9 Children's Books by Suprising Authors

Am I the last person to know that Dolly Parton wrote a children’s book? 

child reading book
  • camera-icon
  • Photo Credit: Unsplash

Think about some of your favorite book authors when you were a child. What names spring to mind? Dr. Seuss? Shel Silverstein? A.A. Milne? How about Elena Ferrante, or Mariah Carey? 

This list is full of authors that you may be surprised to learn have children’s books. They each impart their unique nuggets of wisdom to children, encouraging them to learn, grow, and be themselves. 

Alien Superstar

Alien Superstar

By Henry Winkler, Lin Oliver

Geared toward middle-schoolers, Alien Superstar follows the adventures of Buddy burger, an alien that crash lands on Earth. Buddy has dreams of becoming a superstar on Earth, and wanted to be a comedian like his idol, Charlie Chaplin. Buddy decides to go to school, hoping to land a part in a school play and show off his comedic chops. 

But being a student isn’t nearly as easy as Buddy thought. As a four-eyed alien, he has trouble blending in with the other students. Not only does he have to adjust to school life, but he finds himself at odds with the school's bully, and the nuances of Earth's culture. 

The Beach at Night

The Beach at Night

By Elena Ferrante

If you’re looking for a children’s work that’s a little longer, Elena Ferrante’s novella, The Beach at Night, is a good place to start. This haunting and introspective work explores the world through the eyes of a lost doll. The doll, Celina, is accidentally left by her owner at the beach. As night falls, Celina’s feelings of abandonment and fear begin to grow. 

While she may have been left by her owner, Celina is not entirely alone on the beach. As the night grows later, Celina observes the emotional lives of the people she encounters. She reflects on the difficulty of adult relationships, and considers the emotional state of her owner, Mati. 

Cinderella Liberator

Cinderella Liberator

By Rebecca Solnit

In the vein of the short-lived musical Once Upon a One More Time, Solnit’s Cinderella Liberator retells the story of Cinderella with an emphasis on personal agency and liberation. Solnit, known for her work in activism and cultural criticism, brings a fresh perspective to the traditional fairytale.

In this retelling, Cinderella grows into an independent and self-assured young woman who rejects societal expectations and takes control of her own destiny. Her fairy godmother, far from being a magical figure, becomes a mentor who helps Cinderella to further define her desires and dreams.

Cinderella Liberator challenges conventional notions of beauty, gender roles, and societal expectations, and explores themes of autonomy, equality, and the importance of self-expression. Solnit encourages young readers to question traditional narratives and to envision alternative, empowering possibilities.

chicken of the sea viet thanh nguyen

Chicken of the Sea

By Viet Thanh Nguyen

A father-son collaboration from Pulitzer Prize winner Viet Thanh Nguyen, Chicken of the Sea encourages children to expand their views of the world that they live in. Three chickens decide to leave the only life that they’ve ever known in favor of sailing the high seas, seeking out fame and fortune. 

They become part of a pirate crew on the Pitiless, and take the treacherous journey to the island of the Dog Knights, experiencing more adventure than a chicken typically bargains for.

the bench

The Bench

By Meghan, The Duchess of Sussex

Inspired by Markle’s experiences observing her husband with their son, The Bench takes readers on a journey of love, reflection, and interconnectedness. The narrative is told from the perspective of a mother watching the interactions between fathers and their sons on a bench, exploring the intricacies of a father-son relationship.

The book celebrates the diverse and unique ways in which fathers engage with their children, emphasizing the enduring love and support that fathers provide as their children grow. It explores strong family bonds, resilience, compassion, and the impact of positive male role models in a child's life.

dream big little pig

Dream Big, Little Pig

By Kristi Yamaguchi

Poppy is not your average pig! She dreams of doing something special. Despite facing challenges and people who doubt her abilities, Poppy remains determined. With the unwavering support of her family and friends, she embarks on a series of adventures to discover her true talent.

Dream Big, Little Pig teaches young readers that it's okay not to fit into a predefined mold and that everyone has unique qualities waiting to be uncovered. The narrative is both heartwarming and empowering, showcasing the importance of believing in oneself and pursuing one's passions.

coat of many colors

Coat of Many Colors

By Dolly Parton

Parton’s children’s book is an adaptation of the iconic country music song of the same name. Based on Dolly Parton's own childhood experiences, Coat of Many Colors weaves a narrative of love, resilience, and the enduring power of family.

The story revolves around a little girl named Dolly whose mother stitches together a coat made from a collection of colorful rags. Each piece of fabric has a story, symbolizing the love and sacrifices of her family. 

Despite the coat's humble origins, Dolly treasures it as a symbol of her mother's affection and the strength that comes from the love within her home. Coat of Many Colors is a celebration of the enduring spirit of a close-knit family and the legacy of love passed down through generations. 

peanut goes for the gold

Peanut Goes for the Gold

By Jonathan Van Ness

Peanut Goes for the Gold follows the journey of Peanut, a nonbinary guinea pig with a passion for gymnastics. Peanut loves to cartwheel, flip, and twirl, but they face a challenge when their friends express doubt about whether a guinea pig can compete in the gymnastics event. Despite their differences, Peanut decides to pursue their dream of going for the gold, proving that anyone can follow their dreams, regardless of size, shape—or, in some cases, their species!

Peanut Goes for the Gold also emphasizes the power and importance of friendship, as Peanut’s friends realize the importance of believing in and encouraging one another’s dreams. Best known for their appearance on the “Queer Eye” series, Van Ness infuses this book with their warmth and positive spirit.

the christmas princess

The Christmas Princess

By Mariah Carey and Michaela Angela Davis

If you’re looking for a festive read for your little one this holiday season, look no further than this children’s book by the Queen of Christmas herself. With illustrations that are enchanting and welcoming, The Christmas Princess follows Little Mariah, a young girl in search of a happy holiday. 

With plans for more Little Mariah books, this book introduces young readers to a determined and brilliant little girl, working to find her way in the world.