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Bea Wolf

Zach Weinersmith, illus. by Boulet (First Second)

Taking the source material as a starting point, this lovingly crafted retelling of Beowulf stars bold suburban children for whom mischief and misbehavior are all. Leaning into alliteration and wordplay, Weinersmith creates a joyously lyric, rapid-fire epic that’s dazzlingly illuminated by Boulet’s close-hatched cartooning. It’s a fresh, inventive remix that privileges childhood’s sensibilities.


Chinese Menu: The History, Myths, and Legends Behind Your Favorite Foods

Grace Lin (Little, Brown)

In this expansive graphic novel, Lin employs mouthwatering full-color gouache and pencil illustrations alongside lush prose to chronicle the origins of ubiquitous dishes served in American Chinese restaurants. Folkloric, historical, and personal anecdotal details contextualize the featured foods and their lore, and address their connection to Chinese American culture, as well as troubling periods of strife and discrimination in Chinese history.



Jessixa Bagley, illus. by Aaron Bagley (Simon & Schuster)

Tween siblings determine to settle their differences via a fencing duel in this anticipatory and emotionally intense sports drama by married collaborators the Bagleys, which explores middle school angst. Incisive discussions about grief and the importance of community support deepen this already rich, cleverly constructed graphic novel of sisterly rivalry that’s also an earnest love letter to fencing.


The Eyes and the Impossible

Dave Eggers, illus. by Shawn Harris (Knopf and McSweeney’s)

Narrator Johannes is an “unkept and free” dog entrusted to be a park’s Eyes in this exuberant novel. Harris’s full-page landscapes complement Eggers’s high-spirited text, which renders a protagonist who is at once an ebullient braggart, an intrepid operative, and a drolly humorous reporter, and whose narration delivers a rousing tale of community, self-reliance, and the pleasures of running very, very fast.


Gone Wolf

Amber McBride (Macmillan/Feiwel and Friends)

In 2111, Inmate Eleven lives under confinement in service to an oppressive government; meanwhile, in 2022, Imogen grapples with the long-term effects of an unnamed virus. Via this profound read, McBride skillfully explores the consequences of loss, quarantine, and racism on Black youth, and employs inventive storytelling as a tool through which the protagonists process grief and find their people.



Christina Wyman (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

Smile meets Wonder in Wyman’s affirming debut, which probes the intersection between bullying and orthodontia through the eyes of 12-year-old Max, an aspiring journalist facing potential surgery for her Class II malocclusion. In Max’s candid, accessible first-person narration, the author perceptively portrays complex social concepts—such as academic inequities, financial precarity, and intergenerational trauma—with nuance and hope.



Pedro Martín (Dial)

Tween Martín is having a tough time overcoming insecurities surrounding his Mexican heritage while on a road trip from California to Mexico in this 1970s-set graphic novel memoir. Equal parts hilarious and tear-jerking moments are rendered in vibrantly hued cartoon-style illustrations, making for an artistically inventive read, teeming with lively characters and emotion, that is a joy to behold.


The Mona Lisa Vanishes: A Legendary Painter, a Shocking Heist, and the Birth of a Global Celebrity

Nicholas Day, illus. by Brett Helquist (Random House Studio)

Via tightly wrought text, Day traces the story of “how a strange, small portrait became the most famous painting in history.” Moving back and forth in space and time, immediate-feeling chapters discuss the Mona Lisa’s beginnings and its 1911 theft from the Louvre, while Helquist’s stylized portraiture contributes playful period visuals to this wildly entertaining, thoroughly contextualized look at art, history, and fame.


The Probability of Everything

Sarah Everett (Clarion)

After learning that there’s an 84.7% chance that Earth will be destroyed in four days by an asteroid, a sixth grader builds a time capsule to commemorate her community. Everett’s astute narration resonates with a deep love and loyalty for family, and additional ruminations on themes of racism and memory make for a tale that is heartrending and uplifting.


The Otherwoods

Justine Pucella Winans (Bloomsbury)

Born with the ability to see spirits, the “spiritish,” and monsters, a nonbinary 12-year-old attempts to avoid the otherworldly in this emotionally complex portal fantasy. Winans successfully grounds encounters with gruesome creatures, nightmarish ghouls, and harrowing perils through tenderly depicted interpersonal dynamics, culminating in an empowering meditation on bravery and self-discovery.


Remember Us

Jacqueline Woodson (Penguin/Paulsen)

When an unexplained fire results in tragedy, a tween struggling with self-image is forced to reckon with her community, her future, and the power of legacy. Drawing on childhood experiences, Woodson crafts a swiftly moving, nostalgic-feeling read boasting organic dialogue and mesmerizing prose that encourage learning to move with the ebbs and flows of life.


Shira & Esther’s Double Dream Debut

Anna E. Jordan (Chronicle)

Mishegas ensues when two Jewish tweens trade places for a shot at pursuing their ambitions in this sprightly three-act telling of found family. Relaying expertly choreographed action via the whimsical style of a Yiddish folktale, Jordan juxtaposes the girls’ yearnings, showing that there are infinite ways to be Jewish—all valid—and creating a sparkling intergenerational homage to chutzpah and Jewish joy.


Simon Sort of Says

Erin Bow (Disney-Hyperion)

Bow centers a 12-year-old’s recent move to a completely off-the-grid town to deliver a compassionate and refreshingly hopeful novel about a tween navigating the aftermath of a school shooting. Laugh-out-loud first-person narration and madcap plot points offer levity without detracting from the protagonist’s emotional arc about making peace with his past and looking toward a brighter future.


The Story of Gumluck the Wizard

Adam Rex (Chronicle)

Cheerful-to-a-fault Gumluck the wizard is on a quest to become a helpful hero in this absurdly silly and heartfelt series launch, narrated by a wise, sarcastic raven. Frequent asides to the reader and humorous, insightful commentary deftly convey themes of friendship, honesty, justice, and self-awareness amid Gumluck’s pursuit, and Rex’s b&w illustrations capture poignant moments with an animated vibe.


The Swifts: A Dictionary of Scoundrels

Beth Lincoln, illus. by Claire Powell (Dutton)

Centered on an offbeat family reunion, Lincoln’s manor-set murder mystery maintains a Knives Out feel by way of Lemony Snicket. Initially whimsical plotting takes a dark turn as murder ensues, but crackling puns outpace the body count as the archly told whodunit debut unveils distinct characters, labyrinthine settings, and a puzzle that is as clever and impish as its heroine.


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