Books for Kids and Tweens
Sincerely Sicily by Tamika BurgessStarring: fashion-forward Black Panamanian writer Sicily, who's starting 6th grade at a new school without her old friends.
What happens: Adjusting to the change is tough when Sicily's new classmates view her Afro-Latina heritage with confusion and hostility, and her own abuela gives her a hard time about her braids and dark skin.
Try this next: Sharon Draper's Blended, another smart, relatable, and realistic story about a multiracial girl who refuses to be anyone other than herself. (Ages 9-13.)
Figure It Out, Henri Weldon by Tanita S. DavisMeet: seventh-grader Henri, who's starting public school after years of special education for her learning disability, which makes math extra difficult for her.
What happens: Making new friends is tough, there's a TON of schoolwork, and her older sister Kat isn't much help. Despite it all, Henri finds fresh inspiration in poetry, soccer, and bonding with her peer tutor.
Who it's for: readers looking for relatable, slice-of-life stories about school and family, like the books by Janae Marks or Lisa Moore Ramée. (Ages 9-13.)
Hands by Torrey MaldonadoWhat it's about: While counting down the days until his abusive stepfather gets out of jail, 12-year-old comic book artist Trev has been learning to box. It feels like it's up to him to protect his family -- but does he really want to use his hands for violence?
Why you might like it: Hands is a short, quick read, with an intense plot that will hold your attention as well as complicated characters who feel real. (Ages 10-13.)
Just Jerry: How Drawing Shaped My Life by Jerry PinkneyWhat it is: an autobiography by award-winning picture book creator Jerry Pinkney.
What's inside: Jerry's memories of growing up in segregated 1950s America, dealing with a learning disability, and finding his first jobs as an artist. Although the illustrations weren't finished when Jerry died in 2021, the included sketches give you a peek into how he made art.
Who it's for: aspiring artists hoping to make it big like Jerry, as well as anyone who loved his picture books. (Ages 8-12.)
Where the Black Flowers Bloom by Ronald L. SmithWhat it's about: Just after her 13th birthday, tragedy strikes orphaned Asha and her adoptive circus troupe family. Now, Asha is alone, forced to face down a sinister sorcerer as she seeks her destiny among the black flowers of the Underground Kingdom.
Read it for: a twisty, spellbinding adventure set in an alternate African world. (Ages 8-12.)
Beaky Barnes: Egg on the Loose by David Ezra SteinWhat it's about: When a town-wide egg shortage hits Simpletown on the same day that human-sized chicken Beaky Barnes arrives with her inventor friend, it sets off a chain reaction of unpredictable events.
Read it for: outrageous animal characters, goofy commercial breaks, plenty of puns, and scribbly artwork packed with slapstick silliness.
Series alert: This won't be the last you see of Beaky! More graphic novels will follow this series starter. (Ages 7-10.)
Winterborne Home for Vengeance and Valor by Ally CarterWelcome to: Winterborne House, a huge cliffside mansion turned group home where 12-year-old April and four fellow foster kids discover secret passages, surprising dangers, and unexpected bonds.
Read it for: the likeable characters, fast-paced adventure, and the satisfaction of watching a twisty mystery unspool.
Try this next: Jessica Lawson’s Nooks & Crannies, for another puzzling mystery featuring a group of kids in an eerie old manor. (Ages 8-12.)
Me, Frida, and the Secret of the Peacock Ring by Angela CervantesThe place: Mexico City’s Casa Azul, where 12-year-old Mexican American visitor Paloma becomes fascinated by famous Mexican artist Frida Kahlo.
The mystery: When Paloma’s new friends Lizzie and Gael reveal that they’re searching for Frida’s missing peacock ring, Paloma -- inspired by her love of mystery books -- agrees to help them.
For fans of: the art details, fast pacing, and you-are-there settings of Blue Balliett’s art mysteries. (Ages 8-12.)
The Ambrose Deception by Emily EctonStarring: quiet go-getter Melissa, scheming slacker Wilf, and popular fast-talker Bondi, three middle school strangers.
What happens: Each of the kids receives three secret clues as part of a competition for a high-dollar scholarship. But when the clues reveal something much bigger, they know it's time to team up.
You might also like: classics like Ellen Raskin's The Westing Game, another brain-teasing puzzle mystery set in the Chicago area. (Ages 10-13.)
Shirley & Jamila Save Their Summer by Gillian GoerzStarring: Jamila Waheed, who's happy to skip boring summer camp in favor of hanging out with Shirley Bones, her oddball new neighbor -- and the local kid detective.
Read it for: a realistic friendship story, an action-packed mystery (featuring a missing gecko), and bold, busy artwork.
Series alert: If you like this graphic novel, don't miss the sequel, Shirley & Jamila's Big Fall. (Ages 8-12.)
The Strangers by Margaret Peterson HaddixWhat it's about: It's weird enough when Chess, Emma, and Finn Greystone see the news about three kidnapped siblings who share their names and birthdays. But when their mother disappears, leaving behind a coded letter, the Greystones are sure that something very weird is going on.
Featuring: high stakes, alternate worlds, and the points of view of all three kids.
Series alert: If you're intrigued by this mystery, don't miss the sequels, The Deceivers and The Messengers. (Ages 8-13.)
Real Pigeons Fight Crime! by Andrew McDonald; illustrated by Ben WoodWhat it's about: No one on the farm understands Rock the pigeon's love for dressing up in costumes…not until Grandpouter recruits Rock to be Master of Disguise with a crime-fighting pigeon squad.
Why you might like it: The 1st in a series, this offbeat graphic novel offers three cartoon-illustrated mysteries in three short, easy-to-read chapters.
For fans of: Dav Pilkey's Dog Man series and Aaron Blabey's Bad Guys books. (Ages 7-10.)
Contact your librarian for more great books!