Bay Area families know how lucky we have it—we’re surrounded by interesting people, beautiful nature and vibrant cities! What better way to introduce young readers to all these wonders than by reading stories set in the Bay. Here’s a round up of few books with special ties to the Bay Area, for babies all the way through middle grade students. 

A is for Activist

By Innosanto Nagara

Get your littles off to the right start in this inspiring, gorgeously illustrated picture book around themes of feminism, environmentalism, workers’ rights, healthy food and LGBTQ rights.

Best for readers ages 4 - 7

Online: aisforactivist.org

Al Capone Does My Shirts

By Gennifer Choldenko 

Set in 1935 when families lived on Alcatraz Island, this novel follows Moose Flannagan, who moves with his family to Alcatraz so his dad can work as a prison guard and his autistic sister, Natalie, can attend a special school. All the historical references makes the perfect prequel before an in-person visit to Alcatraz, and the theme of finding your place among your family makes this a timely tale.

Best for readers ages 10 - 13

Online: gennifercholdenko.com

All of Me

By Chris Baron

A move across the country sets Ari on a transformative journey as he navigates the demise of his parents’ marriage and his own self-perception while dealing with fat-shaming. The story, told as a novel-in-verse, is set in Mill Valley and is a beautiful, body-positive, necessary book about accepting the imperfect in oneself and in life.

Best for readers ages 9 - 11

Online: chris-baron.com

American Born Chinese

By Gene Luen Yang

Three seemingly unrelated tales come together in an unexpected twist in this funny and poignant graphic novel that explores the immigrant experience, life as a Chinese American, and community.

Best for readers ages 7 - 12

Online: sfpl.bibliocommons.com

The Bay Area Through Time

By Laura Cunningham

Each page of this colorful, fascinating picture book takes readers further back in time, starting with European explorers and working its way back through when Columbian mammoths and saber-toothed pounced and roamed, eventually reaching 400 million years ago, when San Francisco Bay was a watery realm dominated by bizarre invertebrates.

Best for readers ages 6 - 10

Online: heydaybooks.com

Claude: The True Story of a White Alligator

By Emma Bland Smith
Illustrated by Jennifer Potter

Meet San Francisco’s resident celebrity alligator, Claude, whose story started almost 25 years ago in Louisiana when he hatched out of his egg looking very different than the other hatchlings—they were green and he was white. Claude now makes his home in the California Academy of Sciences and has millions of visitors every year, who learn that his differences are exactly what makes him special.

Best for readers ages 4 - 8

Online: sasquatchbooks.com

A Hitch at the Fairmont

By Jim Averbeck
Illustrated by Nick Bertozzi

A mysterious death, a wicked aunt, and a swanky San Francisco Fairmont Hotel combine for a fun Bay Area book that follows a boy who teams up with Alfred Hitchcock to uncover the mystery behind his aunt’s disappearance—starting with a chocolate ransom note.

Best for readers ages 8 - 12

Online: simonandschuster.com

The House That Lou Built

By Mae Respicio

Lou has a big dream: to build a tiny house. She shares a room with her mom in her grandmother’s house in San Francisco and longs for a place of her own, where she can escape her crazy but lovable extended Filipino family. It’s not so easy to build one, but she won’t give up on her dreams—her friends and family won’t either. This beautiful coming-of-age story is set around the Bay and explores culture and family, forgiveness and friendship, and what makes a true home.

Best for readers ages 8 - 12

Online: penguinrandomhouse.com

Humphrey the Lost Whale: A True Story

by Wendy Tokuda and Richard Hall
Illustrated by Hanako Wakiyama

Parents who grew up in the Bay Area eighties will remember the story of Humphrey, the forty-five-foot long, forty-ton humpback whale who wandered into San Francisco Bay and for twenty-six days struggled to find his way back to the ocean. This true tale with realistic illustrations has been a decades-long beloved book for young readers.

Best for readers ages 5 - 9

Online: stonebridge.com

The Memory Keeper

By Jennifer Camiccia

Twelve-year-old Lulu Rose has Highly Superior Autobiographical Memory (HSAM), a rare condition where she has the ability to remember almost every moment in her life. Lulu hides this from everyone except for Gram, her grandmother who’s own memory is declining from dementia. Lulu ends up uncovering family secrets and discovering the truth about Gram’s past in this heartfelt tale of hope and family set in Marin, CA.

Best for readers ages 8 - 12

Online: jencamiccia.com

One Crazy Summer

By Rita Williams-Garcia

This Newbery Honor-winning classic takes place in 1968 and tells the story of three sisters who travel to Oakland to meet the mother who abandoned them—and who turns out nothing like they imagined. The sisters end up in a day camp run by the Black Panthers and learn about their family, their country, and themselves during one crazy summer.

Best for readers ages 8 - 12

Online: scholastic.com

Redwoods

By Jason Chin

When a young boy discovers a book about redwood forests, an ordinary subway trip is transformed. He finds himself transported all the way to California, climbing into a redwood canopy to begin his adventures.

Best for readers ages 8 - 12

Online: jasonchin.net

Larry Gets Lost in San Francisco

Written by John Skewes and Michael Mullin
Illustrated by John Skewes

When Larry chases down a donut and accidentally loses his owners, his San Francisco escapades begin. In his quest to reunite with his owners, Larry takes us past all the city’s landmarks and we discover all the places he visits: Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, Coit Tower, Ghirardelli Square, Fisherman's Wharf, and Chinatown, to name a few. Fun facts are sprinkled throughout the book amid cool, retro illustrations.

Best for readers ages 3 - 7

Online: penguinrandomhouse.com

Pride: The Story of Harvey Milk and the Rainbow Flag

Written by Rob Sanders
Illustrated by Steven Salerno

Readers celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Rainbow Pride Flag in this bright, inspiring book that recounts the story of the flag’s beginnings in 1978 with social activist Harvey Milk, and shares how the flag has spanned the globe and what it means to our world today.

Best for readers ages 5 - 8

Online: penguinrandomhouse.ca

U is for Unicorn: The ABCs of Silicon Valley

By Loren Girimonte

Illustrations by Jasmine Wibbens

In the spirit of the Silicon Valley, this clever and funny alphabet book follows a team of tech professionals—and one hoodie wearing raccoon—from Angel Investor all the way to Zero-Emissions Vehicle, one letter at a time.

Best for readers ages 4 - 8

Online: chroniclebooks.com

—Mae Respicio

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