May/June 2021 Kids Indie Next List

The Kids Indie Next List has been announced for May and June 2021. The books are selected by independent book stores across the country as the top books of the season. Here are the chosen titles:

AGES 4-8

Are You a Cheeseburger? by Monica Arnaldo

Becoming Vanessa by Vanessa Brantley-Newton

Bodies Are Cool by Tyler Feder

Brave As a Mouse by Nicolo Carozzi

Dino-Gro by Matt Myers

Dogs at Work by Margaret Cardillo, illustrated by Zachariah OHora

Jo Jo Makoons: The Used-to-Be Best Friend by Dawn Quigley, illustrated by Tara Audibert

What If, Pig? by Linzie Hunter

What Will You Be? by Yamile Saied Mendez, illustrated by Kate Alizadeh

AGES 9-12

Both Can Be True by Jules Machias

Da Vinci’s Cat by Catherine Gilbert Murdock

Healer of the Water Monster by Brian Young

Little Kid, Big City! London by Beth Beckman, illustrated by Holley Maher

Long Distance by Whitney Gardner

Long Lost by Jacqueline West

Maybe Maybe Marisol Rainey by Erin Entrada Kelly

Ophie’s Ghosts by Justina Ireland

The Shape of Thunder by Jasmine Warga


Ace of Spades by Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé

Cool for the Summer by Dahlia Adler

The Girl from the Sea by Molly Knox Ostertag

Instructions for Dancing by Nicola Yoon

Last Chance Books by Kelsey Rodkey

Pumpkin by Julie Murphy

Realm Breaker by Victoria Aveyard

A Sitting in St. James by Rita Garcia-Williams

This Poison Heart by Kalynn Bayron

Tokyo Ever After by Emiko Jean

The Witch King by H. E. Edgmon

Force of Fire by Sayantani DasGupta

Cover image for Force of Fire

Force of Fire by Sayantani DasGupta (9781338636642)

The author of the Kingdom Beyond books returns with a stand alone novel set in the same universe. Pinki is the daughter of two of the most renowned rakkhosh members of the resistance to the take over of the Kingdom Beyond by the snakes. But Pinki resolutely refuses to join the resistance, focusing on herself instead. She is a rakkhosh who has fire magic but can’t control it at all. So when a handsome snake prince offers her a way to learn to control her fire, she agrees to find the hidden moonbeams for him. But the moonbeams are not what Pinki had thought they were. As she follows the trail to find the moonbeams, she finds herself learning about what the snakes are doing to people and children in particular, including one of Pinki’s own little cousins, who has lost the ability to speak. But can Pinki forgive her neglectful parents and find a way to embrace her fire and her heritage?

The world building here is marvelous, full of beings from Bengali folktales and stories. As they journey through cave complexes, into ornate palaces and beneath the sea, the entire landscape not only is revealed but becomes a large part of the story as it is impacted by the snake magic and decrees. Readers will also see ties to the Indian Revolution against British rule throughout the story, something that is mentioned in the Author’s Note at the end of the book. This use of a real tyranny as a basis offers a strong foundation for this fantasy to rest upon.

The characters are well drawn. Pinki in particular is a delight of a female character, full of pride in her largess, her horns and her talons, she also struggles to make friends and to rely on others for help. This is all made understandable as her personal story is revealed. She is a character who starts out as surprisingly selfish and steadily proves that she is not, again and again. With funny characters who add charm, like the egg-gifting little cousin, the book also has a lot of humor throughout to offset the darkness.

Fiery, fun and fabulous. Appropriate for ages 9-12.

Reviewed from ARC provided by Scholastic.