The Best California Books for Children

Since we began our California book list last year, many readers have been asking that we highlight some wonderful books for children that reflect life in the Golden State. So that’s exactly what we’re doing today. I’ve added six children’s books to our growing California reading list, which is largely based on readers’ recommendations.

Among them is “One Crazy Summer” by Rita Williams-Garcia (2010), a historical novel that was a finalist for the National Book Award. It tells the story of three sisters visiting their mother in Oakland in the momentous summer of 1968.

Also joining the list is “Front Desk” (2018), Kelly Yang’s debut novel, which won the Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature for children’s literature.

You can find the full list of novels and nonfiction here. The latest additions are shown in boldface.

If you’d like to suggest a book for the list, send an email to Please include your full name, the city where you live and a few sentences about why your choice should be included.

Here are the other four additions and what readers had to say about them, lightly edited:

“By the Great Horn Spoon” by Sid Fleischman (1963)

“I was introduced to this title when I was in third grade by a librarian who knew I enjoyed historical fiction. The book changed my life, confirming both my love for history and my desire to be a librarian when I grew up. I still enjoy historical fiction and I did indeed become a librarian!” — Jody Stefansson, Pasadena

“Pasquala” by Gail Faber and Michele Lasagna (1990)

“Pasquala is a young member of the Yokuts tribe in California’s Central Valley. Through a series of misfortunes, she and her family join Mission Santa Inés Catholic Church. Readers learn about the difficult choices Native Californians were forced to make and the tragic outcomes for many of them during this time in the state’s history.” — Joe Bolin, San José

“Esperanza Rising” by Pam Munoz Ryan (2000)

“It has won multiple awards, and while it is technically a children’s book, it takes on major themes such as classism and racism and puts them into an easily digestible format. The story begins in Mexico, whisks the reader through tragedy and lands the reader in Depression-era California. Immigrant field workers and their plight are as much a part of California as the sunny beaches and warm summer days are. It is a book well worth reading.” — Melanie Kathan, Ventura

“Island of the Blue Dolphins” by Scott O’Dell (1960)

“‘Island of the Blue Dolphins’ by Scott O’Dell really showcases the Channel Islands, and touches on the state’s Indigenous peoples. You may have read it as a kid. Many students in California read it in fourth grade (the grade that covers state history). This one feels personal, since I went to school at U.C. Santa Barbara (the Channel Islands, where the book is set, are across from the area around Santa Barbara). The book is based on a real Indigenous woman (often known as ‘the Lone Woman of San Nicolas Island’) who is buried at the Santa Barbara Mission. My older son attends U.C.S.B. and is out on Santa Cruz Island right now doing salamander research.” — Amy Power Labson, Sacramento

California will open a new state park in the San Joaquin Valley in June, officials announced. The park, eight miles west of Modesto, hasn’t been given a formal name yet; for now it is known as the Dos Rios property, and covers about 1,600 acres of floodplain.

Dos Rios will allow visitors to hike in certain areas of the property, and will also offer biking trails and river access for swimmers. The official name and park classification of Dos Rios will be determined soon by the California State Park and Recreation Commission.

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