The Kids Are All Right

Anxiety, Libraries, And More!

Happy Tuesday, kidlit friends! Did you know tomorrow is World Read Aloud Day? My daughter’s school librarian is hosting a special read-aloud pajama party tomorrow night for bedtime. So cool! I loved my school library and librarian when I was a kid (you rocked Mrs. Wallace!), and I’m so glad my daughter has an awesome school library and librarian, too, especially considering the sharp decline in school librarians.

2024 is the tenth year of the Read Harder Challenge! Join us as we make our way through 24 tasks meant to expand our reading horizons and diversify our TBRs. To get book recommendations for each task, sign up for the Read Harder newsletter. We’ll also keep you informed about other cool reading challenges, readathons, and more across the bookish internet. If you become a paid subscriber, you get even more recommendations plus community features, where you can connect with a community of passionate, like-minded readers in a cozy and supportive corner of the internet. Sign up today!

Bookish Goods

Library Bumper Sticker by OpalAndJune Shop

Library Bumper Sticker by OpalAndJune Shop

Speaking of libraries, check out this super cute bumper sticker! If I had a car, this would be on it, ha! $12

New Releases

Cover of Dancing in the Storm by Amie Darnell Specht, illustrated by Shannon Hitchcock

Dancing in the Storm by Amie Darnell Specht and Shannon Hitchcock

In this middle grade novel, 12-year-old Kate is diagnosed with a rare genetic disorder that coauthor Amie Darnell Specht also has—Fibrodysplasia Ossificans Progressiva (FOP). Kate loves gymnastics and is quite good at it. However, any sports are discouraged for people with FOP. She has to stop gymnastics, and several of her gymnastics friends refuse to understand or empathize. Meanwhile, adding to these changes, Kate loses her dog and adopts a new one.

I am always here for more disability rep from disabled authors, and this one is such a great glimpse into this rare disorder and also how disability can disrupt a child’s life but also create a new space that isn’t better or worse than the old one, just different. I also like all the nods to disabled community members.

Cover of Dear Muslim Child by Rahma Rodaah, illustrated by Aya Ghanameh

Dear Muslim Child by Rahma Rodaah, illustrated by Aya Ghanameh

This picture book is a lyrical celebration of Muslim children and the Islamic faith by the writer of Dear Black Child. Warm, joyful illustrations show children hanging lanterns for Nur, praying on prayer mats, and more. It’s an affirming, heartwarming picture book.

For a more comprehensive list of new releases, check out our New Books newsletter.

Riot Recommendations

I have anxiety and love reading children’s books depicting kids with anxiety. An estimated 12% of kids were reported as having experienced anxiety or depression in 2020, and I would not be surprised if that number were higher. Books like these are essential.

Cover of Drawing Deena by Hena Khan

Drawing Deena by Hena Khan

This is a lovely contemporary middle grade novel about a young Pakistani American girl who is trying to find her personal art style and help her mom with her Pakistani clothing home shop. Deena struggles with anxiety, though she doesn’t know to call it that yet. Meanwhile, she’s also experiencing friend drama because of social media. I loved Deena’s warm, supportive Pakistani family and community, and the depiction of anxiety is so realistic. This is likely to be one of my favorite middle grade novels of the year. This releases today!

Cover of The Many Masks of Zhou Cheng

The Many Masks of Andy Zhou by Jack Cheng

I really loved this novel, and I worry it’s not getting the number of readers it deserves! Andy, who is Chinese American, is the kind of kid who tends to follow along with whatever his overbearing best friend Cindy says. That worked fine in elementary school, but this year, they’re starting middle school, and everything feels different. Cindy forces him to join the Movement Club, a dance club, which doesn’t sit right with Andy. He also befriends Jameel, a Chaldean American, whom Cindy does not like for valid reasons. Meanwhile, Andy’s grandparents are visiting from China so his grandfather can seek needed medical care. Andy is also a talented artist who has anxiety and trichotillomania (hair-pulling). There’s also a character with an eating disorder. This is such a contemplative, nuanced novel.

Cover of My Thoughts Have Wings by Maggie Smith, illustrated by Leanne Hatch

My Thoughts Have Wings by Maggie Smith, illustrated by Leanne Hatch

I always thought my anxiety began during pregnancy, but then I read picture books like this, and I wonder. Maggie Smith is well known for her adult poetry collections and nonfiction, and this is her picture book debut. It’s a beautiful glimpse into a child’s life at night as she experiences intrusive thoughts while trying to sleep. Her mother comes in and snuggles with her in bed, reassuring her and guiding her to think about happy moments from the past, which helps calm the young girl’s mind. The illustrations are warm and tender. It’s a really beautiful and relatable book. This releases next Tuesday.

Cover of Are You Mad at Me? by Tyler Feder, illustrated by Cody Feder

Are You Mad at Me? by Tyler Feder, illustrated by Cody Feder

This is another very relatable picture book, as told by an ostrich with anxiety. Opal’s family is having a family party, and she’s in charge of picking up the dessert from the local bakery. But on the way, Opal constantly feels like everyone she encounters must be mad at her. This causes Opal to get a bad case of The Noodles, what her family endearingly calls Opal’s anxiety because of the way it makes her long neck wobble. By the end, Opal learns that not everyone’s feelings are directly related to her, and she enjoys the family party.

Copy That, Copy Cat phone pictures, the kids are all right

As the daughter of a Bookstagrammer, my kid knows exactly what to do with a camera—take book pictures. When I found her with my phone the other day and opened the photo library, I saw she had taken literally hundreds of pictures and videos of Copy That, Copy Cat by Katrina Tangen. It’s hard to argue about screen time when she’s taking pictures of books.

If you’d like to read more of my kidlit reviews, I’m on Instagram @BabyLibrarians, Twitter @AReaderlyMom, Bluesky, and blog irregularly at Baby Librarians. You can also read my Book Riot posts. If you’d like to drop me a line, my email is

All the best,

Margaret Kingsbury