I absolutely love the end of the year when various people and organizations come out with their favorite books of the year. I’ve read a lot of children’s books this year and created a lot of book lists for kids. it is hard to narrow down my favorites but, I’ll give it a go.
20 Favorite Books for Kids of 2020
Yes, there is overlap in this list. Many books could have gone in multiple different categories. But, it’s my list and I get to take creative liberties.
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#1 Best Book Message We All Need to Hear
Our names are important to us and when someone gets it wrong it doesn’t feel good.
Your Name Is a Song by Jamilah Thompkins Bigelow is the story of a young girl who is frustrated that her teachers and classmates have mispronounced her name all day. The girl’s mom teaches her about the musicality of names using the cities sights and sounds as inspiration. Empowered, the girl is ready to return to school and share her learning with her school.
You can even watch the author pronounce each name in a video on the publisher’s website.
I think every single back to school in-service should read this book aloud to teachers. And, every teacher should pledge to figure out how to pronounce each student’s name before the children even steps foot inside the classroom. Then, read the beautiful picture book aloud to every classroom of students too.
Sing everyone’s names. Appreciate each and every name and start building a positive, welcoming, and caring community from day one. Names are important.
I Am Every Good Thing by Derrick Barnes
All Because You Matter by Tami Charle
#2 Best Illustrations
If You Come to Earth by Sophie Blackall is a gorgeously illustrated book with nice heavy rich pages making this a wonderful gift book.
You may know some of Blackall’s other beautiful books such as 2019 Caldecott Medal, Hello Lighthouse, or 2016 medal winner, Finding Winnie. She is one of my very favorite illustrators.
Written as a letter to a visitor from outer space to Earth, it’s a gentle call to take care of the Earth and each other.
There are so many details in the illustrations so take your time to notice. I loved reading all the names on the paint tubes!
I love when authors and publishers include backmatter in the book sharing how the author and/or illustrator came up with their ideas for the book. It’s such a powerful teaching tool with students.
Blackall was inspired to write If You Come to Earth while sitting on top of a Himalayan mountain where she was working with Save the Children. She also shares with us who the people are in the book from neighbors, people she observed in Central Park, people on a boat she noticed in Sydney. There are even some people you might recognize.
“Right this minute, we are all here together on this beautiful planet. It’s the only we have, so we should take care of it.”
And, don’t forget to peek under the cover at the book undies.
Nana Akua Goes to School by Tricia Elam Walker
¡Vamos! Let’s Go Eat! by Raúl the Third
#3 Best Board Book
Five Little Ducks – First Book of Nursery Games by Ailie Busby
Making Tracks series by Abi Hall
#4 Best Alphabet Book
The Invisible Alphabet by Joshua David Stein is so clever. Oh how I love a clever alphabet book. Everything in this alphabet is something that can’t be seen.
A is for Air
B is for Bare
C is for Clear
There is so much to look at in a book about being invisible!
Eek!: A Noisy Journey from A to Z by Julie Larios
#5 Best Whole Group Read-Aloud
It was so hard to just choose one for this category. There needs to be lots of kid appeal and there are lots that fit the bill. Hence, lots of honorable mentions.
I’m going with Friday Night Wrestlefest by J.F. Fox. It would be a perfect fit for a family night read-aloud. Anything that promotes family time, I’m a fan of. Plus, you can use a great wrestler announcer voice. Each family can create their own wrestler name. Don’t forget to serve pizza.
Swashby and the Sea by Beth Ferry
Out the Door by Christy Hale
After Squidnight by Jonathan Fenske
Rescuing Mrs. Birdley by Aaron Reynolds
Snail Crossing by Corey R. Tabor
#6 Best Wordless Book
When I saw the clever cover of Hike by Pete Oswald, I knew I was going to love it. A young child and father wake up and head out for a hike. We get to enjoy their beautiful journey through the mountains as they explore and capture their memories with photos to treasure for always.
This book is perfect for Earth Day, a wordless picture book study, and/or Father’s Day. It’s one you’ll return to time and time again.
I so love wordless books. Check out this big list of wordless books I put together.
#7 Best Math Related Book
Going Up! by Sherry J. Lee is a mathy circle time read-aloud that you’ll want to share and teach from over multiple days.
So, how could you extend this story into learning possibilities?
#8 Best Retelling of a Familiar Story
Barbara McClintock’s version of Three Little Kittens is fantastic. The illustrations are so well done and the dialogue between the kittens adds a layer of humor and engagement.
#9 Best Fractured Fairy Tale
Federico and the Wolf by Rebecca J. Gomez is a Mexican-American take on Little Red Riding Hood.
Frederico is on his way to visit his abuelo when he meets a hungry wolf. When he arrives, abuelo has a striking resemblance to the wolf he met earlier. But, Frederico has a spicy surprise to take care of that wolf.
#10 Best Book About Friendship
Gustavo, the Shy Ghost by Flavia Z. Drago is the story of a shy ghost who struggles with finding the courage to make friends. But, he decides to share his passion with others and in turn, introduces himself to a whole new group of friends. The illustrations are spectacular!
Evelyn Del Rey is Moving Awayby Meg Medina (We even have a Book Dive to go with Evelyn Del Rey is Moving Away.
#11 Best Book About a Topic You Never Thought You’d Read a Book About
Gut health…so important but I never imagined there would be a children’s book about it. But, I’m so glad there is.
A Garden In Your Belly by Masha D’yans gets up close and personal with your gut to explore the unique garden in your digestive tract that makes everything work. Yep, we meet the microbes of our guts!
The story starts helping us visualize our intestines like a long winding river. Then, we travel around the moon to get a visual of the number of microbes in our bodies. And, from there we just keep discovering this garden that makes everything work for us.
#12 Best Book with Photographs
On a Snow-Melting Day: Seeking Signs of Spring by Buffy Silverman is a perfect read-aloud when we transition from winter to spring with gorgeous photographs of the remants of winter and the signs of spring.
Plus, it is full of rhyming text making it just as enjoyable to read.
Being Frog by April Pulley Sayre (she also had two other new books in 2020 too)
#13 Best Book About the Holidays
Our Favorite Day of the Year by A.E. Ali takes us to the first day of school and that means new friends, new surroundings, new learning. But, throughout the year the class learns about each other through celebrations that are special to each of them.
Learn about Eid Mubarak, Rosh Hashanah, Las Posadas, and more.
The Joyful Book by Todd Parr
The Night Before Christmas by Loren Long
#14 Best Book Featuring a House
2020 meant we spent a lot of time at home. So, it seems to have a book on the list featuring a home.
The Blue House by Phoebe Wahl is a wonderful story about rembembering that a home is where you are.
A father and son must leave their blue house because it will be torn down for a new property. They are both upset that they are being forced to move.
But, though starting over isn’t always easy, it can be done. Over time a new place can feel like home again.
Ok, we all know I’m a softie for some beautiful endpapers aka #endpaperenvy and this book has some GORGEOUS ones. Spend lots of time comparing the beginning endpapers and the ones at the end.
The Little Blue Cottage by Kelly Jordan
Brick by Brick by Heidi Woodward Sheffield
#15 Best Science/Nature Book
Honeybee: The Busy Life of Apis Mellifera by Candace Fleming is gorgeous and informative.
We meet a bee at birth and journey along as the bee moves from job to job in the hive. For a full 35 days, this bee does almost every job in the hive and travels 500 miles until its death. But, there is a new bee to start the process again.
Check out my whole list of books about bees too.
Packs: Strength in Numbers by Hannah Salyer
What Do You Do If You Work at the Zoo? by Steve Jenkins and Robin Page
#16 Best Informational or Nonfiction Book
There’s a Skeleton Inside You! by Idan Ben-Barak and Julian Frost is an interactive book that literally invites you to put your hands all over the book.
It’s a mix of a fictional story about Quog and Oort who are on their way to a birthday party but their spaceship breaks down and informational bits about the inner workings of the arm. These blobs could use a “hand.” Yes, they need a hand from the reader to help them out.
Children will love to help throughout the book and learn about the bones, nerves, and muscles.
#17 Best Graphic Novel
Donut Feed the Squirrels by Mika Song is an adventurous look at some determined squirrels looking to score some donuts from the donut truck. In the process, they help the donut maker invent a new type of donut. The first in what will probably be a Norma and Belly series.
Pea, Bee, & Jay #1: Stuck Together by Brian “Smitty” Smith
I have a whole list of early graphic novels for beginning readers for you too.
#18 Best Easy Reader
Adventure, creativity, and fun is what you’ll find Ty’s Travels All Aboard by Kelly Starling Lyons. I love this series so much for new readers and there are more books coming in 2021.
Meg and Greg by Rae
See the Cat: Three Stories About a Dog by David LaRochelle
#19 Best Early Chapter Book for Beginning Readers
I’ll never stop gushing over the Zoey & Sassafras series. It’s my absolute favorite early chapter book series to recommend to beginning chapter book readers. And, it makes an equally amazing first chapter book read aloud to preschoolers or kinderarteners.
Zoey & Sassafras: Roses and Bips by Asia Citro is the 8th book in the series. And, yes the 9th book is in the works too.
#20 Best Chapter Book Read-Aloud for the Early Grades
The One and Only Bob by Katherine Applegate is long overdue but so worth the wait. If you loved The One and Only Ivan, then you have to get the book dedicated to Bob the dog in The One and Only Bob. In fact, this one has more action making it a great read-aloud.
I read this aloud to my boys, then we went back and read The One and Only Ivan followed by watching the movie.
Ways to Make Sunshine by Renée Watson
#21 A Bonus to Take You Into 2021- Perfect for Kids, Educators, and Families
My friend, Merideth Magee Donnelly, from Homegrown Friends has a gorgeous brand-new book, Busy Little Hands: Art Play!: Activities for Preschoolers, that is perfect for every early childhood educator and family.
Process art amazingness is what you will get with this book. From drawing to painting to dramatic play, Merideth shows us how to set up the space to let creativity bloom. Magic Drawing Cars to Stuffed Animal homes, this book will guarantee a creative 2021.
More Best of Lists
Here are some more favorite lists from friends and organizations across the web.
Pernille Ripp’s List—>See it.
Library Mom’s List—>See it.
Happily Ever Elephant’s List—>See it.
Here Wee Read’s List—>See it.
Colours of Us List—>See it.
All Done Monkey’s List—>See it.
My Storytime Corner’s List—>See it.
Imagination Soup’s List—>See it.
New York Public Library—>See it.
Evanston Public Library—>See it.
Chicago Public Library—>See it.
So, tell me your favorite books of the year. Leave a comment below.
Here’s to more great books in 2021. In fact, I’ve already started my list. Check it out HERE.