The Real Riley Mayes (2022)


Fifth grade is just not Riley’s vibe. Everyone else is squaded up—except Riley. Her best friend moved away. All she wants to do is draw, and her grades show it.

One thing that makes her happy is her favorite comedian, Joy Powers. Riley loves to watch her old shows and has memorized her best jokes. So when the class is assigned to write letters to people they admire, of course Riley’s picking Joy Powers!

Things start to look up when a classmate, Cate, offers to help Riley with the letter, and a new kid, Aaron, actually seems to get her weird sense of humor. But when mean girl Whitney spreads a rumor about her, things begin to click into place for Riley. Her curiosity about Aaron’s two dads and her celebrity crush on Joy Powers suddenly make more sense.

Readers will respond to Riley’s journey of self-discovery and will recognize themselves in this character who is less than perfect but trying her best. And creative kids will recognize themselves in her love of art and drawing.

While often funny and light, Riley’s exploration of what it feels to be an outsider and how hard it can be to make a friend break your heart in the best way. And with all of Riley’s hijinks and missteps, this story is laugh-out-loud funny from start to finish.

From: HarperCollins

Notes on This Title

The main character of this title is a fifth-grade girl who – over the course of the story – realizes she has a crush on a famous woman. Another character has two dads.

Some homophobic language is used in a bullying context.


Stonewall Book Award
Sid Fleishman Humor Award


Starred Review: “In fine lines and citrus hues, Elliott renders a sunny external world that juxtaposes Riley’s internal worries and confusion in a story of self-discovery that’s messy and full of heart.” (Source: Publishers Weekly)

“This story is real—and really great!” (Source: Kirkus Reviews)


KidLit411: “Author-Illustrator Spotlight Rachel Elliott

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