Family & Home

Indie Bookstore Spotlight: Books for Graduates

Phoenix, here we come! As kids and parents everywhere prepare for the end of the school year and the millions of things that brings—post-graduation plans, fending off summer slide, heading off to camp, or just lots of playdates—the summer also represents a respite as we move forward in new directions.

This month, we are over the moon to welcome Brandi Stewart, children’s book buyer and event coordinator, at Changing Hands Bookstore (with two locations in Tempe and Phoenix, Arizona). Brandi has curated a wonderful list of children’s books to celebrate achievements, ease inevitable change, and gain a little inspiration.

Happy reading!

Books for Graduates

In Arizona, May is the start of a very hot summer and the end of school for many young readers. Bookstores are a great place to escape the heat and find inspiration. So, as we wrap up the past year and look to the future, here are some of our favorite books to recommend for graduates.

Picture Books

I Wish You More by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld
While acknowledging the pitfalls of life, this is book sweetly illustrates hopes for the future. A lovely book for any age that works well as a graduation, birthday or baby shower gift.

The Wonderful Things You Will Be by Emily Winfield Martin
Parents imagine what their children will do when they grow up, but are sure to acknowledge that no matter what they do, they will always be loved for who they are.

You’re Here for a Reason by Nancy Tillman
This beautiful book encourages us to embrace our individuality, because it’s all of us together who make the world complete.

Only One You by Linda Kranz
This brightly illustrated picture book shows two parents sharing their wisdom with their child as he explores the world around him.

We’re All Wonders by R. J. Palacio
An inspiring picture book version of the author’s bestselling middle grade book, Wonder, reminding us all that though we have our differences, we are all important and special just as we are.

Happy Dreamer by Peter H. Reynolds
Adorable illustrations show different ways to be a dreamer. This book encourages us to embrace our dreams, not let others box us in, and asks us to consider what kind of dreamer we are.

Middle Grade

101 Books to Read Before You Grow Up by Bianca Shulze
A fun journal-like book kids can use to keep track of the books they read while suggesting others to seek out before they become grown ups!

Strong is the New Pretty by Kate T. Parker
One of my favorite books out this year. This beautifully photographed book celebrates the strength of girls being just who they are and loving what they do. Be yourself and be fierce!

Elon Musk and the Quest for the Future by Ashlee Vance
A fascinating look at a modern innovator, showing kids how much they can accomplish by following their passions and thinking outside the box.


Make Trouble by John Waters, illustrated by Eric Hanson
A powerful and inspiring book challenging graduates to be bold in their passions.

The Crossroads of Should and Must by Elle Luna
Often we mix up our “musts” with “shoulds”. In this book, Elle Luna explains the difference and guides readers to discover their true calling, or their “MUST”.

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
Going out on a branch now and recommending some novels I think are great, nontraditional, graduation gifts. Fangirl is a look at what it takes to burst from your comfort zone and find your own path in life.

We All Looked Up by Tommy Wallach
As if graduating isn’t daunting enough, here’s a beautifully written book about growing up and literally facing the potential end of the world.

Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future by A.S. King
Another amazing book set around graduating and facing the future. Quite literally for Glory O’Brien, who starts seeing visions of other people’s futures as she considers her own.

The next time you’re in the area and decide to give Changing Hands a shout, we want to make sure you are armed with two fun facts about the store:

  • The store opened in 1974 in Tempe as a used bookstore with only 1 case of new books! Forty-three years later, new books haven taken up about half their book inventory. They’ve grown so much that they opened a second location in uptown Phoenix in 2014. Here, customers can grab a beverage at the First Draft Book Bar and browse the store while enjoying coffee, wine, craft beer, or, for the kids, a craft soda.
  • This year, Changing Hands will be joining Phoenix Comicon for the first time as their official booksellers! The con will be held May 25-28. If you are planning to attend this year, you can say hi at booth #AA1701 and check out a selection of books and gift items, including the launch of “Fictional Character” enamel pins. We’ll also be giving out some fun freebies to the kids.

Brandi Stewart is the Children’s Book Buyer and Event Coordinator for Changing Hands Bookstore. When she’s not reading picture books and middle grade or YA fantasy, she likes humorous fiction, science fiction, and the occasional memoir. In addition to her passion for books, she loves to dance and can be seen performing around Phoenix with Savage Rhythm’s jazz performance group, The Salty Dogs. If you stop by the store, you might also catch her dancing between the bookshelves!

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