The best debut children's books of 2021

Who am I?

Over the past several months, I have had the pleasure to work with amazing authors who, like me, have debut children's books that were released in 2021. These books range in topics, from overcoming your fears to transgender to history, to cute rats that will let your imagination run wild. Being a kid myself, my parents read every night to me. These are books that like mine, are filled with representation that was lacking in those books that were read to me.


I wrote...

Book cover of I Am Odd, I Am New

What is my book about?

Through the eyes of 10-year-old Benjamin Giroux, I Am Odd I Am New is his view of his life as a child on the autism spectrum, living in a neurotypical world. Benjamin was diagnosed with ASD at the age of 8. He was bullied, by his peers, some unknowingly. As a writing assignment in fifth grade, Benjamin poured his heart out in a heartbreaking, yet encouraging poem. From feeling odd to understanding that everyone is odd, or different in their own way.

The book takes the reader on a journey of self-reflection. The illustrations by award-winning illustrator, Roz MacLean, beautifully bring Benjamin’s words to life right in front of your eyes.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Rat Fair

Benjamin Giroux Why did I love this book?

This almost wordless picture book has some of my favorite artwork. The illustrations of the cute rats make me smile just thinking about them. This book forces you to look at every page and use your imagination to create your own story. What would a rat fair look like? Kids will love flipping through the pages to follow the rat's journey.

By Leah Rose Kessler, Cleonique Hilsaca (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Rat Fair as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 3, 4, 5, and 6.

What is this book about?

A nearly-wordless picture book about a group of rats who mix up a sign for an Art Fair, and instead create a jolly Rat Fair. A compassionate young boy steps up to save them from the humans who would sweep their festivities away.

When a group of industrious, fun-loving rats find letters fallen from an Art Fair sign, they put the sign back together—with one small adjustment—and get to work creating a spectacular RAT FAIR. Their fair is ruined when humans sweep away everything the rats have created. Undaunted, the rats switch  gears and start working on their very own…


Book cover of Mightier Than the Sword: Rebels, Reformers, and Revolutionaries Who Changed the World Through Writing

Benjamin Giroux Why did I love this book?

This book will not only teach you history about different people from diverse backgrounds, it will give you tips on how to write so that you can start changing the world with your own words. This book is a great bedtime book so that your children can learn about some of history's great writers.

By Rochelle Melander, Melina Ontiveros (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Mightier Than the Sword as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 8, 9, 10, and 11.

What is this book about?

Throughout history, people have picked up their pens and wielded their words--transforming their lives, their communities, and beyond. Now it's your turn! Representing a diverse range of backgrounds and experiences, Mightier Than the Sword connects over forty inspiring biographies with life-changing writing activities and tips, showing readers just how much their own words can make a difference. Readers will explore nature with Rachel Carson, experience the beginning of the Reformation with Martin Luther, champion women's rights with Sojourner Truth, and many more. These richly illustrated stories of inspiring speechmakers, scientists, explorers, authors, poets, activists, and even other kids and young…


Book cover of Poet, Pilgrim, Rebel: The Story of Anne Bradstreet, America's First Published Poet

Benjamin Giroux Why did I love this book?

This book, that has an amazing feeling cover, tells an important part of not only American history, but more importantly, women's history. This story is beautifully illustrated using a great color pallet. Follow along on Anne’s journey to the new world and how she changed that world forever!

By Katie Munday Williams, Tania Rex (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Poet, Pilgrim, Rebel as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 5, 6, 7, and 8.

What is this book about?

The inspiring story of a Puritan woman whose passion for writing poetry broke barriers.

Late at night, with her children tucked into bed and her husband away on business, Anne Dudley Bradstreet composed poems by candlelight. She let her thoughts from the day tumble out, memorizing each poem line by line before daring to shape the words onto scraps of scarce parchment. Puritan women in the 1600s weren't allowed to be writers. But when the world learned about Anne's poetry, even she was astonished by what happened next.

This charmingly illustrated picture book tells the inspiring story of how a…


Book cover of My Sister, Daisy

Benjamin Giroux Why did I love this book?

This is a wonderful story of two siblings. A story of accepting people for who they are. Everyone can learn from Daisy’s older brother, who after thinking he had a little brother, continues to love his younger sibling once he finds out that his sibling is in fact, his little sister. Questions are asked and questions are answered as these siblings navigate Daisy’s transition.

By Adria Karlsson, Linus Curci (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked My Sister, Daisy as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 5, 6, and 7.

What is this book about?

Daisy's older brother is thrilled when he gets a baby brother. They are best buddies who do everything together. But then, his younger brother realizes she is a girl and wants to be called Daisy. Daisy's brother must adjust to the change - including what it means for him and their sibling relationship. A moving, lyrical picture book based on a true story, My Sister, Daisy handles a sensitive subject with warmth and love.


Book cover of Brave in the Water

Benjamin Giroux Why did I love this book?

This book has one of my favorite covers which only accentuates the story of Diante overcoming his fears of swimming. With the help of his wise grandmother, Diante learns breathing techniques to help settle his mind in order to put his face in the water and learn to swim.

By Stephanie Wildman, Jenni Feidler-Aguilar (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Brave in the Water as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 4, 5, 6, and 7.

What is this book about?

Are you afraid to put your face in the water? So is Diante. He would like to play in the pool with other children. He's not afraid to hang upside down, though, and he's surprised to learn his grandma is. Can Diante help Grandma and become brave in the water?

Also available in Spanish - Valiente en el Agua


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Heroes with Chutzpah: 101 True Tales of Jewish Trailblazers, Changemakers & Rebels

By Kerry M. Olitzky, Deborah Bodin Cohen,

Book cover of Heroes with Chutzpah: 101 True Tales of Jewish Trailblazers, Changemakers & Rebels

Kerry M. Olitzky Author Of Heroes with Chutzpah: 101 True Tales of Jewish Trailblazers, Changemakers & Rebels

New book alert!

Who am I?

Author Rabbi Academic Practitioner Educator

Kerry's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

In Heroes with Chutzpah, readers will meet 101 Jewish changemakers from the recent past and present, who challenged the status quo in the arts, sciences, social justice, sports, and politics. Each one-page biography is accompanied by an original digital portrait. This children’s book about Jewish heroes is inspiring and fun.

Heroes with Chutzpah captures the diversity of the global Jewish community, showcasing Jews of different racial backgrounds, gender and sexual identities, and religious orientations from secular to Orthodox. Instead of focusing exclusively on icons, we included an eclectic mix of both lesser-known and renowned personalities with engaging, inspiring, and meaningful stories that will resonate with children of all backgrounds.

Heroes with Chutzpah: 101 True Tales of Jewish Trailblazers, Changemakers & Rebels

By Kerry M. Olitzky, Deborah Bodin Cohen,

What is this book about?

A young teenager who spoke out for gun control in front of tens of thousands.

An Israeli street artist who painted an ancient city with modern images.

A biotechnologist who led the quest for a Covid vaccine.

In Heroes with Chutzpah, readers will meet 101 Jewish changemakers from the recent past and present, who challenged the status quo in the arts, sciences, social justice, sports and politics. Each one-page biography is accompanied by an original digital portrait. This children's book about Jewish heroes is inspiring and fun.

Heroes with Chutzpah captures the diversity of the global Jewish community, showcasing Jews…


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