First Book Staff Recommends: Books That Changed Us for the Better

Every month, First Book’s team of children’s & young adult literature experts on staff (or as they like to call themselves, THE BOOK NERDS) choose their favorite titles from the Marketplace. September’s theme is Books that Changed Us for the Better. These titles mean a lot to the team, and we’re sure they will resonate with educators and students alike. Here are a few titles that challenge and inspire us at First Book.


James Whitehead is First Book’s merchandising & cataloging coordinator.

James’ Recommendation:

The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang: If only this book existed when I was young! I read it in one sitting, and it still resonates with me. The graphic novel format suits the story perfectly (the clothes! the interiors! Paris!); I still have screenshots on my phone of pages/sections that really moved me. An excellent story about finding your true self and coming to terms with who you are.


Courtney Claytor is First Book’s Cataloging Coordinator.

Courtney’s Recommendation:

Should I Share My Ice Cream? by Mo Willems: The illustrations are genius. They make me laugh every time I read it: from Gerald’s The Thinker pose on the cover to the faces he pulls when he’s trying to solve one of life’s biggest moral dilemmas (to share or not to share?). And, I always end up wanting an ice cream cone. But, they also inspire me to appreciate the kindness and understanding of friends and the joys that come from sharing what you have with others. That’s a lot of emotion to pack into a short, little book!


Yukari Matsuyama is First Book’s Children’s & Young Adult Literature Cataloging Manager.

Yukari’s Recommendation:

Jasmine Toguchi, Mochi Queen by Debbi Michiko Florence: It’s hard to fathom not seeing your family’s experiences in a children’s book until you’re almost middle-aged, but that’s exactly what happened to me (and I know I’m not the only adult with this kind of experience). When I read Jasmine Toguchi, Mochi Queen by Debbi Michiko Florence I almost yelled out loud, “Hey! That’s like my family!” Even as an adult, reading this “mirror” book that reflected my family’s Japanese American/Japanese everyday experiences made a lasting impression; I can only imagine how much it would’ve meant to me 30+ years ago. The book reaffirmed how crucial it is for young readers to have access to books that are windows and mirrors for the development of their identities.


Jack Pando is First Book’s Senior Manager of Title Selection.

Jack’s Recommendation:

Patron Saints of Nothing by Randy Ribay: Following along as the main character Jay begins to understand the complexities of his Filipino cultural and American national identity let me experience a perspective completely new to me. As Jay grapples with his own identity and privilege, he is forced to face the harsh truth behind his cousin’s murder. Like Jay, I as well, embarked on a journey to find out what it means to be an informed citizen of the world. I am happy to see this book selected for the National Book Award Long List and truly believe this book should find its way into the hands of as many teens (and adults) as possible. Ed note: This young adult title is currently sold out on the First Book Marketplace, click here to check on its restock status!


Lori Prince is First Book’s Director of Content Organization and Data Strategies.

Lori’s Recommendation :

Carl and the Meaning of Life by Deborah Freedman: After meeting an industrious (and inquisitive) field mouse, Carl the earthworm finds himself on a tiny quest that stirs up some enormous questions: Why am I here? Who is my work helping? Do I really matter? These are big worries for a little worm, but they are questions we all struggle with, especially in a world where comparing ourselves to others is far too easy. Deborah Freedman’s sweetly illustrated and gently told picture book provides readers of all ages a much-needed reminder that efforts that seem small can have a huge impact on the world around us. So keep up the good work, friends! You never know whose soil you may be tending.

Check out these titles and more of our favorites in the First Book Favorites section of the First Book Marketplace!