98 books like Lena, the Sea, and Me

By Maria Parr,

Here are 98 books that Lena, the Sea, and Me fans have personally recommended if you like Lena, the Sea, and Me. Shepherd is a community of 11,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of Strange Birds: A Field Guide to Ruffling Feathers

Kit Rosewater Author Of The Derby Daredevils

From my list on middle grade with radical and epic friend groups.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a kid, I had a lot of experience having a close group of friends… and a lot of experience looking into other groups from the outside. I waded from circle to circle, trying on friendships like some people try on hats. The books I’m recommending represent the best of fictional friend groups—the groups that topped any clique I saw in real life. Reading these books made me feel like an in-kid in the best possible way. Many of the characters remain the absolute coolest people I know, and serve as inspiration for the friend group dynamics I get to explore in my own stories. 

Kit's book list on middle grade with radical and epic friend groups

Kit Rosewater Why did Kit love this book?

I’ve often whined about epic friend groups being featured in tons of films and not enough in books—but Strange Birds is the delightful exception that gets every detail of the cinematic friend group perfectly right. There’s mysterious invitations hidden in a library, scary treks through the woods, artistic activism in the face of wrong, and a wickedly cool group initiation featuring some mighty powerful crystals. If nothing else, the group’s shenanigans will make you want to go out and spend all your money on hoards of plastic flamingos. (Just trust me on this.)

By Celia C. Pérez,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Strange Birds 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?

When three very different girls find a mysterious invitation to a lavish mansion, the promise of adventure and mischief is too intriguing to pass up. Ofelia Castillo (a budding journalist), Aster Douglas (a bookish foodie), and Cat Garcia (a rule-abiding birdwatcher) meet the kid behind the invite, Lane DiSanti, and it isn't love at first sight. But they soon bond over a shared mission to get the Floras, their local Scouts, to ditch an outdated tradition. In their quest for justice, independence, and an unforgettable summer, the girls form their own troop and find something they didn't know they needed:…


Book cover of Wishtree

Laura Anne Bird Author Of Crossing the Pressure Line

From my list on for girls who love the outdoors.

Why am I passionate about this?

I live in Madison, Wisconsin, and when I’m not reading my way through a tall stack of library books, I love to exercise and explore the outdoors, particularly in the Northwoods and in the Driftless Area (Google it—it’s the coolest!). My debut novel, Crossing the Pressure Line, is about identifying the lifeboats that have the power to save us during turbulent times. One of my own personal lifeboats is nature. I spend time outdoors every single day, even when the temperature is below zero, because I find deep peace in breathing fresh air, using my muscles, and watching for signs of wildlife. 

Laura's book list on for girls who love the outdoors

Laura Anne Bird Why did Laura love this book?

Red, a monoecious oak tree, narrates this luminous and beautifully illustrated novel. Red is two hundred and sixteen rings old and happily provides shelter for seven opossums, four raccoons, five owls, six skunks, and a witty crow named Bongo. Together, Red and the animals concoct a plan to support Samar, a girl whose family has just moved into the neighborhood. Samar hasn’t made any friends yet, and she’s feeling sad and lonely. Wishtree is about inclusion and community, but at its heart, it’s a love song to the trees and creatures that call urban areas home. Have tissues ready: Samar’s comforting middle-of-the-night visits to Red and Bongo will have readers wiping away a tear or two. 

By Katherine Applegate,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Wishtree 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?



An Amazon Top 20 Children's Books of 2017

The New York Times-bestselling story of kindness, friendship, and hope.

Trees can't tell jokes, but they can certainly tell stories. . . .
Red is an oak tree who is many rings old. Red is the neighborhood "wishtree"―people write their wishes on pieces of cloth and tie them to Red's branches. Along with a crow named Bongo and other animals who seek refuge in Red's hollows, this wishtree watches over the neighborhood.
You might say Red has seen it all.
Until a new family moves in. Not everyone is welcoming, and Red's…


Book cover of Beyond the Bright Sea

Kate McCarroll Moore Author Of Elinormal

From my list on navigating middle school years with honesty & empathy.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a former middle school teacher and librarian, I know first-hand the power of story to motivate and teach. Over the years, I have also been lucky enough to facilitate several mother-daughter book groups and have found that books that show characters wrestling with decisions about doing the right thing, and recovering from bad choices, help to show children that there is always hope. Middle school is a time of such challenge and change, and stories that show authentically drawn characters navigating this tough terrain can act as guideposts. Becoming independent, finding your voice, growing empathy, and cherishing family and friends are necessary steps to becoming confident and healthy humans.

Kate's book list on navigating middle school years with honesty & empathy

Kate McCarroll Moore Why did Kate love this book?

I read this book with my mother-daughter book group and we all loved it!

The story focuses on the quest for twelve-year-old Crow to discover where she came from and who she truly is. It’s a story filled with suspense and intrigue fueled by Crow’s insatiable curiosity. There are powerful lessons here for Crow and for the lucky readers who follow her journey. The writing is hauntingly beautiful!

By Lauren Wolk,

Why should I read it?

7 authors picked Beyond the Bright Sea 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?

'Harper Lee has a worthy successor. Wolk is a big new talent' - The Times

Crow has lived her whole life on a tiny, starkly beautiful island. Her only companions are Osh, the man who rescued her from a washed-up skiff as a baby and raised her, and Miss Maggie, their neighbour across the sandbar. But it is only when a mysterious fire appears across the water that an unspoken question of her own history forms in Crow's heart, and an unstoppable chain of events is triggered. Crow sets out to find her lost identity - and, ultimately, to learn…


Book cover of You Go First

Laura Anne Bird Author Of Crossing the Pressure Line

From my list on for girls who love the outdoors.

Why am I passionate about this?

I live in Madison, Wisconsin, and when I’m not reading my way through a tall stack of library books, I love to exercise and explore the outdoors, particularly in the Northwoods and in the Driftless Area (Google it—it’s the coolest!). My debut novel, Crossing the Pressure Line, is about identifying the lifeboats that have the power to save us during turbulent times. One of my own personal lifeboats is nature. I spend time outdoors every single day, even when the temperature is below zero, because I find deep peace in breathing fresh air, using my muscles, and watching for signs of wildlife. 

Laura's book list on for girls who love the outdoors

Laura Anne Bird Why did Laura love this book?

I love books about smart and curious girls, and Charlotte, the main character of You Go First, fits the bill. She struggles with tricky middle-school friendships and her father’s declining health, but she keeps herself afloat emotionally by studying all sorts of interesting things, like sea creatures, wild animals, earthquakes, and geology. She maintains a collection of rock specimens on her dresser, and the sparkling hunks of Egyptian quartz, hematite, and feldspar remind her of her dream of studying minerals and gemstones at the base of a pyramid or volcano when she grows up. Charlotte is unapologetically herself, and her unwavering connection with the earth and its treasures is her saving grace during a very rough stretch.  

By Erin Entrada Kelly,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked You Go First 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?

Funny and poignant, Newbery Medalist and New York Times bestseller Erin Entrada Kelly's national bestseller You Go First is an exploration of family, bullying, word games, art, and the ever-complicated world of middle school friendships.

In a starred review, School Library Journal wrote that Erin Entrada Kelly can "capture moments of tween anguish with searing honesty."

Twelve-year-old Charlotte Lockard and eleven-year-old Ben Boxer are separated by more than a thousand miles. On the surface, their lives seem vastly different-Charlotte lives near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, while Ben is in the small town of Lanester, Louisiana.

Charlotte wants to be a geologist and…


Book cover of Goodbye Days

Beth Fehlbaum Author Of Big Fat Disaster

From my list on YA about broken people.

Why am I passionate about this?

I always used food to cope with painful feelings, and I developed Binge Eating Disorder as a child. As an adult, I was in therapy to deal with traumatic stuff, and I lost 100 pounds. I finished therapy with a whole new set of tools with which to navigate the world, but I still regained the weight and started hating myself again. I said, “Whoa. Time-out. I am worthy of love. That has not changed, so why do I hate myself again?” That is what I explore in Big Fat Disaster: what is our worth, and why should that worth depend on what we look like? 

Beth's book list on YA about broken people

Beth Fehlbaum Why did Beth love this book?

Jeff Zentner’s writing is lyrical and beautiful and indescribably wonderful (although I just tried to describe it and failed). Goodbye Days deals in such a raw way with grief and regret—to feel the feelings instead of avoiding them—and learn to face hard realities without much support, at least at first. Check out Goodbye Days and all of Jeff’s amazing books. You will go on an emotional journey as his characters make hard choices and face new beginnings.

By Jeff Zentner,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Goodbye Days as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 14, 15, 16, and 17.

What is this book about?

'Gorgeous, heartbreaking, and ultimately life-affirming' Nicola Yoon

'Hold on to your heart: this book will wreck you, fix you, and most definitely change you' Becky Albertalli

Can a text message destroy your life?

Carver Briggs never thought a simple text would cause a fatal crash, killing his three best friends, Mars, Eli, and Blake. Now Carver can't stop blaming himself for the accident and even worse, there could be a criminal investigation into the deaths.

Then Blake's grandmother asks Carver to remember her grandson with a 'goodbye day' together. Carver has his misgivings, but he starts to help the families…


Book cover of Making Friends

Steph Mided Author Of Club Kick Out! Into the Ring

From my list on middle grade inspiring creativity in their readers.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve been drawing and writing ever since I could hold a pencil, and a big inspiration for me to start my lifelong creative journey were graphic novels. So even as an adult, I love to read work from a wide range of genres and age ranges to see what my fellow authors and artists are up to. Especially making my own middle grade graphic novel series, I look up to so many of the authors and artists on this list and chances are you and your kids will too if you pick one of these up!

Steph's book list on middle grade inspiring creativity in their readers

Steph Mided Why did Steph love this book?

Making Friends is a fun, thoughtful graphic novel that overflows with creativity!

It centers around a middle schooler who feels lonely so she uses a magic sketchbook to design her dream best friend and to her surprise- she becomes real! It brings me right back to the days of doodling for hours on end and dreaming of all the possibilities of the future! It’s also a good message for young readers that even the most hard-to-express emotions can be worked out through art.

Even as an adult it’s inspired me to keep drawing and keep dreaming. 

By Kristen Gudsnuk,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Making Friends 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?

A heart-warming graphic novel that thoughtfully explores
friendship, family and school issues.
Danielle needs a perfect friend, but sometimes making
(or creating) one is a lot easier than keeping one!

Sixth grade was SO much easier for Dany - she knew exactly
what to expect out of life.

Now that she's in seventh grade, she's in a new middle school,
her friends are in different classes and forming new cliques, and
she is totally lost.

What Dany really needs is a new best friend!

So when she inherits a magic sketchbook, she
draws Madison, the most amazing, perfect, and awesome…


Book cover of I Like You

Sarah Williamson Author Of Elevator Bird

From my list on teaching kids kindness.

Why am I passionate about this?

Of all the lessons that we should be teaching kids, I think kindness should be at the top of everyone’s list. If people treated every human and sentient being with kindness and compassion the world would be a better place, which is something we all want. The more we can illustrate this for children the better so that they can understand that we are all in this together and that everyone deserves respect.

Sarah's book list on teaching kids kindness

Sarah Williamson Why did Sarah love this book?

I love this charming book about the kindness that comes with friendship. Pen drawings accompany the text, which is at certain times silly, other times fun, and at the best of times poignant. Point in case:

“And I like you because

When I am feeling sad you don’t always cheer me up right away

Sometimes it is better to be sad."

I’m not sure every child would understand the significance of that sentence. But the words at some point in their lives will come back around. The book lists reasons why we like our friends, namely because they offer us kindness and empathy when we are down. And when we are up, they take pleasure in the moment right alongside us – a valuable lesson for kids.

By Sandol Stoddard Warburg, Jacqueline Chwast (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked I Like You as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This classic and funny hardcover picture book is the perfect way to say I like you.

A deeply affectionate celebration of all the reasons we like each other, here is the book that Romeo would have given Juliet, Charlie Brown would have given Snoopy, and you can give to some very special friend.

This book expresses the true meaning of friendship in a long list of ways with charming accompanying illustrations by Jacqueline Chwast. For example: I like you because you know where I'm ticklish, and you don't tickle me there except just a little tiny bit sometimes!

Whether for…


Book cover of To Break a Covenant

Katya de Becerra Author Of What the Woods Keep

From my list on horror with mixed media format.

Why am I passionate about this?

As an author of horror and thrillers, I have always been drawn to big mysteries, the darker the better. I blame this fascination on my love of David Lynch movies, which had originated in my early teens and persists to this day. I have also found that incorporating ‘found objects’ into mixed media narratives can help better simulate reality while also twisting it in unpredictable ways. It is no surprise that my debut What the Woods Keep is a mixed media genre-bender. While this storytelling method is not new, recent horror novels have used it in incredibly inventive and impactful ways. 

Katya's book list on horror with mixed media format

Katya de Becerra Why did Katya love this book?

A recent addition to the horror genre, this excellent debut novel excels in creating a surreal narrative drenched in dark atmosphere. To Break a Covenant centers around a terrifying, fractured faux-documentary about a town under control of a sinister presence. I dare you to read creepy descriptions of ‘found’ footage and not feel a chill as this mystery unfolds. 

By Alison Ames,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked To Break a Covenant as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Debut voice Alison Ames delivers with a chilling, feminist thriller, perfect for fans of Wilder Girls and Sawkill Girls.

Moon Basin has been haunted for as long as anyone can remember. It started when an explosion in the mine killed sixteen people. The disaster made it impossible to live in town, with underground fires spewing ash into the sky. But life in New Basin is just as fraught. The ex-mining town relies on its haunted reputation to bring in tourists, but there's more truth to the rumors than most are willing to admit, and the mine still has a hold…


Book cover of The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants

Kris Dinnison Author Of You And Me And Him

From my list on YA with fabulous plus-size heroines.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have always felt like a bit of a misfit. I was taller, bigger, and clumsier than the other kids. I listened to the wrong music, wore the wrong clothes, and read the wrong books. I wasn’t cool. And when I became a high school teacher, I saw many kids, especially young women, who I could see felt the same. When Young Adult literature came into its own, I really loved all the wonderful ways YA stories were telling the stories of the kids who didn’t fit in, and it made me want to read them, and eventually write one of my own.

Kris' book list on YA with fabulous plus-size heroines

Kris Dinnison Why did Kris love this book?

I was teaching high school when this novel came out over twenty years ago, and it immediately struck a chord with me, and with my students. This story of a lifelong friendship and the pain that comes with growing up has so many great characters. But Carmen has always been my favorite. The relationship with her father, her emergence into the (literal) spotlight, and her willingness to speak her mind to her loved ones, make her, for me, the true heroine of this novel. One of my favorite moments is her surprise and wonder when the pants actually fit her, not just her skinny friends. The idea that she had access to all the things they did, regardless of her size, is a beautiful metaphor for living. 

By Ann Brashares,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 12, 13, 14, and 15.

What is this book about?

Carmen, Tibby, Lena and Bridget have been best friends all their lives. They live in the same small American town and usually spend every moment of their long summer holidays together. The year they turn 16 is the first time they have separate plans for the summer but the girls are determined to keep in touch. Tibby buys a pair of jeans in a second-hand shop and the girls discover that the trousers magically fit each of them perfectly, despite their different figures and heights. They hit upon a wonderful plan of sharing the jeans throughout the vacation - sending…


Book cover of My Best Friend

Becky Scharnhorst Author Of My School Stinks!

From my list on fiercely funny friendships.

Why am I passionate about this?

Three of my favorite things are reading, writing, and laughing. So, of course, my favorite books are usually the ones that make me giggle. I also have a slightly dark sense of humor which means I have a soft spot for books where one of the characters may get eaten. But I think the very best books are ones where unexpected friendships occur instead. So often our perceptions about others are wrong, and if we just take the time to get to know the animal (or person) behind those extra sharp teeth, we may find we have more in common than we realized. 

Becky's book list on fiercely funny friendships

Becky Scharnhorst Why did Becky love this book?

Some of my favorite books are ones where the text is saying one thing and the pictures are saying something completely different. I also adore books where the reader is in on a secret from the very beginning. My Best Friend does both. It’s told from the perspective of a mouse who is describing their “best friend” Giant Owl. The reader knows Giant Owl is planning to eat Mouse, but Mouse is blissfully ignorant. You can’t help but laugh as Mouse recounts their playful games of hide-and-seek, and then praises Giant Owl’s generosity in giving him as many donuts as he wants. The ending is surprisingly sweet, but it leaves open the possibility of a darker future. By asking kids what they think will happen next, you prolong the fun and spark their creativity. 

By Rob Hodgson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked My Best Friend 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?

Meet Mouse! Mouse lives in the tree with his best friend... Giant Owl. They used to do the most fun stuff imaginable! They'd play chase and Giant Owl would nearly catch Mouse, but not quite. Giant Owl loved Mouse so much that she used to give him as many doughnuts as he wanted and the most amazing presents, including his own house (a cage)! But then one day something happened, and now Mouse has found himself stuck in a very dark place... will his best friend help come to his rescue?

This deliciously dark tale of a mouse and the…


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