The Garden State is known for a lot of things. But, unbeknownst to many, an entire body of children’s literature about our fair state may be found in our local bookstores. These books fall under the category of children’s books set in New Jersey as well as children’s books by New Jersey authors. It would take parents and kids several weeks to work their way through the large selection of titles available.
Margot Sage-EL, owner of Watchung Booksellers, and no stranger to Barista Kids, says, “I think it’s really important for kids to know that where they live can be the basis for an exciting story.”
To find out just what titles parents and kids might want to get their hands on, we talked to Watchung Booksellers in Montclair and Words Bookstore in Maplewood. Below is a list of what we found, divided into children’s books and young adult books, respectively:
Adventures of Daniel Boom Aka Loud Boy: Mac Attack
Written by DJ Steinberg and illustrated by Brian Smith. Smith lives in Montclair. In a recent visit to Watchung Booksellers, he spoke about the way he slips images from Montclair into the illustrations of the books even when the action is not set in New Jersey.
Goodnight New Jersey by Adam Gamble and Joe Veno
Meadowlands by Thomas Yezerski. Yezerski. Yezerski is a Hoboken resident who was inspired by living so close to the New Jersey Meadowlands. His illustrations portray the vitality still in existence in the Meadowlands. Yezerski recently visited Watchung Booksellers for a reading.
New Jersey by Erin McHugh and Illustrated by Alfred Schrier
The New Jersey Reader by Trinka Hakes Noble and Illustrated by K.L. Darnell. This book, covering such local lore as the Lenape, Riddles, Jersey Devil, and NJ Firsts such as Atlantic Flyway and Thomas Edison is dedicated “For all the wonderful children of New Jersey.”
Simon Bloom: The Gravity Keeper by Michael Reisman. Resiman grew up in Fair Lawn, New Jersey. His books are science fiction and are set in New Jersey. They are recommended for fourth and fifth graders. He recently visited Watchung Booksellers.
Young Adult Books
Cheaper by the Dozen by Frank B. Gilbreth and Ernestine Gilbreth Carey, this popular book, published in 1948, tells the story of a family of twelve children and their life in Montclair. It continues to be a favorite amongst adults and children. The sequel is Bells on their Toes.
Jersey Tomatoes are the Best by Maria Padian. Padian was born in New York but raised in New Jersey and currently lives in Maine. Her heroines explore the challenges of high school and friendship against the backdrop of their native state, New Jersey.
Sloppy Firsts by Megan McAfferty who is a resident of New Jersey. She sets her novel in Pineville, New Jersey.
Tell Us We’re Home by Marina Budhos. The novel takes place in Meadowbrook, New Jersey, a town roughly based on Budhos’ own town of Maplewood, New Jersey
Words Bookstore in Maplewood added their own recommendations to the list. Thanks for Susan Kusel from their Children’s Department.
G is for Garden State: A New Jersey Alphabet by Eileen Cameron, illustrated by Doris Ettlinger.
Nicky Fifth’s Garden State Adventure by Lisa Funari-Willever. Instead of going to Florida, our main character’s parents take him on seven New jersey day trips. (The whole Nicky Fifth series is set in New Jersey.) Author Funari-Willever is a former elementary school teacher for Trenton, New Jersey.
Penny from Heaven by Jennifer Holm. This book is the recipient of the 2007 Newbery Honor. It is set in New Jersey.
The Twelve Days of Christmas in New Jersey by Margaret Woollatt. This book highlights some of New Jersey’s landmarks and natural resources as it celebrates the twelve days of Christmas.
I Survived: The Shark Attacks of 1916 by Lauren Tarshis, illustrated by Scott Dawson. Set in Springfield, New Jersey, the main character Chet finds himself intrigued by shark sightings that hit close to home.
Kaleidoscope Eyes by Jennifer Bryant. Set in New Jersey, this novel follows the adventures of a thirteen year old heroine as she solves a mystery relating to New Jersey infamous pirate Captain Kidd.
Happy Jersey reading!