Best Children's Books About Self-discovery

81+ Children's Books About Self-discovery

Updated Jan. 19, 2019
Blended book
#26
Blended
Written by Sharon Draper
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-12

Eleven-year-old Isabella’s blended family is more divided than ever in this thoughtful story about divorce and racial identity from the award-winning and New York Times bestselling author of Out of My Mind, Sharon M. Draper. Eleven-year-old Isabella’s parents are divorced, so she has to switch lives every week: One week she’s Isabella with her dad, his girlfriend Anastasia, and her son Darren living in a fancy house where they are one of the only black families in the neighborhood. The next week she’s Izzy with her mom and her boyfriend John-Mark in a small, not-so-fancy house that she loves. Because of this, Isabella has always felt pulled between two worlds. And now that her parents are divorced, it seems their fights are even worse, and they’re always about HER. Isabella feels even more stuck in the middle, split and divided between them than ever. And she’s is beginning to realize that being split between Mom and Dad is more than switching houses, switching nicknames, switching backpacks: it’s also about switching identities. Her dad is black, her mom is white, and strangers are always commenting: “You’re so exotic!” “You look so unusual.” “But what are you really?” She knows what they’re really saying: “You don’t look like your parents.” “You’re different.” “What race are you really?” And when her parents, who both get engaged at the same time, get in their biggest fight ever, Isabella doesn’t just feel divided, she feels ripped in two. What does it mean to be half white or half black? To belong to half mom and half dad? And if you’re only seen as half of this and half of that, how can you ever feel whole? It seems like nothing can bring Isabella’s family together again—until the worst happens. Isabella and Darren are stopped by the police. A cell phone is mistaken for a gun. And shots are fired.

Keeper of the Lost Cities book
#27
Keeper of the Lost Cities
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-12

At age 12, Sophie learns that the remarkable abilities that have always made her different from others actually identify her as an elf, and after being brought to Eternalia to hone her skills, she discovers that she has secrets buried in her memory for which some would kill.

Jack (Not Jackie) book
#28
Jack (Not Jackie)
Written by Erica Silverman and illustrated by Holly Hatam
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

In this heartwarming picture book, a big sister realizes that her little sister, Jackie, doesn't like dresses or fairies-she likes ties and bugs! Will she and her family be able to accept that Jackie identifies more as "Jack"? Susan thinks her little sister Jackie has the best giggle! She can't wait for Jackie to get older so they can do all sorts of things like play forest fairies and be explorers together. But as Jackie grows, she doesn't want to play those games. She wants to play with mud and be a super bug! Jackie also doesn't like dresses or her long hair, and she would rather be called Jack. Readers will love this sweet story about change and acceptance.

I Can Fly book
#29
I Can Fly
Written by and illustrated by Fifi Kuo
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

Penguin wants to fly like other birds, but he has trouble doing so when he tries! Penguin is confused because he has wings and can flap, waddle, and leap like other birds, but he lands flat on his stomach when he tries to fly. When Penguin asks his dad why he can't fly, his father tells him that penguins swim. But Penguin doesn't want to accept this! Will he be able to find a way to fly?

What's a Little Noogie Between Friends? book
#30
What's a Little Noogie Between Friends?
Written by Lincoln Peirce
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 7-12

Big Nate is in a class by himself. This feisty 11-year-old holds the school record for detentions, but that doesn't stop him from dreaming big! It's not easy being Nate Wright. No one recognizes his innate genius superiority and, in fact, he is foiled at every turn by the onerous Mrs. Godfrey. And if that weren't bad enough, his star soccer team loses to a team that had lost sixty games in a row. Adding insult to injury is when he gets up the courage to go to the movies alone while his friends all have dates, and the only seat left is next to the dreaded Gina! Can it get any worse? Oh, no, his long-time crush Jenny is moving to Seattle!

Exit Strategy book
#31
Exit Strategy
Written by Lauren Allbright
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 9-13

Twelve-year-old Ross tries to discover the formula for being funny and getting his new classmates to like him in this laugh-out-loud MAX novel!

Power Forward book
#32
Power Forward
Written by Hena Khan and illustrated by Sally Wern Comport
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 7-10

From the critically acclaimed author of Amina’s Voice comes the first book in an exciting new chapter book series about a fourth-grader with big dreams of basketball stardom. Fourth grader Zayd Saleem has some serious hoop dreams. He’s not just going to be a professional basketball player. He’s going to be a star. A legend. The first Pakistani-American kid to make it to the NBA. He knows this deep in his soul. It’s his destiny. There are only a few small things in his way. For starters, Zayd’s only on the D-team. (D stands for developmental, but to Zayd it’s always felt like a bad grade or something.) Not to mention, he’s a bit on the scrawny side, even for the fourth grade team. But his best friend Adam is on the Gold Team, and it’s Zayd’s dream for the two of them to play together. His mom and dad don’t get it. They want him to practice his violin way more than his jump shot. When he gets caught blowing off his violin lessons to practice, Zayd’s parents lay down the ultimate punishment: he has to hang up his high tops and isn’t allowed to play basketball anymore. As tryouts for the Gold Team approach, Zayd has to find the courage to stand up for himself and chase his dream.

Crown of Three book
#33
Crown of Three
Written and illustrated by JD Rinehart
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 9-13

"Toronia, a kingdom composed of three realms, is wracked with civil war. King Brutan rules with an iron fist. The kingdom's only hope comes in the form of Brutan's illegitimate triplets, prophesied to kill the king and rule together in peace. Separated at birth and scattered throughout the realms, the triplets face a desperate fight to secure their destiny"

Husky book
#34
Husky
Written by Justin Sayre
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 10-14

Twelve-year-old Davis lives in an old brownstone with his mother and grandmother in Brooklyn. He loves people-watching in Prospect Park, visiting his mom in the bakery she owns, and listening to the biggest operas he can find as he walks everywhere. But Davis is having a difficult summer. As questions of sexuality begin to enter his mind, he worries people don’t see him as anything other than “husky.” To make matters worse, his best girlfriends are starting to hang out with mean girls and popular boys. Davis is equally concerned about the distance forming between him and his single mother as she begins dating again, and about his changing relationship with his amusingly loud Irish grandmother, Nanny. Ultimately, Davis learns to see himself outside of his one defining adjective. He’s a kid with unique interests, admirable qualities, and people who will love him no matter what changes life brings about.

The Adventures of Lettie Peppercorn book
#35
The Adventures of Lettie Peppercorn
Written by Sam Gayton and illustrated by Poly Bernatene
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-12

An alchemist peddles a new magical invention—and the key that could unlock Lettie Peppercorn’s family secrets—in this quirky “tale of self-discovery, family, and friendship” (The Independent). Lettie Peppercorn cannot go outside. Ma told her so right before Ma disappeared forever. So Lettie’s house is on stilts, and she is stuck with only the wind and a pigeon for a friend. Nothing exciting has ever happened to her—until the night a strange merchant appears. He claims to be an alchemist—the greatest that ever lived—and he is here to sell Lettie his newest invention. It’s an invention that could change Lettie’s life—and the world forever. An invention called “snow.” But snow is not the only secret he holds. The alchemist knows where Lettie’s Ma is. And Lettie will do anything to get Ma back—even if it means risking her own life. Join the brilliant and resourceful Lettie Peppercorn as she sails across the world to reunite her family and discover the truth about herself.

Jack Frost book
#36
Jack Frost
Written by William Joyce
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 7-11

The Guardians’ powers are put to the ultimate test in their final battle in this conclusion to the epic chapter book series from William Joyce. When we last saw the Guardians, they were celebrating their victory during Bright Night, the final great Battle of the Moon, where they defeated Pitch once and for all. Or so they thought. Now, many years later, the Guardians have settled into their final selves, embracing their public images and the Earth Holidays. But the world has not been without evil since Pitch’s imprisonment. First there was the World War, then The Crash which has led to what the humans call a Great Depression. All the Guardians feel the weight of these events, but Jack Frost—now half human, half of his former self Nightlight—feels it the most. Jack’s transition from Nightlight to Guardian was not an easy one. Always inclined to keep to himself, Jack has become especially isolated from the other Guardians since his transformation. Yet it is Jack who Ombric Shalazar (once a great wizard, now known as Father Time) trusts with a tremendous secret. But for Jack to fully understand this secret, he must revisit his past—and finally tell his story. Jack’s story, however, isn’t the only one to be reopened; an old enemy whose chapter we thought closed will reappear and with him bring a darkness and destruction that will test the Guardians like never before. It’s a battle of superlatives—the worse fighting the greatest, but where, oh where, is Jack?

The Art of Keeping Cool book
#37
The Art of Keeping Cool
Written and illustrated by Janet Taylor Lisle
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 10-14

Fear permeates the Rhode Island coastal town where Robert, his mother, and sister are living out the war with his paternal grandparents: Fear of Nazi submarines offshore. Fear of Abel Hoffman, a German artist living reclusively outside of town. And for Robert, a more personal fear, of his hot-tempered, controlling grandfather. As Robert watches the townspeople's hostility toward Hoffman build, he worries about his sensitive cousin Elliot's friendship with the artist. And he wonders more and more about the family secret everyone seems to be keeping from him—a secret involving Robert's father, a bomber pilot in Europe. Will Elliot's ability to detach himself from the turmoil around him be enough to sustain him when prejudice and suspicions erupt into violence? And can Robert find his own way to deal with the shocking truth about his family's past?

Star-Crossed book
#38
Star-Crossed
Written and illustrated by Barbara Dee
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 9-13

Twelve-year-old Mattie wrestles with her crush on Gemma as they participate in their school production of Romeo and Juliet in what School Library Journal calls “a fine choice for middle school libraries in need of an accessible LGBTQ stories.” Twelve-year-old Mattie is thrilled when she learns the eighth grade play will be Romeo and Juliet. In particular, she can’t wait to share the stage with Gemma Braithwaite, who has been cast as Juliet. Gemma is brilliant, pretty—and British!—and Mattie starts to see her as more than just a friend. But Mattie has also had an on/off crush on her classmate Elijah since, well, forever. Is it possible to have a crush on both boys AND girls? If that wasn’t enough to deal with, things offstage are beginning to resemble their own Shakespearean drama: the cast is fighting, and the boy playing Romeo may not be up to the challenge of the role. And due to a last-minute emergency, Mattie is asked to step up and take over the leading role—opposite Gemma’s Juliet—just as Mattie’s secret crush starts to become not-so-secret in her group of friends. In this funny, sweet, and clever look at the complicated nature of middle school romance, Mattie learns how to become a lead player in her own life.

Antoinette book
#39
Antoinette
Written by Kelly DiPucchio and illustrated by Christian Robinson
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

"Raised in a family of talented bulldogs, Antoinette the poodle wonders what makes her special. She gets the chance to prove herself and find what she's good at when puppy Ooh-la-la goes missing"--

The Littlest Viking book
#40
The Littlest Viking
Written by Alexandra Penfold and illustrated by Isabel Roxas
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

A hilarious story about what happens to the littlest and loudest Viking when an even littler and louder Viking arrives, perfect for fans of The Princess and the Pony and I Don’t Want to Be a Frog. Sven might be the littlest Viking, but he has no trouble making himself known. He has the loudest warrior cry and the fiercest set of teeth. He loves to pillage and plunder. But there’s a new kid in town—a warrior princess, who is smaller than Sven and even louder. What’s a little Viking to do?

The Major Eights 2: Scarlet's Big Break book
#41
The Major Eights 2: Scarlet's Big Break
Written by Melody Reed and illustrated by Emilie Pepin
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 6-8

In book 2 of the Major Eights series, Scarlet goes solo and risks alienating her bandmates. After their Battle of the Bands competition, the girls are famous! Everyone knows who they are now--even strangers recognize them! But the attention starts to go to Scarlet's head, and she decides to sign up for the school's talent show as a solo artist. But what about the Major Eights? Should she really leave the band and her friends behind? With each book told from a different girl's perspective, this series is all about girl power, diversity, and marching to the beat of your own drum!

Quiet book
#42
Quiet
Written and illustrated by Tomie dePaola
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

In a gorgeous and contemplative new picture book, legendary author-illustrator Tomie dePaola reminds us that mindfulness—being quiet, still, and present with one another—is a very special thing. Everything is in such a hurry, busy as busy can be. The birds are flying so fast, the dragonfly is zooming over the water—even the trees are waving their leaves. So what if we sit here, you next to me…and we can just be?

Herstory book
#43
Herstory
Written by Katherine Halligan and illustrated by Sarah Walsh
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-12

Move aside history—it’s time for herstory. Celebrate fifty inspiring and powerful women who changed the world and left their mark in this lavishly illustrated biography compilation that’s perfect for fans of Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls and She Persisted. Throughout history, girls have often been discussed in terms of what they couldn’t or shouldn’t do. Not anymore. It’s time for herstory—a celebration of not only what girls can do, but the remarkable things women have already accomplished, even when others tried to stop them. In this uplifting and inspiring book, follow the stories of fifty powerhouse women from around the world and across time who each managed to change the world as they knew it forever. Telling the stories of their childhood, the challenges they faced, and the impact of their achievements, each lavishly illustrated spread is a celebration of girl power in its many forms. From astronauts to activists, musicians to mathematicians, these women are sure to motivate young readers of all backgrounds to focus not on the can’ts and shouldn’ts, but on what they can do: anything!

Unicorn Crossing book
#44
Unicorn Crossing
Written by Dana Simpson
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-12

Phoebe and Marigold are back for a fifth installment of the award-winning series. Join in on their latest adventures - and experiments - in being themselves! Phoebe and Her Unicorn returns with more sparkles than ever!

Short book
#45
Short
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-12

In this heartwarming and funny novel by the beloved author of "Counting by 7s, Julia grows into her sense of self while playing a Munchkin in a summer stock theater production of "The Wizard of Oz".

Gorilla Dawn book
#46
Gorilla Dawn
Written and illustrated by Gill Lewis
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 9-13

"It is time, Imara. Imara left the shadows and stepped into the pool of moonlight, listening to the demon as he paced inside her mind. It is time, Imara. The men are waiting for you. They are waiting for your power to protect them. She knelt down and poured the contents of her water bottle into the ashes of last night’s fire, stirring with her fingers, working the mixture into a gritty paste. All around her, the forest was dark and still, wrapped in silence. Nothing moved. High above in the canopy, a pale mist clung to the leaves. Thin tendrils of vapor hung in the air, as if the trees were holding their breath, waiting for the dawn. The Black Mamba and his men were folded into the deep moon-shadows. Only the cold light catching the metal of their rifles told they were not of this place. Come on, Imara, hissed the demon. They’re watching you. Imara’s hands hovered over the ash paste and trembled. Stupid girl. Don’t show your fear. You know what they’ll do if they see your fear. Imara breathed in deeply, filling her lungs with the cool night air. She tried to block her mind from the purpose of her task. She hummed softly, trying to ignore the demon and scooped the ash paste into her hand. Hurry, Imara. They want to see their spirit child."

Tomorrow Is Waiting book
#47
Tomorrow Is Waiting
Written by Kiley Frank and illustrated by Aaron Meshon
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

A touching, timeless book about a parent's everlasting love for their child--and all of the potential their child has within. Tonight as you sleep A new day stirs Each kiss goodnight Is a wish for tomorrow... As her baby dreams, a mother imagines everything her child will someday be: independent and imaginative, kind and courageous, a listener and a leader. And each hopeful, heartfelt wish is paired with a kiss, and a promise of her love. Tender and moving, Kisses are Wishes is a modern celebration of the dreams we have for our children for finding their place in the world, and for how they will make it a better world. A perfect gift for baby showers, birthdays, and graduation, it's a book that will be treasured, passed down, read and loved--again, and again, and again.

Rules for Thieves book
#48
Rules for Thieves
Written and illustrated by Alexandra Ott
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-12

After twelve-year-old orphan, Alli Rosco, is cursed with a deadly spell, she must join the legendary Thieves Guild in order to try and save herself in this high-stakes debut.

Pretty book
#49
Pretty
Written by Justin Sayre
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 10-14

Pretty isn't everything! Trapped by the limitations of her high-school adjective, the realities of her mother's alcohol addiction, and a racially fraught America, Sophie's perspective on what being pretty really means changes drastically in the second adjective-busting novel by the author of Husky, Justin Sayre. Set three months after Husky'sconclusion and narrated by Sophie, Davis's best friend, Sayre details the private and public life of someone saddled with the adjective of pretty. Confident, stylish, and easygoing at school, Sophie is struggling in her home life. Stepping in to help as her mother's addiction spirals out of control, Sophie's aunt teaches the biracial Sophie new lessons about her heritage. While helping to heal the wounds inflicted by alcoholism, Sophie's renewed sense of self challenges her perception of place in the affluent, "liberal" neighborhood of Park Slope where she lives.a Set against the backgrounds of Brooklyn and Harlem, Sayre challenges readers to confront superficial assumptions about race and beauty and breathes new life into the cannon of middle-grade realistic fiction.

My Life in Smiley (Book 1 in Smiley Series) book
#50
My Life in Smiley (Book 1 in Smiley Series)
Written by Anne Kalicky
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-12

Follow the middle school misadventures of Max, as recorded in his hilarious Diary of a Wimpy Kid-style journal that is unconventionally illustrated with the internationally recognized emoticons of the SmileyWorld brand. Warning: Do not read before 2126! My Life in Smiley: It's All Good is meant strictly for people of the future, chronicling the life and times of Max, an average eleven-year-old. Annoying siblings, stage fright, love at first sight--can you believe what kids in the 21st century had to deal with? Follow his illustrated diary as has embarks on a great journey--the first year of middle school in France. Max's journal entries, humorous drawings, and colorful smileys recount his adventures in making new friends, dealing with bullies, and surviving a ruthless P.E. teacher. Along the way, Max starts to figure out how to interact with his peers, and he realizes that at the end of the day, no matter what life throws at him, it's all good!

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