Home Book Collections Kyriarchy-Smashing Kids Books For 9-Year-Olds

Kyriarchy-Smashing Kids Books For 9-Year-Olds

Favorite Kids Books Hand-Picked by Actual Kids

via Ashia
Published: Last Updated on

[Image description: Good Finds: Stories for 9-year-olds, Raising Luminaries]

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View the full list of Inclusive Books Curated by 9-Year-Olds

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bad sister

Bad Sister

(Ages 9+)

The cover of this made me pause – I don’t need another graphic novel glorifying some lying bully sister. HOWEVER.

This auto-biographical graphic novel by neurodivergent author Charise Mericle Harper explores the social conflict – and internalized shame – that come with undiagnosed communication and sensory disabilities.

While Mericle Harper only explicitly labels her neurodivergence as prosopagnosia (a difficulty recognizing faces that I also share), the conflicts in her story were driven by social and communicative misunderstandings commonly related to neurodivergence.

Challenges with pragmatic language, sensitivity to sound, ‘black and white’ thinking (ie: the Bad Sister label for making innocent mistakes), and annoyed, baffled adults who couldn’t understand why she could do some things well, while facing delays and social challenges compared to her younger sibling.

As an person who also grew up with these challenges raised as an undiagnosed Autistic girl – with all the extra social expectations that come with that – the story felt validating and compassionate. Both me and the Autistic kiddo combed the book back to front searching for a reference to Autism or another neurodivergence. Even the allistic kid agreed that the character in this story coded as Autistic.

Only after reading Bad Sister and checking her author history for more did I realize that Mericle Harper also penned Go! Go! Go! Stop! (among at least 50 more books. +1 neurodivergent point, she’s *prolific*) which my Autistic preschooler LOVED HARD through the two years his hyperfocus revolved around yellow construction trucks.

If you liked this story, check out



the deep dark blue

The Deep Dark Blue

(Ages 9+)

“I had a hard time following it and I’m not completely sure what’s going on – but this is a really good book. You should read it” – Q

Smith got a little too caught up in world-building to flesh out the characters and story. The dialogue story isn’t super-accessible for the recommended age range of 8-12 (I’d adjust for closer to 10+).

But there is potential for this to develop into a fantastic series of graphic novels following a set pair of siblings (one a cis boy, the other a trans girl) wrestling with expectations and roles in exploring spirituality, politics, and a rebellious insurgency.

At 9, Q the dialogue went over his head, but he appreciated the underlying story of two siblings reconciling with their gender identities and how they feel called to present themselves.

If you liked this story, check out

Fly on the wall

Fly On The Wall

Q listened to the audio book version of ‘Fly on the Wall’ but decided the text version was better, since the audio version leaves out all the charming doodles that make up the meat of the story. He tells me that he’s ‘not quite old enough’ to fully appreciate the book, but can tell it’s ‘really good.’

He’s looking forward to getting older and more mature so he can dig deeper into it. I am too, because this book is soooo gooood. From puberty to growing out of a friendship, this, along with the Real Friends Series, is the book to have on hand before those rough middle-school social pressures pop up.

If you liked these stories, check out:


no one returns from the enchanted forest

No One Returns From The Enchanted Forest

Another book with layers that Q can tell are there – but isn’t quite able to get the whole concept of yet. He recommended I read this one, and HOT DAMN it’s soooo good. There is no one ‘right way’ to be – and we can all get stuck in our ruts, locked into our bubbles for safety or acting impulsively without thinking of how our consequences affect others. Unpacking how we demonize and blame others, when really we need to look at our own harmful actions. YESSssssssSSsss!

Do you know how many kids books include a transformative community-led justice response? Like three! And this is one of them!

If you liked these stories, check out:


can i build another me

Can I Build Another Me

Yoshitake’s books are kind of like Philosophy-For-Kids, using goofy, validating scenarios that every kid finds themselves in to dig into a bit of self-awareness.

English versions of Yoshitake’s books are hard to get over here, and we put this on R2’s wishlist, so we got it as a gift from his favorite uncle. R2 loved it (of course) but, like all of Yoshitake’s books, it’s got enough whimsy and subtle humor that older kids and adults enjoy it too.

I think this might be the deepest, most adventurous exploration in his books of all – inspiring kids to think not just of who they are, but what makes them them – what does it mean to have an identity? And how is that identity perceive differently depending on what we’re doing and who we’re with?

If you liked these stories, check out:

Friends Forever

Friends Forever

Friends Forever is the third (final?) book in the Best Friends trilogy. Q loves this series so much he pre-ordered it with last year’s New Year’s money.

When it arrived, he was…confounded. In keeping with the chronological series, the third book is written for older kids, about older kid-issues. He was confused why he had a hard time following it until we read it together.

After taking some time to unpack the 80’s references (what even is a magazine?!), the entrenched sexism and individualism, and the cultural significance of growing up as a white Utah Mormon with an invisible disability, he loves it so hard. In contrast with the way we’re raising our kids, he finds the assumptions on a woman’s role hilarious. He connects with the ableism against invisible disabilities and that emerging tween need to feel special and worthy while navigating confusing relationships with other kids.

If you liked this story, check out:

5 worlds: the emerald gate

Part 5: The Emerald Gate

My little dude waited in anguish for the fifth and final book in the 5 Worlds Series to come out. He’s so excited. I can’t even tell you how excited he is about this. It’s a great fantasty series, with plenty of allusions and opportunities to discuss xenaphobia, family separation and transracial adoption, climate justice, collaborative action, interdependence, and fake news.

If you liked this story, check out:

Stuntboy in the meantime

Stuntyboy, In the Meantime, Vol 1

Recommended by partners-in-cahoots at Revolutionary Humans, Q agrees it’s kickass and fun.

Featuring a boy in the midst of his parents separation, celebrating apartment life, and learning to deal with jerks and family conflict, Reynolds makes space for vulnerability, healthy masculinity, and Black boy joy.

If you liked these stories, check out:

sunzi the art of war illustrated

The Art of War: Illustrated

I had hoped that when Q was finally old enough to parse Sun Zu’s ‘Art of War,’ we could read it as a theoretical – applying it to classroom and recess politics.

Unfortunately, we’re reading this book alongside our nightly news updates about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. As we watch President Zelenskyy’s calls for compassion, allyship, and support, we’re also drawing parallel’s between his decision as a wartime leader, and Sun Zu’s battle theory.

I wish I could recommend this book under different circumstances – but honestly that was never a realistic dream. Invasion, occupation, and conquest for the sake of greed and power continues on a global scale, even when western news outlets aren’t covering European conflict.

If you liked these stories, check out:


Thunder Rose

This has been a long-time favorite of ours, and Thunder Rose was an early OG kickass Black girl in gender-inclusive kidlit.

But it’s always been…wordy. Now that the kids are older, we can read the full text and the Earthquakes are riveted. We’re also dusting this story off in time for Q to go through his public school’s standard unit on Tall Tales, to dismantle the typical whitewashing that comes with this staple of US elementary education.

If you liked these stories, check out:


Go with the flow

Go With The Flow

This feels to advanced for 8.5 but Q said he enjoyed it. It’s weird that all the resources about menstruation are made for kids 10+ even though many of us start menstruating earlier. Younger menstruators not only have to deal with the shitty experience of being the first kid to deal with cramps among classmates who can’t empathize, but there’s also no resources to prepare kids before they get their first surprise pants-destroying gusher. Trans-friendly, but all the main characters are cisgender, which is the only bummer.

Another favorite: The Autism-Friendly Guide to Periods. This is destigmatizing, clear, graphic, trans-friendly, and helps kids with the step-by-step guide to how to care for themselves. I’m not sure why it has to be just for Autistic kids, but based on reviews by allistic allistic parents, y’all are so damn squeamish and can’t handle basic facts about assigned-female bodies. ::exhausted eyeroll at allistics and their death grip on social constructs like misogyny::

If you like this, check out our All Bodies are Good Bodies and Modeling Supportive Friendship suggested reading lists.


Q’s Favorite: Mup   For critical discussion

(Ages 8-12) Or maybe don’t.

Q enjoyed the time travel, adventure, message against climate-devastating oil consumption and Mup’s character growth about self-identity as she approaches puberty. I did too!

HOWEVER. Controversy! There were many things we found problematic with this book. I went on a little rant about it that went far too long, so I’m just gonna sum it up into a few points and let you do your own digging.

It’s fine for kids to enjoy the goofy adventures created by white people unimpeded by racialized trauma. But for white readers in particular – this comes with the responsibility of recognizing bias, naming it, and committing to not replicating this harm.

Problematic: Brownface.

This book was published in 2020. How on earth does a white lady not pause before writing a character based on her very white sister (that rich white girl slouch! That level-10 Patagonia-fleece whiteness!) and then paint her brown for no apparent reason other than a grab at the ‘diversity’ market?

Problematic: Tampering brownface with proximity of whiteness.

BIPOC have light eyes all the time, it’s normal! The thing is they’re not any more or less acceptable or beautiful than those with darker coloring. Just in case Mup having flufflier hair and darker skin than white readers would be comfortable with, Graegg drew Mup with light skin and green eyes. How exotic! All the diversity points of brownface, with the subtle ‘but she’s pretty’ message that remind BIPOC that in white supremacy culture, fairer BIPOC are easier on the eyes, and easier to empathize with.

Problematic: Zero effort to embrace Mup’s appropriated Blackness beyond looks

In appropriating a Black-presenting character and implying she’s multiracial, the very least Graegg could have done was run this book past a Black reader to get notes on what she’s missing. Three girls with kinks and curls just plop bareheaded into sleeping bags and jump up in the morning like the world won’t take them seriously until they take that frizz. Imagine that life!

Problematic: ‘Gotcha’ language

Mup’s dad uses ‘then I got you’ to refer to the phenomena of obtaining Mup. Like she’s a freakin’ Pokemon. Or a token Black family member to prove he’s open-minded. Regardless of race and adoption status – it’s just weird and gross to talk to our kids like we collected them like pogs.

BIPOC who have been collected by a white person who preens over you as a prized element of their social collection, you know exactly what I’m talking about. This language wouldn’t be more than an awkward blip on the radar if it wasn’t a white dad talking to his multiracial / transracially adopted daughter. The implied backstory of adoption, breeding mixed babies to fix your racism, or even just that Warrior Parent nonsense of objectifying kids as catalysts for a parent’s heroic journey – Ick. Ew. Gross. No thank you.

Problematic: Basic Boring Saviorism

The saviorism! A nameless, pan-African tribe has been invaded, colonized, and exploited by a white dude sporting a crown. It’s destroyed their way of life! They are helpless to stop it! Until two Americans show up and save the day within 48 hours.

OH COME THE FUCK ON, ALREADY: Complete lack of self-awareness

Alone, the nebulous, inky, infesting Black Dread (a creeping infestation that pollutes all life that is good and pure on Earth) would be a subtle sign that the author is not at all concerned with our culture’s value on lightness, whiteness, purity culture, and how it forms early bias and racial supremacy on young readers. But capitalizing on a shortcut based in anti-darkness while wearing the face of a Black-presenting character? On top of all the other goof in this book? Yikes.

Like the increased popularity of zombie movies during a refugee crisis and immigration boom, the symbolism of darkness as invading death takes on a deeper tone in the context of a white woman cherry-picking the symbolism of darkness to suit her whims.

Goodness gracious. What. WHAT. I mean we all make mistakes and goof up, cause harm, spread nonsense – but this is a hot messy lasagna of unapologetic privilege and zero self-awareness.

If you don’t have patience for this nonsense, grab some good graphic novels for elementary-aged kids and  inclusive stories handpicked by a kyriarchy-smashing 9-year-old.

Akissi, even more tales of mischief

Akissi – Even More Tales of Mischief

(Ages 8+)

The first two books in the Akissi series are delicious, rambunctious fun. This third though, holy crap wow. The author takes a gentle turn of depth into her feelings about emigrating and leaving her tight-knit community to a foreign European country, and ends with a lovely message about her connection with her grandfather.

I know promising a bittersweet story about leaving and loss doesn’t sell the book as a fun read, but please trust me it’s utterly lovely, sweet, hilarious, and so, so good. Part of the reason this kind of walloped me was that I went in expecting naughty capers and poop jokes, and ended up watching Akissi mature and grow up a little – kind of like what’s happening to my kids right now. Sure, the 9-year-old loved this book while he’s young, but I think he’ll get even more out of it over the next 15 years.

In addition to the depth in this book, there’s less cissexism and ‘not like the other girls’-ness than in the first two. Since all these stories are semi-autobiographical, I don’t hold the gender binaries or cissexism against the series, as they reflect the childhood cultural norms and assumptions about gender that Abouet grew up with in the 70’s/early 80’s suburbs of the her Abidjan neighborhood. Which happen to be the exact kind of sexist nonsense kids in European-colonized areas around the world.

If you like this, check out graphic novels for elementary-aged kids and  inclusive stories handpicked by a kyriarchy-smashing 9-year-old.

Hereville, how mirka got her sword how mirka met a meteorite How Mirka caught a fish

Hereville series:

How Mirka Got Her Sword,

How Mirka Met a Meteorite,

and How Mirka Caught A Fish

Q has been slowly savoring the Hereville books – a out-of-print series of graphic novels about a rebellious Orthodox Jewish girl, her brushes with witty creatures of fantasy and danger, and her wonderful, begrudgingly patient step-mother.

It’s the Mirka’s relationship with her step-mother that really gets to me. This is the antidote to all the woman-hating stereotypes about step-mothers in kidlit. They are in constant conflict, we’re always on Mirka’s side, and yet her step-mother remains a badass role model who embodies the intersection of honoring faith, tradition, and feminist agency.

Oh my gosh – right?! These books are so good. They can be hard to find though, so while I enthusiastically encourage people to support local libraries, these are worth buying. You can buy them on Bookshop to support indie bookstores if, like us, you’re still in isolation pandemic mode or have kids too rambunctious to enter a bookstore.

If you like this, check out graphic novels for elementary-aged kids, stories about Unapologetically Kickass Girls, and  inclusive stories handpicked by a kyriarchy-smashing 9-year-old.



(Ages 8-12)

This graphic novel from Remy Lai, one of our favorite authors, addresses the snowballing pressure that comes with a lie of omission and provides a simple story to unpack the way political divides deepen and intensify.

What I love the most is the message that those on the other side of a political divide have experiences and reasons we might not know about. The story invites us to start approaching divisive topics by shutting up and listening (in our social media bubbles, have we been doing that enough? Have we really?) so we can understand the needs and motivations and create better policy that does less harm.

If you like this, check out graphic novels for elementary-aged kids, stories about Restorative Justice and stories recommended by a kyriarchy-smashing 9-year-old.


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