Chicago has a rich literary history and is home to so many award-winning authors covering every genre under the sun. Introduce your little bookworm to Chicago’s brightest and best authors with our list of kid-approved, classic and contemporary children’s books. From picture books to chapter books to graphic novels for advanced readers, these are the Chicago-authored tomes to add to your bookshelf ASAP.
Where the Sidewalk Ends, Shel Silverstein
Poet and author Shel Silverstein grew up in the Logan Square neighborhood of Chicago. Beloved for his children’s books, his collection of imaginative, humorous yet insightful poems, Where the Sidewalk Ends, belongs on every kid’s bookshelf.
Bronzeville Boys and Girls, Gwendolyn Brooks
Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Gwendolyn Brooks is a Chicago gem. Bronzeville Boys and Girls is a collection of thirty-four poems that celebrate the joy of childhood in Chicago’s Bronzeville neighborhood and beyond.
It's Her Story: Amelia Earhart: A Graphic Novel, Kim Moldofsky
Chicagoland author Kim Moldofsky debuts her first graphic novel with It's Her Story: Amelia Earhart: A Graphic Novel. Discover Earhart’s incredible achievements before she disappeared on her attempted flight around the world.
The House on Mango Street, Sandra Cisneros
The House on Mango Street is a Chicago children’s classic that has touched readers around the world. The story centers on Esperanza Cordero, a young Latina girl growing up in Chicago, who shares her hopes and fears in vignettes and poems. Fellow acclaimed Chicago author Gwendolyn Books said of Cisneros: “Sandra Cisneros is one of the most brilliant of today’s young writers. Her work is sensitive, alert, nuanced, and rich with music and pictures.”
A Thousand Feelings: An Anthology of Story Nuggets By Young Writers, K.B. Jensen
K.B. Jensen’s anthology of middle grade fiction stories is entirely written by tweens, many of whom are Chicago-born, as part of an online writing camp. A Thousand Feelings is a mix of adventure, horror, sci-fi, humor, and fantasy, with stories about a girl whose best friend is a stop sign, an intergalactic prison rescue, and a Martian bully who goes from breaking crayons to breaking bones.
Wolf in the Snow, Matthew Cordell
A little girl and a wolf cub find themselves lost in a snow-covered forest in Wolf in the Snow. How will they find their way home? Chicago author Matthew Cordell was awarded the 2018 Caldecott Medal for this heartwarming tale.
Dear Girl: A Celebration of Wonderful, Smart, Beautiful You!, Amy Krause Rosenthal
Amy Krause Rosenthal and her daughter Paris worked together to dream up the endearing Dear Girl, a love letter to the strong girl in your life: “Dear Girl, This book is for you. Wonderful, smart, beautiful you. If you ever need a reminder, just turn to any page in this book and know that you are special and you are loved.”
Thunder & Lightning: A Story for a Stormy Night, Tim Sheridan
When Oak Park-based writer Tim Sheridan’s daughter developed a fear of thunderstorms, he wrote Thunder & Lightning: A Story for a Stormy Night to teach her that thunder and lightning are our friends, not foes. This heartwarming tale of friendship is also available in a deluxe hardcover edition with downloadable songs by The Low Anthem.
Secondhand Dogs, Carolyn Crimi
What does it mean to be part of a family? In Secondhand Dogs, Author Carolyn Crim explores love and loyalty in this middle-grade novel.
The Wright Three, Blue Balliett
The Wright Three showcases Frank Lloyd Wright's Robie house via an exciting art mystery that two junior sleuths from the Lab School in Hyde Park set out to solve. Before becoming a full-time writer, Blue Balliet taught at the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools.
Maya and the Robot, Eve L. Ewing
Award-winning author Eve L. Ewing's adorably illustrated middle-grade novel Maya and the Robot tells the story of fifth-grade scientist Maya who finds a friendly robot just when she needs help on her science fair project. Ewing also penned the acclaimed Ironheart and Champions series for Marvel Comics.
The Magic of Maxwell and His Tail, Maureen Stolar Kanefield
Chicago author and lifelong educator Maureen Kanefield wrote the charming The Magic of Maxwell and His Tail (her first!) to encourage kids to find acceptance and tolerance within themselves. Maxwell is a young, intelligent mouse dealing with a body image issue: his tail is growing much too long, and he’s suddenly the target of teasing from his classmates. Learn how Maxwell manages to love himself, ultra-long tail and all, in this sweet tale about a tail.
The Smallest Girl in the Smallest Grade, Justin Roberts
You might have seen Chicago-based, American singer-songwriter Justin Roberts on stage here in the Windy City. Now he’s appearing on your local library shelves with The Smallest Girl in the Smallest Grade. Follow along with Sally, the smallest girl in the smallest grade in her big school, as she stands up against bullying on the playground.
I Hope They Understand, Juleya Woodson
Juleya Woodson graduated from Evanston Township High School in 2009 and works today as a family support specialist with the Childcare Network of Evanston. Her first-ever children’s book, I Hope They Understand, recognizes and celebrates racial and cultural differences and was a response to the lack of diversity in media. “All children deserve to see themselves in the books they read,” Woodson said in a recent interview. “Too often Black boys and girls do not see themselves reflected in the media’s portrayal of beauty.”
I Wish You More, Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Tom Lichtenheld
Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Tom Lichtenheld teamed up to write and illustrate the delightful I Wish You More that affirms wishes for curiosity and wonder, friendship and strength, laughter and peace.
Thirteen Doorways, Wolves Behind Them All, Laura Ruby
Thirteen Doorways, Wolves Behind Them All is the story of two Chicago girls trying to survive in America in the throes of World War II. Ruby was a National Book Award 2019 Finalist for this compelling young adult novel about finding hope in darkness.
Mayor Good Boy, Dave Scheidt
Mayor Good Boy is here to help Greenwood become a town filled with kindness, but he’s facing foes around every corner. Scheidt, born and raised in Chicago, highlights the benefits of positive civic engagement in his latest graphic novel, Mayor Good Boy, co-created by L.A.-based cartoonist and story artist Miranda Harmon. This charming tale reminds readers that everyone can make the world a better place, whether you’re a human or a dog.
Let's Meet Chicago: Real Kids in the Windy City, Alina Dizik
Veteran journalist Alina Dizik interviewed school-aged children around Chicago to learn about their likes, dislikes, and what they are really thinking. Dizik also celebrates the diversity of our city with tips on how to explore different neighborhoods in Let's Meet Chicago: Real Kids in the Windy City.
S is for Story: A Writer's Alphabet, Esther Hershenhorn
Esther Hershenhorn is a Chicago-based author and writing coach. In S is for Story: A Writer's Alphabet, Hershenhorn playfully explains the tools, techniques, and strategies to budding writers of all ages, from "A is for the Alphabet" to "T stands for Tall Tales," to "Z? It's for masked Zorro./His Z-signed tales brought fame.”
Sahara Special, Esme Raji Codell
Author Esme Raji Codell documented her first year as a CPS teacher in Educating Esme. In Sahara Special, she chronicles the 5th-grade adventures of Sahara Jones, who struggles with school until she encounters a one-of-a-kind teacher. If you have a reluctant bookworm in your life, check out Raji Codell’s How to Get Your Child to Love Reading, a book designed to help parents get their kids excited about reading.
We’ve included Amazon links for your convenience, but you can also support local businesses by checking out Chicago booksellers! We love 57th Street Books, Women and Children First, The Book Cellar, OpenBooks, and City Lit.
— Amy Bizzarri
Featured photo: iStock