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20 Best Kids' Books of 2020

By Ashly Moore Sheldon • December 09, 2020

This has been an extraordinary year for all sorts of reasons, but we're going to try to focus on the positive here. And number one on the list is books, of course! At the end of the year, we like to share a list of standouts in a few different categories. Here are 20 of our favorite kids' books from 2020.

Picture Books

Animals in the Sky by Sara Gillingham
This simple, dazzling board book will help young readers learn to identify six of the most recognizable animal constellations from The Great Bear to The Southern Fish. Ages 2–4

The Little Mermaid by Jerry Pinkney
A vivid reimagining of the Hans Christian Andersen classic fairy tale from a celebrated author/illustrator. In this version, the mermaid befriends a human girl instead of falling for a prince. Ages 4–7

Sugar in Milk by Thrity Umrigar
"When I first came to this country, I felt so alone." A young immigrant girl struggles to adjust to her new country in this story about the power of diversity, acceptance, and resilience. Ages 4–8

I Talk Like a River by Jordan Scott
"I wake up each morning with the sounds of words all around me. And I can't say them all..." A boy who stutters learns to find his voice in this immersive picture book. Ages 4–8

Black is a Rainbow Color by Angela Joy
"My color is black . . . And there's no black in rainbows." A child reflects on the meaning of being Black in this moving and powerful anthem about a people, a culture, a history, and a legacy. Ages 4–8

¡Vamos! Let’s Go Eat by Raúl the Third
Peppered with Spanish vocabulary, this glorious celebration of food, like quesadillas with red peppers and Mexican-Korean tacos, will leave readers hungry. Ages 4–8

All Because You Matter by Tami Charles
A lyrical, heartfelt love letter to black and brown children everywhere: reminding them that they have always mattered and assuring them that they always will. Ages 4–8

The Arabic Quilt by Aya Khalil
Kanzi's family has moved from Egypt to America, and on her first day in a new school, what she wants more than anything is to fit in. But after her mom shows up at school, she's not sure if she ever will. Ages 6–8

Exquisite: The Poetry and Life of Gwendolyn Brooks by Suzanne Slade
A picture-book biography of the first Black person to win the Pulitzer Prize. Poet Gwendolyn Brooks wrote about "real life" subjects, like love, loneliness, family, and poverty. Ages 6–9

Honeybee: The Busy Life of Apis Mellifera by Candace Fleming
Get up close and personal with a honeybee, as she embarks on her journey through life, complete with exquisitely detailed illustrations. Ages 6–9

Chapter Books

Loretta Little Looks Back by Andrea Davis Pinkney
Through an evocative mix of fictional first-person narratives, spoken-word poems, folk myths, gospel rhythms, and blues influences, this novel illuminates the history of sharecroppers in the rural South. Ages 8–12

A Whale of the Wild by Rosanne Parry
A young orca whale leads her brother on a tumultuous journey to be reunited with their pod. This gorgeously illustrated animal adventure novel explores family bonds, survival, global warming, and a changing seascape. Ages 8–12

Class Act by Jerry Craft
This moving and funny graphic novel tells the story of Drew, an eighth-grade boy from the Bronx who faces the distinct challenges of being one of the few kids of color in a prestigious private school. Ages 8–12

Mañanaland by Pam Muñoz Ryan
Eleven-year-old Max longs to know more about his mother who disappeared when he was a baby. So he sets out on a perilous quest for answers. This powerful fantasy rings with resonant truths about compassion and our shared humanity. Ages 8–12

Prairie Lotus by Linda Sue Park
A powerful, touching, multilayered book about a young half-Korean girl living in a small town in America's heartland, in 1880. Determined to fit in and realize her dreams, Hanna's wry, observant voice resonates with readers. Ages 10–13

We Dream of Space by Erin Entrada Kelly
Cash, Fitch, and Bird Thomas are three siblings living in Park, Delaware in 1986. As the three wait expectantly for the launch of the Space Shuttle Challenger, they exist in their own orbits, circling a tense and unpredictable household. Ages 8–12

When Stars Are Scattered by Omar Mohamed and Victoria Jamieson
Heartbreak and hope exist together in this graphic novel about finding home in the most difficult of settings. Omar and his younger brother, Hassan, have spent most of their lives in Dadaab, a refugee camp in Kenya. Ages 9–12

King and the Dragonflies by Kacen Callender
In a small but turbulent Louisiana town, twelve-year-old King struggles with the grief of his older brother's death. He wishes he could talk with his best friend, Sandy, about it, but a rumor that Sandy is gay has come between them. Ages 8–12

This is Your Time by Ruby Bridges
Inspired by the recent wave of activism for racial justice, civil rights icon Ruby Bridges—who, at the age of six, was the first black child to integrate an all-white elementary school in New Orleans—shares her story. Ages 10 and up

From the Desk of Zoe Washington by Janae Marks
What does a girl say to the father she's never met, hadn't heard from until his letter arrives on her twelfth birthday? He's in prison for a terrible crime—a crime he says he never committed. Zoe decides to launch her own investigation. Ages 8–12.

Get Them While You Can!

Planning to give books as holiday gifts for your young readers? Now's the time to grab these exciting titles because they're going fast! If a book is out of stock, be sure to add it to your wish list. And as always, if we've missed any of your favorite kids books from 2020, we'd love to hear about it in the comments.

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Read more by Ashly Moore Sheldon

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