I’ve heard many adult authors recall the moment when they saw themselves in a children’s book for the first time—whether in appearance or by the character’s situation—and those moments made an impact. It’s less common that the actual words in children’s books are written by kids themselves, but we found some. This summer when the kids have more down time, check out these books by kid authors and co-authors. It might just inspire them to create their own on long summer days.
by Lily and Makayla Allison; illustrated by Brooke Costello (self-published, 2019)
When Colorado third grader Lily Allison was seven years old, she was bullied by an older girl. “Afterwards all I wanted to do was be mean back,” Lily says, “But my mom says everyone is fighting a battle we know nothing about and someone was probably mean to her first.” Lily and her mom, Makayla, wrote Be Kind, Silly together to help them process their emotions, and found an artist on Instagram to help them illustrate their story. “I wished for a kinder world,” says Lily, who has a rare disease called Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, which affects her joints and requires that she sometimes use a wheelchair.
by Luke Herzog (Why Not Books, 2012)
At nine years old, Luke Herzog filled three spiral notebooks with his first fantasy novel, Dragon Valley, a 200-page story about five baby dragons spawned in a lab and set free in a valley. He published the book at age 11. Since then, he’s published another fantasy novel, Griffin Blade and the Bronze Finger, and a collection of sci-fi short stories, Continuum: Collected Stories of Space and Time. Now 19 and a freshman at Amherst College, Luke was recently honored as one of 20 Presidential Scholars in the Arts.
by Parker and Jessica Curry; illustrated by Brittany Jackson (Aladdin, 2019)
When Parker Curry was just two years old, she visited the National Portrait Gallery with her mom, Jessica. Parker looked up at the portrait of Michelle Obama and was awestruck. The moment was captured by another museumgoer and went viral. Now four, Parker (with mom’s help) has written a book that tells the story, and encourages other children to look up, too—and dream about what is possible.
by Jake Marcionette; illustrated by Victor Rivas Villa (Grosset & Dunlap, 2016)
When Jake Marcionette started reading middle grade fiction, he says he was annoyed to discover most of what he found was written for girls. “One day, I decided to write a book loosely based on my life. When I was finished, and sorry if this sounds braggy, I thought it was really funny,” he writes on his website. The book was published in 2014 when Jake himself was in middle school. There are now three books in his Just Jake series; the latest details his adventures during a survival camp with his family.
by Sophia Spencer and Margaret McNamara; illustrated by Kerascoët (Schwartz & Wade Books, 2020)
Sophia Spencer loves bugs, and in preschool and kindergarten she shared what she knew about them with everyone. By first grade, though, some students bullied her because of it, and Sophia stopped talking about bugs altogether. “I was really sad,” Sophia remembers. “I felt like to have friends I had to stop being who I was so people would like me. And I didn’t really understand why.” Her mother wrote to an entomological society looking for a bug scientist who would be a pen pal for her daughter. Letters, photos, and videos of support flooded in from scientists. Using the hashtag #BugsR4Girls, scientists tweeted hundreds of times to tell Sophia to continue her interest in bugs. This book, in Sophia’s own words, tells her story.
by Jonah Larson with Jennifer Larson; photos by Erin Harris (KWiL Publishing, 2019)
Jonah Larson taught himself to crochet at age five. By age 11, he was getting orders from around the world for his crocheted items. He wrote his first book, Hello, Crochet Friends!, with his mother, Jennifer Larson, last year. In the book, Jonah tells his story (he was adopted from Ethiopia as a baby), introduces crochet, and tells why the craft is special to him.
by Alice Paul Tapper; illustrated by Marta Kissi (Penguin Workshop, 2019)
When she was in the fourth grade, Alice Paul Tapper noticed that most of the boys in her class raised their hands, while most of the girls stayed quiet, even when they knew the answer. In Alice’s own words, the book tells the story of how her Girl Scout troop worked together to create the Raise Your Hand pledge and patch program, to encourage girls to be more confident about using their voices.
Librarians and book experts also recommend:
- How to Talk to Girls by Alec Greven
- I Am Jazz by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings; illustrated by Shelagh McNicholas
- Soft Hay Will Catch You: Poems by Young People compiled by Sandford Lyne; illustrated by Julie Monks
- Walking on Earth & Touching the Sky: Poetry and Prose by Lakota Youth at Red Cloud Indian School edited by Timothy P. McLaughlin; illustrated by S.D. Nelson
- How to Talk to an Autistic Kid by Daniel Stefanski