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California: Books For Kids

Looking for a list of the best kids books about California?

Children’s literature has many notable options when it comes to California. To help you find the right books for you and your young reader, we’ve compiled a list of the best kids books about California.

Our list includes board books, picture books, and chapter books. Board books are best for babies and toddlers from ages newborn to 2 or 3. Picture books are generally great options for toddlers and for preschool and kindergarten age children. Picture books are especially enjoyable for adults to read aloud with young kids. The chapter books on our list are generally best for elementary through early middle school age tween kids. You can filter to sort by the best book type for your kid, and you can also use our table of contents to jump to particular topics you think your kid will enjoy.

When it comes to children’s stories about California, there are a variety of titles. This list covers everything, from classics like The Luckiest Girl to popular sellers like The Call of the Wild to some of our favorite hidden gems like The Tree Lady.

We hope this list of kids books about California can be a helpful resource for parents, teachers, and others searching for a new book! As you explore the list, please comment below to let us know what books you would add.

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Top 10 Books About California

#1
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Three Pennies
Written & illustrated by Melanie Crowder
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-12

A girl in foster care tries to find her birth mother before she loses her forever in this “tender tale” (School Library Journal, starred review) about last chances and new opportunities. For a kid bouncing from foster home to foster home, The Book of Changes is the perfect companion. That’s why Marin carries three pennies and a pocket-sized I Ching with her everywhere she goes. Yet when everything in her life suddenly starts changing—like landing in a foster home that feels like somewhere she could stay, maybe forever—the pennies don’t have any answers for her. Marin is positive that all the wrongs in her life will be made right if only she can find her birth mother and convince her that they belong together. Marin is close, oh so close—until she gets some unwelcome news and her resolve, like the uneasy earth far beneath the city of San Francisco, is shaken

#2
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San Francisco
board book
Recommend Ages: 0-3

Hello, World is an exciting board book series that pairs early learning concepts with colorful, stylish illustrations of cities around the world.

From the Golden Gate Bridge to seals to cable cars, there’s no shortage of bright, bold, and interesting things to count in San Francisco. Explore numbers through the best the city has to offer in this gorgeous board book!

#3
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A Dragon's Guide to the Care and Feeding of Humans
Written by Laurence Yep and Joanne Ryder & illustrated by Mary GrandPré
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-12

Fans of How to Train Your Dragon will love this whimsical tale, the first in a series, by a Newbery Honor winner, featuring charming illustrations and pet “training tips” in each chapter.

Crusty dragon Miss Drake has a new pet human, precocious Winnie. Oddly enough, Winnie seems to think Miss Drake is her pet—a ridiculous notion!

Unknown to most of its inhabitants, the City by the Bay is home to many mysterious and fantastic creatures, hidden beneath the parks, among the clouds, and even in plain sight. And Winnie wants to draw every new creature she encounters: the good, the bad, and the ugly. But Winnie’s sketchbook is not what it seems. Somehow, her sketchlings have been set loose on the city streets! It will take Winnie and Miss Drake’s combined efforts to put an end to the mayhem . . . before it’s too late.

This refreshing debut collaboration by Laurence Yep, a two-time Newbery Honor winner and a Laura Ingalls Wilder Award winner, and Joanne Ryder features illustrations by Mary GrandPré.

#4
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The Tree Lady
Written by H. Joseph Hopkins & illustrated by Jill McElmurry
picture book
Recommend Ages: 5-10

Unearth the true story of green-thumbed pioneer and activist Kate Sessions, who helped San Diego grow from a dry desert town into a lush, leafy city known for its gorgeous parks and gardens. Katherine Olivia Sessions never thought she’d live in a place without trees. After all, Kate grew up among the towering pines and redwoods of Northern California. But after becoming the first woman to graduate from the University of California with a degree in science, she took a job as a teacher far south in the dry desert town of San Diego. Where there were almost no trees. Kate decided that San Diego needed trees more than anything else. So this trailblazing young woman singlehandedly started a massive movement that transformed the town into the green, garden-filled oasis it is today. Now, more than 100 years after Kate first arrived in San Diego, her gorgeous gardens and parks can be found all over the city. Part fascinating biography, part inspirational story, this moving picture book about following your dreams, using your talents, and staying strong in the face of adversity is sure to resonate with readers young and old.

#5
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The Colossus of Roads
Written & illustrated by Christina Uss
picture book
Recommend Ages: 9-12

Eleven-year-old Rick Rusek is determined to improve the traffic conditions in Los Angeles— his parent’s failing delivery catering service, Smotch, depends on it.

Rick Rusek’s stomach has a lot to say. It’s got opinions on tasty foods, not-so-tasty foods, and how driving in traffic-jammed Los Angeles makes it roil, boil, gurgle, and howl. It never meant to earn its owner the nickname Carsick Rick or make him change schools for fifth grade. It’s doing the best it can.

Rick has a lot to say back to his stomach. In fact, his stomach is the only one he can talk to about his favorite subject: the mighty power of road signs. Rick sees how shifting these bold, beautiful signs announcing STOP, LEFT TURN ONLY, SPEED LIMIT 35, and ROAD WORK AHEAD could improve all the traffic problems in Los Angeles. Too bad his talent for sketching maps that show how to fix everything doesn’t seem to interest or impress anyone else.

When his parents’ catering business teeters on the verge of ruin, Rick wants to prove his talent for noticing small details can make a big difference. He’ll need help from his unicorn-loving Girl Scout neighbor, the Department of Transportation, a renowned street artist, plus the best driver in LA. He’ll have to fight back against snarled streets, graffiti vandals, and other people’s very wrong ideas about traffic.

If Rick can successfully move the 330,000 slow-moving cars standing in the way of his family’s future, maybe everyone will see that he’s not Carsick Rick. He’s one of the seven wonders of Los Angeles. He’s the Colossus of Roads.

#6
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Smoky Night
Written by Eve Bunting & illustrated by David Diaz
picture book
Recommend Ages: 6-9

Eve Bunting’s heartfelt story and David Diaz’s dramatic illustrations create a compelling child’s-eye view of urban violence. A young boy and his mother are forced to flee their apartment during a night of rioting in Los Angeles. Fires and looting force neighbors—who have always avoided one another—to come together in the face of danger and concern for their missing pets. David Diaz was awarded the Caldecott Medal for his bold acrylic paint and photo-collage illustrations.

#7
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All Aboard California
Written by Kevin Meyers and Haily Meyers & illustrated by Haily Meyers
board book
Recommend Ages: 0-3

From the creators of BabyLit®: Every area of the world can be mapped out for adventure, and brilliant babies love the sophistication of traveling by train. This new board book series written by the husband and wife team of Haily and Kevin Meyers and illustrated by Haily, celebrates the unique qualities of each city while employing a fun primer element to tell the story. These books will have you and baby seeing the world by train and will turn story time into a globetrotting event. Perfect as a souvenir or as part of a geography collection for brilliant babies, the All Aboard! series will be pulling into your station next!

#8
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Dragon Hoops
Written by Gene Luen Yang
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 14-18

In his latest graphic novel, Dragon Hoops, New York Times bestselling author Gene Luen Yang turns the spotlight on his life, his family, and the high school where he teaches.

Gene understands stories—comic book stories, in particular. Big action. Bigger thrills. And the hero always wins.

But Gene doesn’t get sports. As a kid, his friends called him “Stick” and every basketball game he played ended in pain. He lost interest in basketball long ago, but at the high school where he now teaches, it’s all anyone can talk about. The men’s varsity team, the Dragons, is having a phenomenal season that’s been decades in the making. Each victory brings them closer to their ultimate goal: the California State Championships.

Once Gene gets to know these young all-stars, he realizes that their story is just as thrilling as anything he’s seen on a comic book page. He knows he has to follow this epic to its end. What he doesn’t know yet is that this season is not only going to change the Dragons’s lives, but his own life as well.

#9
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Love, Agnes: Postcards from an Octopus
Written by Irene Latham & illustrated by Thea Baker
picture book
Recommend Ages: 7-8

Agnes has a beak that can crush bones and arms and stretch wide as a car―but that doesn’t make her a monster! After she comes across a postcard, Agnes, a giant Pacific octopus, strikes up a correspondence with various other creatures below―and above―the waves. Readers will delight in this unlikely introduction to the octopus life cycle.

#10
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Al Capone Does My Shirts
Written & illustrated by Gennifer Choldenko
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 10-14

A twelve-year-old boy named Moose moves to Alcatraz Island in 1935 when guards’ families were housed there, and has to contend with his extraordinary new environment in addition to life with his autistic sister Natalie. A Newbery Honor Book & ALA Notable Book. Reprint. Jr Lib Guild & Children’s BOMC.

Table of Contents
Scroll to books about California and...

Books About California and San Francisco

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Three Pennies
Written & illustrated by Melanie Crowder
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-12

A girl in foster care tries to find her birth mother before she loses her forever in this “tender tale” (School Library Journal, starred review) about last chances and new opportunities. For a kid bouncing from foster home to foster home, The Book of Changes is the perfect companion. That’s why Marin carries three pennies and a pocket-sized I Ching with her everywhere she goes. Yet when everything in her life suddenly starts changing—like landing in a foster home that feels like somewhere she could stay, maybe forever—the pennies don’t have any answers for her. Marin is positive that all the wrongs in her life will be made right if only she can find her birth mother and convince her that they belong together. Marin is close, oh so close—until she gets some unwelcome news and her resolve, like the uneasy earth far beneath the city of San Francisco, is shaken

Add to list
A Dragon's Guide to the Care and Feeding of Humans
Written by Laurence Yep and Joanne Ryder & illustrated by Mary GrandPré
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-12

Fans of How to Train Your Dragon will love this whimsical tale, the first in a series, by a Newbery Honor winner, featuring charming illustrations and pet “training tips” in each chapter.

Crusty dragon Miss Drake has a new pet human, precocious Winnie. Oddly enough, Winnie seems to think Miss Drake is her pet—a ridiculous notion!

Unknown to most of its inhabitants, the City by the Bay is home to many mysterious and fantastic creatures, hidden beneath the parks, among the clouds, and even in plain sight. And Winnie wants to draw every new creature she encounters: the good, the bad, and the ugly. But Winnie’s sketchbook is not what it seems. Somehow, her sketchlings have been set loose on the city streets! It will take Winnie and Miss Drake’s combined efforts to put an end to the mayhem . . . before it’s too late.

This refreshing debut collaboration by Laurence Yep, a two-time Newbery Honor winner and a Laura Ingalls Wilder Award winner, and Joanne Ryder features illustrations by Mary GrandPré.

Add to list
The Alcatraz Escape
Written by Jennifer Chambliss Bertman & illustrated by Sarah Watts
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 9-14

Sleuthing duo Emily and James engage in a literary escape-room challenge on Alcatraz Island, but soon find that an invisible enemy is trying to sabotage the team at any cost.

Honorable Mentions
The Unbreakable Code (The Book Scavenger series) book
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The Unbreakable Code book
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Book Scavenger book
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Marching With Aunt Susan book
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  1. The Unbreakable Code (The Book Scavenger series) - Could books hidden through the Book Scavenger game be linked to an arsonist’s web of destruction? Find out in the New York Times-bestselling second book in the action packed Book Scavenger series by Jennifer Chambliss Bertman.

  2. The Unbreakable Code - Could books hidden through Book Scavenger be linked to an arsonist’s web of destruction? Find out in Book 2 of Jennifer Bertman’s Book Scavenger series. Mr. Quisling is definitely up to something mysterious, and Emily and James are on high alert. First, there’s the coded note he drops at a book event. Then they uncover a trail of encrypted messages in Mark Twain-penned books hidden through Book Scavenger. What’s most suspicious is that each hidden book triggers a fire. As the sleuthing friends dig deeper, they discover Mr. Quisling has been hunting a legendary historical puzzle: the Unbreakable Code. This new mystery is irresistible, but Emily and James can’t ignore the signs that Mr. Quisling might be the arsonist. The clock is ticking as the fires multiply, and Emily and James race to crack the code of a lifetime. A Christy Ottaviano Book

  3. Book Scavenger - Just after twelve-year-old Emily and her family move to San Francisco, she teams up with new friend James to follow clues in an odd book they find, hoping to figure out its secrets before the men who attacked Emily’s hero, publisher Garrison Griswold, solve the mystery or come after the friends.

  4. Marching With Aunt Susan - An inspiring story of the fight for women’s suffrage, based on the experiences of a real girl All Bessie wants is to go hiking with her father and brothers. But it’s 1896, and girls don’t get to hike. They can’t vote either, which Bessie discovers when Susan B. Anthony comes to town to help lead the campaign for women’s suffrage. Stirred to action, Bessie joins the movement and discovers that small efforts can result in small changes—and maybe even big ones. Inspired by the diary of the real Bessie Keith Pond, a ten-year-old girl who lived in California during the suffrage campaign, author Claire Rudolf Murphy and illustrator Stacey Schuett offer a thought-provoking introduction to the fight for women’s rights. A story of hope and determination, Marching with Aunt Susan reminds readers that society cannot evolve unless people—even young people—dare to take a stand

Books About California and Science And Nature

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The Tree Lady
Written by H. Joseph Hopkins & illustrated by Jill McElmurry
picture book
Recommend Ages: 5-10

Unearth the true story of green-thumbed pioneer and activist Kate Sessions, who helped San Diego grow from a dry desert town into a lush, leafy city known for its gorgeous parks and gardens. Katherine Olivia Sessions never thought she’d live in a place without trees. After all, Kate grew up among the towering pines and redwoods of Northern California. But after becoming the first woman to graduate from the University of California with a degree in science, she took a job as a teacher far south in the dry desert town of San Diego. Where there were almost no trees. Kate decided that San Diego needed trees more than anything else. So this trailblazing young woman singlehandedly started a massive movement that transformed the town into the green, garden-filled oasis it is today. Now, more than 100 years after Kate first arrived in San Diego, her gorgeous gardens and parks can be found all over the city. Part fascinating biography, part inspirational story, this moving picture book about following your dreams, using your talents, and staying strong in the face of adversity is sure to resonate with readers young and old.

Add to list
Love, Agnes: Postcards from an Octopus
Written by Irene Latham & illustrated by Thea Baker
picture book
Recommend Ages: 7-8

Agnes has a beak that can crush bones and arms and stretch wide as a car―but that doesn’t make her a monster! After she comes across a postcard, Agnes, a giant Pacific octopus, strikes up a correspondence with various other creatures below―and above―the waves. Readers will delight in this unlikely introduction to the octopus life cycle.

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Mountain Chef
Written by Annette Bay Pimentel & illustrated by Rich Lo
picture book
Recommend Ages: 6-9

The true story of a Chinese American mountain man who fed thirty people for ten days in the wilderness—and helped inspire the creation of the National Park Service. Tie Sing was born in the mountains. The mountains were in his blood. But because he was of Chinese descent at a time in America when to be Chinese meant working in restaurants or laundries, Tie Sing’s prospects were limited. But he had bigger plans. He began cooking for mapmakers and soon built a reputation as the best trail cook in California. When millionaire Stephen Mather began his quest to create a national park service in 1915, he invited a group of influential men—writers, tycoons, members of Congress, and even a movie star—to go camping in the Sierras. Tie Sing was hired to cook. Tie Sing planned diligently. He understood the importance of this trip. But when disaster struck—twice!—and Tie Sing’s supplies were lost, it was his creative spirit and quick mind that saved the day. His sumptuous menus had to be struck and Tie Sing had to start over in order to feed the thirty people in the group for ten whole days. His skills were tested and Tie Sing rose to the challenge. On the last night, he fed not just the campers’ bodies, but also their minds, reminding them to remember and protect the mountains. 2016 marks the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service, created by Congress on August 25, 1916. Today, you can hike to Sing Peak, named for Tie Sing, in Yosemite National Park.

Honorable Mentions
Tall Tall Tree book
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Stretch to the Sun book
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Trapped!  A Whale's Rescue book
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The Camping Trip That Changed America book
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  1. Tall Tall Tree - “High in a redwood tree is an unseen world of all kinds of animals. Readers will meet them through rhyming verses as they count them 1 to 10”—

  2. Stretch to the Sun - The tallest known tree on earth is located in Redwood National Park in northern California. More than twelve hundred years old, it is approximately 380 feet tall—and still climbing! The tree in this book sprouted, flourished, and survived ecological threats for over twelve hundred years before being discovered by tall-tree researchers. The coast redwood tree provides a unique ecosystem for the many plants and animals in its tree canopy and managed to survive extensive harvesting by loggers nearby. Discovered in 2006, the tree’s location is kept secret to protect it.

  3. Trapped! A Whale's Rescue - In the icy waters of the Pacific, a massive humpback whale unexpectedly finds herself tangled in a net abandoned by fishermen. When a rescue boat and a convoy of divers arrive to help the struggling humpback, a realistic and moving encounter bridges the human and aquatic worlds.

  4. The Camping Trip That Changed America - Caldecott medalist Mordicai Gerstein captures the majestic redwoods of Yosemite in this little-known but important story from our nation’s history. In 1903, President Theodore Roosevelt joined naturalist John Muir on a trip to Yosemite. Camping by themselves in the uncharted woods, the two men saw sights and held discussions that would ultimately lead to the establishment of our National Parks.

Books About California and Travel

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123 California
Written by Puck & illustrated by Kevin Somers
board book
Recommend Ages: 0-4

Using some of California’s most beloved symbols, including the Golden Gate Bridge and the Hollywood sign, this clever introduction to counting features bold contemporary illustrations.

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San Francisco
board book
Recommend Ages: 0-3

Hello, World is an exciting board book series that pairs early learning concepts with colorful, stylish illustrations of cities around the world.

From the Golden Gate Bridge to seals to cable cars, there’s no shortage of bright, bold, and interesting things to count in San Francisco. Explore numbers through the best the city has to offer in this gorgeous board book!

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Be Our Guest!
Written & illustrated by Gray Malin
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

From Gray Malin, New York Times bestselling photographer of Beaches, comes Be Our Guest!, Malin’s first children’s picture book, compiled from his acclaimed series of photographs at the Parker Hotel in Palm Springs. Welcome to the Parker Hotel, where you’ll experience a delightful time away, filled with everything you’d expect from a sunny, California vacation. There’s tennis courts and a lemonade stand, a gorgeous pool, and a lawn for croquet. But, the other guests and staff are more than a little unexpected . . . If Eloise had lived in an animal-only hotel, it would have had the style and whimsy of the Parker. Just reading Be Our Guest! will whisk children away on a temporary holiday, which is nothing less than extraordinary.

Honorable Mentions
Los Angeles is . . . book
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Hannah Is My Name book
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  1. Los Angeles is . . . - Los Angeles is . . . surfing waves and fashion faves, citrus fruits and long commutes, lowrider cruising and poolside snoozing, zipping cars and Hollywood stars. From taco trucks to tar pits, this stylish primer to California’s City of Angels, illustrated by Alexander Vidal, is spot-on for toddlers and first-time travelers.

  2. Hannah Is My Name - “Based on her own immigration story, Yang’s offering is a winner — a spot-on depiction of the immigration experience in America.” — KIRKUS REVIEWS It’s a long way from Taiwan to San Francisco, but Hannah’s family has made the journey because they want to make America their home. In America, Baba tells his daughter, people are free to say what they think, and children can grow up to be whatever they choose. As Hannah takes a new name, starts a new school, learns a new language, and adjusts to a new way of life, they all wait — and hope — for the arrival of the green cards that will assure they are finally home to stay.

Want to see books about travel?

Books About California and Social Themes

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Smoky Night
Written by Eve Bunting & illustrated by David Diaz
picture book
Recommend Ages: 6-9

Eve Bunting’s heartfelt story and David Diaz’s dramatic illustrations create a compelling child’s-eye view of urban violence. A young boy and his mother are forced to flee their apartment during a night of rioting in Los Angeles. Fires and looting force neighbors—who have always avoided one another—to come together in the face of danger and concern for their missing pets. David Diaz was awarded the Caldecott Medal for his bold acrylic paint and photo-collage illustrations.

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Al Capone Does My Shirts
Written & illustrated by Gennifer Choldenko
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 10-14

A twelve-year-old boy named Moose moves to Alcatraz Island in 1935 when guards’ families were housed there, and has to contend with his extraordinary new environment in addition to life with his autistic sister Natalie. A Newbery Honor Book & ALA Notable Book. Reprint. Jr Lib Guild & Children’s BOMC.

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My Life as a Gamer
Written by Janet Tashjian & illustrated by Jake Tashjian
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 9-12

Derek Fallon gets the chance of a lifetime when he is asked to test software for new video games, but he soon discovers that his dream job isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

Honorable Mentions
The Karate Kid book
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The Rainbow Flag: Bright, Bold, and Beautiful book
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Esperanza Rising book
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Lucky for Good book
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  1. The Karate Kid - When The Karate Kid appeared in theaters in 1984, its heartwarming story of an unlikely friendship between a bullied boy and his karate teacher won over audiences and inspired children across America to take up martial arts. Now this beloved film is reimagined as a Pop Classics picture book, with Kim Smith’s bright and kid-friendly illustrations capturing all of the story’s iconic moments. Young Daniel moves to a new town and becomes the target of bullies from the local karate dojo Cobra Kai. Hoping to win the upcoming karate tournament, Daniel begs his neighbor Mr. Miyagi to help him train. Mr. Miyagi reluctantly agrees. But he becomes more than just Daniel’s sensei by teaching him lessons about patience, balance, and hard work along the way. This timeless story about finding inner strength will enchant children, their parents, and anyone who has ever had that one special teacher.

  2. The Rainbow Flag: Bright, Bold, and Beautiful - Flags are brilliant and clever works of art and design, and they bring people together under a common banner. This colorful story follows a group of friends who helped dye and sew strips of cloth to create the first Rainbow Flags for the San Francisco Gay Freedom Day Parade in 1978. Led by a young artist named Gilbert Baker, the friends set out to create a flag that people could march behind during the Pride Parade. They knew the flag needed to be bright, in order to be seen by everyone as they marched. It needed to be bold, to lead the crowd. And it needed to be beautiful, like the love celebrated by the parade! The result is an iconic flag that has become an international symbol of the gay pride movement.

  3. Esperanza Rising - Esperanza and her mother are forced to leave their life of wealth and privilege in Mexico to go work in the labor camps of Southern California, where they must adapt to the harsh circumstances facing Mexican farm workers on the eve of the Great Depression.

  4. Lucky for Good - The residents of Hard Pan, California, come together to help Brigitte and Lucky when the County Health Department threatens to close down the cafâe, and meantime Miles’s life is complicated by his mother’s return.

Books About California and Family

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The Colossus of Roads
Written & illustrated by Christina Uss
picture book
Recommend Ages: 9-12

Eleven-year-old Rick Rusek is determined to improve the traffic conditions in Los Angeles— his parent’s failing delivery catering service, Smotch, depends on it.

Rick Rusek’s stomach has a lot to say. It’s got opinions on tasty foods, not-so-tasty foods, and how driving in traffic-jammed Los Angeles makes it roil, boil, gurgle, and howl. It never meant to earn its owner the nickname Carsick Rick or make him change schools for fifth grade. It’s doing the best it can.

Rick has a lot to say back to his stomach. In fact, his stomach is the only one he can talk to about his favorite subject: the mighty power of road signs. Rick sees how shifting these bold, beautiful signs announcing STOP, LEFT TURN ONLY, SPEED LIMIT 35, and ROAD WORK AHEAD could improve all the traffic problems in Los Angeles. Too bad his talent for sketching maps that show how to fix everything doesn’t seem to interest or impress anyone else.

When his parents’ catering business teeters on the verge of ruin, Rick wants to prove his talent for noticing small details can make a big difference. He’ll need help from his unicorn-loving Girl Scout neighbor, the Department of Transportation, a renowned street artist, plus the best driver in LA. He’ll have to fight back against snarled streets, graffiti vandals, and other people’s very wrong ideas about traffic.

If Rick can successfully move the 330,000 slow-moving cars standing in the way of his family’s future, maybe everyone will see that he’s not Carsick Rick. He’s one of the seven wonders of Los Angeles. He’s the Colossus of Roads.

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Choosing Sides
Written by Alex Morgan
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-12

From FIFA World Cup Champion, Olympic gold medalist, and bestselling author Alex Morgan comes the ninth book in an empowering and fun-filled middle grade series that inspired the Amazon original series, The Kicks! After an easy win against the Roses, Devin is reminded of how the Kicks were playing when she first joined and how far they have come since then. Devin runs into Sasha, a summer league teammate of hers, who confides that the Roses’ coach doesn’t seem to care that they’re losing and asks Devin for help. She invites the Roses to a weekend soccer clinic that the Kicks are going to. But when the eighth graders find out that Devin is helping another team in their league, they are not pleased and accuse Devin of helping the competition—especially when the Roses begin to win. Meanwhile, Zoe and Emma haven’t been seeing eye-to-eye, and their friendship seems to be in trouble, putting Devin and Jessi in the middle of their fights. When they begin to disrupt the Kicks’ practices, Devon knows she has to do something. Can Devin prove to her team and her friends that she’s not playing favorites or choosing sides?

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Summer of a Thousand Pies
Written by Margaret Dilloway
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-12

A heartfelt contemporary middle grade novel about a girl who must try to save her aunt’s failing pie shop, perfect for fans of The Thing About Jellyfish, Fish in a Tree—and The Great British Baking Show. When Cady Bennett is sent to live with the aunt she didn’t even know she had in the quaint mountain town of Julian, she isn’t sure what to expect. Cady isn’t used to stability, after growing up homeless in San Diego with her dad. Now she’s staying in her mother’s old room, exploring the countryside filled with apple orchards and pie shops, making friends, and working in Aunt Shell’s own pie shop—and soon, Cady starts to feel like she belongs. Then she finds out that Aunt Shell’s shop is failing. Saving the business and protecting the first place she’s ever really felt safe will take everything she’s learned and the help of all her new friends. But are there some things even the perfect pie just can’t fix? Summer of a Thousand Pies is a sweet and satisfying treat of a novel full of friendship, family, and, of course, pie.

Honorable Mentions
Puma Dreams book
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Hope Is a Ferris Wheel book
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Love, Penelope book
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  1. Puma Dreams - A girl visiting her grandmother longs for a glimpse of the solitary and rarely seen puma. Her grandmother tells her that if she’s patient, one day her wish will come true. But patience is hard, the girl thinks. So, the girl and her grandmother stand watch each day, and then finally, without warning, she sees the beautiful animal from afar. Knowing she may never see a puma again, she now knows it’s everyone’s responsibility to protect these increasingly threatened animals.

  2. Hope Is a Ferris Wheel - After moving from Oregon to a trailer park in California, ten-year-old Star participates in a poetry club, where she learns some important lessons about herself and her own hopes and dreams for the future.

  3. Love, Penelope - Penny is excited to welcome her new sibling, so throughout her mom’s pregnancy she writes letters to it (not it, YOU!). She introduces herself (Penelope, but she prefers “Penny”) and their moms (Sammy and Becky). She brags about their home city, Oakland, California (the weather, the Bay, and the Golden State Warriors) and shares the trials and tribulations of being a fifth-grader (which, luckily, YOU won’t have to worry about for a long time). Penny asks little questions about her sibling’s development and starts to ask big questions about the world around her (like if and when her moms are ever going to get married “for real”). Honest, relatable, and full of heart, Love, Penelope explores heritage, forgiveness, love, and identity through the eyes (and pen) of one memorable 10-year-old in a special year when marriage equality and an NBA championship made California a place of celebration.

Books About California and 20th Century

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Write to Me
Written by Cynthia Grady & illustrated by Amiko Hirao
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

“Dear Miss Breed . . .”

A touching story about Japanese American children who corresponded with their beloved librarian while they were imprisoned in World War II internment camps.

When Executive Order 9066 is enacted after the attack at Pearl Harbor, children’s librarian Clara Breed’s young Japanese American patrons are to be sent to prison camp. Before they are moved, Breed asks the children to write her letters and gives them books to take with them. Through the three years of their internment, the children correspond with Miss Breed, sharing their stories, providing feedback on books, and creating a record of their experiences. Using excerpts from children’s letters held at the Japanese American National Museum, author Cynthia Grady presents a difficult subject with honesty and hope.

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Where Is Alcatraz?
Written by Nico Medina and Who HQ & illustrated by David Groff
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-12

The island of Alcatraz has always been a place that’s fascinated visitors, from the Native American tribes who believed it was home to evil spirits to the Spanish explorers who discovered the island. In modern times, it was a federal prison for only 29 years, but now draws over a million visitors each year. Learn the history of America’s most famous prison, from its initial construction as a fort in the 1800s, to its most famous residents such as Al Capone and “Machine Gun” Kelly. Where Is Alcatraz? also chronicles some of the most exciting escape attempts—even one that involved chipping through stone with spoons and constructing rafts out of raincoats!

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Al Capone Does My Homework
Written & illustrated by Gennifer Choldenko
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 10-14

Alcatraz Island in the 1930s isn’t the most normal place to grow up, but it’s home for Moose Flanagan, his autistic sister, Natalie, and all the families of the guards. When Moose’s dad gets promoted to Associate Warden, despite being an unlikely candidate, it’s a big deal. But the cons have a point system for targeting prison employees, and his dad is now in serious danger. After a fire starts in the Flanagan’s apartment, Natalie is blamed, and Moose bands with the other kids to track down the possible arsonist. Then Moose gets a cryptic note from the notorious Al Capone himself. Is Capone trying to protect Moose’s dad too? If Moose can’t figure out what Capone’s note means, it may be too late.

Honorable Mentions
Breakout! Escape from Alcatraz  book
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Escape from Alcatraz book
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One Crazy Summer book
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Under the Ashes book
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  1. Breakout! Escape from Alcatraz - An easy-to-read study of Alcatraz, “The Rock,” describes how America’s renowned prison housed some of the country’s most notorious criminals.

  2. Escape from Alcatraz - What’s more exciting than a prison break? Frank Morris and John and Clarence Anglin escaped from Alcatraz in 1962 and have never been caught. Many authorities are certain they died crossing San Francisco Bay. Relatives claim they made it to Brazil. The theories of what happened to them are endless. Find out the facts from people who dealt with the men and the case first-hand. This is one mystery you’ll definitely want to solve.

  3. One Crazy Summer - In this Newbery Honor novel, New York Times bestselling author Rita Williams-Garcia tells the story of three sisters who travel to Oakland, California, in 1968 to meet the mother who abandoned them. “This vibrant and moving award-winning novel has heart to spare.” Eleven-year-old Delphine is like a mother to her two younger sisters, Vonetta and Fern. She’s had to be, ever since their mother, Cecile, left them seven years ago for a radical new life in California. But when the sisters arrive from Brooklyn to spend the summer with their mother, Cecile is nothing like they imagined. While the girls hope to go to Disneyland and meet Tinker Bell, their mother sends them to a day camp run by the Black Panthers. Unexpectedly, Delphine, Vonetta, and Fern learn much about their family, their country, and themselves during one truly crazy summer. This moving, funny novel won the Scott O’Dell Award for Historical Fiction and the Coretta Scott King Award and was a National Book Award Finalist. Delphine, Vonetta, and Fern’s story continues in P.S. Be Eleven and Gone Crazy in Alabama. Readers who enjoy Christopher Paul Curtis’s The Watsons Go to Birmingham and Jacqueline Woodson’s Brown Girl Dreaming will find much to love in One Crazy Summer. This novel was the first featured title for Marley D’s Reading Party, launched after the success of #1000BlackGirlBooks. Maria Russo, in a New York Times list of “great kids’ books with diverse characters,” called it “witty and original.” Brightly, in Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich’s article “Knowing Our History to Build a Brighter Future: Books to Help Kids Understand the Fight for Racial Equality”

  4. Under the Ashes - Eleven-year-old Elizabeth “Littlebeth” Morgan would rather race the boys, chase skunks, and read about bandits than act like a lady. So her parents send her to her maiden aunt in San Francisco to be tamed and refined. But when an earthquake hits and she’s separated from her aunt, Littlebeth must use her fearless nature and quick-thinking to survive in a city that’s broken and burning.

Books About California and Culture

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The Dragon Warrior
Written by Katie Zhao
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-11

Inspired by Chinese mythology, this high-action middle-grade fantasy follows an outcast as she embarks on a quest to prove herself—perfect for fans of Aru Shah and the End of Time and The Serpent’s Secret. As a member of the Jade Society, twelve-year-old Faryn Liu dreams of honoring her family and the gods by becoming a warrior. But the Society has shunned Faryn and her brother Alex ever since their father disappeared years ago, forcing them to train in secret. Then, during an errand into San Francisco, Faryn stumbles into a battle with a demon—and helps defeat it. She just might be the fabled Heaven Breaker, a powerful warrior meant to work for the all-mighty deity, the Jade Emperor, by commanding an army of dragons to defeat the demons. That is, if she can prove her worth and find the island of the immortals before the Lunar New Year. With Alex and other unlikely allies at her side, Faryn sets off on a daring quest across Chinatowns. But becoming the Heaven Breaker will require more sacrifices than she first realized . . . What will Faryn be willing to give up to claim her destiny? This richly woven contemporary middle-grade fantasy, full of humor, magic, and heart, will appeal to readers who love Roshani Chokshi and Sayantani DasGupta.

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Sammy Keyes and the Wild Things
Written by Wendelin Van Draanen & illustrated by Brian Biggs
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 9-12

While on her first hiking and camping trip, thirteen-year-old Sammy tries to solve a mystery involving endangered condors while avoiding scorpions, ticks, and embarrassment.

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Jump Again! More Adventures of Brer Rabbit
Written by Van Dyke Parks and Joel Chandler Harris & illustrated by Barry Moser
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

Continues the lighthearted adventures and antics of the crafty Brer Rabbit, who outsmarts all the colorful inhabitants of Hominy Grove.

Honorable Mentions
A Hitch at the Fairmont book
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The Call of the Wild book
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A Life Made by Hand book
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The Higher Power of Lucky book
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  1. A Hitch at the Fairmont - An intrepid boy teams up with Alfred Hitchcock himself in this rollicking mystery rife with action, adventure, intrigue, and all the flavor of film noir. After the mysterious death of his mother, eleven-year-old Jack Fair is whisked away to San Francisco’s swanky Fairmont Hotel by his wicked Aunt Edith. There, he seems doomed to a life of fetching chocolates for his aunt and her pet chinchilla. Until one night, when Aunt Edith disappears, and the only clue is a ransom note written…in chocolate? Suddenly, Jack finds himself all alone on a quest to discover who kidnapped Aunt Edith and what happened to his mother. Alone, that is, until he meets an unlikely accomplice—Alfred Hitchcock himself! The two embark on a madcap journey full of hidden doorways, secret societies, cryptic clues, sinister villains, and cinematic flair. Including an author’s note about the real Hitchcock and an appendix of film references, this “fine read” is a “love letter to all that Hitchcock stood for” (Kirkus Reviews).

  2. The Call of the Wild - Life is good for Buck in Santa Clara Valley, where he spends his days eating and sleeping in the golden sunshine. But one day a treacherous act of betrayal leads to his kidnap, and he is forced into a life of toil and danger. Dragged away to be a sledge dog in the harsh and freezing cold Yukon, Buck must fight for his survivial. Can he rise above his enemies and become the master of his realm once again? With an inspirational introduction by award-winning author Melvyn Burgess, The Call of the Wild is one of the twenty wonderful classic stories being reissued in Puffin Classics in March 2015.

  3. A Life Made by Hand - Ruth Asawa (1926-2013) was an influential and award-winning sculptor, a beloved figure in the Bay Area art world, and a devoted activist who advocated tirelessly for arts education. This lushly illustrated book by collage artist Andrea D’Aquino brings Asawa’s creative journey to life, detailing the influence of her childhood in a farming family, and her education at Black Mountain College where she pursued an experimental course of education with leading avant-garde artists and thinkers such as Anni and Josef Albers, Buckminster Fuller, Merce Cunningham, and Robert Rauschenberg. Delightful and substantial, this engaging title for young art lovers includes a page of teaching tools for parents and educators.

  4. The Higher Power of Lucky - Lucky, age 10, can’t wait another day. The meanness gland in her heart and the crevices full of questions in her brain make running away from Hard Pan, California (population 43), the rock-bottom only choice she has. It’s all Brigitte’s fault for wanting to go back to France. Guardians are supposed to stay put and look after girls in their care! Instead, Lucky is sure that she’ll be abandoned to some orphanage in Los Angeles where her beloved dog, HMS Beagle, won’t be allowed. She’ll have to lose her friends: Miles, who lives on cookies, and Lincoln, future U.S. president (maybe) and member of the International Guild of Knot Tiers. Just as bad, she’ll have to give up eavesdropping on 12-step anonymous programs, where the interesting talk is all about Higher Powers. Lucky needs her own “higher power” - and quick. But she hadn’t planned on a dust storm, or needing to lug the world’s heaviest survival-kit backpack into the desert.

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