The Kids Are All Right

Art, Social Media, And More!

Happy Tuesday, kidlit friends! Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day, and my daughter and I created valentines for everyone in her class over the weekend for a Valentine’s party. I’m pretty sure we exchanged Valentines when I was in elementary school, but I oddly have no memory of it. Since we worked on art so much this weekend, I thought I would review four middle grade novels that center art.

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Bookish Goods

Ida B. Wells Quote Sweatshirt by TheCultureRef

Ida B. Wells Quote Sweatshirt by TheCultureRef

This Ida B. Wells sweatshirt has a powerful quote: “Turn The Light Of Truth Upon Them.” It comes in multiple colors and can be ordered as a long-sleeved shirt instead. $35+

New Releases

Cover of Where Is Poppy? BY Caroline Kusin Pritchard, illustrated by Dana Wulfekotte

Where Is Poppy? by Caroline Kusin Pritchard, illustrated by Dana Wulfekotte

This lovely picture book explores grief as a young child misses her grandfather during her family’s Passover celebrations. Her family says Poppy is still there, but how can that be? She can’t find him anywhere. As she searches, she remembers special times between the two until she finally realizes what everyone means —Poppy will always be with her as long as she continues to remember him. This is a beautiful new Passover children’s book.

Cover of Averil Offline by Amy Noelle Parks

Averil Offline by Amy Noelle Parks

This fun middle grade novel tackles a very relevant feeling for a lot of middle schoolers: frustration with overbearing parents monitoring their phone usage. Averil’s parents take it to extremes. They have made her download the Ruby Slippers app, which tracks where she goes and how she uses her phone. If she doesn’t text back fast enough, or even if she takes a little longer than normal on her walk home from school, an alarm goes off. Averil is supposed to go to coding camp that summer, but then a kid with similar problems asks her to team up with him in finding the founder of Ruby Slippers, but the founder doesn’t make it easy to get to him.

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

Riot Recommendations

There have been lots of middle grade novels centering young artists lately. Here are four I loved: two graphic novels and two prose novels. I’ve also recently reviewed Alterations, Drawing Deena, and Tagging Freedom with this theme as well.

Cover of Art Club by Rashad Doucet

Art Club by Rashad Doucet

This is a cute middle grade graphic novel about a kid, Dale Donavan, who starts an art club at his very anti-art middle school. The vice principal detests art and creativity and pushes kids to figure out what practical jobs they’ll have as adults. I personally wanted to be a spy as a kid, so I’m glad I didn’t attend this school. Dale wants to prove to his vice principal and the school that artists can be successful and that the school should have an art club. So, he starts an art club with four other kids in the school. In their free time, the kids also bond over a video game they play. Each of the four characters has a nuanced background and story. I really love the character interactions.

Cover of Doodles from the Boogie Down by Stephanie Rodriguez

Doodles from the Boogie Down by Stephanie Rodriguez

This semi-autobiographical middle grade graphic novel also stars a tween who wants to become an artist but is told it’s an impractical career choice, this time by her mother. Steph, a Dominican 8th-grader living in the Bronx, wants to apply to an arts high school in Manhattan, but her mother wants her to continue going to Catholic school. Steph decides the only way to get what she wants is to lie, but it’s hard to keep up with all her lies.

Cover of Kiki Kallira Breaks a Kingdom by Sangu Mandanna

Kiki Kallira Breaks a Kingdom by Sangu Mandanna

Now for an action-packed fantasy novel. Kiki has anxiety, and to calm her nerves, she draws. She loves drawing characters from Indian myths and legends, but when she draws the legend of Mysore, she accidentally opens a portal into another world, and the demon king Mahishasura hops into her bedroom. Kiki has to return Mahishasura to his own world before he wreaks havoc in hers, but that means venturing into the portal.

Cover of Lost Kites and Other Treasures by Cathy Carr

Lost Kites and Other Treasures by Cathy Carr

In this lovely novel, 12-year-old Franny Petroski creates art with found objects. Her mother left when she was young, and she lives happily with her Nana. When Nana breaks her leg taking out the trash, the pair have to move to a new one-story rental, and then her uncle comes to live with them to help out. Her uncle doesn’t get along well with Nana due to difficulties with Franny’s mother when they were kids, which Franny is now learning about. It’s a quiet but touching novel about mental illness and family secrets.

100 days of kindergarten shirt, the kids are all right

In addition to Valentine’s Day crafts, my daughter also recently celebrated her 100th day of kindergarten. She drew a shirt with one hundred cats on it for the day. The front says, “I’ve had a meowrific 100 days of kindergarten.” All her idea!

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