2023 Staff Picks for Kids - Fiction & Series

Each year, we follow the latest children's book releases and publish an annual roundup of our favorites. From board books to nonfiction to books in Spanish, discover something great for all the young readers in your life! 

Explore More 2023 Staff Picks for Kids:

Elf Dog & Owl Head Book Cover
Anderson, M. T.

Clay has had his fill of home life. A global plague has brought the world to a screeching halt, and with little to look forward to but a summer of video-calling friends, vying with annoying sisters for the family computer, and tuning out his parents’ financial worries, he’s only too happy to retreat to the woods. From the moment the elegant little dog with the ornate collar appears like an apparition among the trees, Clay sees something uncanny in her. With this mysterious Elphinore as guide, he’ll glimpse ancient secrets folded all but invisibly into the forest. Each day the dog leads Clay down paths he never knew existed, deeper into the unknown. But they aren’t alone in their surreal adventures. There are traps and terrors in the woods, too, and if Clay isn’t careful, he might stray off the path and lose his way forever. Graced with evocative black-and-white illustrations by Junyi Wu, Elf Dog and Owl Head is heartfelt and exhilarating, wry and poignant, seamlessly merging the fantastic and the familiar in a tale both timely and timeless.

Simon Sort of Says Book Cover
Bow, Erin

Two years after a tragedy saddles him with viral fame, twelve-year-old Simon O'Keeffe and his family move to Grin And Bear It, Nebraska, where the internet and cell phones are banned so astrophysicists can scan the sky for signs of alien life, and where, with the help of two new friends, a puppy, and a giant radio telescope, Simon plans to restart the narrative of his life.

Dear Brother Book Cover
McGhee, Alison

Sister, who constantly feels overlooked, especially when the family gets a pet of Brother's choice, decides to send him letters expressing how she feels, and to her surprise, he thoughtfully responds.

Buddy and Bea. 1, Not Really Buddies and Buddy and Bea. 2, Tiny Tornadoes Book Cover
Carr, Jan

Not Really Buddies - It is the first day of second grade and already Buddy is disappointed because his class has a new teacher, not the one he wanted, and there is a new student, Bea, who is boisterous and much too pushy for the reserved Buddy--and who insists that they are friends.

Tiny Tornadoes - Buddy (who is reserved and thoughtful), Bea (who is boisterous and bossy) and the other second graders in Ms. Maple's class are trying to come up with a name for their class, but it is proving harder then they thought it would be.


The Case of the Missing Tarts Book Cover
Curran-Bauer, Christee

When someone slips into the precinct and steals Mama Pigeon's tarts, pigeon detectives Martin P. Sweets, Felix Danish, and Ralph Custard follow the clues to find out who stole the delicious treats.

Lalo Lespérance Never Forgot Book Cover
Diederich, Phillippe

A moving middle-grade mystery about a boy dealing with long-repressed memories of his father as he learns about his Mexican and Haitian heritage while spying on a mysterious stranger during the first weeks of COVID lockdown.

Skating on Mars Book Cover
Huntoon, Caroline

Still coping with the death of their father, twelve-year-old Mars tries to figure out their place on and off the rink as they navigate being nonbinary in a traditionally gendered sport.

The Skull: A Tyrolean Folktale Book Cover
Klassen, Jon

This is an old story. It is about a girl named Otilla who runs away. It is also about a house in the woods, and a skull who lives there, and a secret the skull has, and the night that Otilla finds out what that secret is.

The Apartment House on Poppy Hill Book Cover
LaCour, Nina

Nine-year-old Ella considers herself the official greeter, tour guide, and is generally in charge of 1106 Wildflower Place, but the elusive Robinsons who live on the top floor are a mystery--one which Ella is determined to solve, and bring the elderly couple into the community of the apartment building on Poppy Hill."

Shermy & Shake, the Not-So-Nice Neighbor Book Cover
Larson, Kirby

When a new kid comes to stay with his grandmother at the house next door, Shermy's plans for a quiet, relaxing summer are completely upended. That's because Shake is nothing like Shermy. And Shermy is nothing like Shake. Shermy likes to read quietly in the shade of a tree. He knows the proper way to do a puzzle. He collects treasures in the pouch he wears around his neck, and the books on his shelves are alphabetized by author. Shake likes to play street hockey or space explorers. He gobbles up rocket ice pops and Toaster Tarts. He shows up unannounced and plays board games by his own rules. As the two boys are forced to spend more and more time together, will they learn how to get along? Or will it be one long countdown until Shake goes home?

Forever Friends Book Cover
Lubner, Susan

Best friends Drag and Rex could not be more different, but together they find joy and adventure in the simplest places.

The Lost Year Book Cover
Marsh, Katherine

In the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic, thirteen-year-old Matthew discovers a shocking secret about his great-grandmother's past as he learns about her life during the Holodomor famine in Soviet Ukraine.

Sam Makes a Splash Book Cover
Melleby, Nicole

Eleven-year-old Sam, who lives with her siblings and mothers in a house on Sunrise Lagoon, tries to come up with a plan to save the family's charter boat business before the summer is over.

Once There Was Book Cover
Monsef, Kiyash

When fifteen-year-old Iranian American Marjan discovers her murdered father was secretly a veterinarian to magical creatures, she realizes she must take up his mantle, despite the many dangers.

The Fire, the Water, and Maudie McGinn Book Cover
Pla, Sally J.

Follows thirteen-year-old neurodivergent Maudie during an eventful summer in California with her father, where she struggles with whether to share a terrible secret about life with her mom and stepdad.

Sejal Sinha Battles Superstorms Book Cover
Prasad, Maya

When a storm threatens Diwali celebrations, eight-year-old Sejal Sinha, a spunky Indian-American girl with an active imagination, tries to use science to save her family's beloved holiday.

The Great Texas Dragon Race Book Cover
Ritter, Kacy

Thirteen-year-old Cassidy Drake wants nothing more than to race with her best dragon, Ranga, in the annual Great Texas Dragon Race. Her mother was a racing legacy, and growing up on her family's dragon sanctuary ranch, Cassidy lives and breathes dragons. She knows she could win against the exploitative FireCorp team that cares more about corporate greed than caring for the dragons. Cassidy is so determined to race that she sneaks out of her house against her father's wishes and enters the competition. Soon Cassidy takes to the skies with Ranga across her glorious Lone Star State. But with five grueling tasks ahead of her, dangerous dragon challenges waiting at each one, and more enemies than allies on the course, Cassidy will need to know more than just dragons to survive.

Grounded Book Cover
Aisha Saeed, S. K. Ali, Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow, and Huda Al-Marashi

Told in alternating points of view, at Hurston Airport, four unlikely kids' lives are changed forever when their flight is grounded by weather following a Muslim convention.

Ajay and the Mumbai Sun Book Cover
Shah, Varsha

Ajay is a Mumbai railway kid, a newspaper seller, but his great dream is to be a journalist. His dream comes true when he and a gang of friends create their own newspaper, but what is the cost of uncovering the truth?

The Guardian Test Book Cover
Soontornvat, Christina

Young Plum is shocked to discover that she's been accepted to the Guardian Academy on Lotus Island, an elite school where kids learn how to transform into Guardians, magical creatures who are sworn to protect the natural world. The Guardian masters teach Plum and her friends how to communicate with animals and how to use meditation to strengthen their minds and bodies. All the kids also learn to fight, so they can protect the defenseless if needed. To her dismay, Plum struggles at school. While her classmates begin to transform into amazing creatures, Plum can't even seem to magic up a single feather! If she can't embrace her inner animal form soon, she'll have to leave school and lose the first group of real friends she's ever known.

The Lost Library Book Cover
Stead, Rebecca

When a mysterious Little Free Library guarded by a large orange cat appears overnight, eleven-year-old Evan plucks two weathered books from its shelves, never suspecting that his life is about to change.

Kin: Rooted in Hope Book Cover
Weatherford, Carole Boston

A multi-generational family history told in the voices of the author's ancestors, spanning enslavement alongside Frederick Douglass at Maryland's Wye House plantation, service in the U.S. Colored Troops, andthe founding of all-Black Reconstruction-era communities.

Summaries provided by DPL's catalog unless otherwise noted. Click on each title to view more information.

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