Best Chapter Books 2021 | SLJ Best Books

Seven superb titles made SLJ's list of must-have chapter books, including a retelling of Don Quixote and charming take on the “new sibling” genre.


Chapter Books

Atinuke. Too Small Tola.
illus. by Onyinye Iwu. Candlewick. ISBN 9781536211276.
Gr 2-4 –This slice-of-life chapter book explores Tola’s life as a young girl in Lagos, Nigeria. The smallest in her family, she is teased because of her size, but she is reminded through tiny feats of might and bravery (and mathematics) that strength comes from within. Sweet monochrome illustrations bring Tola’s bustling world to life and showcase cultural customs alongside examples of healthy communication and blossoming self-confidence.

Dillard, J.  J.D. and the Great Barber Battle.
illus. by Akeem S. Roberts. Penguin/Kokila. ISBN 9780593111529.
Gr 1-3 –J.D. is all set to start third grade with a fresh haircut from his mom—until it ends in disaster! J.D. tries his own hand at the clippers and discovers a new talent. Now he is opening up his bedroom barbershop to everyone in town. This laugh-out-loud series debut features a young Black entrepreneur readers will root for, and expressive illustrations that lovingly showcase the diversity of Black hairstyles and the community significance of barbershops.

Galbraith, Bree. Wednesday Wilson Gets Down to Business.
illus. by Morgan Goble. Kids Can. ISBN 9781525303272.
Gr 2-4 – Budding entrepreneur Wednesday is looking for a business idea and she is thrust into the perfect one. However, an idea is just the beginning, and Wednesday will need to band together with her little brother and friends if she’s going to deliver the product in time. Chock-full of business vocabulary and important life lessons, this hilarious read is sure to please.

Jennings, Terry Catasus. Definitely Dominga: Knight of the Cape.
illus. by Fatima Anaya. S. & S./Aladdin. ISBN 9781534465022.
Gr 1-3 –When bullies tell Dominguita that girls can’t be knights, she wants to prove them wrong by doing spectacular deeds that are worthy of being recorded and shared with her abuela, who has moved away. This knightly adventure inspired by Don Quixote reminds readers that no deed is too small and that everyone has what it takes to be a knight.

Quigley, Dawn. Jo Jo Makoons: The Used-to-Be Best Friend.
illus. by Tara ­Audibert. HarperCollins/Heartdrum. ISBN 9780063015371.
Gr 2-5 –Jo Jo Makoons Azure is a seven-year-old Ojibwe girl with a sunny attitude. She loves her family (especially her cat Mimi) and life on her reservation. But shifting friendship dynamics and school drama lead to incidents that eventually yield important, heartwarming lessons. This outstanding chapter book weaves daily kid concerns with engaging information about Ojibwe customs.

Soundar, Chitra. Sona Sharma, Very Best Big Sister.
illus. by Jen Khatun. Candlewick. ISBN 9781536214826.
Gr 1-3 –Sona’s mom is having a baby, and Sona wonders if she’ll be the very best big sister. She struggles with the idea of having a new younger sibling and sharing her belongings and her family’s love. This chapter book offers a look at Hindu baby-welcoming ceremonies and customs, while accurately capturing a new older sibling’s range of emotions.

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