My kids are getting older and becoming strong, independent readers. This year, I focused mostly on middle grade novels — but I did find time to read a handful of picture books as well.
Each of the books listed in this post received a 5-star rating from me on Goodreads. I don’t give out five stars easily, so you can trust that every book on this list earned their way onto the list.
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One of my favorite things about the books I read in 2020 is the diversity represented by the topics, authors, and main characters. I feel like our small town’s public library has done an exceptional job to make sure most of these titles are available on their shelves. Anything I couldn’t find locally, I requested on NetGalley or purchased from ThriftBooks.
20 Favorite Children’s Books in 2020
(listed A-Z by title)
ABC for Me: ABC Earth-Friendly Me: From Action to Zero Waste, Here are 26 things a Kid Can Do to Care for the Earth!
by Christiane Engel
Published July 14th 2020
My 8-year-old walked into the room as I was reading ABC Earth-Friendly Me, and she immediately sat down next to me and started reading it, too. (Always a good sign for a children’s book!) I loved the diversity included in the illustrations and all the fun (and simple!) ideas to become more earth-friendly as a family. The glossary in the back was a nice touch for older readers who want to learn more!
Anne’s School Days
by Kallie George
Expected publication: July 6th 2021
An early reader series about our friend, Ann-with-an-E? Sign me up!! I wish our library had these books by Kallie George because the illustrations are BEAUTIFUL.
Anne’s School Days is fun because it’s the story when Anne and Gilbert first meet — the carrots/slate episode and the rescue scene when the boat sinks are included in this adorable book.
I want the whole series now!
A Thousand Questions
by Saadia Faruqi
Published September 8th 2020
This is my first time reading a book by author Saadia Faruqi, and wow, am I blown away! I think this book handles a lot of difficult topics including divorce, abandonment by a parent, poverty, class structure (and more) in a very relatable way for middle grade readers. I know my own two girls, ages 8 and 12, will enjoy reading this one and discussing which girl they identified with more. What a terrific book!
by Sharon Creech
Published September 8th 2020
What a book! As a long-time admirer of Ms. Creech’s books, I feel like One Time is a love letter to all her devoted readers, filled with lovely hidden gems (or “winks”). It makes me want to go back and start reading every one of them all over again. I would definitely recommend that readers try a few other Creech books before reading this one — Granny Torrelli Makes Soup, Love That Dog, and Bloomability, for sure.
Honestly, I think the open-ended narrative leaves lots of room to inspire young authors to write their own continuation of these characters and their stories.
by Hena Khan
Published March 14th 2017
Another great book from Hena Khan! (And I just saw there’s a sequel coming.)
Amina is brand-new to middle school, and lots of things are changing in her life. I loved how this book covered first crushes, school pressure, family relationships, stage fright, and friendship struggles…while also tackling tough topics like cultural differences and hate crimes.
We need more books like this for our middle-grade readers!
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Aster’s Good Right Things
by Kate Gordon
Published November 1st 2020
This may be the best book I’ve read in 2020 (and I don’t say that lightly — I’m VERY stingy with my 5-star reviews).
Aster is an incredible, loving character who is reeling after her mother decided she didn’t want to be part of their family anymore. The way she describes their interactions when Aster was younger leads me to believe her mother may be bipolar, but that’s never discussed. Instead, her dad and aunt are revered as the loving adults in her life who *stayed* (though they have struggles of their own).
As both a mother and a (grown-up) child who felt very alone, I vacillated between crying for my childhood self and vowing to do better for my own children. This book will stay with me for a long time!
Kwame Alexander’s Free Write: A Poetry Notebook
Published November 3rd 2020
After teaching a writing class to 4th-6th graders this past school year, I know how hard it is to find materials that kids will respond to. I would love to see a hard copy because the layout isn’t really conducive to an e-book format — but the content is fabulous. (I wouldn’t expect anything less from Kwame Alexander, though.)
Nature All Around: Birds
by Pamela Hickman
Published September 1st 2020
This is my first experience with the Nature All Around series, and I am seriously impressed. We need to add this entire collection to our family library!
Birds is a beautiful introduction for children and adults alike. The illustrations are gorgeous, the facts are tidbit-sized to keep little ones’ attention, and the glossary and index in the back are a wonderful resource! Charlotte Mason homeschoolers will love this “living book.”
by Linda Sue Park
Published March 3rd 2020
Like many (white) girls my age, I grew up reading the Little House series…and watching the TV show with Michael Landon. When I became the mother to two daughters, I was excited to share the series with them. (We’ve even traveled to Ingalls properties in De Smet, South Dakota and Mansfield, Missouri.)
However, I really want my girls to grow up reading more diverse literature than I did as a child. Prairie Lotus is a gorgeous book peeling back“white-washed” American history concepts like manifest destiny and white exceptionalism. It’s my favorite of Linda Sue Park’s books!
The ABCs of Black History
by Rio Cortez
Published December 8th 2020
I really enjoyed this book, and I’m looking forward to adding a physical copy to our family collection. Everything works together — the text, the illustrations, the extra information. What a great primer to start learning more about Black history!
The Vanderbeekers to the Rescue (#3)
by Karina Yan Glaser
Published September 17th 2019
I’m so glad I took the time to read this adorable series. With five children of different ages (and lots of varied interests!) — there is bound to be a character that every reader can connect to. Both of my kids enjoy these, which makes them a great read-aloud choice.
The Wingfeather Saga #3: The Monster in the Hollows
by Andrew Peterson
Published May 10th 2011 (new hardback editions released in 2020)
This book is incredible. I’m re-reading the entire series with my 11-year-old, and I flew through book 3 to get it into her hands. With all the adventure in books 1 & 2, I’m glad for the pace of this book — a real chance to catch your breath before the final book of the series.
V is for Voting
by Kate Farrell
Published July 21st 2020
A timely read for this election season. I appreciate all the extra information in the back of the book — all the details I wasn’t taught when I was younger!
For more books about voting, click here.
The House That Wasn’t There
by Elana K. Arnold
Expected publication: 2021
I’ll be honest, I’m not a huge fan of magic realism. BUT — there are so many beautiful (realistic fiction) parts of The House That Wasn’t There that more than made up for it. I loved all the friendship storylines and the surprise twist ending.
by Kwame Alexander
Published April 2nd 2019
A gorgeous collaboration between poet Kwame Alexander and artist Kadir Nelson! The Undefeated is a visual masterpiece — and I loved poring over the extra information at the back of the book. It makes me so sad that I never learned many of these stories as a child. As Mr. Alexander says in his afterword, “…to truly know who we are as a country, we have to accept and embrace all of our woes and wonders.”
The Vanderbeekers Lost and Found (#4)
by Karina Yan Glaser
Published September 15th 2020
I had to wait so long for our library’s ONE copy to finally make it into my hands, but OH — what a book. I laughed and sobbed along with our favorite family from Harlem. I wish they had one more floor so we could move in, too.
The Wingfeather Saga # 4: The Warden and the Wolf King
by Andrew Peterson
Published July 27th 2014 (new hardback editions released in 2020)
This entire series is exceptional. The Warden and the Wolf King is a wonderful and heart-breaking end to the tale of the Wingfeathers (though I’ll always hope for more!).