Teen Reading Ambassadors' Favorites from NYPL's Best Books for Kids 2021

By Rachel Roseberry, Manager, Young Adult Literacy Programs
December 16, 2021

The New York Public Library's Teen Reading Ambassadors internship program brings together 10th–12th grade students from across New York City to help further the Library's mission to inspire lifelong learning in others, particularly young children. Ambassadors work at NYPL After School programs across the city providing tutoring and literacy enrichment activities to children ages 6–12. They also show children the joy of reading by connecting them with engaging books from the Library’s collections! 

NYPL recently released its list of the Best Books for Kids 2021. Below, Ambassadors describe why kids and families should read some of these exceptional titles

I Dream of Popo written by Livia Blackburne and illustrated by Julia Kuo

Ages 5–9Recommended by Alice B., Seward Park Library

Moving away from friends and family is not easy. I Dream Of Popo by Livia Blackburne (illustrated by Julia Kuo) is a book on NYPL’s Best Book for Kids List 2021! The book tells the story of a young girl who moves away from Taiwan to live in America. She misses her Popo (her grandmother) who is back in Taiwan. Follow this young girl through her new life in America while she also tries to stay connected with her Popo. How will she remember her life in Taiwan? Will she like America? Will she ever visit her Popo? What will she miss about Taiwan? Will she make new memories in America? Read I Dream of Popo to find out!

The Girl from the Sea by Molly Knox Ostertag

Ages 11–12+Recommended by Krishmitha N., St. George Library Center

The Girl from the Sea by Molly Knox Ostertag has you take a dive into the adventure of 15-year-old Morgan Kwon and her struggles to open up about herself. Morgan has always kept her thoughts secure in a complex box, unable to express them. With her parents divorced, a moody brother and her perfect group of friends, Morgan has always just wanted to escape the island and live a life where she can simply be herself. One secret in particular was Morgan’s desire to kiss another girl. Then one night, Morgan’s life took a turn, a turn that made the island not so bad after all. Morgan is saved from drowning by an odd girl named Keltie. As their friendship and love for one another grows stronger, the secrets behind them gradually come to light. What happens after? You will need to jump into this book to find out! With this beautiful, heartfelt story, the author touches on the importance of self-love, family and even the environment! Dive into this thoughtful graphic novel and find out if Morgan can keep her feelings tucked in a box any longer! 

Magic Candies by Heena Baek, translated from the Korean by Sophie Bowman

Ages 5–10Recommended by Jeba A., Parkchester Library

Have you ever wanted or had a pet? Even if you have a pet, have you ever felt you don’t have enough friends? Or that your family doesn’t understand you? Then here is your signal to read this book. A Korean boy named Tong Tong feels lonely since he doesn’t have friends to play with. He has a dog named Marbles and a father who loves him but who sometimes can’t do what Tong Tong wants him to. Tong Tong doesn't realize all that he has until he eats the magic candies that give him the power of hearing others. Read this book and appreciate your loved ones!

Dad Bakes by Katie Yamasaki

Ages 5–8Recommended by Jalonda F., Harlem Library

Dad Bakes, by Katie Yamasaki, is a wonderful picture book that highlights the bond between a daughter and her father through their shared passion for baking. The book's illustrations are genuine and authentic, allowing readers to immerse themselves in the story. Readers could also delve deeper into the significance of the book thanks to the author’s note at the end. Her note informs readers that the book is based on her own experience with incarcerated parents and their children. It's an excellent book to share with families who have parents who have been incarcerated because it demonstrates that there is a good side to even the most awful of situations, such as losing a parent to incarceration.

African Icons written by Tracey Baptiste and illustrated by Hillary D. Wilson

Ages 10–12+Recommended by Maureen O., High Bridge Library 

I recommend African Icons because it’s very interesting and has really nice illustrations! Also there’s a lot to learn. It teaches you about the history of Africa and ten people who lived there and shaped history. The chapters are not so long that younger readers will become distracted with the reading.

Dear Treefrog written by Joyce Sidman and illustrated by Diana Sudyka

Ages 5–9Recommended by Aaliyah T., Mariners Harbor Library 

Come along on a scientific journey through poems and learn about tree frogs! Not only will you learn about tree frogs you’ll also learn about the things that surround them in their habitat with labels that Joyce Sidman includes. Join us and learn about creatures who we don’t always see.

Artie and the Wolf Moon by Olivia Stephens

Ages 11–12+Recommended by Alexander L., St. George Library Center

Hanging out in the dark room of her school and facing bullies was normal for Artemis, Artie for short. She had developed a hobby of photography using her dad’s camera to find an escape from bullying. After sneaking off one night, she discovers that her mom is a werewolf, and that she comes from a long line of them. When her camera breaks, she makes the discovery that she can shift into a werewolf too, just like her mom. In order to help her daughter, Artie’s mom leads her to find a new life in a small town, all inhabited by werewolves, in hopes that she can learn to shift into a werewolf. Read through her journey as she learns more about her culture, her late father, and the greatest danger in the woods—vampires.

I would suggest this book to anyone that likes fantasy that doesn’t stray too far from reality, and who like quick-paced action mixed in with a slower, deeper overall meaning to the book.