Don’t Let the Aliens Intimidate You: Celebrating Science Fiction

January 2nd is National Science Fiction Day, and we wanted to celebrate by giving you a list of science fiction children’s books to try! Oftentimes, science fiction is a genre that intimidates people with its imaginative and futuristic concepts such as advanced science and technology, space exploration, time travel, parallel universes, and even extraterrestrial life. It’s a genre that can be difficult to define, with its wide range of concepts and themes. However, we’ve picked a few children’s books that we think would be a great start in dipping your toes into the science fiction genre if you’ve been too intimidated, or, if you’re a science fiction lover, here’s some to add to your list!

Barnett, Mac
Oh no! How My Science Project Destroyed the World. 2010 (Picture Book).
It’s a terrible thing when a giant robot starts destroying your city; it’s even worse when it’s your fault. This picture book opens up in the middle of the action, as our heroine faces the retreating back of a mechanical robot on the rampage — a robot she built. We soon learn that after winning the science fair with her giant robot, our main character watches as her robot gets loose in the city and creates havoc, making her question all of the features that she should have included and ones that she definitely shouldn’t have — like that laser eye. Now it’s up to her to stop it.
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Holm, Jennifer
The Fourteenth Goldfish. 2014 (Middle Grade).
Ellie is an eleven-year-old who is not a fan of change; she’s missing fifth grade, her old best friend, and even her dearly departed goldfish. But then a strange boy shows up one day — a bossy, cranky boy that oddly looks a lot like Ellie’s grandfather, a scientist who’s always been slightly obsessed with immortality. Now this bossy, cranky boy who’s just like her grandpa has to attend middle school with Ellie. This middle grade novel slips in a lot of information about important scientists and life-changing scientific discoveries alongside light and funny interactions and moments.
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Kaufman, Amie and Jay Kristoff
Gemina. 2016 (Teen).
Moving to a space station at the edge of the galaxy was always going to be the death of Hanna’s social life, but nobody said it might actually kill her. Hanna is the pampered daughter of the station caption; Nik is the reluctant member of a notorious crime family. While the pair are struggling with the realities of life aboard the galaxy’s most boring station, an elite intergalactic strike team invades the station, throwing the two together to defend their home. Hanna and Nik aren’t just fighting for their own survival amidst alien predators and a malfunctioning wormhole — the fate of everyone on their space station (and possibly the known universe) is in their hands. This second book in a series (the first being Illuminae) is told through a dossier of hacked documents, including emails, maps, files, IMs, medical reports, interviews, video transcripts, pictures, and more.
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Meyer, Marissa
Cinder. 2012 (Teen).
This futuristic Cinderella retelling takes place in New Beijing, a city that’s crowded by humans, androids, and a deadly plague ravaging the population. Cinder is a gifted mechanic — and a cyborg. As a cyborg, Cinder doesn’t have the same rights as a normal person, and her stepmother goes out of her way to remind Cinder of this whenever she can — even while Cinder tries to hide her cyborg status from the world. But her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, and she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle. Cinder is the first book in a Disney series, The Lunar Chronicles, of retellings of familiar stories set in a science fiction world.
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O’Hart, Sinéad
The Starspun Web. 2019 (Middle Grade).
Tess has lived at Miss Ackerbee’s orphanage all her life, with her friends and pet tarantula, Violet. But one day, a mysterious man named Mr. Cleat shows up and whisks Tess away to live with him. Before Tess leaves, Miss Ackerbee gives her a strange lens and makes an even stranger admission: that Tess can travel to parallel worlds and has been able to do so since she was found as a baby. Now Tess must learn to navigate her newfound abilities alongside her new life with Mr. Cleat and his nefarious housekeeper, all while trying to keep her abilities secret and making sure the lens doesn’t fall into the wrong hands.
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Sanderson, Brandon
Skyward. 2018 (Teen).
Defeated, crushed, and driven almost to extinction, the remnants of the human race are trapped on a planet that is constantly under attack by mysterious alien starfighters. The population is hidden under the earth, the only ones visiting the surface being pilots trained to fight against the aliens attacking them. Spensa, a teenage girl whose father once was a pilot, wants nothing more than to follow in her father’s footsteps and be accepted into flight school. When she discovers the wreckage of an ancient ship, she realizes her dream might be possible — assuming she can repair the ship, navigate flight school where everyone seems to hate her because of what her father did, and persuade the strange ship to help her because this ship appears to have a soul.
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Schusterman, Neal
Scythe. 2016 (Teen).
A world with no hunger, no disease, no war, no misery. No death. Humanity has conquered all those things. Now scythes are the only ones who can end life — and they are commanded to do so in order to keep the size of the population under control. All manners of life are now controlled by the Thunderhead, a conscious Artificial Intelligence that handles all food and wealth distribution, medical care, and anything else required for living on Earth. Citra and Rowan are chosen to be apprentices to scythes — a role that neither wants. These teens must master the “art” of taking a life, knowing that the consequence could mean losing their own.
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Siegel, Mark
The Sand Warrior. 2017 (Middle Grade Graphic Novel).
Star Wars meets Avatar: The Last Airbender in this science fiction graphic novel, where the Five Worlds are on the brink of extinction unless five ancient and mysterious beacons are lit. Three unlikely heroes will discover there’s more to themselves than meets the eye: Oona Lee, the clumsiest student at the Sand Dancer Academy, is a fighter with a destiny bigger than she could ever imagine; An Tzu, a boy from the poorest slums, has a surprising gift and a knack for getting out of sticky situations; and Jax Amboy is the star athlete who is beloved by the entire galaxy, but what good is that when he has no real friends? These three kids are forced to team up on an epic quest across the universe.
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Underwood, Deborah
Illustrated by: Meg Hunt
Interstellar Cinderella. 2015 (Picture Book)
Cinderella’s passion is working on spaceships and fixing things. She doesn’t want to marry the prince — she wants to be his mechanic. Living with her cruel stepmother and stepsisters, she acts as the household mechanic, with her best friend being a robot mouse. When everyone is invited to the Prince’s Royal Space Parade, Cinderella’s stepmother forbids her to go. With a little help from her fairy godrobot, Cinderella is going to the parade — but when the Prince’s ship has mechanical trouble, Cinderella will have to zoom to the rescue. After leaving her screwdriver, the Prince frantically searches for the great mechanic, and he sets up a test to see who can fix his rocket.
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Van Camp, Katie
Illustrated by: Lincoln Agnew
Harry and Horsie. 2009 (Picture Book).
With the moon shining through the window onto his new Super Duper Bubble Blooper, Harry finds it hard to sleep. He instead decides to sneak out of bed with his best friend, Horsie, and play with the toy, firing the bubble gun around his room. Before long, bubbles of all sizes are filling Harry’s room, but those bubbles then start to swallow up all Harry’s toys, floating them out the window towards space! The bubbles take his toy train, his cars, his planes, his shoes; but then the bubbles take Horsie, and Harry doesn’t hesitate in jumping on his toy rocket ship and racing to rescue his best friend.


What 2020 Did Right: Diverse Books for Read a New Book Month

2020 has been a difficult year in many ways, but one thing that went right was the diverse books that were published. As December is National Read a New Book Month, there’s no better way to celebrate the end of this challenging year than by putting a spotlight on the new diverse voices that were put on our shelves this year. From race to neurodiversity to LGBTQ+ representation and more, this list explores how far we’ve come as a society while also shedding light on how far we still have to go in accepting and allowing for equality. The following list is by no means exhaustive, but rather a small taste of diversity being recognized in modern literature for youth.

Albertalli, Becky and Aisha Saeed
Yes, No, Maybe So. 2020 (Teen).
Jamie is volunteering for his local state senate candidate, happy to work behind the scenes. But when he needs to start knocking on doors to ask people for their votes, Jamie chokes. Maya is having the worst Ramadan ever — she’s unable to hang out with her best friend, her summer trip is canceled, and now her parents are separating. Her mother thinks the solution to her problems is political canvassing. Jamie and Maya go door to door together, mastering local activism and navigating a cross-cultural romance. This young adult novel has a Muslim main character and explains the importance of activism and voting.
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Brantley-Newton, Vanessa.
Just Like Me. 2020 (Nonfiction Picture Book).
This picture book is a collection of poetry filled with mini-stories about girls of all kinds: girls who feel happy, sad, scared, powerful; girls who love their bodies and girls who don’t; country girls, city girls; girls who love their mother and girls who wish they had a father. Black girls, brown girls, Asian girls, white girls, biracial girls, and more fill these pages, celebrating and encouraging and empowering all girls.
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Duncan, Alice Faye
Just Like a Mama. 2020 (Picture Book).
Carol Olivia Clementine lives with Mama Rose, but in the midst of their happy home, Carol Olivia Clementine misses her mother and father. While Mama Rose teaches Carol Olivia Clementine how to ride a bike, clean her room, and tell time, Carol Olivia Clementine learns to embrace the love that is present and Mama Rose becomes her “home.” And Carol Olivia Clementine concludes that she loves Mama Rose “just like a mama.” This picture book takes a deep look at the life of a caregiver who opens their arms and home to a child that is not their own.
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Hudson, Chery and Erin K. Robinson
Brave, Black, First: 50+ African American Women Who Changed the World. 2020 (Middle Grade Biography).
Published in partnership with curators from the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, this illustrated biography compilation captures the iconic moments of fifty African American women whose heroism and bravery rewrote the American story for the better. From Rosa Parks who sat for equality to Michelle Obama who transformed the White House, this book sheds light on fearless, bold African American women who changed the game.
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Jamieson, Victoria and Omar Mohamed
When Stars Are Scattered. 2020 (Middle Grade Graphic Novel).
Omar and his younger brother, Hassan, have spent most of their lives in Dadaab, a refugee camp in Kenya. Never enough food, achingly dull, and without access to medical care Omar knows his nonverbal brother’s needs make life hard at the camp. So when Omar has the opportunity to go to school, he knows it might be a chance to change their future, but it would also mean leaving his brother, the only family member he has left, every day. Told by a Somali refugee who lived the story, this graphic novel is an intimate, important look at the day-to-day life of a refugee.
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Johnson, George M.
All Boys Aren’t Blue. 2020 (Teen Nonfiction).
In a series of personal essays, George M. Johnson explores his childhood, adolescence, and college years in New Jersey and Virginia. From the memories of getting his teeth kicked out by bullies at the age of five, to flea marketing with his grandmother, to his first sexual relationships, this memoir weaves together the trials and triumphs faced by Black queer boys. This book is a primer for teens eager to be allies as well as a reassuring testimony for young queer men of color; it covers topics such as gender identity, toxic masculinity, brotherhood, family, structural marginalization, consent, and Black joy.
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Kapit, Sarah
Get a Grip, Vivy Cohen! 2020 (Middle Grade).
Vivy Cohen wants to play baseball. Ever since her hero — Major League pitcher VJ Capello — taught her how to throw a knuckleball at a family fun day for kids with autism, she’s been perfecting her pitch, and now she knows she’s ready to play on a real team. When her social skills teacher makes her write a letter to someone she knows, she writes to VJ and tells him everything about how much she wants to pitch, and how her mom says she can’t because she’s a girl and because she has autism. And then two amazing things happen: Vivy meets a Little League coach who invites her to join his team and VJ starts writing back. Vivy Cohen won’t let autism stop her from play baseball in this epistolary middle grade novel.
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Lindstrom, Caroel
Illustrated by: Michaela Goade
We Are Water Protectors. 2020 (Nonfiction Picture Book).
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. Inspired by the many Indigenous-led movements across North America, this picture book issues an urgent rallying cry to safeguard the Earth’s water from harm and corruption.
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Stamper, Phil
The Gravity of Us. 2020 (Teen).
Cal is used to sharing his life online as a seventeen-year-old successful social media journalist with half a million followers. But he’s thrust into a media circus when his pilot father is selected for a highly publicized NASA mission to Mars, moving from Brooklyn to Houston. Cal meets sensitive and mysterious Leon amidst the chaos, another “Astrokid,” and Cal finds himself falling head over heels — fast. But when secrets about the program are uncovered, Cal must find a way to reveal the truth without hurting the people who have become most important to him. This LGBTQ+ young adult novel explores the thrill of first love and the overwhelming feeling of self-doubt.
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Stead, Rebecca
The List of Things That Will Not Change. 2020 (Middle Grade).
After her parents’ divorce, Bea’s life became different in many ways, but she can always look back at the list she keeps in her green notebook to remember the things that will stay the same. The first and most important: Mom and Dad will always love Bea, and each other. When Bea’s Dad tells her that he and his boyfriend, Jesse, are getting married, Bea is thrilled; she loves Jesse, and when he and her dad get married, she’ll finally have what she’s always wanted — a sister. As the wedding day approaches, Bea will learn that making a new family brings questions, surprises, and joy in this middle grade novel celebrating queer parents and shining a light on childhood mental illness.
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Shop Small: Books About Small Businesses for Small Business Saturday

Small Business Saturday is November 28th this year and it could be the most important Small Business Saturday yet. With the ongoing pandemic and threat of Coronavirus — the quarantine and restrictions that have been put into place for months now — small businesses have been suffering; reports show they are closing by the thousands, partially and permanently. Small Business Saturday is a day to celebrate and support small businesses and all they do for their communities, and this year it’s vital to show that support. For November, we thought we’d celebrate small businesses by highlighting some books for children and teens that have small businesses at their core. Remember to shop small, especially as the holiday season begins to approach!

Brown, Calef
Pirateria: The Wonderful Plunderful Pirate Emporium. 2012 (Picture Book).
When pirates need superior wares and treasure for life at sea, they head on down to Pirateria. This is a story about a pirate emporium, where you can find treasure chests, peg legs, planks, eye patches, head rags, vests, pantaloons, satchels, gem pouches, and doubloons — all at prices that can’t be beat. This picture book will take you on a rhyming journey through Pirateria — a small business that’s there for all your pirate needs.

Jaigirdar, Adiba
The Henna Wars. 2020 (Teen).
A school competition invites students to create their own businesses, and old friends Flávia and Nishat both choose to do henna. Nishat wants to do a henna business because it’s her culture and her grandmother taught her; Flávia decides to do henna because it’s trendy. A crush, coming out to her parents (with less-than-great reactions), sabotage, and school stress makes Nishat’s life more hectic as it gets tangled with Flávia’s as their small businesses go to war. Covering heavy topics such as cultural appropriation and racism, this book helps teens starting their own small businesses to have that conversation, as well as showing what small businesses can mean to individuals.

Lord, Emma
Tweet Cute. 2020 (Teen).
Pepper runs the massive Twitter account for her family’s booming fast-food chain Big League Burgers; Jack starts running the Twitter account for his family’s small deli when Big League Burger steals his grandma’s iconic grilled cheese recipe, using the social media profile to try and take down the chain one tweet at a time. Pepper and Jack’s spat turns into a viral Twitter war, helping Jack’s family’s small business in the process. Little do the two know that, while they’re publicly duking it out with snarky memes and retweet battles on their business accounts, they’re also falling for each other in real life — on an anonymous chat app Jack built. This book takes a look at the struggles small businesses often face, from starting one to keeping one running.

Panetta, Kevin
Illustrated by: Savanna Ganucheau
Bloom. 2019 (Teen Graphic Novel).
Ari used to love working at his family’s bakery, but now that he’s graduated from high school, he’s ready to move to the big city. While interviewing candidates for his replacement, Ari meets Hector, a laid-back guy who loves baking. As they work together in the bakery during the busy summer season, Ari begins to appreciate the bakery once again — as well as Hector. This graphic novel highlights the importance of a family business while making you hungry for some baked goods.

Pelley, Kathleen T.
Illustrated by Paige Keiser
Raj the Bookstore Tiger. 2011 (Picture Book).
Being a bookstore tiger is hard work, but Raj is up to the task. He spends his days patrolling the shelves, sitting in laps at story hour, and sleeping in the window displays. Raj is proud of his work, until Snowball comes along — the new cat in the bookstore. Snowball informs Raj that he’s just a marmalade kitty-cat, and times become tough for the bookstore tiger. But Raj and bookstore owner Felicity, with the help of poet William Blake, knows how to fix things with a very special book. This picture book takes you on a journey through a bookstore, showing the importance of independent bookstores and the booksellers and cats that work there.

Polacco, Patricia
Something About Hensley’s. 2006 (Picture Books).
No matter what you need, Hensley’s has it. It’s almost magical the way the manager, Old John, seems to know what the townsfolk need before they do. When Molly and her family moves to town and Molly’s mother can’t afford the treatment for Molly’s asthma, Old John finds a way to give the family exactly what they need. This picture book shows the importance of small businesses and the people who work there — who will do anything they can to get you what you need.

Vivian, Siobhan
Stay Sweet. 2018 (Teen).
Summer in Sand Lake isn’t complete without a trip to the local ice cream stand, Meade Creamery. Founded in 1944 by Molly Meade, the stand was started because Molly wanted to cheer up her lovesick girlfriends while all the boys went off to war. Since then, the stand has been managed exclusively by local girls, and this summer it’s run by Amelia and her best friend Cate. When Molly passes away before Amelia even has her first day in charge, Amelia is worried the stand can’t go on. But the arrival of Molly’s grandnephew Grady and his request for Amelia to stay on to help continue the business gives her hope. A story about how small businesses can bring people and a community together for many years.

West, Kasie
Maybe This Time. 2019 (Teen).
Sophie Evans works for the local florist, arranging bouquets and centerpieces for all the events in town — weddings, funerals, barbecues, New Year’s Eve parties. Andrew Hart is the son of a big-time chef, attending the same events that Sophie attends over the course of a year as his father helps the local catering business get back on its feet. While romance brews for Sophie and Andrew as they meet at all the major celebrations in their small town, the small businesses they both work for are at the heart of the story, showing how important those small-town businesses can be in bringing a community together.

And if you have a young one in your life who wants to start their own small business, here are a couple for you:

Berstein, Daryl
Illustrated by: Rob Husberg
Better Than a Lemonade Stand. 2012 (Children’s Nonfiction).
This resource includes more than fifty simple business ideas, complete with tips about supplies, time needed, what to charge, and how to advertise. These ideas show how to start a business with little or no start-up costs, attract and retain customers, develop negotiating skills, and more. Originally written and published when the author was fifteen, this book is a good starting point to help the kid in your life start their own business.

Yamada, Kobi
Illustrated by: Mae Besom
What Do You Do with an Idea? 2014 (Picture Book).
Have you ever had an idea that seemed a little too big? This is the story of one brilliant idea and the child who helps to bring it into the world. As the child’s confidence grows, so does the idea itself. If you have an idea for a business, this book will help in getting you to welcome the idea, give it space to grow, and see what happens to it next.


Read These if You Dare: Banned Books Week

September 27-October 3, 2020 is the annual Banned Books Week event — a celebration of the freedom to read. This event was launched in 1982, responding to a sudden surge in the number of challenges to books in schools, bookstores, and libraries, and highlighting the value of free and open access to information. You can learn more about banned books, Banned Books Week, and find out how many are celebrating this year’s event by going to the Banned Books Week website.

Check out some children’s books below that have been banned or challenged in recent years — and read them if you dare!

Gino, Alex
George. 2015 (Middle Grade).
George knows people see a boy when they look at her. But she knows she’s not a boy; she knows she’s a girl, and she thinks she’ll have to keep this secret forever. But when her teacher announces the class is going to be doing the play Charlotte’s Web, George is set on playing Charlotte. When the teacher says she can’t even try out for the part because she’s a boy, George and her best friend Kelly come up with a plan so everyone can know who she is, once and for all. This book has been banned for including a transgender child.
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Haack, Daniel
Illustrated by: Stevie Lewis
Prince and Knight. 2018 (Picture Book).
A prince next in line to take the throne, a dragon, and a brave knight — this picture book tells a story of a prince searching for a bride, a dragon threatening the kingdom, and a knight in shining armor brave enough to defeat the dragon. As they work to slay the dragon threatening the kingdom, the prince and knight find true love in each other. This picture has been banned for the same sex relationship developed throughout the book.
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Herthel, Jessica and Jazz Jennings
Illustrated by: Shelagh McNicholas
I am Jazz! 2014 (Picture Book Biography).
Based on the real-life experience of Jazz Jennings, a spokesperson for trankids everywhere, this picture book follows Jazz, who at two years old knew she had a girl’s brain in a boy’s body. It explores her family’s adjustment period to her transition, her classmates’ behavior towards her, and touches on how important it is to be accepting of and loving people for who they are. This book has been banned for being about a transgender child.
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Hoffman, Sarah and Ian Hoffman
Illustrated by: Chris Case
Jacob’s New Dress. 2014 (Picture Book).
Jacob loves playing dress up, when he can be anything he wants to be. When Jacob wants to wear a dress to school, he’s met with some pushback from classmates, his teacher, and his parents. But Jacob works hard to convince everyone that he can be who he wants to be and wear his dress to preschool. This book has been banned because of the gender-nonconforming and transgender character.
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Pitman, Gayle.
Illustrated by: Kristyna Litten
This Day in June. 2014 (Picture Book).
The tale of a pride parade and all the people you can meet there, this picture book is bursting with color and is told in verse form. The end of the book has a reading guide that explains each verse and how it relates to LGBTQ history. It also includes a resource guide at the back for parents wanting to talk about LGBTQ issues and topics with their children. This book has been banned because of the LGBTQ content.
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McGinnis, Mindy.
Heroine. 2019 (Teen).
This is the story of Mickey, a senior in high school whose promising future in softball has colleges offering her scholarships left and right. But that future comes to a standstill after a car crash shatters Mickey’s hip. Mickey, however, is still determined, working hard to heal quickly for softball tryouts — all with the help of some painkillers that take the pain away and make her feel good. Pressures heighten, needs increase, and the painkillers become more than just a way to heal. This book has been challenged because of the detailed scenes of drug abuse.
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Mead, Richelle
Vampire Academy. 2007 (Teen).
The first of a six book series following Rose Hathaway, a guardian to a magical race of mortal vampires against the soulless and vicious immortal vampires. Rose’s journey is filled with action, adventure, friendship, romance, duty, magic, and sass as she goes through her last year of guardian training with the goal of being the guardian for her best friend Lissa. This book has been banned for content including vampires, magic, and sexual content.
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Tamaki, Mariko and Jillian Tamaki
This One Summer. 2014 (Teen Graphic Novel).
With stunning artwork, this graphic novel follows Rose as she heads back to her summer lake house — a getaway and refuge for her and her friend Windy. But this summer is different, with Rose’s parents constantly fighting and new problems cropping up as Rose and Windy seek distraction. This piece explores secrets and sorrow and growing on the cusp of teen-hood. This graphic novel has been banned because it includes LGBTQ characters, drug use, and profanity.
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Telgemeier, Raina.
Colorist: Gurihiru
Grown. 2012 (Middle Grade Graphic Novel).
Callie loves theater, and while trying out for her middle school’s musical would be a blast, she can’t really sing. Instead, Callie’s the set designer for the drama department stage crew and she’s determined to create a set worthy of Broadway. But she’s met with resistance when she doesn’t know anything about carpentry, ticket sales are down, and the crew members are having trouble working together. And of course, more drama than just onstage occurs when actors are chosen and two cute brothers enter the picture! This graphic novel has been banned for being sexually explicit and for LGBTQ content.
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Twiss, Jull
Illustrated by: E.G. Keller and Charlotte Pence
A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo. 2018 (Picture Book).
Marlon Bundo is a lonely bunny who lives with his grandpa, Mike Pence—the Vice President of the United States. This is the story of a very special boy bunny who falls in love with another boy bunny. It explores issues of same sex marriage and democracy while weaving a tale of tolerance and advocacy. This book has been banned because of the LGBTQ content.
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And as an added bonus, if you would like to know more about book banning and how it can either help or hurt, check out the following book all about book banning in a high school:

Connis, Dave.
Suggested Reading. 2019 (Teen).
Clara Evans is horrified when she discovers her principal’s “prohibited media” list. The books have been pulled from the library and aren’t allowed anywhere on the school’s premises, and students caught with the contraband will be punished. Clara herself has been impacted by many of the stories on this list and decides she’s going to rebel by starting an underground library, supplying the banned books to her classmates out of her locker. But Clara is faced with conflicting feelings and grief when one of the books she loves is connected to tragedy, making her wonder if it’s better to ban these books than let others read them.
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Every Day Is Earth Day

This year, April 22nd marked the 50th Earth Day. The Earth Day Network’s mission is “To build the world’s largest environmental movement to drive transformative change for people and planet.” However, every day can be Earth Day when we care about how our actions affect the planet we live on. Find below several inspirational and educational children’s resources focused on climate change. Learn what we can do to celebrate and save our planet Earth.

For more information on Earth Day, visit the official website:

If you’re interested in finding more books about climate change, search the catalog using keywords such as “juvenile fiction” for fiction books, “juvenile literature” for nonfiction books, and an additional term such as “climate change,” “global warming,” or “environmental science.”

Bennett, Jeffrey O.
A Global Warming Science Primer. 2016 (Non-fiction).
Following a Question and Answer format, this book dives deep into the science behind global warming and seeks to debunk some skeptic arguments. Included sections are, “The Basic Science,” “The Skeptic Debate,” “The Expected Consequences,” “The Solution,” and “A Letter to Your Grandchildren.” This book is great for older readers who want to get a better understanding of how global warming occurs.
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Cole, Joanna
The Magic School Bus and the Climate Challenge. 2010 (Non-fiction).
In classic Magic School Bus style, Ms. Frizzle and her class explore how global warming is affecting the planet and learn about a large number of ways to take action.
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Collard III, Sneed B.
Hopping Ahead of Climate Change: Snowshoe Hares, Science, and Survival. 2016 (Non-fiction).
Many animals have coats that change color with the seasons in order to better camouflage themselves from predators or prey. With a focus on snowshoe hares, this book seeks to answer what happens when the changing climate disrupts this process.
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Eriksson, Ann
Dive in! Exploring our Connection with the Ocean. 2018 (Non-fiction).
As humans, the ocean is incredibly important to us, yet we treat it poorly. This digestible book provides action plans for the individual hoping to help improve the health of the ocean.
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Guiberson, Brenda Z.
Earth: Feeling the Heat. 2010 (Picture Book).
This beautifully illustrated book focuses on specific animals from all over the globe, detailing their particular struggles with climate change that may inevitably lead to their endangerment or extinction. Each page asks, “Who can help?” Readers are left with a list of small changes they can make to reduce energy use, and a prompt to think of even more.
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Knowles, Laura
The Coral Kingdom. 2018 (Picture Book).
With beautiful illustrations, this simple rhyming exploration of the coral reefs fosters an appreciation of one of our most delicate ecosystems. Included is additional information on coral bleaching, as well as tips for helping to save the coral reefs.
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Oram, Hiawyn
Snowboy and the Last Tree Standing. 2018 (Picture Book).
Greenbackboy wants Snowboy to help him chop down all the trees in the forest and catch all the fish in the ocean in order to acquire KA-CHING. Snowboy is less sure that this plan will work, since trees give us the air we breathe, and the sea is dead without fish. Will Snowboy be able to convince Greenbackboy about what is right? Highlighting the power of the individual voice, this imaginative story is full of hope.
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Pasquet, Jacques
My Wounded Island. 2017 (Picture Book).
In this story centered on the lives of the Iñupiat people living on a small northern island, a little girl chronicles her fears of the rising sea that will soon swallow the island on which she and her people live. Especially poignant is her grandfather’s worry that once they are displaced, their entire culture will be lost.
[SE. P265m:E]

Swanson, Jennifer
Geoengineering Earth’s Climate: Resetting the Thermostat. 2018 (Non-fiction).
With the changing climate, many possible solutions involving interfering with Earth’s systems have been suggested to counteract the change. This book dives in to the pros and cons of several of these suggestions which include reforestation, space mirrors, and carbon capture.
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Williams, Lily
If Polar Bears Disappeared. 2018 (Non-fiction)
Follow the chain reaction of what could happen if polar bears go extinct due to the melting of arctic ice. The cute illustrations do not mask the gravity of entire ecosystems being destroyed, however the story does end on a hopeful note, citing that it is not too late for change.
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Activism and Upstanders in Children’s Literature

Injustice is rampant in the world, but as history has shown, there are often brave people who choose to fight it. Activists are people who fight for change, while upstanders are those who act in support of a person or a cause. Activists and upstanders have made real change happen, and continue to do so today. Check out the inspiring stories below to learn how anyone can make a difference.

Atkins, Laura and Stan Yogi
Fred Korematsu Speaks Up. 2017 (Biography).
When American citizens of Japanese descent were forced into prison camps in the United States during World War II, Fred Korematsu knew that he must resist. After being caught and jailed, he sued and took his case all the way to the Supreme Court. This biography tells the story of this brave civil rights activist, whose fight against discrimination holds many parallels to the world today.
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Brimner, Larry Dane
Twelve Days in May: Freedom Ride 1961. 2018 (Non-Fiction).
In May of 1961, thirteen peaceful protesters boarded some buses and traveled into the South. Their mission was to make known the continued practice of segregation in the South, despite its illegality. The farther they traveled, the more violence they faced, but these determined activists continued on. This important piece of history is illustrated here with large, impactful photographs.
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Levy, Debbie
I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark. 2016 (Picture Book Biography)
As a Jewish woman, Ruth Bader Ginsburg has felt the sting of prejudice throughout her entire life. However, she has never let the opinions of others stop her from choosing her own path and helping marginalized people. Constantly disagreeing and dissenting with injustice, she fought her way to the top and is now the oldest justice on the Supreme Court after years of service. This fascinating biography chronicles the life of a fierce upstander.
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Nielsen, Jennifer A.
Resistance. 2018 (Middle Grade Novel).
Based on actual World War II events, this intense historical fiction novel does not shy away from describing atrocities faced by Jewish people in Poland. Tough-as-nails Chaya Lindner, a Jewish teen, works as a courier, smuggling food, papers, and people in and out of the ghettos in an effort to do as much good as she can for her people. After an ill-fated mission, her resistance group is lost and Chaya joins the uprising in the Warsaw Ghetto. Knowing the whole time that she is unlikely to survive, Chaya works to prove to the Nazis that she and her people will not go down without a fight.
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Pitman, Gayle E.
The Stonewall Riots. 2019 (Non-Fiction).
This book details the history of the LGBTQ+ community before, during, and after the Stonewall Riots of 1969. A pivotal point in American history, the riots were a sometimes-violent reaction to a police raid on the Stonewall Inn, a gay club in New York City. Fed up with continuous raids and angry at their unequal status, the patrons of the club fought back, and the Stonewall Riots lasted for six days. This engaging book for older readers includes interviews with witnesses and people who were involved, photos, newspaper clippings, and more.
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Prévot, Franck
Wangari Maathai: The Woman Who Planted Millions of Trees. 2015 (Picture Book Biography)
Nobel Peace Prize laureate Wangari Maathai was an environmental and political activist. Through nonviolence and reforestation, she empowered women, fought poverty, and advocated for democracy in her native country of Kenya. This action-packed biography details the life of this incredibly brave person, from her multiple arrests to the millions of trees she succeeded in planting.

Ramée, Lisa Moore
A Good Kind of Trouble. 2019 (Middle Grade Novel).
Like many kids starting middle school, Shayla must navigate changing friendships, body insecurities, crushes (including being on the receiving end of unwanted crushes), and more. But Shayla’s world is changed even more when news spreads about a Black man shot by a white police officer. At first, Shayla is hesitant to be involved in the national reaction, but after joining a protest, she begins wearing a black armband to school to support Black Lives Matter. When it becomes clear that not everyone appreciates the armband, Shayla is forced to make a choice. This novel is a thoughtful and accessible introduction to activism generally and the Black Lives Matter movement specifically.
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Roberts, Justin
The Smallest Girl in the Smallest Grade. 2014 (Picture Book).
No one ever notices small Sally McCabe, but Sally notices everything. She sees the kite in the tree, the keys on the janitor’s ring, and the everyday bullying that happens around her. Eventually, Sally realizes that she has had enough of the spreading meanness, and she decides to take a stand. Sally’s decision proves that even the smallest of voices can make a big difference.
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Yousafzai, Malala
Malala’s Magic Pencil. 2017 (Picture Book Biography).
Older readers may be familiar with the story of Malala Yousafzai, a young Pakistani girl who stood up for girls’ education and was shot point blank by the Taliban. In this picture book adaptation, her inspirational life is made accessible to younger readers.
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Watson, Renée
Watch Us Rise. 2019 (Teen).
Jasmine and Chelsea have big plans this year at their progressive New York City high school. But when the clubs they join turn out to be less than what they had hoped, the two create their own club dedicated to writing and creating artistic works that support women’s ideas. Their online work goes viral, and they find themselves both praised and attacked, even in the real world. Soon the school administration steps in and threatens to shut them down, but Jasmine and Chelsea refuse to be silent.


Black Children’s Authors and Illustrators

As the field of children’s literature slowly diversifies and titles like Angie Thomas’s The Hate U Give gain national recognition, more and more phenomenal books from Black authors and illustrators are being published. Below are just a few of the notable titles from the past few years, all of which also feature Black protagonists who are as diverse as the authors who create them.

For more, check out the Coretta Scott King Book Awards, which are “given annually to outstanding African American authors and illustrators of books for children and young adults that demonstrate an appreciation of African American culture and universal human values.”

Andrews, Troy
Illustrated by: Bryan Collier
Trombone Shorty. 2015 (Picture Book Autobiography).
Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews tells the story of his musical and colorful life in this fun and festive autobiography. Picking up the trombone at a very young age, Andrews gained his nickname when others noticed the instrument was nearly twice as tall as he. Now an accomplished musician, Trombone Shorty reflects on the New Orleans roots that made him who he is today.

Atta, Dean
The Black Flamingo. 2019 (Teen).
As a mixed-race gay teen living in London, Michael feels that he is never “enough” of any part of his identity; he feels he is not Black enough, not Greek enough, not gay enough. Even his coming out is only a part of his story as he begins his journey to find himself. When Michael discovers the Drag Society, he finds a new sense of belonging he never felt before and emerges as the Black Flamingo. This powerful story is told in verse.

Barnes, Derrick
Illustrated by: Gordon C. James
Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut. 2017 (Picture Book).
This multiple-award-winning, joyful book is a celebration of the confidence and pride that accompany a new haircut. Dynamic illustrations by Gordon C. James depict a boy feeling like a new person after his visit to the barber, and showcase his appreciation for cool haircuts on others, too.

Cherry, Matthew A.
Illustrated by: Vashti Harrison
Hair Love. 2019 (Picture Book).
Adapted from the Academy Award-winning short film of the same name, this heartwarming book explores the love between a father and daughter as he tries to style her hair before Mom comes home. Zuri loves her hair, and she waits patiently as Daddy does his best to give her a perfect ‘do.

Emezi, Akwaeke
Pet. 2019 (Teen).
In the seemingly idyllic town of Lucille, monsters no longer exist, or at least that is what teenagers Jam and Redemption have been taught. But when Jam meets a creature named Pet, who is hunting a monster that is after Redemption, everything that Jam has been told comes into question. This Stonewall Award-winning novel features a transgender protagonist and explores how to save a society in denial.

Grimes, Nikki
Ordinary Hazards. 2019 (Teen Autobiography).
In this memoir in verse, Grimes details a traumatic childhood with her mother, who suffered from paranoid schizophrenia, and a father who was hardly ever around. Between her unstable home life, terrible babysitters, and ever-changing foster families, Grimes found solace in writing, and this beautifully crafted message of truth and courage is in itself a testament to her resilience.

Nyong’o, Lupita
Illustrated by: Vashti Harrison
Sulwe. 2019 (Picture Book).
Little Sulwe does not feel beautiful. Her midnight-colored skin makes her look different from everyone else she knows, and she desperately wants it to be a lighter shade. But when a shooting star shows her the importance of being dark, Sulwe finds her inner brightness and begins to love herself. This story is gorgeously illustrated by Vashti Harrison.

Reynolds, Jason
Long Way Down. 2017 (Middle Grade Novel).
Based on a real experience of Reynolds, this novel in verse follows fifteen-year-old Will, whose brother was recently killed, as he begins his journey to seek revenge, gun tucked in his waistband. Will gets on an elevator on the seventh floor and on each floor on the way down a new person enters the elevator with a story to tell him, all of whom are already dead and, in some way, are connected with his brother. Like all Jason Reynolds novels, this story is incredibly authentic with realistic characters and a meaningful message.

Rhodes, Jewell Parker
Ghost Boys. 2018 (Middle Grade Novel).
Twelve-year-old Jerome is shot and killed by a white police officer. Now a ghost, he watches the aftermath of this horrific event and the rippling effects on those who loved him. He speaks with the daughter of the officer who killed him, and also meets the ghost of Emmett Till. Poignant and heartbreaking, this story sheds light on today’s race relations.

Weatherford, Carole Boston
Illustrated by: Eric Velasquez
Schomburg: The Man who Built a Library. 2017 (Picture Book Biography).
Arturo Schomburg was a law clerk with a passion for collecting works from Africa and the African diaspora. His hope was to bring the accomplishments of people of African descent back into the narrative of history. Eventually, his large collection became part of the New York Public Library, and today is known as the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. This fascinating biography points out that those who write history books may not be writing for everyone.


Reading with the Stars

Running out of books? Looking for a fun new way to experience children’s literature? Celebrities have got it covered. Many famous people, including authors, actors, athletes, and more, are taking this unique opportunity to share their love of reading with the world. Check out the resources below for lots of fun celebrity read-alouds.

Storyline Online
This Emmy-nominated website hosts tons of videos from celebrities reading children’s books aloud. While little ones may be more interested in the stories than the famous voices sharing them, adults and kids alike will enjoy hearing classics such as Harry the Dirty Dog, read by Betty White, and contemporary books such as Zombies Don’t Eat Veggies!, read in both English and Spanish by Jaime Camil. Other famous voices include Oprah Winfrey, Rami Malek, Kristen Bell, and many more.

NorthSouth Books
Children’s book publisher NorthSouth maintains a YouTube channel containing many read-alouds, and some of these stories are read by the authors who wrote them. Of special note is author and illustrator Marcus Pfister reading his timeless tale, The Rainbow Fish.

Actors, authors, musicians, hosts, firemen, teachers, and more have contributed to this charity-driven project popularized by Jennifer Garner and Amy Adams and dedicated to feeding hungry children. From Mr. Met to Mrs. Kasha Davis, from Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex to “Weird Al” Yankovic, the list of celebrities reading picture books on this account is virtually endless. You can even listen along with Fiona the baby hippo as the director of the Cincinnati Zoo reads Fiona, It’s Bedtime. Please note that an Instagram account is required to view the videos.

Wizarding World
Is there a better way to experience Harry Potter than to have the book read to you by Harry Potter himself? Join Daniel Radcliffe, the actor who portrayed Harry Potter in the films, as he reads aloud the first chapter of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. Each of the seventeen chapters will be read by a new famous friend of the Wizarding World, such as Noma Dumezweni (Hermione Granger, London and Broadway productions of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child), and Eddie Redmayne (Newt Scamander, the “Fantastic Beasts” film series). Listeners are encouraged to send in their fan-art for upcoming chapters, which may be featured throughout the readings. Please note that as the Wizarding World site updates, some chapters may require users to sign up for a free account for access.

Gruffalo World
Several of Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler’s beloved picture books have been adapted almost word for word into visually stunning short films. Clips from these films are available on the Gruffalo World YouTube channel, and can serve as a wonderful supplement to the books. Some featured clips are from The Highway Rat, starring David Tennant, Stick Man, starring Martin Freeman, The Gruffalo, starring James Corden, and Oscar-nominated Room on the Broom, narrated by Simon Pegg. Most of the full-length films are also available for purchase or rental via YouTube and other online platforms.

Read-Along with PBS KIDS!
Join PBS KIDS authors as they read aloud their own books, answer questions, and share what they are doing during the quarantine. Marc Brown (Arthur), Victoria Kann (Pinkalicious and Peteriffic), Angela Santomero (Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood), and many more are in on the fun. PBS KIDS has also recently started hosting “Mondays with Michelle Obama,” a series in which the former first lady reads aloud some of her favorite picture books once a week.

Chicago Public Library: Live from the Library
Many famous Illinoisans have participated in the Chicago Public Library’s virtual story times, including actress Jane Lynch, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, and the Obamas. Interspersed among these are more traditional library story times from expert Chicago librarians. (For more librarian-run story times, check out the New York Public Library. Many local libraries are hosting online story times as well.)

Dr. Seuss Raps Over Dr. Dre Beats
Although not traditionally famous (yet), Milwaukee artist Wes Tank’s raps of requested Dr. Seuss books to beats by Dr. Dre have marked him as an up-and-coming performer, and he has been featured on many local news stations. With new raps posted about once a week, this engaging and rhythmic YouTube playlist puts a fun twist on Dr. Seuss and is nothing short of delightful.


COVID-19 Resources for Kids

Kids will inevitably have questions about the global pandemic. Luckily, there are many resources out there specifically designed to answer their questions, and more are being created every day. Find below several free resources made for children all about COVID-19.


Jones, Malia
A Kids Book About COVID-19
Simple in style, this freely downloadable book comes from a social epidemiologist. It expertly breaks down the basics of coronavirus to be digestible for kids, and adult readers might learn something too! This book is also available in Spanish.


Gharib, Malaka
Just For Kids: A Comic Exploring The New Coronavirus
This silly and informative comic from NPR is accompanied by a three-minute audio snippet from Morning Edition directed specifically at children. Both do a great job of explaining about the virus and how it spreads, and give suggestions on what kids can do to help and stay safe. Also available in Chinese and Spanish, the comic can be printed out and folded into a zine.

News Article

Scholastic News
5 Big Questions About Coronavirus
Kid-friendly magazine Scholastic News may be familiar to those who had access to it in school. This particular article seeks to answer some common questions about the coronavirus. The text is available in two different reading levels and has a text-to-speech function.


Brains On!
Staying home: How social distancing helps fight coronavirus
American Public Media’s award-winning science podcast, Brains On!, tackles kids’ questions about the coronavirus in 35 minutes. Listen to actual kids share their questions and concerns, which are then answered by scientists.

Pineapple Street Studios
The Kids are All…Home
By kids, for kids, listeners are encouraged to submit their own mini segments to this fun podcast that showcases what children are doing while stuck at home. Topics covered vary from astronomy, to coronavirus facts, to a very silly rendition of Old Town Road. For more information on how to record your own segment for this podcast, check out Pineapple Street Studios’ website here:

Santa’s Podcast
Santa says hello and shares why his workshop has closed for a little while
Worried about Santa Claus? Have no fear; he and the elves are doing just fine. In this charming 8-minute podcast, the jolly man himself explains what he and his workshop are doing to maintain social distancing, and offers suggestions to kids on what they can do to be good (and still have fun) during this novel time.


Many kids already know and love Tim and his robot pal Moby, but anyone can learn from their witty and informational video on the coronavirus. This video not only covers the basics of what the virus is and how it spreads, but also encourages kids to think critically about sensationalist news stories, talk to adults if they feel scared, and avoid judging others based on their appearance.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Elmo & Rosita: The Right Way to Sneeze!
This catchy little ditty from a couple of Sesame Street favorites explains how to sneeze properly to avoid spreading germs. Posted over ten years ago and only about 30 seconds long, this cute song, which is also available in Spanish, is more apt than ever. (Parents might also enjoy browsing the PBS parents website for more coronavirus resources:


Schoolman, Autumn
Hey kids, coronavirus has changed everything. Here’s what you need to know
This article from USA Today is essentially an incredibly interesting infographic that reads like a picture book. Of special note is a fantastic swimming pool analogy that shows the value of social distancing.

‘Gruffalo stayed in the cave’: Axel Scheffler and Julia Donaldson’s coronavirus cartoons
Fans of The Gruffalo and Room on the Broom will adore Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler’s new illustrations of their beloved characters explaining how they are social distancing. Each page comes with a caption in the form of a couplet.


Free E-books for Youth

Stuck inside? Fortunately, there are still lots of ways to access books for kids. Many public libraries have a large number of e-books available for checkout. Some are even making it possible to get a library card online. Many academic libraries have children’s books available to those with a library account. To see what is available from the University of Illinois library, use the advanced search tool and the key terms “juvenile fiction” for fiction or “juvenile literature” for nonfiction, add a search term for what you are interested in, and limit the search to electronic.

Don’t have access to a library? No worries! Find below three resources that provide free access to numerous children’s books. All that is needed is an internet connection.

International Children’s Digital Library (ICDL)
As the name suggests, the ICDL provides access to books in a wide variety of languages from all over the world. The search function is kid-friendly and provides a great opportunity for kids to start learning how to use library tools. Searches can be limited by suggested age, length, and even cover color. The ICDL also has virtual “exhibitions” containing books with specific themes, such as “celebrating differences” and “forever friendship.” This library is a lot of fun to explore, but here are a few choice reads to get you started:

Brumbeau, Jeff
The Quiltmaker’s Gift. 2001 (Picture Book).
In this fantastically bright and colorful story, a master quiltmaker tells a greedy king that if he wants one of her quilts, he must give away his worldly possessions to those in need. Frustrated, he chains her inside of a bear cave. Will she escape? Will this selfish king ever see the error of his ways? Vivid and intricate illustrations are sure to keep little ones engaged.

Dixit, Kanak Mani
Adventures of a Nepali Frog. 2003 (Chapter Book).
Travel vicariously through beautiful Nepal with Bhaktaprasad Bhyaguto, a daring young frog. Follow along as he floats down the Bishnumati river in a tin can. Join him as he meets the fascinating animals of Chitwan National Park. There is no telling where Bhatktaprasad will end up next!

The Cries of London. 1821 (Picture Book).
Looking for something completely different? Take a walk through the bustling streets of early 19th century London in this introduction to community people. You might even pick up some old-timey English slang along the way.

Project Gutenberg
Some readers may be familiar with Project Gutenberg, a massive compilation of free digitized works, most of which are out of copyright. But did you know that the project has an entire children’s bookshelf? While many of the books on this site predate 1924, it’s a great way to catch up on classics such as The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, The Tale of Peter Rabbit, and Little Women. Here are a few other hidden gems you may enjoy:

Cowper, William
The Diverting History of John Gilpin. 1878 (Picture Book).
This hilarious rhyming story follows John Gilpin, a luckless man who finds himself trapped on a speeding horse as he tries to meet his wife for dinner. Notably, this book is illustrated by Randolph Caldecott, whose name is honored in the award given each year to the artist of the most distinguished American picture book. The image engraved on the Caldecott medal is in fact the unfortunate John Gilpin.

Nesbit, E.
The Book of Dragons. 1899 (Chapter Book).
An early pioneer of the Fantasy genre, E. Nesbit has crafted a wonderful compilation of stories in this book that has withstood the test of time. These eight different tales, which tell the stories of creatures both evil and good, are sure to delight dragon fans of all ages.

The “Punky Dunk” Series. 1912 (Picture Books).
In a style similar to the Little Golden Books (although published 30 years earlier), these wholesome picture books follow Punky Dunk, a mischievous little kitten who always ends up getting into trouble. Readers will enjoy seeing their own pet’s antics reflected in Punky Dunk.

Audiobooks more your thing? Librivox provides access to many of the same titles as Project Gutenberg, that is, titles no longer under copyright, however these are all read aloud by volunteers. In addition to listening, readers can also volunteer to record a book themselves. To find children’s books, simply go to the catalog and click on “Genre/Subject.” The first several entries are subsets of children’s fiction. Listed here are a few fun picks to check out:

Burgess, Thornton W.
The Adventures of Reddy Fox. 1913 (Chapter Book).
From conservationist and prolific children’s author Thornton W. Burgess, nicknamed the “Bedtime Story-Man,” comes this story of a rambunctious young fox living with his grandmother. Granny Fox knows all the tricks of the trade, from stealing Farmer Brown’s chickens to evading hound dogs, and she is eager to share them with Reddy. Laugh along as Reddy learns from the best!

Jenks, Tudor
Galopoff, the Talking Pony. 1901 (Chapter Book).
For one day a year, animals are able to talk to humans, and on this day Galopoff the pony regales his owner with tales of his marvelous adventures in Russia. Paced surprisingly well for modern audiences, Galopoff’s action-packed account of his life is sure to please.

Ozaki, Yei Theodora
Japanese Fairy Tales. 1908 (Fairy Tales).
In compiling and editing these stories, Ozaki’s goal was to reframe traditional Japanese fairy tales to be more accessible to Western children while maintaining accuracy. Each of these 21 tales tells a colorful story of a lesson learned.