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A Few of My Favorite Things: The Best of 2020 + Book Lists

Updated: Dec 30, 2020

I hesitate to declare that 2020 has been a good year in any capacity, but it really and truly has been a wonderful year for books! All year, I've felt sad for authors and illustrators who've had to navigate book releases during a global pandemic and the related economic fall out. And yet, these magical humans have managed to create a year's full of reading for young people that is exceptional in so many ways, so I hope you'll join me as I celebrate this accomplishment!

Each Monday in December, I'll be sharing a list of my favorite books from 2020 in various categories. In years past, I've limited myself to 8 books per list, but in 2020, I feel like we all need more joy, not less, so I'm breaking my own rule!

This year's categories include:

Picture Books:

Book List:

  • We Are Water Protectors by Carole Lindstrom (author) Michaela Goade (illustrator)

  • The Old Truck by Jarrett Pumphrey and Jerome Pumphrey

  • Nothing In Common by Kate Hoefler (author) Corinna Luyken (illustrator)

  • All Because You Matter by Tami Charles (author) Brian Collier (illustrator)

  • The Ordinary Day by Elana K. Arnold (author) Elizabet Vukovic (illustrator)

  • Your Name Is A Song by Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow (author) Luisa Uribe (illustrator)

  • A Polar Bear In The Snow by Mac Barnett (author) Shawn Harris (illustrator)

  • I Am Every Good Thing by Derrick D. Barnes

  • The Camping Trip by Jennifer K Mann

  • Hike by Pete Oswald

  • Our Little Kitchen by Jillian Tamaki

  • If You Come To Earth by Sophie Blackall

  • I Talk Like A River by Jordan Scott (author) Sydney Smith (illustrator)

  • Nana Akua Goes To School by Tricia Elam Walker (author) April Harrison (illustrator)

  • Chicken Little: The Real and Totally True Tale by Sam Wedelich

Middle Grades/School:

Book List:

  • Efren Divided by Ernesto Cisneros

  • Wink by Rob Harrell

  • I Dream of Space by Erin Entrada Kelly

  • Clean Getaway by Nic Stone

  • The List of Things That Will Not Change by Rebecca Stead

  • King and The Dragonflies by Kacen Callender

  • Show Me A Sign by Ann Clare LeZotte

  • Middle School's A Drag by Greg Howard

  • Land of The Cranes by Aida Salazar

  • What Lane by Torrey Maldenado

  • BenBee and The Teacher Griefer by KA Holt

  • Fly On The Wall by Remy Lai

  • From The Desk of Zoe Washington by Janae Marks

  • Black Brother, Black Brother by Jewell Parker Rhodes

  • A High Five for Glenn Burke by Phil Bildner

  • A Wish In The Dark by Christina Soontornvat

  • Before The Ever After by Jacqueline Woodson

  • Fighting Words by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

Young Adult Lit

Book List:

  • Red Hood by Elena K Arnold

  • Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo

  • Grown by Tiffany D Jackson

  • Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas

  • Punching The Air by Ibi Zoboi and Yusef Salaam

  • The Black Flamingo by Dean Atta

  • The Black Kids by Christina Hammonds Reed

  • We Are Not Free by Traci Chee

  • You Should See Me In A Crown Leah Johnson

  • Song Below Water by Bethany Morrow

  • Not So Pure and Simple by Lamar Giles

  • Poisoned by Jennifer Donnelly

  • Burn by Patrick Ness

  • The Voting Booth by Brandy Colbert

  • Furia by Yamile Saied Méndez

Graphic Novels

Book List:

  • When Stars are Scattered by Omar Mohamed (Author) and Victoria Jamieson (Illustrator)

  • Flamer by Mike Curato (Author, Illustrator)

  • Twins by Varian Johnson (Author) and Shannon Wright (Illustrator)

  • Snapdragon by Kat Leyh (Author, Illustrator)

  • Dancing At The Pity Party by Tyler Feder (Author, Illustrator)

  • Class Act by Jerry Craft

  • Almost American Girl by Robin Ha (Author, Illustrator)

  • Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds (Author) Danica Novgorodoff (Illustrator)

  • Dragon Hoops by Gene Luen Yang (Author, Illustrator)

  • Displacement by Kiku Hughes (Author, Illustrator)

  • The Magic Fish by Trung Le Nguyen (Author, Illustrator)

  • The Phantom Twin by Lisa Brown (Author, Illustrator)

  • Swamp Thing: Twin Branches by Maggie Stievfater (Author) Morgan Beem (Illustrator)

  • Unrig by Daniel G. Newman (Author) George O'Connor (Illustrator)

  • Astronauts: Women on The Final Frontier by Jim Ottaviani (Author) Maris Wicks (Illustrator)

  • Banned Book Club by Ryan Estrada, Kim Hyun Sook (Authors) and Hyung-Ju Ko (Illustrator)

  • You Brought Me The Ocean by Alex Sánchez (Author) Julie Maroh (Illustrator)

  • Go With The Flow by Lily Williams (Author, Illustrator) and Karen Schneemann (Author)


Book List:

  • How Mary Walker Learned to Read by Rita L. Hubbard (author) and Oge MoraFlamer (illustrator).

  • Honeybee: The Busy Life of Apis Mellifera by Candace Fleming) (Author) and Eric Rohmann (Illustrator)

  • Box: Henry Brown Mails Himself to Freedom by Carole Boston Weatherford (Author, Illustrator)

  • The Next President:The Unexpected Beginnings and Unwritten Future of America’s Presidents (Presidents Book for Kids; History of United States Presidents When They Were Young) by Kate Messner (Author), Adam Rex (Illustrator)

  • Facts VS Opinions VS Robots by Michael Rex (Author, Illustrator)

  • Trending: How and Why Stuff Gets Popular by Kira Vermond and Clayton Hanmer (Illustrator)

  • All Thirteen: The Incredible Cave Rescue of the Thai Boys' Soccer Team by Christina Soontornvat

  • The Talk: Conversations about Race, Love & Truth by Wade Hudson and Cheryl Willis Hudson

  • You Too?: 25 Voices Share Their #MeToo Stories by Janet Gutler (Editor)

  • The Rise and Fall of Charles Lindbergh by Candace Fieming

  • Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You: A Remix of the National Book Award-Winning Stamped from the Beginning by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X Kendi (authors)

  • Lifting As We Climb by Evette Dionne (Author)

  • All of A Sudden and Forever by Chris Barton (Author) and Nicole Xu (Illustrator)

  • The Black Friend by Frederick Joseph (author)

I'm terrible at predicting award winners, but that won't stop me from keeping my fingers crossed in the hopes that some of these covers will soon be adorned with stickers. Still, at the end of the year, it always feels good to look back at all the books that made the last 12 months a bit brighter. This year, that tradition feels even more important. Finally, I send the highest of fives to all the people who put their hearts, heads and hands to work creating books for us to love in 2020. I'm sure many days it felt as though your hard work would get lost in all the noise. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you!

Happy New Year, everyone. And Happy Reading!


Catty Li
Catty Li
Oct 12, 2023
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Karlicia Berry
Karlicia Berry
Mar 21, 2021

So excited to read the YA books. I love them!!!! Thank you for all the great leads.

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