzzle together and the community finally gets the full story of what happened to Benny.
THE LABORS OF HERCULES BEAL by Gary D. Schmidt
Twelve-year-old Herc Beal is the smallest kid in his grade and when his teacher gives him an assignment to recreate the 12 labors of Hercules and write about his experience, he has no idea how he is going to do it. As with his other brilliant books, Schmidt delivers a story that alternates between moments of total hilarity and emotional awaking, filled with characters you will fall in love with.
PRESIDENT OF THE WHOLE FIFTH GRADE by Sherri Winston
This fun story follows the tale of the clever and likable Brianna, who is determined to become fifth grade president. She is up against the new girl and must make ethical choices in order to win the election fairly. Along the way she learns about friendships and doing the right thing.
GARVEY'S CHOICE by Nikki Grimes
Readers of this blog know that I am a long-time fan of Nikki Grimes' poetry. She wrote Garvey's Choice in tanka verse. Garvey, a young Black boy, is working on finding out who he wants to be. He has a family who loves him, but his father's vision for him is different than what Garvey wants for himself. Garvey feels free when singing in the the school chorus and when he shares his secrets with his best friend, Joe. Wonderful.
NOTHING BUT THE TRUTH by Avi
I couldn't put this book down! In an effort to get transferred away from a particular teacher's class, Phillip causes a class disruption. But the chain of events that he sets in motion has the community examining what it means to be truthful, patriotic and respectful of others. The narrative is "documentary style," with dialogue, interviews, letters and diary entries telling the story from different perspectives, making for a unique reading experience.
AMAL UNBOUND by Aisha Saeed
In her Pakistani village, Amal dreams of becoming a teacher one day, but an unfortunate event results in her being sent to live as an indentured servant in the household of the village's corrupt landlord. Amal is a strong protagonist who takes matters into her own hands. She is determined to achieve her goals, despite her circumstances.
BETTER NATE THAN EVER (series) by Tim Federle
13-year-old Nate's snappy narrative about his adventure in New York City auditioning for E.T. The Musical (yes, you read that right) is marvelous and incredibly funny. The scene in which Nate reads the "sides" during his audition had me laughing so hard I could barely see the words through my tears. The two sequels are just as hilarious as the original.
ALONE by Megan E. Freeman
In this suspenseful page-turner written in verse, Maddie and her friends planned to meet for a sleepover. Her friends never show up and in the morning, Maddie finds her town has been entirely abandoned. Unable to communicate with anyone Maddie must learn to survive on her own. At first, there is running water and electricity, but when that goes she teaches herself to drive, finds supplies in neighboring homes and has only a dog for a companion.
EFRÉN DIVIDED by Ernesto Cisneros
12-year-old Efrén loves to watch his Ama make milagras for him and his twin siblings every morning. It seems like she is always making a miracle breakfast out of nothing. After his Ama is deported in a surprise raid, Efrén must look after the household, including his sibling who has a cognitive disability, while his Apa works hard to earn the money needed to bring Ama back to the family. Efrén's secret almost costs him his best friend, a white boy who lives with his grandmother, as well as his academic success. Readers will empathize with the struggles of living with immigration difficulties and the emotional chaos of being forcibly separated from a parent.
SURVIVING THE APPLEWHITES (series) by Stephanie S. Tolan
Jake has gotten kicked out of his last school and is now living with the eccentric, artistic, homeschooling Applewhite family. The father is directing a local production of The Sound of Music and no one is more surprised than Jake when he discovers he loves performing. I loved the quirky characters and the boundless energy of this book. When the family has to pull together to get the show up after they are blackballed by a local stage mom, the results are hilariously successful. I really enjoy how the story reinforces the necessity of cooperation when putting on a play.
LISTEN, SLOWLY by Thanhhà Lai
Listen, Slowly is a contemporary tale of a middle school girl, Mai, born to Vietnamese immigrants. Mai doesn't feel Vietnamese, she feels very "American!" One summer she is dismayed to learn that instead of spending time on the sunny beaches of her Californian home, she will be accompanying her father and grandmother to visit her extended family in Vietnam. This is an engaging coming of age story in which Mai learns to love her heritage and culture. Kids will absolutely relate to Mai on every level!
THE BEST MAN by Richard Peck
Author Peck is well known for his book, A Long Way From Chicago. This book is full of the same trademark humor. Archer looks up to a few men in his life and tries to learn from them: his grandfather, his dad, his uncle Paul and his teacher, a former military man. His relationships with these men helps him navigate the peril of living on the edge of adolescence as he deals with friendships, bullies and general kid stuff. Then, his uncle and teacher fall in love and Archer's world view expands even further.
LAST GAMER STANDING by Katie Zhao
Zhao has crafted an emotionally nuanced story about a 12-year-old Chinese-American gamer who, knowing how badly girl gamers are harassed online, hides her identity behind a teen boy avatar. The year is 2067 and Reyna is at gamer summer camp in Manhattan. She's participating in a gaming tournament, hoping to win the prize so she can help pay for her mother's medical treatment.
Fantasy and Science Fiction
THE LAST BEEKEEPER by Pablo Cartaya
This is a great choice for middle grade readers who like a little dystopia and a lot of action in their fiction. Yoly Cicerón's parents are in exile and she and her sister work on the family's strawberry farm. Yoly wants to go to the city to train as a neurolink surgeon, but can't afford it. Unfolding events reveal an oppressive and authoritarian System and secret dangers. Yoly's discovery of the last surviving beehive brings hope that the System can be toppled and past wrongs can be righted.
SPACE CASE (series) by Stuart Gibbs
Dashiell Gibson is one of the first humans to live on the moon but he is super bored because he is not allowed to go anywhere. When one of the top scientists is found dead, Dash suspects it is something more than just a helmet mishap. A thrilling mystery set in a unique location.
TRISTAN STRONG PUNCHES A HOLE IN THE SKY (series) by Kwame Mbalia
Tristan Strong is grieving the loss of his best friend and reluctantly headed for Alabama to stay with his grandparents. While tussling with a strange creature he punches a tree, opening up a passage between his world and MidPass. Adventures and struggles follow as Tristan meets persons and creatures from African-American and West African myth and folklore. Young readers who love epic adventures, wily foes and heroic legends will love this tale. Highly recommended.
SAL AND GABI BREAK THE UNIVERSE by Carlos Hernandez
My son listened to this on audiobook and loved it! He was alternating between gasping and laughing. Salvador Vidón is the new kid, but is also an unusual kid because he is able to open portals into alternate universes with his mind. He meets Gabi Reál who is a bit suspicious of his explanation about the mysterious things that happen when he is around. This is a really fun book, with lots of fast-paced action and crazy humor. Highly recommended!
THE GREAT GOOD THING (series) by Roderick Townley
Do characters seem real beyond the pages? Well, that's because they are. In this metafictional tale, Sylvie decides that 80 years of living the same story over and over as the character in a book has gotten a bit dull. She decides to break the most important rule of all book character rules: she looks up at The Reader. Townley explores the wonder of books and how they merge with our imaginations and lives. I heartily recommend this for grown-ups, too.
SISTERS OF THE LOST MARSH by Lucy Strange
Lucy Strange is a favorite middle grade author of mine. Like her other works, Sisters of the Lost Marsh is teeming with atmosphere, mystery and folk legend. In the marshlands of southern England, Willa and her five sisters live with a father who believes the family is cursed and that each of his daughters must fulfill a specific destiny. After her oldest sister, Grace, disappears, Willa believes Grace has run away from her unpleasant fiancé to join the Full Moon Fayre. But a more sinister force is at work and Willa is determined to save her sister.
HEALER OF THE WATER MONSTER by Brian Young
Nathan is trying to avoid spending time with his dad's new girlfriend, so instead of heading to Las Vegas with his father, he convinces his divorced parents to let him visit his grandmother on the Navajo reservation. In the desert, Nathan encounters Pond, an ailing water monster from the Navajo Creation Story. From there, Nathan begins his epic adventure into the Navajo Third World with the help of the Holy Beings. Young intriguingly blends together Diné mythology and the contemporary world. Fantastic.
THE INQUISITOR'S TALE: OR, THE THREE MAGICAL CHILDREN AND THEIR HOLY DOG by Adam Gidwitz
Multiple narrators describe the adventures of several children and their (potentially) holy dog. This book is an amazing mix of morality tale and puzzling mystery, set in the 13th century. Jeanne with her psychic visions, Willian, a biracial Muslim monk with superhuman skills, and Jacob, a Jewish fleeing his destroyed village who has healing powers come together for an adventure that enriches their lives, as well as the lives of the readers.
THE TROUBLED GIRLS OF DRAGOMIR ACADEMY by Anne Ursu
When 12-year-old Marya Lupu upsets an important visit by sorcerers come to test her older brother for magic, she is sent away to Dragomir Academy. Dragomir is a boarding school housed in a castle donated by a Count for the purpose of educating "troublesome" girls. The teachers, while not unkind, insist that girls follow rules. Marya, and her new friend, Elana, find this difficult. At the academy, Marya, starts to build relationships and questions what she's told about magic, who can wield it, and why it threatens the land. Her discoveries lead to uncovering secrets about the structure of Illyria's society.
THE TRIALS OF MORRIGAN CROW (Nevermoor series) by Jessica Townsend
Morrigan Crow was born on Eventide, which means she is cursed. Cursed children are destined to live only 12 years and as Morrigan is 11, her time is rapidly approaching. But her fortunes turn when she gets an invitation to compete for a spot in the prestigious Wondrous Society. She must complete several trials in place called Nevermoor and if she is successful, she can remain instead of returning home to face her death.
BLACK BIRD, BLUE ROAD by Sofiya Pasternack
After they read the shocking opening sentence, readers won't be able to put this book down. In the Turkic Jewish empire of Khazaria, Ziva has been taking care of her twin brother Pesah, while he works to invent a cure for his leprosy. On their birthday, the twins learn that their parents and uncle are sending him away to a leper colony, but when Pesah has a vision that he will meet the Angel of Death on Rosh Hashanah, the siblings run away, headed for Luz, where the Angel of Death cannot go. They travel with Almas, a sheydim who Ziva rescues.
THE PRINCE OF NOWHERE by Rochelle Hassan
I confess that I did not see the twist coming in this time traveling tale. Other readers may figure out the twist earlier but it won't take away from the page-turning nature of this fast-paced story. Roda lives with her mother and aunt in a city surrounded by a freezing mist. She starts to get mysterious anonymous letters which foretell of things to come and which lead her to an injured crow. The crow turns out to be Ignis, a shapeshifter from Aerlands, outside the mist. Events soon have the pair following clues from the letters which take them on an incredible journey.
MORE: Time Travel Books
ALLIANA GIRL OF DRAGONS by Julie Abe
This is a wonderful retelling of "Cinderella" with Japanese elements. After her father falls into the abyss, Alliana is forced to live with her stepmother and step-siblings, working in the family inn, run by her mean-spirited relatives. Alliana dreams of escaping and attending the Regional Ball where she might be chosen for the Royal Academy. She befriends a young witch, Nela Evergreen, and rescues a nightdragon hatchling. Together they take a risk that might help Alliana reach her dreams. Ages 9 and up.
THE WONDERLING by Mira Bartók
Bartók creates a marvelous world that draws upon the familiar and fantastical. The protagonist is a "groundling," a fox-like creature who escapes with his bird-friend, Trinket, from a grim orphanage to head out on an adventure. Their adventure circles round and they plan to rescue the other orphans. There is something very Dickensian about the story, and unlike some books set in strange hybrid worlds, Bartók's incredible descriptions and use of language, along with her illustrations build a fully-realized, fascinating universe.
WHEN YOU TRAP A TIGER by Tae Keller
Lily, her brother, and mother move in with her Korean grandmother. Halmoni (her grandmother) used to tell her bedtime stories based on Korean folklore and now Lily is seeing a magical tiger like the one her grandmother told her about. Halmoni tells Lily that the tiger wants something that she once stole, stories as stars, which she put in jars. Halmoni is in poor health and Lily contemplates making a bargain with the tiger so her grandmother can heal. Marvelous and magical.
SERAFINA AND THE BLACK CLOAK (series) by Robert Beatty
Serafina lives in secret in the basement of the Vanderbilts' Biltmore estate. Looked after by her adoptive father, Serafina's strange body allows her to go unnoticed and contort herself into small places. She uses her abilities in a search for clues to the mysterious disappearance of several children on the estate. Her search ultimately leads her to discover the secret of her origins. All the gothic elements are here: otherworldly beings, secrets and disappearances, orphans, a vast estate and an eerie forest, even a carriage accident!
PREMEDITATED MYRTLE (series) by Elizabeth C. Bunce
Anyone who enjoys Victorian detective books will love Myrtle. The unconventional, twelve-year-old Myrtle, lives with her prosecutor father in Victorian England. Encouraged by her father and governess, the clever, likable, but very quirky Myrtle loves her gadgets and keeping up with all the latest crime-fighting research. Myrtle's detective work takes off when she becomes convinced that her neighbor was the victim of foul play. A thrilling mystery with unique characters and a healthy dose of snappy humor.
MORE: Girl Detective Novels
THE WIND CALLED MY NAME by Mary Louise Sanchez
During the Great Depression, Margarita Sandoval's family farm in New Mexico is devastated by drought and her father takes a job with the railroad, moving the family to Wyoming. Their new community doesn't appreciate the Sandoval's Hispanic heritage, her father works to organize rail workers into a union and her family must prevent the loss of Abuelita's land in New Mexico. This book fills a much needed gap in children's literature by portraying the diversity of the American frontier.
THE GENIUS UNDER THE TABLE by Eugene Yelchin
Yelchin's illustrated, semi-autobiographical novel about growing up in the USSR is hilarious. Yevgeny’s ballet-obsessed mother wants him to be a dancer like her beloved Baryshnikov. His family is aware that displaying talent leads to small freedoms that may otherwise be elusive in their restricted society. Little does she know that Yevgeny spends his evenings drawing on the underside of the dining room table. Yevgeny’s Jewish family lives in such a small apartment that, as the youngest, he sleeps under the table. The discovery of Yevgney's talent provides the family with some hope. Yelchin's writing and illustrations masterfully walk the line between tragedy and comedy. Very enjoyable!
JOURNEY OF THE PALE BEAR by Susan Fletcher
Arthur, a boy living in Norway, runs away from his abusive stepfather and stepbrothers. He has a letter from his Welsh cousins, which he assumes is asking him to return to Wales and claim his birthright. Unfortunately, he can't actually read the letter. In the port town of Bergen he encounters a caged polar bear and two ruffians shove him in the cage. When Arthur soothes the bear, he is enlisted to accompany the bear on a ship to England, for the bear is a gift from King Haakon to King Henry. Hair-raising, heart-searching and page-turning adventure follows. The story was inspired by a 13th century "pale bear" who lived in the Tower of London menagerie, a gift from Norway.
SHOW ME A SIGN (series) by Ann Clare LeZotte
Mary Lambert lives in a community where everyone speaks sign language and a quarter of the population is deaf. One day, a young man arrives in the village hoping to research the reason for the high rate of deafness. Mary narrates the story and her observations of the interactions between the English, Black, Irish, and Wampanoag peoples, as well as on racism, prejudice and ableism are perceptive and thought-provoking. The author's endnote gives historical background on the town of Chilmark and Martha's Vineyard are fascinating.
WEIRD RULES TO FOLLOW by Kim Spencer
This coming of age story set in 1980s British Columbia follows Mia, an 11-year-old Indigenous girl, as she navigates the ups and downs of growing up. The story is structured as a series of vignettes in which Mia narrates her observations about the differences between Indigenous and white families, how her friendship with her best friend, Lara, changes over time and her sometimes chaotic family life. This book was one of my favorite reads of the year, not just because of Mia's strong voice but because I think even grown-up readers will come away richer after reading it. It will also make a wonderful read aloud.
THE UNEXPECTED LIFE OF OLIVER CROMWELL PITTS (series) by Avi
It's 1724 and Oliver's father has disappeared off to London to find Oliver's sister. To top it off the house is flooded and Oliver has no money. A series of events involving thieves, scoundrels, and very Dickensian characters sets Oliver on the road to London. The cliffhanger at the end of the first book will have your kids reaching desperately for the second. Both novels are fast paced, full of high suspense offer much food for thought.
SPARROWS IN THE WIND by Gail Carson Levine
Sparrows in the Wind is a historical fantasy set before and during the Trojan War. Cassandra narrates the first half of the story, describing how Apollo cursed her with the gift of prophecy. When Cassandra sees the tragedy of war, she befriends a lesser wind god, who helps her in her efforts to prevent the war from starting. Rin, an Amazon warrior princess, narrates the second half. She is part of a band of Amazons asked to assist the Trojans, and while in Troy makes friends with Cassandra. Levine's page-turning tale is an excellent choice for readers who like ancient history and strong female protagonists.
PRAIRIE LOTUS by Linda Sue Park
A stellar, thoughtful alternative to the Little House books, Prairie Lotus, is about Hanna, a 14-year-old half-Chinese girl who dreams of being a dressmaker. She and her white father have moved to a new town in Dakota territory where her father is opening a dress goods store. Hanna is excited about going to school for the first time and graduating, as her mother dreamed for her. She faces the racism of the town’s white folks, but Hanna is determined. Hanna’s strong inner voice, the memory of her Mama and a few new friends help her stay strong and succeed.
THE MOTH KEEPER by K. O'Neill
In this original tale, Anya becomes a Moth Keeper, taking a vow that she will be the nighttime guardian of the Moon-Moths that pollinate the Night-Flower tree. The longer she spends as a Moth Keeper, the more she wants to visit the sun-village, even though the light will damage the creatures she must care for. The beautiful illustrations are irresistible and Anya's coming of age story celebrates the relationship between nature and community. Luminous.
DRAMA by Raina Telgemeier
This tale is from one of the best loved graphic novelist. Callie wants to be in her school's latest production but she doesn't think she can sing so instead she helps out as the set designer and is determined to create a Broadway-worthy show. The "drama" of the book's title could easily refer to the friendship and romantic entanglements of the middle school crew (when is middle school not melodramatic?) as well what happens on the stage.
NEW KID (series) by Jerry Craft
After I brought this book home from the library, my son loved it and read it ten times in a row! I'm not surprised because after I read it, I realized how nuanced this story is. Art-loving Jordan navigates a new school as one of the few kids of color in his seventh grade class. Craft's story offers much to discover, even after multiple readings. There are now two sequels Class Act, and School Trip.
THE CROSSOVER by Kwame Alexander, illustrated by Dawud Anyabwile
This is a graphic novel adaptation of Alexander's verse novel of the same name. The story tale about twin brothers is touching, relatable and extraordinarily engaging. Josh narrates his story of coming to terms with his brother's new girlfriend, sibling rivalry, the pressure and joy of playing basketball and his relationship with his father. The second graphic, Booked, also an adaptation of the original verse novel, is about a boy who plays soccer.
RAPUNZEL'S REVENGE (series) by Shannon Hale and Dean Hale
This fractured fairy tale is quite unlike the original tale. Rapunzel takes ownership of her hair, frees herself, rejects the prince and goes on a quest to save her mother in the Wild, Wild West. Her sidekick is Jack—of beanstalk fame.
THE TRYOUT by Christina Soontornvat, illustrated by Joanna Cacao
Soontornvat was inspired by her own experience to pen this terrific graphic novel about a seventh grader who tries out for the cheerleading team. Christina, whose father immigrated from Thailand, and her best friend, Iranian-American Megan, decide to try out for cheerleading, in the hopes that it will help them make friends and rise in the ranks of the middle school social scene. For the most part, the girls enjoy the experience, but their friendship experiences some strain and both girls endure racist comments in their majority-white, small Texan town. Christina also enjoys a strong and loving relationship with her parents and extended family. Fabulous.
CHUNKY (series) by Yehudi Mercado
Hudi's parents are concerned about his weight and health and encourage him to go out for a sports team. Hudi's imaginary friend, Chunky, convinces him to try baseball but Hudi's talents lie not in sports. Hudi, the only Mexican-Jewish kid in his Texas neighborhood, prefers theater and comedy. An uplifting and funny graphic novel with a very likable protagonist.
TOM'S MIDNIGHT GARDEN by Philippa Pearce, adapted and illustrated by Edith
This lesser known (at least to American children) classic is beautiful, eerie, moving and wondrous. Those same qualities mean it translates well to the graphic novel format. In the 1950s, Tom goes to live with his uncle and aunt where a clock strikes 13. On the grounds is a gorgeous garden but his playmate is mysteriously from the 19th century. Physically, the book is extra large, so it's easy to get sucked into the illustrations.
TWIN CITIES by Jose Pimienta
12-year-old twins Teresa and Fernando are on the road to sixth grade where they will be attending different schools. Fernando is staying close to home in Mexicali, while Teresa is going to a school across the California border in Calexico.The two have very different experiences at school and with their peers, as well as engaging in familiar sibling struggles. An excellent and thoughtful graphic novel.
THE LEGEND OF AUNTIE PO by Shing Yin Khor
Mei is a Chinese-American girl living in the 19th century Sierra Nevadas, where her father is a cook at a logging camp. She tells tales of Auntie Po, a Paul Bunyon-like folk tale figure. Anti-Chinese sentiment and disgruntlement among the loggers leads to conflict and although Mei's father's white boss is well-meaning and supportive, his words are less effective than action. Although the story addresses serious subject matter, the overall tone if hopeful.
FRIZZY by Claribel A. Ortega, illustrated by Rose Bousamra
Marlene hates going to the hair salon to have her hair straightened. Her mother insists that Marlene tame her frizzy hair into "good hair." Marlene resents how others judge her natural hair, but she doesn't know how to style it. Enter her Tía Ruby, who also has a head full of boisterous curls. Tía Ruby empowers Marlene with instructions and products to help her wear her hair the way she wants. This revelation is followed by another which helps bring Marlene and her mother closer together. This wonderful graphic novel isn't just about one girl's battle with society's beauty standards, it's a window into how kids can learn to speak up for themselves.
RACE AGAINST DEATH: THE GREATEST POW RESCUE OF WORLD WAR II by Deborah Hopkinson
What 10-year-old doesn't love a thrilling rescue story? And this one is true! Hopkinson is a skilled nonfiction writer and her meticulously researched book about the rescue of American and Filipino prisoners of war will have readers on the edge of their seats.
WE ARE THE SHIP: THE STORY OF NEGRO LEAGUE BASEBALL by Kadir Nelson
This book is a fascinating narration of the history of the Negro League, its talented players, the struggle of the teams' owners and the important role the League played in the history of the sport in America. Kadir's text is engaging, and as always, his illustrations will amaze you and draw you into the emotional life of this historical period.
TOTAL GARBAGE: A MESSY DIVE INTO TRASH, WASTE, AND OUR WORLD by Rebecca Donnelly
I enjoyed this book, but I do not understand why it did not have a table of contents! Donnelly does a great job of making the topic of garbage entertaining while also drawing much needed attention to the difficulties and problems that our continued creation of garbage creates. She uses history and cultural examples in art and anthropology to give a full picture of the whys and hows and whats of garbage as well as addressing questions about the consequences of such a mess.
BECOMING MOHAMMAD ALI by Kwame Alexander and James Patterson, illustrated by
This biography of Ali is written in verse, making it extremely accessible to all readers, even reluctant ones. I didn't actually know much about Ali's life and found this novelized biography fascinating. Alexander's verse captures Ali's dynamic personality and perseverance. It's an inspiration story for all of us.
WHAT'S SO SPECIAL ABOUT SHAKESPEARE? by Michael Rosen
A fast paced and suspenseful informational book about Shakespeare? You probably thought that wasn't possible. Here is the proof that it is. Rosen presents the historical backdrop of Shakespeare's England, describes life in Renaissance England, looks closely as several of the most famous plays, and discusses Shakespeare's legacy. Excellent.
PELÉ KING OF SOCCER by Eddy Simon, illustrated by Vincent Brascaglia
This graphic novel biography of Brazilian fútbol star, Pelé is fantastic. You know a book is good when it's about sports and I can't put it down. Author/Illustrator team Simon and Brascaglia convey the storied life of the greatest soccer player, from his youth, when he was nurtured to love the game by his father, to his amazing career and work as a UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador. Translated from French.
KING GEORGE: WHAT WAS HIS PROBLEM?: THE WHOLE HILARIOUS STORY OF THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION by Steve Sheinkin, illustrated by Tim Robinson
Formatted in a reluctant-historian, reader-reluctant friendly fashion, with lots of sub-sections, quotes, maps and illustration, this book is an informative delight. Sheinkin begins his narration by offering up the idea that his book is a "step-by-step guide to starting a revolution." Step 1: Kick out the French." And on it goes from there. If your kid has captured the history bug after reading, give them Sheinkin's follow-up, Two Miserable Presidents: Everything Your Schoolbooks Didn't Tell You About the Civil War.
A DAY IN THE LIFE OF A POO, A GNU, AND YOU (series) by Mike Barfield, illustrated by Jess Bradley
Got a kid who loves facts and science, but also loves to laugh? This comic book style text on all things in the natural world will keep them reading all night. Packed with information on everything from Mars to poison jellyfish, Barfield's text and Bradley's illustrations make science highly entertaining.
A SHOT IN THE ARM by Don Brown
Brown's Big Ideas That Changed the World is a great nonfiction graphic novel series and A Shot in the Arm is a timely story of one of the most important public health developments in human history. Brown focuses on the history of vaccinations beginning primarily in the 17th century with smallpox, and details the important scientists and public figures that were integral to their development and deployment all the way through to the present.
THE SIDE-BY-SIDE DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE by David Miles
This is one of the best books about the Declaration of Independence I have ever read. Miles is exceptionally talented at decoding the archaic text of the 200+ years old document for both kids and grown-ups. I learned more about the document from this book than I ever did in civics class, AND it was entertaining, even humorous! Collage style illustrations present the original text, amusing narrators/explainers, give contemporary context and invite the reader to think critically about the document. Superb.
THE ASTRONAUT'S GUIDE TO LEAVING THE PLANET by Terry Virts, illustrated by Andrés Lozano
Future space travelers will love these tips about blasting off into space by former astronaut Terry Virts. Virst describes what it's really like to see Earth from space, the insider information on what it's really like to train and travel as an astronaut, as well as things that hopeful star travelers can do today. Stellar.
FACTOPIA!: FOLLOW THE TRAIL OF 400 FACTS by Kate Hale, illustrated by Andy Smith
Kids who don't want to read long narratives are often attracted to books about facts. The short and fascinating details of outrageous facts peak their curiosity. What I love about FACTopia! is that it takes readers on a journey rather like a game, in which the readers is led down a trail of information which is all somehow connected, but still distinct. Think of it as "400 degrees of Kevin Bacon."