100 books like Ghost Boys

By Jewell Parker Rhodes,

Here are 100 books that Ghost Boys fans have personally recommended if you like Ghost Boys. Shepherd is a community of 9,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of Fish in a Tree

Veronica Fuxa Author Of What Is Normal?

From my list on realistic-fiction defining normal and mental health.

Who am I?

I’m a teacher with passion for history and writing realistic fiction. I published my two books when I was a teenager, and I currently work as a 6th-grade educator teaching writing. I love teaching and working with kids; it keeps me young. When I’m not teaching writing, I love to read realistic fiction, listen to or watch documentaries or horror podcasts, and write short stories.

Veronica's book list on realistic-fiction defining normal and mental health

Veronica Fuxa Why did Veronica love this book?

This book is a great read for parents, teachers, and children. It's breaking down stereotypes in the field of education. It's perfect for book studies or book clubs at any level. I think everyone can get something different from this book.

By Lynda Mullaly Hunt,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Fish in a Tree as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 10, 11, 12, and 13.

What is this book about?

"Fans of R.J. Palacio's Wonder will appreciate this feel-good story of friendship and unconventional smarts." -Kirkus Reviews

Ally has been smart enough to fool a lot of smart people. Every time she lands in a new school, she is able to hide her inability to read by creating clever yet disruptive distractions. She is afraid to ask for help; after all, how can you cure dumb? However, her newest teacher Mr. Daniels sees the bright, creative kid underneath the trouble maker. With his help, Ally learns not to be so hard on herself and that dyslexia is nothing to be…

Book cover of The House on Mango Street

Namrata Poddar Author Of Border Less

From my list on debuts that subvert the mainstream Westerns.

Who am I?

Namrata Poddar is an Indian American writer of fiction and nonfiction, literature and writing faculty at UCLA, and Interviews Editor for Kweli where she curates the series, “Race, Power and Storytelling.” Her work has explored ways in which writers from across the world decolonize Literature. Her debut novel, Border Less, was a finalist for Feminist Press’s Louise Meriwether Prize, longlisted for The Center for Fiction First Novel Prize, and featured in several media outlets including the “Most Anticipated” 2022 books for The Millions and Ms. Magazine. She holds a PhD in French literature from the University of Pennsylvania, an MFA in Fiction from Bennington College, and a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellowship in Transnational Cultures from UCLA. 

Namrata's book list on debuts that subvert the mainstream Westerns

Namrata Poddar Why did Namrata love this book?

Written in 46 short vignettes, this is a coming-of-age story of Esperanza Cordero, a young girl growing up in a Hispanic neighborhood in Chicago. Yet the novel is anything but one protagonist’s story, as it consistently juxtaposes Esperanza’s story with stories of secondary characters who make a brief appearance in the novel to seldom reappear and tie loose ends of the “sub-plots”: Marin, Louie, Alicia, Geraldo, Rafaela, Minerva, and others. Narrative continuity via a protagonist’s psychological journey that is a key trait of coming-of-age novels, or of mainstream Western or realist novels at large, is repeatedly disrupted here, making the reader wonder, who is the novel’s protagonist?: Esperanza, Mango Street, or its Brown community, or young Latina girls and women in a 20th century USA, alluded by “las Mujeres” to whom the book is dedicated.

By Sandra Cisneros,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked The House on Mango Street as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

NATIONAL BESTSELLER • A coming-of-age classic, acclaimed by critics, beloved by readers of all ages, taught in schools and universities alike, and translated around the world—from the winner of the 2019 PEN/Nabokov Award for Achievement in International Literature.

The House on Mango Street is the remarkable story of Esperanza Cordero, a young Latina girl growing up in Chicago, inventing for herself who and what she will become. Told in a series of vignettes-sometimes heartbreaking, sometimes deeply joyous-Sandra Cisneros' masterpiece is a classic story of childhood and self-discovery. Few other books in our time have touched so many readers.

“Cisneros draws…

Book cover of When You Reach Me

Jennie Yabroff Author Of If You Were Here

From my list on young readers set in old-school NYC.

Who am I?

Growing up in California, I was enchanted by the idea of New York City—largely due to the visions of it I found in the books on this list. I’ve now lived in NYC for 20 years and love matching real locations with their versions in my imagination. In my time in the city I’ve been a staff writer for Newsweek Magazine, an editor at Scholastic, and a freelancer for many publications including The New York Times and The Washington Post. I’m currently working on a second novel. 

Jennie's book list on young readers set in old-school NYC

Jennie Yabroff Why did Jennie love this book?

Miranda Sinclair is a latchkey kid who lives with her single mom on the Upper West Side of New York City in the late 1970s. I love the way Miranda navigates her dirty, dangerous, yet enchanting city – her street smarts, her fears, her relationships with the adults in the neighborhood who keep a watchful eye over her. And the book, while totally gritty and real, also has a lovely, melancholy element of magical realism that makes the story mysterious and poignant. 

By Rebecca Stead,

Why should I read it?

13 authors picked When You Reach Me 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?

Miranda's life is starting to unravel. Her best friend, Sal, gets punched by a kid on the street for what seems like no reason, and he shuts Miranda out of his life. The key that Miranda's mum keeps hidden for emergencies is stolen. And then a mysterious note arrives:
'I am coming to save your friend's life, and my own.
I ask two favours. First, you must write me a letter.'

The notes keep coming, and Miranda slowly realises that whoever is leaving them knows things no one should know. Each message brings her closer to believing that only she…

Book cover of Kindred

Hajar Yazdiha Author Of The Struggle for the People's King: How Politics Transforms the Memory of the Civil Rights Movement

From my list on understanding revisionist history politics.

Who am I?

I studied forty years of the political misuses of the memory of Dr. King and the Civil Rights Movement as a sociologist at USC and the daughter of Iranian immigrants who has always been interested in questions of identity and belonging. My interest in civil rights struggles started early, growing up in Virginia, a state that celebrated the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday alongside Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson. I wanted to understand how revisionist histories could become the mainstream account of the past and how they mattered for the future of democracy.

Hajar's book list on understanding revisionist history politics

Hajar Yazdiha Why did Hajar love this book?

I am, to put it lightly, obsessed with the way Octavia Butler revolutionizes the timescape and invites us to speculate about worlds that could be. In this and so many of her books, her vision of Afrofuturism is one that reminds us that our ancestral pasts and our imagined futures are always connected. 

I thought a lot about the future when I wrote my book, and I share Butler’s conviction that there is collective healing and liberation in revisiting and reimagining the past.

I also love that my neighborhood library in Pasadena is the one Octavia Butler used to frequent!

By Octavia E. Butler,

Why should I read it?

15 authors picked Kindred as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From the New York Times bestselling author of Parable of the Sower and MacArthur “Genius” Grant, Nebula, and Hugo award winner

The visionary time-travel classic whose Black female hero is pulled through time to face the horrors of American slavery and explores the impacts of racism, sexism, and white supremacy then and now.

“I lost an arm on my last trip home. My left arm.”

Dana’s torment begins when she suddenly vanishes on her 26th birthday from California, 1976, and is dragged through time to antebellum Maryland to rescue a boy named Rufus, heir to a slaveowner’s plantation. She soon…

Book cover of The Bridge Home

Lisa Lewis Tyre Author Of Hope in the Holler

From my list on to help kids build empathy for those in need.

Who am I?

I am the author of two middle grade books, and I love writing about kids who may not have much materially but abound in heart and courage. I grew up in a small southern town and my childhood was just like that—low on income but full of love, hope, and friendship. I want kids to know that despite their circumstances there is hope for a better life. Like Wavie’s mom tells her in my book, Hope In The Holler, “You’ve got as much right to a good life as anybody. So go find it!”

Lisa's book list on to help kids build empathy for those in need

Lisa Lewis Tyre Why did Lisa love this book?

I’ve been to India three times and I love to share books that show its complex, beautiful, and sometimes brutal culture. When sisters Viji and Rukku leave home to escape their abusive father, readers are given a detailed look at what living on the streets of India is like for many children. It’s a realistic lesson on the caste system and abject poverty, all wrapped in a compelling story; and I am always a fan of books that show siblings that care deeply for one another. I also hope it sparks an interest in that amazing country and its inhabitants.

By Padma Venkatraman,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked The Bridge Home as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 10, 11, 12, and 13.

What is this book about?

"Readers will be captivated by this beautifully written novel about young people who must use their instincts and grit to survive. Padma shares with us an unflinching peek into the reality millions of homeless children live every day but also infuses her story with hope and bravery that will inspire readers and stay with them long after turning the final page."--Aisha Saeed, author of the New York Times Bestselling Amal Unbound

Cover may vary.

Four determined homeless children make a life for themselves in Padma Venkatraman's stirring middle-grade debut.

Life is harsh in Chennai's teeming streets, so when runaway sisters…

Book cover of Violets Are Blue

Elly Swartz Author Of Dear Student

From my list on courage, friendship, and social anxiety.

Who am I?

I'm a middle-grade author and am passionate about writing about courage and friendship and anxiety. Courage can look many ways. It's not reserved for the loudest, popular, or most confident. Those who are quiet, introverted, and filled with anxiety are brave, too. Like Autumn in Dear Student, I also have anxiety, yet, still count myself as fearless! I have also met incredibly courageous kids who have OCD, depression, and anxiety. Since my debut book came out, Finding Perfect, a book about a girl with OCD, I know the powerful difference it can make when kids see they are not alone, when they believe they are strong, and when they realize they have a friend.

Elly's book list on courage, friendship, and social anxiety

Elly Swartz Why did Elly love this book?

Violets are Blue is told from the heart of twelve-year-old Wren. It explores the confusion and heartache that comes from an unexpected divorce, shifting friendships, and a mom’s alarming and erratic behavior. It is an emotional story that uniquely shares life’s messy feelings while gently and thoughtfully introducing the difficult topic of opioid addiction. It also introduces readers to the world of special effects make-up. Violets are Blue is beautiful, complex, and full of heart. Wren’s journey will spark challenging conversations and promote empathy.

By Barbara Dee,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Violets Are Blue as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 9, 10, 11, and 12.

What is this book about?

From the author of the acclaimed My Life in the Fish Tank and Maybe He Just Likes You comes a moving and relatable middle grade novel about secrets, family, and the power of forgiveness.

Twelve-year-old Wren loves makeup—special effect makeup, to be exact. When she is experimenting with new looks, Wren can create a different version of herself. A girl who isn’t in a sort-of-best friendship with someone who seems like she hates her. A girl whose parents aren’t divorced and doesn’t have to learn to like her new stepmom.

So, when Wren and her mom move to a new…

Book cover of Rain Reign

Melissa Hart Author Of Avenging the Owl

From my list on total family meltdowns.

Who am I?

As a kid, I read constantly. After my beloved mother left my abusive father and came out as a lesbian, a homophobic judge took me and my siblings--one of whom has Down syndrome--away from her. Reading was an escape. I loved weekends when I could leave my father’s house near Los Angeles and visit my mother who had a backyard full of trees and gardens. My parents argued constantly but as long as I could grow plants and observe birds, I was okay. Eventually, I moved to Oregon and volunteered to care for owls. I wrote Avenging the Owl to show that in the middle of family meltdowns, kids can turn to the natural world for comfort and inspiration.

Melissa's book list on total family meltdowns

Melissa Hart Why did Melissa love this book?

This is the story of a girl named Rose, who is autistic and obsessed with homonyms. She lives with her father who’s often impatient with her needs and abandons her to drink at the local bar. Her mother has vanished, and Rose turns to her sympathetic uncle and her beloved new dog for comfort.  When her dad lets the dog out during a storm, Rose and her uncle find the dog and realize it already has an owner. She learns the truth of her mother’s disappearance and moves in with her uncle. 

Once again, here’s a story about the healing relationship that can exist between a kid and an animal. And as the sibling of a person with Down syndrome and a former special education teacher, I’m impressed with the author’s respectful portrayal of a girl on the autism spectrum.

By Ann M. Martin,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Rain Reign as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 9, 10, 11, and 12.

What is this book about?

From Newbery Honor author Ann M. Martin, who wrote the Baby-sitters Club series, comes a New York Times-bestselling middle grade novel about a girl, her dog, and the trials of growing up in a complicated and often scary world.

Rose Howard is obsessed with homonyms. She's thrilled that her own name is a homonym, and she purposely gave her dog Rain a name with two homonyms (Reign, Rein), which, according to Rose's rules of homonyms, is very special. Not everyone understands Rose's obsessions, her rules, and the other things that make her different―not her teachers, not other kids, and not…

Book cover of The Night Gardener

Heather Shumaker Author Of The Griffins of Castle Cary

From my list on spooky (but not too spooky) ghost stories for kids.

Who am I?

I’m a children’s book author and regularly read 2-3 middle grade books a week. I love books that respect kids enough to make them think, and I seek out good books constantly, whether they are intended for kids, youth, or adults. I’m the author of the early education books It’s OK Not to Share and It’s OK to Go Up the Slide, and the ghost adventure The Griffins of Castle Cary for kids ages 8-12. I’m a graduate of Swarthmore College and the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and besides writing, I host two podcasts: BookSmitten (children’s books), and Renegade Rules (early childhood). Enjoy the books!

Heather's book list on spooky (but not too spooky) ghost stories for kids

Heather Shumaker Why did Heather love this book?

I read this book a couple of years ago and the spooky setting still stays with me. It’s a creepy Victorian-style house with a sinister wishing tree that lurks inside it. Two innocent orphans confront the ghostly Night Gardener and try to resist the temptation of having any wish granted. I found this mystery pulls you in more and more deeply, just like the tree clutching at your soul. Auxier, who’s known for his “strange stories for strange kids” is masterful with spooky suspense.

By Jonathan Auxier,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked The Night Gardener as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Irish orphans Molly, 14, and Kip, 10, travel to England to work as servants in a crumbling manor house where nothing is quite what it seems, and soon the siblings are confronted by a mysterious stranger and the secrets of the cursed house. By the author of Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes.

Book cover of James and the Giant Peach

Ben Guterson Author Of Winterhouse

From my list on kids suddenly caught up in mysterious circumstances.

Who am I?

I’ve always been drawn to stories that feature mysterious locales and secret objects and strange or magical occurrences, so books with these elements—particularly when the main characters in the books are young people learning about themselves and the world around them—are often very satisfying to me. There’s something naturally engaging, I believe, in tales where someone is thrust into a disorienting situation and has to make sense of the uncertainty he or she faces. The books I’ve written for young readers all tend in this direction, and so I’m always on the hunt for stories along these same lines.

Ben's book list on kids suddenly caught up in mysterious circumstances

Ben Guterson Why did Ben love this book?

Bizarre, misshapen, and sweet, this is the Roald Dahl book I find most alluring. A much-beloved tale, the plot sounds phantasmagoric in distillation: a house-sized peach sprouts overnight from a tree outside the shack where young James is essentially kept imprisoned by two cruel aunts; the boy tunnels into the fruit’s pit, befriends the band of enormous talking insects within, and the whole gang embarks on an adventure where the peach bobs out to sea, is carried through the air by hundreds of seagulls, is attacked by creatures who live on clouds, and eventually comes to rest on the spire of the Empire State Building. Intrigue, humor, and rambunctious versifying abound—and the once-forlorn James is not only unvanquished but happy. Nice ending.

By Roald Dahl, Quentin Blake (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked James and the Giant Peach 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?

James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl in magnificent full colour.

James Henry Trotter lives with two ghastly hags. Aunt Sponge is enormously fat with a face that looks boiled and Aunt Spiker is bony and screeching. He's very lonely until one day something peculiar happens. At the end of the garden a peach starts to grow and GROW AND GROW. Inside that peach are seven very unusual insects - all waiting to take James on a magical adventure. But where will they go in their GIANT PEACH and what will happen to the horrible aunts if they stand…

Book cover of Crenshaw

Maura Jortner Author Of 102 Days of Lying About Lauren

From my list on kids who make it through tough times.

Who am I?

I went through major surgery when I was in eighth grade. The physical pain was bad, but what hurt more was the emotional side. When I returned to school, the friend groups had shifted, shutting me out because of my extended absence. I had to face that time in life alone. Perhaps that’s why I’m drawn to works about kids who have to face challenges on their own. When we go through hard times, our true selves come out. They have to; we have no one else. We can’t pretend. We can only try to make it. The books I like show characters that shine through their hardships.

Maura's book list on kids who make it through tough times

Maura Jortner Why did Maura love this book?

This book is amazing. It’s about a kid named Jackson whose parents are having trouble making ends meet. It looks like they’re going to be homeless... again. But that’s when Crenshaw, Jackson’s old imaginary friend shows up. I love how Katherine Applegate shows Jackson’s fears and hopes. I grew up pretty poor, and so I know that she does a great job with this tough situation. Yet, despite the hardships, Applegate fills this book with fun, like when Crenshaw, a giant imaginary cat, takes a bubble bath.

By Katherine Applegate,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Crenshaw as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 9, 10, 11, and 12.

What is this book about?

The heart-warming new story about family and friendships from Newbery Medal-winner Katherine Applegate.

Life is tough for ten-year-old Jackson. The landlord is often at the door, there's not much food in the fridge and he's worried that any day now the family will have to move out of their home. Again.

Crenshaw is a cat. He's large, he's outspoken and he's imaginary. He's come back into Jackson's life to help him but is an imaginary friend enough to save this family from losing everything?

A heart-warming story about family and friendships from Newbery medal winner Katherine Applegate.

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in Illinois, Chicago, and ghost story?

9,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about Illinois, Chicago, and ghost story.

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