The best books about determination

4 authors have picked their favorite books about determination and why they recommend each book.

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Sofia Valdez, Future Prez

By Andrea Beaty, David Roberts (illustrator),

Book cover of Sofia Valdez, Future Prez

Sofia Valdez, Future Prez shows what an incredible difference “just a kid” can make, even when those in “power” don’t take her seriously. Not only would the kids in Room 5 support Sofia’s fabulous solution to the dangerous “Mount Trashmore” landfill, but I’m also certain they would learn a lot about the process of getting their own eco-conscious suggestions heard by the local government.

Who am I?

I am a teacher, author, & parent, determined to help keep our earth healthy for future generations. A few Earth Days ago, my students asked why we only set aside one day a year to practice eco-healthy habits. Good question! As a teacher, I know how crucial it is for authors to get our facts right. Before writing Dear Earth… I read stacks of books and articles on our environment. I am indebted to science expert & author Melissa Stewart, and my friend Patricia Newman (Plastic Ahoy!; Planet Ocean / Lerner), as well. I sincerely hope Dear Earth… and the books on my list inspire Earth Heroes everywhere--every day.

I wrote...

Dear Earth...from Your Friends in Room 5

By Erin Dealey, Luisa Uribe (illustrator),

Book cover of Dear Earth...from Your Friends in Room 5

What is my book about?

Dear Earth…From Your Friends in Room 5 begins when the students in Room 5 write a letter to Earth, asking how they can help our planet, and --spoiler alert—Earth writes back. Their monthly exchange of ideas grows into a lasting friendship, a school club with a surprising president, and, hopefully, lifelong Earth-smart habits.

P.S.  Check out the book jacket that reverses to become a cool poster with twelve months of Earth Hero activities!

After the Fall (How Humpty Dumpty Got Back Up Again)

By Dan Santat,

Book cover of After the Fall (How Humpty Dumpty Got Back Up Again)

I firmly believe a great children’s book is a great adult’s book too. This one sure fits the bill. Humpty Dumpty has that infamous fall off the wall and what happens to him afterward is funny, healing, and magically majestic. If you know of a child (or adult) in the hospital or simply someone having difficult times, this is a book of humor, acceptance, and creative transformation. It’s a permanent fixture on my bookshelf.

Who am I?

I grew up living above our family funeral home. My parents were exceptionally compassionate people. I learned through their kind upbringing that heaven was and is, here and now. Death was not only an inevitable part of life but a daily part. As an adult, I became a Yoga Teacher. Yoga means union. It's an exploration into the intimate balance between body and mind. One particular yoga pose essential to every single class – Savasana or Corpse PoseA coincidence a young girl raised in a funeral home would end up teaching daily classes of corpse pose? I think not. And through it all bloomed Floretta. The story of life and death coming together into a magnificent circular experience. Bilingual yet parallel worlds amidst beautiful chakra colors.

I wrote...


By Joan Budilovsky, Brooke Dahmen (illustrator),

Book cover of Floretta

What is my book about?

Floretta is the story of an old woman who discovers life beautifully anew thru the helping hand of a child. The chakra colors of dawn and twilight are woven through the pages by the brilliant illustrations of Brooke Dahmen. Written in English and Spanish, an MP3 comes with to easily learn the spoken translations. Josephine Budilovsky masterfully reads the Spanish translation alongside Joan’s Chicago English. Subtle harp music guides the page turns. A simple way to begin learning either language. The Academy Award-winning movie Coco inspired the publication of Floretta - a story written by Joan decades earlier.

The Little Engine That Could

By Watty Piper,

Book cover of The Little Engine That Could

This book was originally published in 1930 and also goes back a long way in my own life as well. I have fond memories of my father reading this story to me when I was young, acting out all the parts of the story, using different voices, and more. Despite being little and unassuming, the Little Blue Engine uses hope and belief to get over the mountain. Without belief in ourselves we often can’t even begin to try, but the Little Blue Engine chose to trust in himself and it paid off - big time. We can all use a little more belief in our own abilities to create massive change in our lives.

Who am I?

I continue to find hope as a constant theme in my talks and my various media appearances. Hope is so integral to being able to fight for another day. When we can plant the seed of hope and perseverance in kids from a young age, by giving the gift of books that show them the true meaning of hope and aspirations, we give them a gift that carries them well through life.

I wrote...

Someday Soon

By Ari Gunzburg,

Book cover of Someday Soon

What is my book about?

Someday Soon was written and published in the deep part of the coronavirus pandemic, to give hope to children in those troubling times. In the very early days of the pandemic, everyone was scared and stayed in to save themselves and those around them. 

As we move past those early days in which everyone felt to be in mortal danger, with mass shutdowns occurring throughout the known world, many people see that Someday Soon is finally on the horizon. This book is a tool to open a discussion about those troubled times, or to remember what those times meant. Times when there was no school, no friends, no family, no trips to the store - when every part of our lives shut down.

You Will Be My Friend!

By Peter Brown,

Book cover of You Will Be My Friend!

Lucy Bear is determined to make a friend, but it turns out to be a harder task than she anticipated. Her efforts startle, bother, annoy, and anger the other forest animals. She’s ready to give up but in the end, she finds a perfect friend—perfect for her, that is, and isn’t that what really matters? I adore Peter Brown’s colorful, jocular illustrations and the way the answer to Lucy’s desire is presented not in the text, but in the art. For a bonus friendship lesson, check out Brown’s bio on the dust jacket.

Who am I?

I expect that the folks at approached me as a picture book author, since I’m the author of eleven picture books, including the four books of the Vampirina Ballerina series, which were adapted into the Disney Junior hit series Vampirina. But my thoughts and ideas about friendship and community really stem from once having been a child myself and from being a parent of four children, each of whom approached the roller coaster ride of childhood friendship in their unique ways. I was always happy to help them find answers in a book, even when those answers involved more, and deeper, questions.

I wrote...

Groundhug Day

By Anne Marie Pace,

Book cover of Groundhug Day

What is my book about?

Starring a cast of lovable forest animals, Groundhug Day is ostensibly a book about late winter and spring holidays, but more deeply, it’s about friendship. If we value our friends, we take time to appreciate the ways in which we are all different from one another. Instead of dismissing Groundhog because he is afraid of shadows, the friends learn to work with him to help him conquer his fears. And while Porcupine’s quills make it difficult to hug him, the friends find other ways to express affection.

Groundhug Day may start out being about a Valentine's Day Party, but in the end, it’s really a celebration of community.

The Naming

By Alison Croggon,

Book cover of The Naming: Book One of Pellinor

The Naming, which is the first in The Books of Pellinor quartet, was the first true YA quest novel I ever read. As a Tolkien nerd who was greatly inspired in high school by the Lord of the Rings—almost certainly the series which made me a fantasy writer myself—I had never encountered anything in YA that came close to the depth of landscape worldbuilding that Tolkien so masterfully executes in his books. And in The Naming I felt like I had finally entered a world as intricate and well-developed as Middle-earth—or as close as the faster pace of YA narrative would allow. What was more, our reluctant quester turned out to be a young woman, and I was both thrilled and relieved to see myself in Maerad as I joined her on her journey. 

Who am I?

Journey stories were what first drew me to fantasy as a reader. I grew up doing a lot of amateur camping and hiking with my family, and liked to pretend—whilst tramping along rocky, Oklahoma paths through the woods—that I was lost in an enchanted forest, or trekking bravely across perilous lands with the hopes of many on my shoulders. In college I even taught a summer camp class called Mountain Man, which took students through the woods, teaching them about various plants and roots. Tolkien was my first fantasy love, and I never feel more at home than when I’m on a fictional journey to save the world.

I wrote...

Ignite the Sun

By Hanna Howard,

Book cover of Ignite the Sun

What is my book about?

Sixteen-year-old Siria Nightingale has never seen the sun. That’s because Queen Iyzabel shrouded the kingdom in shadow upon her ascent to the throne, with claims it would protect her subjects from the dangerous Light.

The Darkness has always left Siria uneasy, and part of her still longs for the stories of the Light-filled days she once listened to alongside her best friend Linden, told in secret by Linden’s grandfather. But Siria’s need to please her strict and demanding parents means embracing the dark and heading to the royal city—the very center of Queen Izybel’s power—for a chance at a coveted placement at court. And what Siria discovers at the Choosing Ball sends her on a quest toward the last vestiges of Light.

The Thing Lou Couldn't Do

By Ashley Spires,

Book cover of The Thing Lou Couldn't Do

One of the reasons that I love this book is because it doesn’t end with success. It ends with a “not yet” and maybe I will be back tomorrow to try again. That is what life is about-we don’t always have success, but we can persevere and try new things without always succeeding. Lou and her friends have great imaginations when they are playing and they decide to climb a tree and pretend it is a pirate ship. The challenge is that Lou has never climbed a tree before. Her excuses are funny: “The cat needs a walk,” “I stepped on a slug and his funeral is in 5 minutes,” and the one many of us recognize, “My tummy hurts.” She thinks of lots of ways to get up the tree without climbing - but they don’t work. She finally tries, gets a few feet up, and falls. She decides…

Who am I?

I am a mom and life-long educator who has often scratched my head and wondered why kids give up so easily when things become a little challenging. I learned about fixed and growth mindset principles and decided to apply them to an education setting. What I realized during this time is that both adults and kids give up too easily and demonstrate fixed mindset thinking way too often! As a result, I wrote a few books for teachers, parents, and kids about ways to develop a growth mindset! I am sharing some of my favorite books that can be a catalyst for discussing resiliency and perseverance with the kids in our life!

I wrote...

Nothing You Can't Do!: The Secret Power of Growth Mindsets

By Mary Cay Ricci,

Book cover of Nothing You Can't Do!: The Secret Power of Growth Mindsets

What is my book about?

Nothing You Can’t Do! The Secret Power of a Growth Mindset is an engaging, funny, and interactive book for kids who need some support sticking with stuff. Things like sports, school, music, art...just about anything that a kid faces! The book is divided into “secrets.” Here are a few: (Shhhhh don’t tell anyone that I am sharing some secrets) Secret #9: Your Brain Can Get Smarter and Stronger! Secret #10: Bounce Back from Setbacks. Secret #14: Don’t Be Afraid of Mistakes. Secret #25: Have Some Strategies in Your Back Pocket.

Readers can learn to observe life through an optimistic lens, handle mistakes in a positive way and reflect on the potential that we all have when we learn the secrets of a growth mindset. 

Everything Is Figureoutable

By Marie Forleo,

Book cover of Everything Is Figureoutable

This isn't the obvious book anyone would recommend when it comes to Stoicism. But if you already know the basics of Stoicism, this will be a good addition as it's applied wisdom. Marie's book is immensely practical and fun to read. And it will offer you the invaluable mindset that everything is figureoutable. 

Who am I?

Jonas Salzgeber is the bestselling author of The Little Book of Stoicism. His interest in the mystery of life has sculped him into a mindful reader & learner for almost a decade now. Together with his brother Nils they write at and share what they find most valuable.

I wrote...

The Little Book of Stoicism: Timeless Wisdom to Gain Resilience, Confidence, and Calmness

By Jonas Salzgeber,

Book cover of The Little Book of Stoicism: Timeless Wisdom to Gain Resilience, Confidence, and Calmness

What is my book about?

Where can you find joy? Gain strength? How should we face our fears? Deal with the death of a loved one? And what about those reoccurring depressing thoughts? While traditional schooling doesn't address such questions, it's exactly what ancient schools of philosophy were all about: They taught you how to live. Even though these schools don't exist anymore, you and I and most people are in as much need of a philosophy that guides us through life as we ever were. This compelling, highly actionable guide shows you how to deal more effectively with whatever life throws at you and live up to your best self.


By Molly Idle,

Book cover of Pearl

This book has this soft slow kind of magic that would be wonderful for winding down right before bedtime. The images flow through the book and guide you down into the colorful glowing depths where a family of mermaids guard the secrets of the sea. The message is lovely as well. Little Pearl the mermaid discovers that even the smallest of responsibilities, when nurtured properly, can grow to be hugely impactful.

Who am I?

I am writing this list because I am a sea monster. I’m the sort of sea monster who loves merpeople, pirates, sharks, dolphins, octopuses, shipwrecks, and…did I miss anything? Oh yes, piranhas. Some people have pointed out that I look like a regular adult human, but really it’s just a trick of the light. I like to make stories, draw pictures, and build miniature environments for stop motion animated films. My typical day is spent gluing miniature flowers to miniature rocks, or screwing miniature chairs to miniature floors. It’s the sort of job that makes you feel like magic is around every corner. Because it is, probably.

I wrote...

Can I Give You a Squish?

By Emily Neilson,

Book cover of Can I Give You a Squish?

What is my book about?

My book takes place in the warm waters of a kelp forest, where Kai, a little mer-boy, loves to give squishes! But not everyone is a fan of Kai’s spirited embrace, which he discovers soon after squishing a pufferfish, who swells up in fright! Kai feels awful; but with the help of his underwater friends, he figures out another way to show his affection, and then everyone demonstrates their preferred ways of being greeted. Because, as Kai realizes, “Every fish likes their own kind of squish.”

What I see in each of the books on this list is everything I could possibly have hoped to put into mine--magical underwater adventures, wonderful world-building, and best of all: compelling and lovable characters.

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