The world of children’s literature is as vibrant and exciting as ever! Every year, countless new books are released that capture young readers’ imaginations and take them on wild adventures. 2022 was no exception – there are so many wonderful new children’s books to explore! From stories about magical worlds to tales of friendship and problem-solving, this year has something for all kinds of readers.
You may also enjoy these Summer Reading Lists for Kids!
Here’s our list of the best diverse, inclusive children’s books of 2022 – with selections for everyone from tiny tots to teens!
Best Children’s Books of 2022
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Anyone Can Be My Friend by Marnie Willow
I adore this story of a little bear who is looking for a friend. As he makes his way through the story, readers learn about all of the things that make us special and unique, and why we don’t have to be exactly alike to forge a friendship with someone new.
This book is wonderful for reading with infants, toddlers, and preschoolers.
Peek-a-You! by Andrea Davis Pinkney
This adorable rhyming board book celebrates the beauty of Black and brown babies through a fun game of peek-a-boo. It’s part of the Bright Brown Baby collection, a group of books created to celebrate Black and brown babies and families. This book is vibrant and full of joy!
This book is great for reading with infants, toddlers, and preschoolers.
Who Is Greta Thunberg?: A Who Was? Board Book by Lisbeth Kaiser
This board book is a simple and succinct introduction to Greta Thunberg’s life of activism. Readers will learn what inspired her to get involved in speaking out against the climate crisis, and the challenges she has faced along the way.
This inspiring story is excellent for reading with kids ages 2 to 5.
Welcome to the Party by Gabrielle Union
This book welcomes a beautiful new baby to the world! It celebrates all of the wonderful things baby will get to experience, and all the love they will get to share.
I love the joyous feeling this book captures. It’s perfect for sharing with new parents. I recommend reading it with infants and toddlers.
The Pronoun Book by Chris Ayala-Kronos
How do you know what someone wants to be called? Ask!
This bright and fun board book introduces the youngest readers to the concept of pronouns. It helps kids learn how to ask someone’s pronouns, and emphasizes the value of using the right words to talk about others.
I recommend reading this book with infants, toddlers, and preschoolers.
Powwow Day by Traci Sorell
River longs to take part in Powwow Day, but illness keeps her from participating. She misses the feeling of the drum beats and the sound of the jingle dress as she dances. However, River is able to experience the power of community in a new way when her friends dance the ceremonial healing dance for her, and she knows her connection to Powwow Day is not lost.
This gorgeous picture book contains additional information about the history of powwows, and I recommend reading it with kids ages 4 and up. Adults will learn many new things from this book, too!
The Year We Learned to Fly by Jacqueline Woodson
When a brother and sister are bored on a gloomy day, their grandmother encourages them to use their imaginations: Use those beautiful and brilliant minds of yours. Lift your arms, close your eyes, take a deep breath, and believe in a thing. Somebody somewhere at some point was just as bored you are now. This advice changes the children’s day, and connects them to their ancestors, who also relied on their briliant minds in challenging situations.
This inspiring picture book is the perfect choice for kids ages 5 and up.
Loujain Dreams of Sunflowers by Uma Mishra-Newbery and Lina Al-Hathloul
Loujain longs to fly, but in her country, only boys and men are allowed to fly. She dreams of seeing the beauty of the sunflower fields from overhead, but she cannot — until her Baba agrees to teach her to fly. Soon, other girls begin to learn to fly as well, and their world is forever changed.
This book is inspired by the story of Loujain Al-Hathloul (sister of co-author Lina Al-Hathloul), who was a leader in the fight to allow Saudi Arabian women to drive. I recommend reading it with children ages 5 and up.
Blast Off!: How Mary Sherman Morgan Fueled America into Space by Suzanne Slade
Young Mary Sherman Morgan’s life was all chores and farm work, until age 8 when local officials insisted she be enrolled in school. Mary loved school, and she excelled at math and science. As a young adult, Mary had to leave college due to the cost, but that didn’t stop her from pursuing her dreams. She eventually ended up at NASA, where she created a revolutionary rocket fuel that launched American’s first satellites into space.
This engaging biography is great for sharing with readers ages 7 and up.
Daddy Speaks Love by Leah Henderson
What do daddies do? They hold us close, answer our questions, scare away monsters, have tea parties, and speak love into our lives. This picture book is a stunning and heartwarming tribute to fathers that is diverse and intersectional. It’s a perfect book for dads to read with their little ones.
I recommend this book for children ages 3 and up.
Justice Is…: A Guide for Young Truth Seekers by Preet Bharara
This powerful picture book, written by a former U.S. Attorney for the Souther District of New York, introduces young readers to the concept of justice. It profiles historic leaders that have fought injustice, like Ida B. Wells and Harvey Milk, and explains why justice is worth fighting for.
I highly recommend this book for kids ages 4 and up. It’s one you’ll definitely want to have in your library!
Nigel and the Moon by Antwan Eady
Nigel shares all of his dreams with the moon; the moon is his safe place where he can share all of his hopes and fears. In the daytime, Nigel struggles to fit in, and he worries about career day at school, because his parents do not have fancy jobs. However, the pride that his parents show for him during their career day presentation gives him the courage to be himself.
This book is a must-read and is excellent for children ages 4 and up.
A Dress with Pockets by Lily Murray
When Lucy goes dress shopping with her aunt, she finds all kinds of dresses…except the kind she wants. Lucy is on the hunt for a dress with pockets! She needs pockets to carry along all of her treasures. No matter how beautiful a dress is, if it doesn’t have pockets, it’s not the right choice for Lucy. Will she find the dress of her dreams?
This fun rhyming picture book is recommended for children ages 2 and up.
Marvelous Mabel by Crystal Hubbard
This picture book tells the story of Mabel Fairbanks, a trailblazing figure skater. When Mabel saw figure skaters gliding on the ice in Central Park, she knew she wanted to skate. However, in the 1930s, there were not many places that would allow Black people to ice skate. So, Mabel created a makeshift rink of her own, and learned how to skate. She went on to become a world-changing figure skater who continues to influence the sport.
I recommend reading this book with kids ages 4 and up.
Still Dreaming / Seguimos Soñando by Claudia Guadalupe Martínez
This bilingual picture book tells the story of Mexican Repatriation through the eyes of a young boy and his family. In order to stay together, the boy and his family must leave their beloved home. Along the way, they meet all kinds of people facing a similar fate, from farmers to factory workers and everything in between.
I didn’t know much about the Mexican Repatriation before reading this book, and I learned so much as I followed this family’s journey. The Author’s Note at the end of the book provides additional context. I recommend reading this book with kids ages 4 and up.
Middle Grade Chapter Books
She Persisted: Coretta Scott King by Kelly Starling Lyons and Chelsea Clinton
Coretta Scott King is probably best known for being the wife of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., but she was also an activist, author, and singer. This book tells her story, and highlights all of the amazing things she accomplished in her lifetime, both with her husband and on her own.
I recommend sharing this book with children ages 6 and up. Another book from this series, Wilma Mankiller, came out this year, and it’s also excellent!
Star Child: A Biographical Constellation of Octavia Estelle Butler by Ibi Zoboi
This unique biography explores the life of one of the most acclaimed science fiction authors of all time. Octavia Butler had a hard time connecting with her classmates, and books and storytelling became her escape. This book explores how Octavia’s family life and the events of the time influenced her writing.
This book was named an NPR Best Book of 2022, and I recommend it for readers ages 10 and up.
Dream, Annie, Dream by Waka T. Brown
Annie is so excited when she lands a coveted role in her school’s production of The King and I. However, her excitement soon fades when her mostly white classmates begin saying that she only got the role in the play because she is Asian American. Although Annie is disappointed, she’s also determined; she can’t wait to show everyone just how talented she is.
This book explores microagressions, the model minority myth, and other issues around race in a way that kids will be able to understand and relate to. I recommend it for kids ages 8 and up.
Golden Girl by Reem Faruqi
Aafiyah is a pretty normal seventh grader; she likes tennis, spending time with her best friend, and reading Weird But True Facts books. But she also has a secret: she struggles with taking things that don’t belong to her.
When Aafiyah’s father is accused of a crime he did not commit, she knows she must do all she can to clear his name. She comes up with a plan, but it will require her to indulge in the bad habit she’s been trying to break. Will her plan work or create more chaos for her family?
This novel is an excellent choice for readers ages 8 and up.
Witchlings by Claribel A. Ortega
Young witchling Seven Salazar can’t wait to be placed into a coven with her best friend. But when the Black Moon Ceremony comes around, Seven doesn’t get placed in a powerful coven — she’s a dreaded Spare. Now the only way Seven can seal her powers with the other Spares is to complete the Impossible Task. But if they fail, their future is grim. Can they work together to gain their full powers?
Ortega is one of the best middle grade authors out there, and this book doesn’t disappoint. I recommend it for children ages 9 and up.
Fight Back by A.M. Dassu
Aaliyah is so excited to see her favorite kpop band in concert. However, the experience takes a turn when a terrorist attack occurs at the show. As a Muslim young woman, she soon finds herself a target for racism and discrimination, even moreso than she was before. In response, Aaliyah begins wearing a hijab to stand in solidarity with her community. When her school bans the hijab, Aaliyah looks for someone to stand alongside her. Will her friends support her and help her fight back?
This awesome novel is great for readers ages 8 and up.
Key Player by Kelly Yang
In the latest book from the Front Desk series, Mia is caught up in soccer mania. The Women’s World Cup finals are happening in California, and the U.S. plays against China. Mia can’t wait for the game, but she’s less than excited about playing soccer in P.E. She comes up with a plan to interview the two World Cup teams, so she can pass P.E. and attend journalism camp. But what seems easy in Mia’s mind is a lot harder than she expects.
Kelly Yang is one of the best middle grade authors writing today, and this book is a must-read for kids ages 8 and up.
Freewater by Amina Luqman-Dawson
When Homer and his little sister flee the plantation where they are enslaved, they have no idea where they will go or what they will do. They only know they must get away and stay hidden from the overseer.
The two children happen upon a community called Freewater, made up of formerly enslaved people. In Freewater, they are able to find support and friendship, and Homer can almost forget the life he left behind. But when danger comes to Freewater, Homer must figure out how to save his new home and connect to the mother he left behind.
This book is loosely based on the maroon communities that once existed in the southern United States, and I recommend it for kids ages 10 and up.
Maizy Chen’s Last Chance by Lisa Yee
Maizy Chen isn’t thrilled about visiting Last Chance, Minnesota, but it’s only for a couple of weeks. But when a couple of weeks turns into much longer, Maizy becomes determined to solve the mystery of the Golden Palace, her grandparents’ restaurant. She ends up on a journey that brings her closer to her family’s history and introduces her to the complexity of family relationships.
I recommend reading this book with children ages 8 and up.
Unfadeable by Maurice Broaddus
Young graffiti artist Bella Fades is doing her best to lay low this summer. She doesn’t want social services to find out that she has been living on her own. But when Bella finds out that her neighborhood, the Land, could be defunded, she suddenly has something to fight for. How can she keep a low profile while taking on some of the most powerful people in her city?
I loved reading a book set in my home city of Indianapolis; Maurice Broaddus is one of our city’s treasures. I recommend this book for kids ages 8 and up.
Young Adult Books
The Chosen One: A First-Generation Ivy League Odyssey by Echo Brown
Despite being valedictorian of her class in high school, Echo is struggling at Dartmouth College. The classes are demanding, and the campus is not the diverse, inclusive place she was promised. However, Dartmouth also holds opportunities and possibilities for Echo, and she has to work through how to navigate this strange new world without losing herself.
This powerful novel calls upon elements of fantasy and magic, and it’s great for readers ages 14 and up.
Salaam, With Love by Sara Sharaf Beg
Dua was excited to visit New York City, but she’s not so excited to be sharing a house with a bunch of her Pakistani family members. Dealing with her conservative family while trying to fast for Ramadaan is not Dua’s idea of a good time, but she does enjoy seeing Hassan, a cute drummer who always seems to pop up during her most embarassing moments. As Dua moves through the holy month, she learns more about herself, love, and how she wants to navigate her personal relationship to faith.
This novel is perfect for sharing with readers ages 12 and up.
No Filter and Other Lies by Crystal Maldonado
This contemporary fiction is about a fat Latinx teen, Kat, who creates a fake persona online that is blonde and conventionally attractive using pictures of her friend Becca. When Kat befriends a fat follower in real life, she doesn’t tell her about her secret. What will happen when Kat’s lies all catch up with her?
This story is a great choice for kids ages 14 and up.
How To Succeed in Witchcraft by Aislinn Brophy
Shay is a superstar studient at the T.K. Anderson Magical Magnet School, and she’s got her eyes on the prestigious Brockton Scholarship. All she needs to do is impress the drama teacher Mr. B, and outshine her nemesis Ana Álvarez. Things get complicated when Mr. B makes inappropriate advances toward Ana. She wants to speak out, but how can she stand up for herself without risking the scholarship and her future?
I recommend this compelling contemporary fantasy book for readers ages 12 and up.
Echoes of Grace by Guadalupe García McCall
A Texan girl named Grace has inheirited a gift from her mother: the gift of visions, or echoes. However, this gift often feels like a burden. One echo occurs alongside a tragic accident that ends up driving Grace and her sister, Mercy, apart. Grace is doing her best to navigate college life and heal her relationship with her sister, while trying to figure out her recurring echoes. Doing so will require diving into her past, and a lost week of her life with the grandmother she was told was long deceased.
This gripping novel is perfect for readers ages 14 and up.
Blaine for the Win by Robbie Couch
Blaine’s life is pretty close to perfect; he’s a talented artist with awesome friends and an amazing boyfriend. Blaine is sure his boyfriend Joey is going to invite him to go on vacation wit his family, but instead Joey breaks up with Blaine on their anniversary.
Joey tells Blaine he wants a more serious boyfriend, so Blaine commits himself to winning the role of senior class president. Blaine’s opponent? Joey’s new boyfriend. Blaine must figure out if it’s worth it to change yourself for someone else.
This fun romance is recommended for readers ages 12 and up.
Café Con Lychee by Emery Lee
Theo and Gabriel have always been rivals, both in life and in business, since their parents own rival cafes. Gabi is also struggling with being closeted, wanting to leave Vermont, and trying to help his parents become established financially.
When a new restaurant threatens both Gabi’s and Theo’s family businesses, the two rivals come together with a plan to save their cafes. But can they get along with each other long enough to work together?
I recommend this book for readers ages 13 and up.
A Scatter of Light by Malinda Lo
Aria is looking forward to one last summer of fun before heading off to college, but instead she finds herself sent off to California to spend the summer with her grandmother. It’s there that she meets Steph, her grandmother’s gardener. Aria’s relationship with Steph, and the world Steph shares with her, has Aria questioning her future, her self, and what she wants out of life.
This was named an NPR “Books We Love” title, and I recommend it for readers ages 14 and up.
We Deserve Monuments by Jas Hammonds
Avery feels like her life is over when she’s forced to move to Bardell, Georgia during her senior year. Avery’s mother is taking care of Mama Letty, and the tension between them is palpable. There are family secrets Avery doesn’t understand. As she spends time in Bardell, she realizes that the town also holds secrets that are somehow connected to her family. She works with her new friends Simone and Jade to discover the truth, while her feelings for Simone grow into something more
This powerful story is great for readers ages 15 and up.
The Sunbearer Trials by Aiden Thomas
From the author of the amazing book Cemetery Boys comes a fantasy tale about a competition for the honor of carrying light to all the temples of Reino Del Sol. Teo is sure that his friend Niya will be chosen to compete in the Sunbearer Trials, but instead Teo is chosen alongside Xio, the child of the god of bad luck. Can Teo and Xio survive this almost impossible task?
Fantasy-lovers won’t be able to put this one down. I recommend it for readers ages 13 and up.
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