For us, 2020 seems like it went by really quickly — at the same time that it seems like it dragged on forever. How could so much history happen in a single year, and yet almost every day from mid-March to December felt the same? It was certainly a challenging period for everyone, and a time of loss and grief for many. We hope that you and your families, friends, and communities are ringing in 2021 with good health — and the hope that things must get better.
Now that we’ve reached the new year, here at Kidsmomo we thought it would be fitting to revisit the best books of 2020. So we went through a bunch of “Best of 2020” lists from our favorite sources around the internet, and we compiled a list of the best of the best. See below for the top 12 titles that came up over and over again — at least four times each!
Our compiled list: Top 12 of 2020
Listed in alphabetical order. Official descriptions from the publishers.
Chance: Escape from the Holocaust by Uri Shulevitz
From a beloved voice in children’s literature comes this landmark memoir of hope amid harrowing times and an engaging and unusual Holocaust story. … Uri Shulevitz … details the eight-year odyssey of how he and his Jewish family escaped the terrors of the Nazis by fleeing Warsaw for the Soviet Union in Chance. It was during those years, with threats at every turn, that the young Uri experienced his awakening as an artist, an experience that played a key role during this difficult time.
Class Act by Jerry Craft
Eighth grader Drew Ellis is no stranger to the saying “You have to work twice as hard to be just as good.” His grandmother has reminded him his entire life. But what if he works ten times as hard and still isn’t afforded the same opportunities that his privileged classmates at the Riverdale Academy Day School take for granted? To make matters worse, Drew begins to feel as if his good friend Liam might be one of those privileged kids. He wants to pretend like everything is fine, but it’s hard not to withdraw, and even their mutual friend Jordan doesn’t know how to keep the group together. As the pressures mount, will Drew find a way to bridge the divide so he and his friends can truly accept each other? And most important, will he finally be able to accept himself?
Echo Mountain by Lauren Wolk
After losing almost everything in the Great Depression, Ellie’s family is forced to leave their home in town and start over in the untamed wilderness of nearby Echo Mountain. Ellie has found a welcome freedom, and a love of the natural world, in her new life on the mountain. But there is little joy after a terrible accident leaves her father in a coma. An accident unfairly blamed on Ellie. Ellie is a girl who takes matters into her own hands, and determined to help her father she will make her way to the top of the mountain in search of the healing secrets of a woman known only as “the hag.” But the hag, and the mountain, still have many untold stories left to reveal.
Fighting Words by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
Ten-year-old Della has always had her older sister, Suki: When their mom went to prison, Della had Suki. When their mom’s boyfriend took them in, Della had Suki. When that same boyfriend did something so awful they had to run fast, Della had Suki. Suki is Della’s own wolf–her protector. But who has been protecting Suki? Della might get told off for swearing at school, but she has always known how to keep quiet where it counts. Then Suki tries to kill herself, and Della’s world turns so far upside down, it feels like it’s shaking her by the ankles. Maybe she’s been quiet about the wrong things. Maybe it’s time to be loud.
From the Desk of Zoe Washington by Janae Marks
Zoe Washington isn’t sure what to write. What does a girl say to the father she’s never met, hadn’t heard from until his letter arrived on her twelfth birthday, and who’s been in prison for a terrible crime? A crime he says he never committed. Could Marcus really be innocent? Zoe is determined to uncover the truth. Even if it means hiding his letters and her investigation from the rest of her family. Everyone else thinks Zoe’s worrying about doing a good job at her bakery internship and proving to her parents that she’s worthy of auditioning for Food Network’s Kids Bake Challenge. But with bakery confections on one part of her mind, and Marcus’s conviction weighing heavily on the other, this is one recipe Zoe doesn’t know how to balance. The only thing she knows to be true: Everyone lies.
King and the Dragonflies by Kacen Callender
Twelve-year-old Kingston James is sure his brother Khalid has turned into a dragonfly. When Khalid unexpectedly passed away, he shed what was his first skin for another to live down by the bayou in their small Louisiana town. Khalid still visits in dreams, and King must keep these secrets to himself as he watches grief transform his family. It would be easier if King could talk with his best friend, Sandy Sanders. But just days before he died, Khalid told King to end their friendship, after overhearing a secret about Sandy — that he thinks he might be gay. “You don’t want anyone to think you’re gay too, do you?” But when Sandy goes missing, sparking a town-wide search, and King finds his former best friend hiding in a tent in his backyard, he agrees to help Sandy escape from his abusive father, and the two begin an adventure as they build their own private paradise down by the bayou and among the dragonflies. As King’s friendship with Sandy is reignited, he’s forced to confront questions about himself and the reality of his brother’s death.
Loretta Little Looks Back: Three Voices Go Tell It by Andrea Davis Pinkney, illustrated by Brian Pinkney
Loretta, Roly, and Aggie B., members of the Little family, each present the vivid story of their young lives, spanning three generations. Their separate stories — beginning in a cotton field in 1927 and ending at the presidential election of 1968 — come together to create one unforgettable journey. Through an evocative mix of fictional first-person narratives, spoken-word poems, folk myths, gospel rhythms and blues influences, Loretta Little Looks Back weaves an immersive tapestry that illuminates the dignity of sharecroppers in the rural South. Inspired by storytelling’s oral tradition, stirring vignettes are presented in a series of theatrical monologues that paint a gripping, multidimensional portrait of America’s struggle for civil rights as seen through the eyes of the children who lived it. The novel’s unique format invites us to walk in their shoes. Each encounters an unexpected mystical gift, passed down from one family member to the next, that ignites their experience what it means to reach for freedom.
Mañanaland by Pam Muñoz Ryan
Maximiliano Córdoba loves stories, especially the fantastical tale Buelo tells him about a mystical gatekeeper who can guide brave travellers on a journey into tomorrow. If Max could see tomorrow, he would know if he’d make Santa Maria’s celebrated fútbol team, and whether he’d ever find his mother, who left when he was a baby. Papa refuses to talk about her, so Max has learned to stop asking. But when Papa is forced to reveal his involvement in an underground network of guardians that led people fleeing a neighboring country to safety, and the surprising reason Max’s spot on the fútbol team may be threatened, everything he knew about himself and his family is upended. A treasured compass, a haunted tower, a mysterious stone rubbing, and a peregrine falcon propel Max on a dangerous search for clues about who he is and what the future holds.
The Only Black Girls in Town by Brandy Colbert
Beach-loving surfer Alberta has been the only Black girl in town for years. Alberta’s best friend, Laramie, is the closest thing she has to a sister, but there are some things even Laramie can’t understand. When the bed and breakfast across the street finds new owners, Alberta is ecstatic to learn the family is black-and they have a 12-year-old daughter just like her. Alberta is positive she and the new girl, Edie, will be fast friends. But while Alberta loves being a California girl, Edie misses her native Brooklyn and finds it hard to adapt to small-town living. When the girls discover a box of old journals in Edie’s attic, they team up to figure out exactly who’s behind them and why they got left behind. Soon they discover shocking and painful secrets of the past and learn that nothing is quite what it seems.
Show Me a Sign by Ann Clare LeZotte
Mary Lambert has always felt safe and protected on her beloved island of Martha’s Vineyard. Her great-great-grandfather was an early English settler and the first deaf islander. Now, over a hundred years later, many people there, including Mary are deaf, and nearly everyone can communicate in sign language. Mary has never felt isolated. She is proud of her lineage. But recent events have delivered winds of change. Mary’s brother died, leaving her family shattered. Tensions over land disputes are mounting between English settlers and the Wampanoag people. And a cunning young scientist has arrived, hoping to discover the origin of the island’s prevalent deafness. His maniacal drive to find answers soon renders Mary a live specimen in a cruel experiment. Deaf author and librarian Ann Clare LeZotte weaves a riveting story inspired by the true history of a thriving deaf community on Martha’s Vineyard in the early 19th century making readers question their own ideas about what is normal.
Twins by Varian Johnson and Shannon Wright
Maureen and Francine Carter are twins and best friends. They participate in the same clubs, enjoy the same foods, and are partners on all their school projects. But just before the girls start sixth grade, Francine becomes Fran — a girl who wants to join the chorus, run for class president, and dress in fashionable outfits that set her apart from Maureen. A girl who seems happy to share only two classes with her sister!
Ways To Make Sunshine by Renée Watson
Ryan Hart has a lot on her mind — school, self-image, and especially family. Her dad finally has a new job, but money is tight. That means some changes, like selling their second car and moving into a new (old) house. But Ryan is a girl who knows how to make sunshine out of setbacks. As her brother says when he raps about her, she’s got the talent that matters most: it’s a talent that can’t be seen, she’s nice, not mean! Ryan is all about trying to see the best in people, to be a good daughter, a good sister, a good friend. But even if her life isn’t everything she would wish for, when her big brother is infuriating, her parents don’t quite understand, and the unexpected happens, she always finds a way forward, with grace and wit. And plenty of sunshine.
When Stars Are Scattered by Victoria Jamieson and Omar Mohamed
Omar and his younger brother, Hassan, have spent most of their lives in Dadaab, a refugee camp in Kenya. Life is hard there: never enough food, achingly dull, and without access to the medical care Omar knows his nonverbal brother needs. So when Omar has the opportunity to go to school, he knows it might be a chance to change their future … but it would also mean leaving his brother, the only family member he has left, every day. Heartbreak, hope, and gentle humor exist together in this graphic novel about a childhood spent waiting, and a young man who is able to create a sense of family and home in the most difficult of settings. It’s an intimate, important, unforgettable look at the day-to-day life of a refugee, as told to New York Times Bestselling author/artist Victoria Jamieson by Omar Mohamed, the Somali man who lived the story.
Happy reading, and here’s to a better new year!