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All Middle Grade Coverage

Adults often wish they could revisit their own childhoods, but I find myself envying kids today when I survey all the great children’s books being published this year. These 15 titles are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the wonders that will fill young readers’ shelves  in 2022.

Sing, Aretha, Sing! by Hanif Abdurraqib, illustrated by Ashley Evans
FSG | February 1

Hanif Abdurraqib is an acclaimed writer of poetry and cultural criticism for adults. He received a MacArthur “genius” grant in 2021, and his 2019 book, Go Ahead in the Rain: Notes to a Tribe Called Quest, was long-listed for the National Book Award. Plus, his 2021 book, A Little Devil in America, was BookPage’s best nonfiction book of the year.

Picture books require a deep attention to language that’s similar to poetry, so it’s always exciting when writers with backgrounds in poetry branch out into writing picture books. Abdurraqib is well-versed in music and cultural history, so I can’t wait to read this picture book that will explore Aretha Franklin’s connections to the civil rights movement.

Solimar: The Sword of the Monarchs by Pam Muñoz Ryan
Disney-Hyperion | February 1

Every new book from Newbery Honor author Pam Muñoz Ryan is cause for excitement, but the ambitious premise of Solimar offers more reason than usual. Set in a fictional fantasy kingdom, the story offers an irresistible royal heroine and a fascinating depiction of magic, told in Ryan’s signature lush and lyrical prose.

Out of a Jar by Deborah Marcero
Putnam | February 8

In BookPage’s review of author-illustrator Deborah Marcero’s previous picture book, In a Jar, reviewer Jill Lorenzini wrote that it “does what all the best picture books do: It captivates, entertains and leaves you with a reminder of magic still shimmering around the edges.” In a Jar’s ending didn’t seem to hint at a sequel, so it’s delightfully surprising that Marcero has created another story about Llewellyn the bunny and the things he tries to keep bottled up.

Mina by Matthew Forsythe
Paula Wiseman | February 15

Matthew Forsythe’s picture book Pokko and the Drum was one of 2019’s most singularly charming and acclaimed titles. Readers who loved it will want to line up outside their library or bookstore so they can be the first to discover his next book, Mina. Fans of Pokko’s dry humor and intricate colored pencil illustrations will find Mina a worthy successor.

John’s Turn by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Kate Berube
Candlewick | March 1

Author Mac Barnett is one of the funniest, smartest and most prolific writers working in children’s literature today, and just about everything he publishes is worth a reader’s time. For John’s Turn, he’s paired with Kate Berube, an illustrator I love for her deceptively simple lines and masterful ability to convey complex emotions through facial expressions. It’s worth noting that Barnett is publishing two additional books this spring: a picture book illustrated by Marla Frazee called The Great Zapfino, out April 5 from Beach Lane, and a graphic novel adaptation of the “live cartoon” he developed during the early days of the COVID-19 lockdown with illustrator Shawn Harris called The First Cat in Space Ate Pizza, out May 10 from Katherine Tegen.

The Aquanaut by Dan Santat
Graphix | March 1

Dan Santat is best known as the Caldecott Medal-winning author-illustrator of 2014’s The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend, as well as many other beloved picture books. However, I first became familiar with him as a graphic novelist via his hilarious, action-packed 2011 graphic novel, Sidekicks, the tale of a group of pets who belong to a superhero named Captain Amazing and who are, secretly, also superheroes. Santat packs so much imagination and heart into all of his books that I can’t wait to discover the story he’ll tell in this standalone graphic novel.

The Ogress and the Orphans by Kelly Barnhill
Algonquin | March 8

Kelly Barnhill’s Newbery Medal-winning The Girl Who Drank the Moon is an exquisite fantasy tale—and she hasn’t published anything for young readers in the five long years since it came out! She’s kept busy in the meantime, releasing a book of short stories for adults in 2018 and putting the finishing touches on The Ogress and the Orphans. Whether you’ve been counting the months, weeks and days or are brand-new to Barnhill’s sharp, word-perfect prose and classical yet fresh storytelling, you’re going to love this standalone fantasy.

Mama and Mommy and Me in the Middle by Nina LaCour, illustrated by Kaylani Juanita
Candlewick | March 29

Nina LaCour is an acclaimed and beloved young adult author whose 2018 novel, We Are Okay, won the American Library Association’s Michael L. Printz Medal for excellence in young adult literature—the YA equivalent of the Newbery Medal. There are very few picture books that depict families with two moms, so this book is notable for two reasons: It contributes sorely needed representation, and it’s LaCour’s first picture book! I’m also looking forward to the illustrations by talented up-and-comer Kaylani Juanita, whose work I’ve admired in picture books such as When Aidan Became a Brother and Magnificent Homespun Brown.

Perfectly Pegasus by Jessie Sima
Simon & Schuster | March 29

Every so often, an author-illustrator makes their debut with a book so fully formed that you read it and think, “Surely, this cannot be their first book!” So it was with Jessie Sima’s Not Quite Narwhal, which was published on Valentine’s Day in 2017 and has gone on to sell more than 250,000 copies. Sima has since published five more picture books, and this spring, they’ll publish this companion to their debut. Read enough picture books and you’ll realize how masterfully Sima walks the line between treacly and genuinely sweet. I can’t wait to read Perfectly Pegasus and let out an “awwwwww!” in spite of myself. 

A Duet for Home by Karina Yan Glaser
Clarion | April 5

Readers who love middle grade stories featuring big families have wholeheartedly embraced Karina Yan Glaser’s Vanderbeekers, who hit shelves in the fall of 2017 and have since starred in five heartwarming tales. I’m always intrigued when an author finds initial success with a series and then launches into either a standalone tale or a new series, because it gives them an opportunity to reveal new dimensions to their writing and storytelling. A Duet for Home is a standalone novel that seems poised to explore similar themes as in Glaser’s bestselling series, like family and what it means to find a home, but from a totally different lens.

I’d Like to Be the Window for a Wise Old Dog by Philip C. Stead
Doubleday | April 5

Speaking of remarkable debuts: Husband and wife team Philip C. and Erin E. Stead won the Caldecott Medal for their very first picture book, A Sick Day for Amos McGee. The Steads are picture book creators whose every release is noteworthy, but I find the title and cover of this one to be irresistibly enticing. Fans as well as dog lovers should know that this is Philip’s first of two canine-themed books in 2022: June will see the publication of Every Dog in the Neighborhood, illustrated by fellow Caldecott Medalist Matthew Cordell. It’s enough to make you bark with joy.      

Jennifer Chan Is Not Alone by Tae Keller
Random House | April 26

Middle grade author Tae Keller won the 2021 Newbery Medal for her second novel, How to Trap a Tiger. Winning an award as prestigious and influential as the Newbery or the Caldecott can change the entire trajectory of a creator’s career, and I’m endlessly fascinated to see what authors and illustrators choose to publish after winning such an award. Jennifer Chan Is Not Alone will blend contemporary middle school dynamics with a central mystery and a hint of science fiction.

The Marvellers by Dhonielle Clayton
Holt | May 3

It is such a good time to be a middle grade reader who loves tales of magic and adventure. Case in point: YA author Dhonielle Clayton is making her middle grade debut with The Marvellers, a fantasy novel that will blow the concept of the magical school sky-high—literally. The Arcanum Training Institute for Marvelous and Uncanny Endeavors is an academy in the clouds that attracts magically gifted students from all over the world, and it’s the enchanting setting for what’s sure to be the summer’s must-read middle grade fantasy.   

The World Belonged to Us by Jacqueline Woodson, illustrated by Leo Espinosa
Nancy Paulsen | May 10

Jacqueline Woodson is one of the most beloved and acclaimed writers working today, and her reach knows no bounds. She has written books for readers of every age, from picture books to novels for adults, and has served as our National Ambassador for Children’s Literature. In her picture books, Woodson’s prose is often paired with artwork by exciting, talented illustrators, from Rafael López to James Ransome to E.B. Lewis. Here, she’s working with Colombian illustrator Leo Espinosa, who received a Pura Belpré Honor for his work on Junot Diaz’s picture book, Islandborn. The World Belonged to Us promises to be a nostalgic ode to summer in New York City as only these two talented creators could tell it.

Small Town Pride by Phil Stamper
HarperCollins | May 31

Phil Stamper has published three acclaimed, character-driven YA novels that offer complex depictions of LGBTQ+ teens. It’s thrilling to see him branch out into middle grade, particularly since middle grade books centering the experiences of LGBTQ+ kids are desperately needed. I also love that this book is going to be set in a small rural town. As YA author Preston Norton said in a recent Q&A with BookPage about his new book, Hopepunk, which takes place in rural Wyoming, “Queer stories are needed everywhere because queer people are everywhere.”

Take a glimpse at the wonders that will fill young readers' shelves in 2022.

Have you ever had one of those days where absolutely everything seems to be going wrong and there’s nothing you can do to change it? In Amber Smith’s Code Name: Serendipity, 11-year-old Sadie has been feeling this way all year. Her best friend, Jude, moved to Utah, she’s made an enemy of the meanest girl at her bus stop, her older brother has started acting like “a total butthead,” and something seems off about her grandfather, who recently moved in with Sadie’s family.

Then one day, while walking through the woods behind her house, Sadie hears a small voice in her head calling for help. She follows it and discovers Dewey, a stray dog with whom she somehow has a telepathic connection. Sadie knows that Dewey is just as lost and lonely as she is, so with help from her Gramps, she sets out on her greatest mission ever: convincing her moms to let her adopt Dewey. What Sadie doesn’t know is that this mission will accomplish so much more than she could ever imagine.

Beneath Code Name: Serendipity’s straightforward prose and grounded, almost ordinary conflicts lies a powerful and emotional story. Sadie is a remarkably realistic protagonist, and the challenges she faces are, for the most part, the relatable stuff of everyday life. She’s just received a processing disorder diagnosis and is starting an individualized education plan at school. She’s adjusting to a long-distance friendship with Jude. And she’s worried about all the small ways that her beloved Gramps seems to be changing. Although Sadie and Dewey’s supernatural quest to win over Sadie’s moms propels the plot forward, Smith’s nuanced, reassuring portrayal of Sadie and her family as they navigate a period of uncertainty is what sets this book apart.

Code Name: Serendipity is a warm, appealing novel about a girl who learns that even though it might seem like everything is going wrong, a bad day—or year—can always change for the better.

Amber Smith’s middle grade novel offers a reassuring, emotional story about a girl and her family navigating an uncertain time in their lives.

June Jackson is only 11 years old, but her dad already has her life mapped out. She’ll excel on Featherstone Creek Middle School’s field hockey and debate teams, get A’s in her classes and then attend Howard University, just like he did. Then she’ll become a lawyer and work at the firm he co-founded.

In Honest June, Tina Wells empathetically shows how these expectations burden eager-to-please June. Her parents work so hard to give her such a nice life, June muses, so what right does she have to ever tell them no?

June has become a pro at strategically nodding along and even lying. “Making people happy is what I’m good at,” she reasons. “Sometimes that means not telling people the whole truth.” Consequently, no one is aware of June’s true feelings—or how she catastrophizes about what might happen if she dares to express a contradictory opinion. But all the dissembling is wearing her down, and she’s begun having trouble focusing in class. It’s not a sustainable way to live, and June knows it.

Someone else knows it, too: Victoria, her fairy godmother (and Tracee Ellis Ross lookalike), who appears in the town carnival’s fun house and bestows a superpower upon the astonished June that renders her unable to lie. Of course, June sees the gift as a curse, and all of her many amusing attempts to circumvent the spell fail. Her only source of relief is her blog, Honest June. If June types out her feelings, she’ll never have to say them out loud, and nobody will be upset with her . . . right?

Brittney Bond’s cheerful illustrations offer a sweet counterpoint to the book’s growing psychological tensions, and their cartoonlike style keeps the tone light even as June walks an increasingly perilous tightrope. Will Victoria show up at an inopportune time? Will June’s strategies work, or will she be under the spell forever? How will June’s parents react if they find out the truth?

Readers will cheer June along on her journey and benefit from the valuable themes in Honest June. It’s a charming and resonant cautionary tale about the importance of being honest with others and—most of all—with ourselves.

In this charming and resonant tale, people-pleasing June’s fairy godmother gifts her with the inability to lie, but June thinks it’s more of a curse.

Portico Reeves isn’t an average kid, and he doesn’t live in an average house. He lives in the biggest house in the world. In fact, it’s a castle. Well, it’s actually an apartment building, but it is pretty big. And all those people who also live in the building? They’re not neighbors. They’re characters in a television show starring Portico’s superhero alter ego: Stuntboy!

Is Stuntboy faster than a speeding bullet? No. Does he have X-ray vision or super strength? Also no. But he is brave enough to jump in front of the new kid, Zola, when she attracts the attention of Stuntboy’s archnemesis, Herbert Singletary the Worst? You bet he is.

As Stuntboy, Portico can withstand a bully’s barbed words, but when the trouble tracks closer to home, he struggles to keep up his superheroic facade. His grandmother calls it the frets. Portico’s stomach begins to twist, and he doesn’t know what to do. Lately, his parents’ separation and constant arguing have been making Portico’s frets worse than ever.

In his first original graphic novel, award-winning author Jason Reynolds, whose tenure as National Ambassador for Young People’s literature was recently extended for a third year, gives readers a comic book superhero whose adventures feel both timely and classic. Stuntboy, in the Meantime is an imaginative tale of creative resilience and friendship.

The book’s illustrations by Pura Belpré Illustrator Award-winning artist Raúl the Third are stylish and energetic. When Zola relates Portico’s troubles to her favorite sci-fi TV show, “Super Space Warriors,” scenes appear straight out of a midcentury comic book, complete with Benday dots and bold, psychedelic colors by Elaine Bay.

Beneath its superheroic trappings, Stuntboy, in the Meantime is an appealing story about a young boy struggling to bolster himself against the mundane uncertainties in his life. Portico finds winning allies in this quest, including Zola, who shows him strategies for settling his anxiety. Underpinning it all is the notion that to overcome our fears, we must turn our attention outward. To save ourselves, we must serve others.

Is Stuntboy faster than a speeding bullet? Er, no. Can he defeat the frets, those feelings he gets when his life feels out of control? Find out in Stuntboy, in the Meantime!

The range of graphic novels and nonfiction for children gets better, more exciting and more popular with each passing year. Even the choosiest young reader won’t be able to resist the charms of these wonderful books.

Marshmallow & Jordan

For the reader who carefully arranges their stuffed animals at the head of their bed every morning—and knows each and every one of their names

Growing up in Indonesia, Jordan is a talented basketball player who lives for the sport. She’s even named after her dad’s favorite player. After an accident two years ago, Jordan is also a paraplegic and uses a wheelchair. Although she’s still the captain of her school’s team, an official rule means she’s not allowed to participate in games against other teams. In spite of her teammates’ sincere efforts to make her feel included, it’s just not the same. 

Jordan’s life changes when she discovers an injured young white elephant at a park one day after basketball practice. She names him Marshmallow and, with help from her veterinarian mom, nurses him back to health. Jordan and Marshmallow become fast friends, but it’s soon clear that the connection between them runs much deeper. Marshmallow obviously needs Jordan’s help, but as it turns out, Jordan needs Marshmallow too. 

As Jordan leans on Marshmallow, he helps her begin to swim, and eventually she discovers a new athletic passion: water polo. But a worsening drought threatens the local water supply and the use of water for recreational purposes like swimming. Could there be a connection between Marshmallow and the much-needed rain?

Marshmallow & Jordan is a practically perfect graphic novel. Jordan’s strong spirit and earnest emotional vulnerabilities make her an appealing and relatable hero, and Marshmallow is irresistibly adorable as his big blue eyes shine with emotion. Lush and lovely, Alina Chau’s delicate watercolor illustrations are rendered in warm pastel tones. The book’s text is fairly minimal, so her images pull a great deal of the narrative weight, making this an ideal choice for young readers still gaining verbal confidence and fluency who would benefit from the unique interplay of words and images that graphic novels offer. 

This beautifully rendered tale, with its fluffy, marshmallow-sweet images, is all heart. 

—Sharon Verbeten

Another Kind

For the reader who has always felt a little out of place—except within the pages of a great book

Inside a hidden government-run facility called the Playroom, six creatures known as Irregularities are living out their childhoods quietly tucked away from society. There’s Omar, who’s half yeti; Sylvie, a will-o’-the-wisp; Newt, a lizard boy; Jaali, who can transform into a Nandi bear; Clarice, a selkie; and Maggie, who might be the daughter of Cthulhu. When the group’s secrecy is compromised and their safety endangered, government agents decide to move them to a more secure location.

Along the way, the powerful youngsters end up fending for themselves in a totally unfamiliar world filled with ordinary people who are totally unfamiliar with them. To survive, they must hide their unusual features and abilities—and avoid detection by dangerous forces that are hot on their trail. When the merry misfits meet other Irregularities and uncover rumors about a place called the Sanctuary, a place where they’ll all be safe, they’re determined to find it and make it their new home.

Trevor Bream’s narrative touches subtly on weighty themes, including gender identity, bullying and feelings of abandonment. At every turn, the story emphasizes the importance of self-acceptance and a sense of belonging within a community—empowering notions for young humans to consider.

Illustrator Cait May’s art is gorgeous. Just as Bream grounds their supernatural characters in emotional realism, May’s linework anchors this fantastical story in a detailed, realistic aesthetic. There’s a lightheartedness in her use of color that’s perfectly suited for a tale that never loses sight of its young characters’ optimism and hopefulness.

Another Kind is a magical graphic novel that movingly demonstrates the power of being different.

—Justin Barisich

★ The Secret Garden on 81st Street

For the reader who knows that if you look the right way, you can see that the whole world is a garden

Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden receives a contemporary update in this thoughtful graphic novel. 

Mary Lennox is a loner, and she likes it that way. She doesn’t have friends in her everyday life, but she makes up for it by immersing herself in technology, especially via her cell phone and online video games. Her parents, who both work in Silicon Valley, aren’t home much, which doesn’t help Mary’s isolation. When they’re killed in a tragic accident, Mary must go live with her uncle, whom she barely knows. 

Uncle Archie keeps his New York City mansion tech-free, and Mary has an understandably hard time adjusting to his rules. But with help from her cousin, Colin, and her new friend Dickon, Mary begins to restore the rooftop garden at her uncle’s house. Gradually, Mary starts to acclimate to—and then thrive in—New York, working through her grief and forming meaningful connections along the way.

Adapting a beloved classic to a new form and setting is no small task, and it’s clear that author Ivy Noelle Weir and illustrator Amber Padilla did not take the challenge lightly. Their love for Burnett’s original novel shines through on every page and makes The Secret Garden on 81st Street a truly heartwarming experience. Padilla’s playful, cartoonlike style lends itself wonderfully to expressing the happiness and contentment that Mary slowly finds. Weir’s prose is refreshing and modern, with just enough nods to Burnett’s best-known lines to preserve the story’s classic roots.

Best of all, Weir revisits many of the themes of Burnett’s novel through a contemporary lens, approaching each character’s journey with sensitivity. Colin stays in his room all the time because of anxiety, while Uncle Archie is grieving the loss of his husband, Masahiro. These updates blend perfectly with some of the most powerful elements from the original story, such as the slow transformation of the garden and the ways that nature and human connection have the ability to heal us.

The Secret Garden on 81st Street is a beautiful and respectful new vision of a long-treasured tale.

—Hannah Lamb

Salt Magic

For the reader who would be more that willing to pay the hero’s price for a thrilling, out-of-this-world adventure

Hope Larson (A Wrinkle in Time: The Graphic Novel) teams up again with illustrator Rebecca Mock, her partner on Compass South, to create Salt Magic, an absorbing and fast-paced historical fantasy adventure.

There’s a hint of The Wizard of Oz to Salt Magic, which begins in our world, then launches its hero on a quest into a new, magical world before she finally returns home again. Twelve-year-old Vonceil is the youngest of five children on an Oklahoma farm in 1919. She is a determined and appealing character whose boredom and angst simmer on every page, perfectly conveyed through her many evocative facial expressions and especially her piercing eyes. 

As the story opens, Vonceil’s beloved brother Elber has finally returned from World War I after two long years away. Physically and mentally, he’s a changed man, and he seems to have no time for the fun he used to share with his littlest sister. Vonceil feels more alone than ever when Elber marries his sweetheart, Amelia, a local girl. Before long, however, a mysterious, wealthy woman in white named Greda appears in their small town. Greda was Elber’s nurse and lover in Paris, and she is so enraged to learn that Elber has married someone else that she curses his family’s farm, turning all of their precious fresh water into salt water. 

Vonceil feels responsible for Greda’s curse, having hoped that Elder would have a fabulous romance with someone from France and resented Amelia for marrying him instead. When she realizes that Greda is a salt witch, she sets out in the dark of night to try to make things right. So begins a fantastical journey that leads Vonceil to uncover not only Greda’s secrets but also numerous revelations about her own ancestors, culminating in a dangerous bargain to save the family farm and Elber’s life.

Mock’s illustrations make every enchanting, dangerous moment pop. Even a close-up of a seemingly simple handshake between Vonceil and Greta conveys the importance of their dire agreement. Other scenes expertly dramatize the desolate landscape Vonceil traverses, the inescapable power of the all-important salt crystals she discovers and the many strange creatures she encounters along the way. 

Salt Magic is a feast of a tale that treats readers to an epic battle between evil forces and a courageous, persistent young hero.

—Alice Cary

Other Boys

For the reader who needs to hear that they are never as alone as they sometimes might feel

Damian Alexander’s debut graphic memoir, Other Boys, is a powerfully compelling portrait of a boy learning to understand and accept himself.

Damian has always felt different. He and his brother live with their grandmother in a small apartment, because when they were very young, their father murdered their mother. Damian has also always enjoyed things that he thinks boys shouldn’t like, such as dolls, flowers and tea parties. He’s repeatedly been told that he’s too “girly” to fit in with boys, but girls often excluded him from playing with them because he’s a boy. His struggle to understand where he belongs has followed him all the way to middle school.

As he starts seventh grade at a new school, Damian has decided that the best way to avoid being bullied is to give his classmates absolutely nothing to bully him about. Damian is not merely planning to speak only when spoken to or to keep his voice to a whisper; he’s not going to speak at all. To anyone. But his silence doesn’t go unnoticed, and his grandmother arranges for him to see a therapist. With the therapist’s help, Damian begins to understand that he isn’t weird, strange or wrong. Meanwhile, he’s also discovering that not all boys are bullies, and some are even, well, pretty cute. The only way that Damian will find his place is by staying true to himself and finally speaking up. 

As he narrates in the voice of his seventh-grade self, Alexander skillfully uses flashbacks to fill in his personal history. His bright color palette balances the book’s darker elements, and his figures’ slightly enlarged faces keep readers focused on the emotion of each panel. Other Boys will be a life-changing read for any young person who is questioning their identity or searching for where they belong.

—Kevin Delecki 

Find more 2021 gift recommendations from BookPage.

Just try to resist the charms of these delightful middle grade graphic novels, perfect for gifting.

The children’s literature scholar Deborah Stevenson once wrote that “to define children’s literature we need, at bare minimum, to define a child and to define literature, and then to define what combination of their meeting counts as the genre.” This year’s best middle grade and chapter books each contain their own compelling answers to these questions as they center child protagonists and privilege the child reader’s perspective in works that range from lighthearted to weighty and from grounded to fantastical. With young readers fortified by these books, the future looks bright indeed.


10. Black Boy Joy edited by Kwame Mbalia

Sixteen well-known and up-and-coming authors offer humor, honesty and, yes, plenty of joy.

9. The Sea in Winter by Christine Day

Day portrays depression with sensitivity, and her depiction of Maisie’s deepening understanding of her Native American heritage is just as well done.

8. Kiki Kallira Breaks a Kingdom by Sangu Mandanna

In this fast-paced fantasy adventure, Kiki struggles with the disconnect between who she believes herself to be and who she thinks she needs to be.

7. Leonard (My Life as a Cat) by Carlie Sorosiak

This witty, inventive tale of an interstellar visitor trapped in the body of a cat is a wonderful reminder of all the things humans often take for granted, from cheese to thumbs to friendship.

6. Red, White, and Whole by Rajani LaRocca

In her first novel in verse, LaRocca showcases the best of what verse can do, telling a story that is spare and direct and rings with truth.

5. Amber & Clay by Laura Amy Schlitz, illustrated by Julia Iredale

Schlitz transports readers back in time to ancient Greece in this ambitious illustrated novel written in verse and prose.

4. Legacy by Nikki Grimes

Grimes stakes a claim for women in the pantheon of Harlem Renaissance poets in this tour de force of a poetry collection. Her poems follow a complex form that enables them to be shaped by the words of the women she honors.

3. Too Small Tola by Atinuke, illustrated by Onyinye Iwu

The three illustrated stories in this chapter book connect in ways that will reward multiple readings, and their gentle morals linger with a satisfying combination of inevitability and surprise.

2. Ahmed Aziz’s Epic Year by Nina Hamza

Hamza’s debut features a fresh and funny protagonist, a sensitive exploration of loss and grief and homages to some of the most classic titles in children’s literature.

1. The Last Cuentista by Donna Barba Higuera

A young girl’s love of storytelling forms the heart of this bittersweet science fiction tale that demonstrates how our oldest and most cherished stories continue to grow with us.

See all of our Best Books of 2021 lists.

The year's best middle grade and chapter books center child protagonists and privilege the child reader’s perspective in works that range from lighthearted to weighty and from grounded to fantastical.

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