Books for Kids and Tweens
Elf Dog & Owl Head by M.T Anderson; illustrated by Junyi WuWhat it's about: Bored during quarantine for a global virus, Clay O'Brien wanders into the woods and meets Elphinore, a wayward elf-hound. Their friendship opens Clay's eyes to the magic just underneath everyday life.
Featuring: fierce wyrms, a mopey giant, an owl-headed boy, and portals into parallel dimensions.
Read it for: a funny, offbeat blend of fantasy and reality, with eerie black-and-white artwork by Junyi Wu, illustrator of Scary Stories for Young Foxes. (Ages 8-12.)
Global by Eoin Colfer and Andrew Donkin; illustrated by Giovanni RiganoStarring: Sami, whose fishing village in the Bay of Bengal is threatened by wild weather, and Yuki, whose home in the Arctic Circle was once a polar bear habitat. On different continents, both kids go on dangerous journeys to protect what they love from the ravages of climate change.
Why you might like it: Fast-paced writing and dramatic art will keep you glued to this graphic novel.
You might also like: Alan Gratz's Two Degrees, another multi-POV survival story. (Ages 10-14.)
Big Tree by Brian SelznickWhat it's about: Sycamore seed siblings Louise and Merwin venture across a danger-filled prehistoric world in search of their destiny -- and a safe place to grow.
How it's told: through a combination of dramatic written sections and hyper-detailed pencil drawings, offering an up-close look at the little seeds as well as a cosmic view that will make you think about your own place in time and space. (Ages 8-13.)
I Am the Walrus by Neal Shusterman and Eric ElfmanStarring: Middle schooler Noah Prime, who thinks he's pretty typical until weird stuff -- such as memory loss, an unusual fight-or-flight response, and the ability to play any sport -- starts happening to him.
What happens: Noah and his friends search for answers, leading to run-ins with alien monsters, secret ops, time travel, a fiery volcano, and way too many enemies.
Series alert: This quirky science fiction page-turner kicks off the N.O.A.H Files series. (Ages 10-14.)
Parachute Kids by Betty C. TangThe setting: Los Angeles, 1981, where Taiwanese 10-year-old Feng-Li Lin and her family are on vacation.
The surprise: While their parents head home, Feng-Lin and her older siblings are staying in the U.S., where they'll go to school, learn English, and grapple with racism while trying to figure out friendship, food, and fashion in a new place.
For fans of: Kelly Yang's books, as well as realistic graphic novels like the ones by Jen Wang or Remy Lai. (Ages 9-12.)
Grace Needs Space! by Benjamin A. Wilgus and Rii AbregoWhat it's about: Annoyed by the boring responsibilities of life with her divorced mom Evelyn, a space station engineer, 12-year-old Grace is excited travel to the planet Titan with her other mom, ship captain Kendra. But when the trip doesn't go as planned, Grace has rethink her views about both her parents.
You might also like: Molly Brooks' Sanity & Tallulah, another graphic novel that combines science, interstellar adventure, and family drama. (Ages 8-12.)
Unfadeable by Maurice BroaddusWelcome to: the Land, the Indianapolis neighborhood where 13-year-old Bella Fades (aka graffiti artist Unfadeable) makes her art and hides the fact that she's living on her own.
What happens: After she discovers a scheme to change the Land for the worse, Bella risks making honest connections in order to fight for her neighborhood.
Why you might like it: Savvy problem-solver Bella is a character you can get behind, and the story's combination of real-world issues and gripping mystery will keep you turning pages. (Ages 9-13.)
Falling Short by Ernesto CisnerosStarring: unlikely best friends Isaac, a star basketball player with bad grades, and Marco, a straight-A student who's terrible at sports.
What happens: As they start 6th grade, the boys try to measure up to expectations -- Marco joins the basketball team and Isaac actually does his homework -- and hope to make their families proud.
How it's told: from the funny, honest points of view of both friends. (Ages 9-13.)
Invisible by Christina Diaz Gonzalez; illustrated by Gabriela EpsteinFeaturing: George, Sara, Dayara, Nico, and Miguel, five kids who have little in common beyond Latine heritage...and getting called to the principal's office after a group service project.
What's inside: Each kid, with their own background and ability with Spanish, shares their particular point of view on what happened during the project.
Why you might like it: No matter who you are, this funny, colorfully illustrated graphic novel might make you question your own assumptions about your classmates. (Ages 9-12.)
Jennifer Chan Is Not Alone by Tae KellerThen: During the summer, Mallory Moss hung out with Jennifer Chan, the new girl in town and a firm believer in aliens. But when 7th grade started, Mallory chose the mean, popular girls over staying friends with Jennifer.
Now: Jennifer's gone missing, and a guilt-riddled Mallory can't stop looking for clues about what happened to her.
You might also like: Jen Wang's Stargazing or Aaron Starmer's The Riverman, which both blend middle school angst with the otherworldly. (Ages 8-12.)
Those Kids from Fawn Creek by Erin Entrada KellyWhat it's about: In tiny Fawn Creek, Louisiana, the arrival of mysterious, well-traveled new girl Orchid shakes up the dull routine and disconnected social groups in the seventh grade.
How it's told: from several different kids' points of view, allowing you to gather clues about Orchid (who might be lying) and to understand not only who each character seems to be, but who they really are.
Who it's for: anyone who's dreamed of a change, or a chance to defy expectations. (Ages 8-12.)
Lotus Bloom and the Afro Revolution by Sherri WinstonMeet: Lotus, a chilled-out 7th-grader who loves vintage fashion and playing violin.
What happens: Lotus' dream-come-true of becoming a concertmaster at her new school takes a turn after a rival musician bullies her about her Afro. Then the school claims her hair violates the dress code, and Lotus can't keep chill any longer.
Try this next: If you like this story about a relatable kid speaking up for who she is, you might also enjoy Tamika Burgess' Sincerely Sicily. (Ages 9-12.)
Contact your librarian for more great books!