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My Favorite Books of 2020!

I meant to write this a few days ago, but of course I was still finishing up my last book of the year this morning, so here we are. I've been seeing other year-end lists floating around, and I'm reminded by how impossible it is to read everything out there, no matter how hard I tried. Even after making it through over 150 books this year, there's still so much I just didn't get to. Oh well... I imagine a lot of people have a reading stack they'll never finish. Sigh.


While there was a lot that was terrible about 2020, it was an AMAZING year for books!! So many wonderful stories were published this year, and as hard as it was to narrow down my finalists, here are my very, very favorites:


PICTURE BOOKS

- We Are Water Protectors by Carole Lindstrom & Michaela Goade - An allegory about the preciousness of a clean water source and the need to protect it at all costs. Water is life!

- Lift by by Minh Lê & Dan Santat - These two create magic on paper. It turns out an elevator button and a great imagination can take you anywhere.

- I Am Every Good Thing by Derrick Barnes & Gordon C. James - An important book about self-esteem and empowerment. I love everything by Derrick Barnes.

- Outside In by Deborah Underwood & Cindy Derby - A beautiful and necessary reminder that humans were meant to connect with nature!

- Swashby and the Sea by Beth Ferry & Juana Martinez-Neal - Just the sweetest story of an unlikely friendship with beautiful illustrations; reminded me of Pixar’s Up.

- Snail Crossing by Corey R. Tabor - Adorable and hilarious! I was laughing out loud while reading this to my kids, and we were all rooting for the snail to get across the road.

- You Matter by Christian Robinson - A simple and inclusive message for all readers, and I just love Christian Robinson’s drawing style.

- Evelyn Del Rey Is Moving Away by Meg Medina & Sonia Sanchez - The main character is sad that her best friend's moving, so they spend her last day saying goodbye to the neighborhood together.

- Bird Count by Susan Edwards Richmond & Stephanie Fizer Coleman - As a bird lover myself, I really enjoyed this simple story about a girl and her mom going on a wintertime bird count with other nature enthusiasts.

- Unstoppable by Adam Rex & Laura Park - Everything by Adam Rex cracks me up, and this book didn't disappoint. Amidst the giggles is a good message about not giving up, even when it means lobbying to your elected officials.

- How to Solve a Problem: The Rise (and Falls) of a Rock-Climbing Champion by Ashima Shiraishi & Yao Xiao - A powerful message about perseverance from a real-life role model!


EARLY CHAPTER

- Yasmin the Writer by Saadia Faruqi & Hatem Aly - I love the whole Yasmin series, but this is my favorite yet! Great lesson about brainstorming and the writing revision process.

- Our Friend Hedgehog: The Story of Us by Lauren Castillo - This illustrated picture book reminded me of Winnie the Pooh, and I really enjoyed reading it out loud with my kids before bed.

- Planet Omar: Accidental Trouble Magnet by Zanib Mian - The first book in a new illustrated series, Omar and his adventures will surely have readers laughing.

- Albert Hopper, Science Hero by John Himmelman - Kids can learn about STEM topics along with Albert on his quest to get to the center of the Earth!

- Ways to Make Sunshine by Renée Waston - I adored this story. Ryan King and her family will quickly endear themselves to you — and the next book in the series comes out in 2021!

- The Fabled Stables: Willa the Wisp by Jonathan Auxier & Olga Demidova - Auggie is tasked with taking care of a variety of fantastical creatures in this new adorable series by one of my very favorite authors.

- Skunk and Badger by Amy Timberlake & Jon Klassen - Our family laughed out loud while also having a great discussion about the power of our words to both hurt and heal. A very dry sense of humor that might not appeal to all, but we loved it.


MIDDLE GRADE

- Everything Sad Is Untrue (A True Story) by Daniel Nayeri - My favorite book of the year! Gorgeous storytelling weaves together old family tales from Iran and the author’s experience as a refugee in America. Somehow both funny and poignant, often on the same page.

- From the Desk of Zoe Washington by Janae Marks - Zoe is shocked to receive a birthday card from her father, who has been in prison since she was a baby. Is it too late for a relationship — and for Zoe (and the world) to finally find out the truth about what happened?

- The Land of Cranes by Aida Salazar - A heartbreaking tale of a family being separated and detained at the U.S. border with beautiful illustrations throughout.

- King and the Dragonflies by Kacen Callender - One of the most beautiful stories about loss and identity that I’ve ever read. King is still reeling from the death of his brother Khalid when a boy from school goes missing, and King knows more about his disappearance than he'd like everyone to know.

- The Girl and the Ghost by Hanna Alkaf - Suraya is gifted a ghost by her witch grandmother, with whom she quickly becomes inseparable. But her ghost has a dark side, and will hurt anyone who threatens Suraya... or their friendship. Dark, magical, and bittersweet.

- Fighting Words by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley - Two sisters learn to cope and defend themselves after being abused by their mother's boyfriend in this powerful and necessary book — Bradley handles a sensitive topic so well for younger readers.

- The Canyon’s Edge by Dusti Bowling - I recommend a lot of Dusti Bowling’s books, but this novel in verse about a girl fighting for her life is my favorite one yet! Strong themes of life after loss and survival.

- The Only Black Girls in Town by Brandy Colbert - Alberta has always been the only Black girl in school, that is, until Edie moves in across the street. The two bond over solving a decades-old mystery after Edie discovered clues in her attic.

- A High Five for Glenn Burke by Phil Bildner - Silas struggles with how to come out to his family and teammates, but is inspired by the story of Glenn Burke, a gay baseball player who invented the high five. Funny, heartfelt, and gut-wrenching, all at the same time.

- Clean Getaway by Nic Stone - Scoob and G’ma set out on the adventure of a lifetime in Nic Stone’s middle grade debut. I devoured this one in one sitting and my students have loved it too.

- Three Keys by Kelly Yang - This sequel to Yang's hugely popular book Front Desk tackles anti-immigration sentiment and racism head-on, drawing attention to dangerous policy that is threatening to pass in their upcoming election.

- Before the Ever After by Jacqueline Woodson - This is a beautiful and heartbreaking novel in verse about how a son deals with his football star father’s forgetfulness and emotional outbursts after a traumatic brain injury.


YOUNG ADULT

- Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo - Camino and Yahaira are sisters who never knew of the other’s existence until their father’s untimely death. Their separate and then shared experiences had me sobbing by the end of this beautiful novel in verse by the author of The Poet X.

- You Should See Me in a Crown by Leah Johnson - Even though Liz Lighty the last person people expect to be named prom queen, she decides the scholarship money is worth the trouble and enters the race. This is the sweet rom-com we need in 2020!

- How It All Blew Up by Arvin Ahmadi - Amir runs away to Rome the morning of his high school graduation after he is blackmailed by a bully who threatens to tell his traditional Iranian family his biggest secret — that he’s gay. Once in Italy, Amir meets a group of friends who help him realize it’s okay to be himself.

- Parachutes by Kelly Yang - Claire and Dani’s parallel by separate struggles are heartbreaking, but also empowering and powerful. This is an important book for teens, but be warned it contains descriptions of emotional abuse and rape.

- Dear Justyce by Nic Stone - Such a powerful follow-up to Dear Martin. Now we hear from Quan, who grew up near Justyce, but under very different circumstances. An important read that