KidLit Books to Get You Through Quarantine
This is a time of great angst and uncertainty for many. As someone with an immuno-compromised family member, as a parent, and as a KidLit writer, I share all those feelings.
Given that many of us are facing school closures and protracted periods of time with kids at home, I thought I'd compile a list of books which are being released amidst this chaos. Many thanks to Justin Colón for using his #PBChat resources to help assemble this list and boost these wonderful, deserving books.
This list is for all the frazzled parents, our stir-crazy kids, and, yes, for KidLit writers too. If you have suggested additions to the list, please email them to me!
Buying these books from a independent book store can help support the authors who are weathering this storm, as well as small booksellers who are struggling too. And remember, one free way to support your favorite KidLit creators is to request their books from your local library, and/or to spread the word. Share this link with family and friends if you like.
(PS: This is a list of picture books and middle grade books only. I'm still working on a separate list for YA. Happy reading!)
By Carole Lindstrom & Michaela Goade
Inspired by the many Indigenous-led movements across North America, We Are Water Protectors issues an urgent rallying cry to safeguard the Earth’s water from harm and corruption. A bold and lyrical picture book. Water is the first medicine. It affects and connects us all . . .
When a black snake threatens to destroy the Earth and poison her people’s water, one young water protector takes a stand to defend Earth’s most sacred resource.
By Teresa Robeson & Junyi Wu
One, two; yi, er. Side by side, two bicycles, Lunzi and Huangche, come out of the factory. Side by side, they watch the city of Beijing from their shop window. Then a young girl comes in and buys Huangche, rolling him away from Lunzi! With the help of a delivery boy, Lunzi begins an epic race to find her friend that introduces readers to all the sights and sounds of Beijing.
By Jasmyn Wright & Shannon Wright
Based on the Push Through movement that inspires kids worldwide, this is an empowering, energetic, and all-inclusive picture book that celebrates resilience in the face of adversity.
Hold your head high. No matter what stands in the way of your dreams, remember this: YOU can push through anything!
If someone tells you it’s too hard, don’t you ever listen. You tell them,
“I’m gonna push through!”
Inspired by a mantra written for her third-grade students, Jasmyn Wright’s uplifting call to “push through” is an invitation to young readers to announce their own power and to recognize and reaffirm that of others, regardless of setbacks. Her empowering words not only lift children up, but show them how to lift themselves up and seize their potential.
By Valerie Bolling & Maine Diaz
Boyds Mills Kane
This rhythmic showcase of dances from all over the world features children of diverse backgrounds and abilities tapping, spinning, and boogying away! Tap, twirl, twist, spin! With musical, rhyming text, author Valerie Bolling shines a spotlight on dances from across the globe, while energetic art from Maine Diaz shows off all the moves and the diverse people who do them. From the cha cha of Cuba to the stepping of Ireland, kids will want to leap, dip, and zip along with the dances on the page!
By Mariana Llanos & Elena Napoli
Eunice and Kate live with their moms next door to each other in the heart of the city and have a lot in common—even though they have different dreams for the future: Kate wants to be an astronaut and Eunice wants to be a ballet dancer. But when they draw portraits of each other in art class, things get mixed up. Eunice draws Kate as a ballet dancer and Kate draws Eunice as an astronaut, and they both get more than a little annoyed. Can their friendship survive? Eunice and Kate is a heartfelt book about how honoring our differences can strengthen our bonds.
By Ame Dyckman & Cori Doerrfeld
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
After Life literally knocks on their door, one kid discovers that Life is truly what you make it. It's weird and may not always cooperate, but Life's beauty becomes apparent when it's embraced for all of its quirks. This story is filled with tongue-in-cheek idioms that will appeal to readers of all ages and will impart deeper wisdoms about the many milestones and stages of life.
By KT Johnson & César Samaniego
Jim was a South African railway inspector in the late 1800s who lost his legs in an accident while at work. Unable to perform all his tasks with his disability but desperate to keep his job, Jim discovered a brilliant solution, a baboon named Jack. Jim trained Jack to help him both at home and at the depot. But when the railway authorities and the public discovered a monkey on the job, Jack and Jim had to work together to convince everyone that they made a great team. This inspiring true story celebrates the history of service animals and a devoted friendship.
By Glenys Nellist & Sally Garland
When Little Mole is feeling sad in his dark, underground home, his mother shows him how to look for hope. He finds that signs of spring are everywhere, from the daffodil bulbs under the soil to the tiny buds on the branches above. Hope can be found—even in the darkest places.
In Little Mole Finds Hope, best-selling children's author Glenys Nellist and illustrator Sally Garland tell an endearing story sure to lift the spirits of people emerging from the cold of winter or a challenging season of life and inspire them to look for signs that spring will come again.
By Kourtney LaFavre & Saki Tanaka
Clear Fork Publishing
Sun is out to impress in this slightly egotistical first-person account that sheds light on the facts, history, and myths about its existence. Sun seeks to inspire readers to wonder and search for discoveries in this witty STEM-infused exploration of the center of our solar system.
By Elisa Boxer & Vivien Mildenberger
Sleeping Bear Press
In August of 1920, women's suffrage in America came down to the vote in Tennessee. If the Tennessee legislature approved the 19th amendment it would be ratified, giving all American women the right to vote. The historic moment came down to a single vote and the voter who tipped the scale toward equality did so because of a powerful letter his mother, Febb Burn, had written him urging him to "Vote for suffrage and don't forget to be a good boy." The Voice That Won the Vote is the story of Febb, her son Harry, and the letter than gave all American women a voice.
By Andria W. Rosenbaum & Brett Curzon
Sleeping Bear Press
Writing in rhythmic text, author Andria Warmflash Rosenbaum (Trains Don't Sleep) explores the many types of watercraft navigating our lakes, rivers, and oceans, including trawlers, tankers, and cruise ships. Beginning with the sunrise, boats of all shapes and sizes are on their way to a full day. Fishing boats with their nets head out for their day's lucky catch. Tugboats guide a freighter safely into harbor, and pleasure craft such as sailboats and speedboats offer hours of enjoyment for their passengers. Then when night comes, even boats take a rest, including a houseboat that is docked with its family warm and cozy inside. Back matter includes detailed descriptions of each type of watercraft mentioned.
By Nancy Churnin & Olga Baumert
Katharine Lee Bates first wrote the lines to “America the Beautiful” after a stirring visit to Pikes Peak in 1893. But the story behind the song begins with Katharine herself, who pushed beyond conventional expectations of women to become an acclaimed writer, scholar, suffragist, and reformer. Katharine believed in the power of words to make a difference, and in “America the Beautiful,” her vision of the nation as a great family, united from sea to shining sea, continues to uplift and inspire us all.
Jen Malia & Joanne Lew-Vriethoff
Holly loves doing experiments and learning new things in science class! But when she finds out the next experiment is making slime, she’s worried. Slime is made with glue, and glue is sticky. Holly has sensory issues because of her autism and doesn’t like anything sticky! With help from family and her teacher, Holly receives the accommodations and encouragement she needs to give slime a try. This is an #OwnVoices story.
Lisa Rogers & Meg Ishihara
Out for a walk on a cloudy day, Hound suddenly decides that he’s gone far enough…right in the middle of a busy intersection! His owner tugs on his leash and offers treat after treat, but Hound won’t go. Then those clouds open up into a thunderstorm—and Hound goes and goes. Short, bouncy text and a sweet ending make this the perfect story for all who love dogs, even at their most stubborn.
Kjersten Anna Hayes & Gladys Jose
Elephants are great at many things…but playing hide-and-seek is not one of them. The Elephant Hobby and Sport League is here to help all those frustrated, always "found" elephants out there with The Elephants' Guide to Hide-and-Seek. This handy guide offers sympathy, support, and superior hiding solutions to elephants who long to overcome their size disadvantage when playing their best human friends' favorite game.
Princess has four ladies. Some cats say that’s too many, but there’s no such thing! Taking care of all these ladies can be a lot of work, but Princess doesn’t mind. She knows how to keep them happy with grooming, cuddling, and all the treats they want. Princess has everything under control until, one day, a mysterious stray appears. There’s a little girl in Princess’s favorite napping spot, surrounded by her ladies! Princess is overwhelmed with jealousy, and she leaves the house in a huff. But when Princess runs into trouble, the stray comes to her rescue. Maybe the stray can fit in with Princess and her ladies after all. Of course, she’ll need proper training first!
Keith Marantz & Larissa Marantz
Clyde can’t believe his mom is making him go to school. He has so much fun at home–what could a classroom possibly have to offer? As his mom lists all the activities he’ll get to do, Clyde only imagines the worst possible outcomes. He’s so caught up in what could go wrong that he’s determined to turn around and go home. But when he comes across his kind teacher and the butterfly habitat she’s carrying inside, it might just be enough to convince him to stay!
*Also check out Clyde Goes to Slide!
Nell Beckerman & Rachell Sumpter
There’s lots of fun to be had up on the pier—the Ferris wheel, cotton candy, the carousel—but it’s down under the pier, at low tide, where the real magic can be found.
Children are invited to experience the fantastical realm of the natural world, from mussels and barnacles to kelp and seashells, all hiding mere steps away from the lights and games of the pier.
A brief guide to some common creatures of the intertidal community can be found at the back of the book, the opportunity for learning a welcome supplement to Beckerman’s poetic adventure and Sumpter’s equally enchanting illustrations.
By Alayne Kay Christian & Milanka Reardon
Blue Whale Press
When João rescues a lifeless, oil-covered penguin (Dindim) and nurses him back to health, Dindim adopts João as an honorary penguin. The steadfast friends do everything together. They swim together, fish together, and stroll the beach together. But there are real penguins somewhere across the sea. So one day, Dindim leaves João. The villagers tell João the penguin will never come back. João cannot say if he will or will not until he does . . . again and again.
By Tanya Guerrero
Pablo is homesick. He’s only twelve years old, but he’s lived in more countries than he can count. After his parents divorced, he and his mother have moved from place to place for years, never settling anywhere long enough to call it home. And along the way, Pablo has collected more and more fears: of dirt, of germs, and most of all, of the ocean.
Now they’re living in the Philippines, and his mother, a zoologist who works at a local wildlife refuge, is too busy saving animals to notice that Pablo might need saving, too. Then his mother takes in Chiqui, an orphaned girl with a cleft lip—and Pablo finds that through being strong for Chiqui, his own fears don’t seem so scary.
He might even find the courage to face his biggest fear of all…and learn how to make friends with the sea.
By Kerelyn Smith
Fog Field Press
Mulrox the ogre harbors a secret desire to become the world’s greatest poet. Unfortunately, all of his ideas are rotten.
But when his terrible ideas come to life, Mulrox soon finds himself on a quest to protect the very ideas he loathes—the malcognitos as they call themselves. Accompanied by his sassy pet toad, quirky neighbor, and a hoard of mischievous bad ideas, Mulrox must travel to the malcognitos’ realm, uncover the mystery of the beast hunting them, and return home in time to deliver the best poem of his life.
Fans of L. Frank Baum, Bruce Coville, and Roald Dahl will delight in this middle grade fantasy novel about embracing your imperfections. If you like prophetic rodents, spellbinding sneezes, and ferocious sheep you’ll love this book. Join Mulrox and his friends for a wild ride full of antics, strange new creatures, and lots of bad poetry.
By Remy Lai
Henry Khoo's family treats him like a baby. He’s not allowed to go anywhere without his sister/chaperone/bodyguard. His (former) best friend knows to expect his family’s mafia-style interrogation when Henry’s actually allowed to hang out at her house. And he definitely CAN’T take a journey halfway around the world all by himself! But that’s exactly his plan. After his family’s annual trip to visit his father in Singapore is cancelled, Henry decides he doesn’t want to be cooped up at home with his overprotective family and BFF turned NRFF (Not Really Friend Forever). Plus, he’s hiding a your-life-is-over-if-you’re-caught secret: he’s the creator of an anonymous gossip cartoon, and he's on the verge of getting caught. Determined to prove his independence and avoid punishment for his crimes, Henry embarks on the greatest adventure everrr. . . hoping it won’t turn into the greatest disaster ever.
Remy Lai takes readers on an adventure filled with humor, heart, and hijinks that’s a sure bet for fans of Jerry Craft, Terri Libenson, and Shannon Hale!
By Brandy Colbert
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Beach-loving surfer Alberta has been the only black girl in town for years. Alberta's best friend, Laramie, is the closest thing she has to a sister, but there are some things even Laramie can't understand. When the bed and breakfast across the street finds new owners, Alberta is ecstatic to learn the family is black-and they have a 12-year-old daughter just like her.
Alberta is positive she and the new girl, Edie, will be fast friends. But while Alberta loves being a California girl, Edie misses her native Brooklyn and finds it hard to adapt to small-town living.
When the girls discover a box of old journals in Edie's attic, they team up to figure out exactly who's behind them and why they got left behind. Soon they discover shocking and painful secrets of the past and learn that nothing is quite what it seems.
By Claribel Ortega
Shortly before Halloween, Lucely and her best friend, Syd, cast a spell that accidentally awakens malicious spirits, wreaking havoc throughout St. Augustine. Together, they must join forces with Syd's witch grandmother, Babette, and her tubby tabby, Chunk, to fight the haunting head-on and reverse the curse to save the town and Lucely's firefly spirits before it's too late.
With the family dynamics of Coco and action-packed adventure of Ghostbusters, Claribel A. Ortega delivers both a thrillingly spooky and delightfully sweet debut novel.