Books for Kids and Tweens
Dream, Annie, Dream by Waka T. BrownStarring: aspiring actor and Japanese-American seventh-grader Aoi Inoue -- or Annie Enoway, as she's called by her mostly white Kansas classmates.
What happens: At the start of the 1987 school year, a fed-up Annie begins chasing her dreams of theater and basketball, defying other people's narrow-minded expectations of her as an Asian kid.
Why you might like it: From growing up with immigrant parents to doubting your friendships to bravely being yourself, Annie's experiences are relatable for lots of different readers. (Ages 8-12.)
The Ghoul of Windydown Vale by Jake BurtWelcome to: Windydown Vale, a remote town surrounded by deadly quicksand and haunted by the terrifying, legendary Ghoul.
The big secret: Copper Inskeep's family invented the Ghoul ages ago to keep bandits out of town and townspeople out of the swamps. Nowadays, Copper wears the Ghoul costume -- so how come a newcomer is claiming that a very real Ghoul kidnapped her father?
Read it for: intriguing characters, gothic vibes, an eerie mystery, and some serious scares. (Ages 9-13.)
Just Roll With It by Lee Durfey-Lavoie; illustrated by Veronica AgarwalWhat it's about: For Maggie Sankhar, 6th grade means new friends, a tabletop RPG club, and a ton of stress. Soon, she can't make decisions without her 20-sided die, and she discovers a label for her behavior: obsessive-compulsive disorder.
Why you might like it: Maggie's OCD challenges are balanced by fun, as well as support from her diverse friends and family.
You might also like: Rosena Fung's Living with Viola and Raina Telgemeier's Guts, two other graphic novels about young teen girls living with anxiety. (Ages 10-13.)
Tiger Honor by Yoon Ha LeeStarring: Juhwang Sebin, a shapeshifting, nonbinary, 13-year-old tiger spirit who longs to captain a battle cruiser in the Space Forces.
What happens: Just as Sebin finally joins the Space Forces, their Uncle Hwan is exposed as a traitor, forcing the new cadet to prove their clan's honor.
Series alert: Similar to Dragon Pearl, this thrilling 2nd book in the Thousand Worlds series offers a standalone story within a unique blend of Korean mythology and science fiction. (Ages 8-13.)
Operation Sisterhood by Olugbemisola Rhuday-PerkovichThe setup: When her single mom gets married, 11-year-old New Yorker Bo goes from being an only child to being one of four sisters, all living in a single building alongside four grown-ups and five kinds of pets.
Growing pains: Bo isn't sure if she fits in until she and her sisters bond over music and begin planning an epic wedding party.
For fans of: the multi-kid mayhem in Karina Yan Glaser's Vanderbeekers series or the Lotterys book by Emma Donoghue. (Ages 8-12.)
Solimar: The Sword of the Monarchs by Pam Muñoz RyanGreat power: Just before her quinceañera and coronation as princess of San Gregorio, Solimar Guadalupe has a magical encounter that gives her the power to predict the near future.
Great responsibility: With her new ability, Solimar is also tasked with protecting her kingdom's fragile monarch butterflies…and, when a neighboring king invades, with protecting the kingdom itself.
Read it for: a page-turning adventure; a setting inspired by Mexican culture; and a heroine who's smart, loyal, and brave. (Ages 8-12.)
Fuzzy by Tom Angleberger and Paul DellingerFeaturing: Fuzzy, the first robot student at Vanguard Middle School; Max, the free-thinking classmate who becomes Fuzzy's guide; and Vice Principal Barbara, the controlling supercomputer who's out to get them both.
Reviewers say: "a day-after-tomorrow cautionary tale of friendship with a fuzzy, robotic heart" (Kirkus Reviews).
About the author: You might recognize co-author Tom Angleberger's name -- and his smart, offbeat sense of humor -- from the popular Origami Yoda series. (Ages 8-13.)
Daring Darleen, Queen of the Screen by Anne NesbetThe promise: Every day, 12-year-old Darleen promises her doting dad that she'll stay safe, risking only the planned stunts she performs as the star of a 1914 silent film adventure series.
The problem: A publicity stunt turns into an actual kidnapping, and Darleen, along with orphaned heiress and fellow captive Victorine Berryman, must risk very real dangers in order to escape.
Read it for: pulse-pounding action, clever heroines, and fascinating facts from the early days of moviemaking. (Ages 8-12.)
The Tea Dragon Society by K. O'NeillIntroducing: Greta, a part-goblin, part-human blacksmith who rescues a lost miniature dragon, leading her to the enchanting world of tea-growing dragons and the people who take care of them.
Why you might like it: dreamy pastel colors, manga-style illustrations, and adorable tiny dragons make this graphic novel perfect for readers who enjoy art just as much as words.
Series alert: You can follow Greta and her charming friends in The Tea Dragon Festival and The Tea Dragon Tapestry. (Ages 8-12.)
Aster and the Accidental Magic by Thom Pico; illustrated by KarensacWhat it's about: Figuring she'll be bored after moving from the city to the country, impulsive Aster is surprised when a ramble in the mountains introduces her to a fluffy dog companion, three tiny knights, a magical fox, and the wish-granting Trickster Rapscallion.
For fans of: the whimsical world and cute characters of Luke Pearson's Hilda comics (and the Netflix show they inspired).
Series alert: If you love this series-starter, don't miss the sequel, Aster and the Mixed-Up Magic. (Ages 7-12.)
The Amazing Life of Azaleah Lane by Nikki Shannon Smith; illustrated by Mari LoboWhat Azaleah wants to do: make a super-awesome tiger diorama to earn extra credit in her third-grade class.
What Azaleah has to do instead: follow the clues to find her little sister Tiana's missing stuffed frog. But can she solve the mystery before running out of time to finish her diorama -- or running out of patience with Tiana?
Series alert: This is the 1st of the fun, fast-moving, and easy-to-read Azaleah Lane mysteries. (Ages 6-9.)
Contact your librarian for more great books for ages 8-13!