Tag Archives: book lists

2020 Favorite Kids Nonfiction

It’s book list season! I’ve read a lot this year, and I am excited to highlight my favorite releases of 2020. I’m thrilled to share my 2020 Favorite Kids Nonfiction Books.

Nonfiction is not my favorite. I really enjoy stories, and I’m rarely able to simply enjoy a nonfiction book (I struggle with documentaries too). After examining what I had read in the first half of 2020, I made an effort to increase the amount of nonfiction I read, particularly biographies. I’m sure this list is missing many great titles from this year–please share your favorites in the comments below!

2020 Favorite Kids Nonfiction

All the Way to the Top: How One Girl's Fight for Americans with  Disabilities Changed Everything (Inspiring Activism and Diversity Book  About Children with Special Needs): Bay Pimentel, Annette, Ali, Nabi,  Keelan-Chaffins,

All the Way to the Top
by Annette Bay Pimentel and Nabigal-Nayagam Haider Ali
Learn about real-life activist Jennifer Keelan-Chaffins, who crawled up the steps of the U.S. Capitol building in her fight for laws requiring accessibility of public spaces.

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Animal Showdown
by Stephanie Warren Drimmer
Which animal is most acrobatic? Loudest? Most venomous? Find out in the newest round of animal matchups. I like that this series isn’t quite as clear cut as the Who Would Win books. While some of these questions have just one answer–like the loudest animal–the book makes the reader look at the stats and facts to figure that out (or, in the cases of less clear cut matchups, the answer is up to the reader).

BOX: Henry Brown Mails Himself to Freedom: Weatherford, Carole Boston,  Wood, Michele: 9780763691561: Amazon.com: Books

Box: Henry Brown Mails Himself to Freedom
by Carole Boston Weatherford and Michelle Wood
Henry Brown looked for a way to escape slavery, but instead of running from place to place on the Underground Railroad, he packed himself in a box and shipped himself to freedom. Carole Boston Weatherford’s beautiful poetry frames his story. Each poem is just six lines–each line representing a side of a box. Brown’s words and writings are scattered throughout, allowing his voice to shine through.

Dream Builder: Lyons, Kelly, Freeman;Laura, Freeman;Laura: 9781620149553:  Amazon.com: Books

Dream Builder: The Story of Architect Philip Freelon
by Kelly Starling Lyons and Laura Freeman
Learn about the life of Philip Freelon, a member of the team of architects that designed the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture. A beautiful biography that explores Freelon’s story a bit more deeply than other recent picture book biographies have covered their subjects.

Dung for Dinner: A Stomach-Churning Look at the Animal Poop, Pee, Vomit,  and Secretions that People Have Eaten (and Often Still Do!): Virnig,  Christine, Briggs, Korwin: 9781250246790: Amazon.com: Books

Dung for Dinner
by Christine Virnig
Humans wouldn’t eat poop…right? Learn a ton of fun facts about insect vomit, bug secretions, rodent poop, and human pee that are sure to get young readers excited to discover more (assuming they have a strong stomach). Told with plenty of humor that will keep you turning the pages.

Eat Your Rocks, Croc!: Dr. Glider's Advice for Troubled Animals (1):  Keating, Jess, Oswald, Pete: 9781338239881: Amazon.com: Books

Eat Your Rocks, Croc!
by Jess Keating
Follow Dr. Sugar Glider around the world, as he helps animals with their problems. How can I get these humans to stop chasing me? Why does my stomach hurt? Paired with wonderful illustrations that make this an extra fun read.

Eels (Superpower Field Guide): Poliquin, Rachel, Frith, Nicholas John:  9780358272588: Amazon.com: Books

by Rachel Poliquin and Nicholas John Frith
Eels have superpowers! Well, not exactly, but they can do some pretty amazing things, like turn invisible and climb up walls, and they all have a super secret headquarters in some of the darkest parts of the ocean. Great writing paired with all kinds of fantastic facts.

Everything Awesome About Sharks and Other Underwater Creatures!: Lowery,  Mike, Lowery, Mike: 9781338359732: Amazon.com: Books

Everything Awesome About Sharks and Other Underwater Creatures!
by Mike Lowery
Learn everything you can imagine about sharks, oceans, and other underwater creatures in this kid-friendly fact book. Includes a ton of great information such as the differences between each ocean, profiles on each shark species, and many a poop or snot related fast fact. The book ends with really simple How to Draw instructions for various sea creatures. The well-thought out design (with kids in mind) will make this book a winner.

Amazon.com: Facts vs. Opinions vs. Robots (9781984816269): Rex, Michael,  Rex, Michael: Books

Facts vs. Opinions vs. Robots
by Michael Rex
Robots and silly illustrations help kids practice recognizing the difference between a fact and an opinion. And remember–sometimes we have to wait until we have more information before knowing if something is a fact or an opinion. Try this with elementary school readers

Finish the Fight!: The Brave and Revolutionary Women Who Fought for the  Right to Vote: Chambers, Veronica, The Staff of The New York Times:  9780358408307: Amazon.com: Books

Finish the Fight!
by Veronica Chambers and the Staff of the New York Times
Thousands of women fought, spoke up, marched, and led protests that led to women earning the right to vote. Finish the Fight highlights those lesser known heroes: the Haudenosaunee women, Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, Josephine St. Pierre Ruffin, Elizabeth Piper Ensley, Mabel Ping-Hua Lee, Jovita Idar, Susette La Flesche Tibbles, and Litikala-Sa. An excellent compilation, highlighting women who aren’t often mentioned in history textbooks.

Fly, Girl, Fly!: Shaesta Waiz Soars around the World | Beaming Books

Fly, Girl, Fly: Shaesta Waiz Soars Around the World
by Nancy Roe Pimm and Alexandra Bye
Shaesta Waiz became the youngest woman in history, and the first woman from Afghanistan to fly a single-engine aircraft around the world. An inspirational picture book biography about a diverse individual with an amazing story.

I Am Not A Label: addressing stories of disability representation for older  children - Disability Arts Online

I Am Not a Label: 34 Disabled Artists, Thinkers, Athletes, and Activists From Past and Present
by Cerrie Burnell and Lauren Mark Baldo
This gorgeously illustrated collective biography features the stories of 34 disabled individuals who are artists, musicians, athletes, innovators, activists, and more. While there have been a plethora of collective biographies in recent years, this one’s focus on people with disabilities (a group very underrepresented in children’s books) is refreshing, along with its well thought out collection of diverse people from around the world with a variety of types of disabilities.

Incredible Jobs You've (probably) Never Heard of - Natalie Labarre -  9781788004770 - Allen & Unwin - Australia

Incredible Jobs You’ve (Probably) Never Heard Of
by Natalie Labarre
This physically large book contains a collection of really unique jobs that you–even you adults–have probably never heard of. Jobs like Elephant Dresser, Odor Tester (of sweaty armpits), Warden of the Swans, bicycle fisher, and more. Cute games will keep younger readers interested.

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): Messner, Kate, Rex, Adam: 9781452174884:  Amazon.com: Books

The Next President
by Kate Messner and Adam Rex
We know the name of the current President of the United States. We might, if the timing is right, know the name of the next President. But we don’t often think too far past that point. Did you know that when George Washington became the first president, there were nine future presidents living their lives? When John F. Kennedy was sworn in, the next ten (eleven, as we now know) presidents were alive too. Some were in politics, one was hosting television, a few were in their teens, and one was just born. This book takes a fascinating approach to U.S. presidential history, always thinking towards the future.

No Voice Too Small: Fourteen Young Americans Making History: Metcalf,  Lindsay H., Dawson, Keila V., Bradley, Jeanette, Bradley, Jeanette:  9781623541316: Amazon.com: Books

No Voice Too Small
by Lindsay H. Metclaf, Keilla V. Dawson, & Jeanette Bradley
Grown-ups aren’t the only people making history: young, kid activists are changing the world too. Read poetry, quotes, and prose about fourteen kids changing the world right now.

The Power of Her Pen | Book by Lesa Cline-Ransome, John Parra | Official  Publisher Page | Simon & Schuster

The Power of Her Pen
by Lesa Cline-Ransome
Ethel Payne started following stories as a reporter for her school newspaper, but soon her amazing talents led her all the way to the White House briefing room. Payne was never afraid to ask the tough questions, especially during the Civil Rights era.

Powwow: A Celebration through Song and Dance | CBC Books

Powwow: A Celebration Through Song and Dance
by Karen Pheasant-Neganigwane
Learn about the history of celebrations of Indigenous song and dance–powwows. Author Pheasant-Neganigwane explores powwow history and culture in all of North America, with a focus on Canada. Her words are paired with beautiful photographs, creating a rich book that will serve as a wonderful introduction to these events for young readers.

A Quick & Easy Guide to Consent | Book by Isabella Rotman, Luke Howard |  Official Publisher Page | Simon & Schuster

A Quick & Easy Guide to Consent
by Isabella Rotman
Sargent Yes Means Yes will lead you through consent–including the important difference between basic consent and affirmative consent. Contains a ton of excellent points about communication and assumptions. A must read for everyone.

RESPECT | Book by Carole Boston Weatherford, Frank Morrison | Official  Publisher Page | Simon & Schuster

by Carole Boston Weatherford
So beautiful! This biography of Aretha Franklin is visually stunning. The illustrations, the headers, type face, and framing of the text in words (spelled out RESPECT style) and rhyming couplets all blend together for a truly wonderful reading experience. I’ve been itching to plan a Little People, Big Dreams Aretha Franklin program, and this is most definitely going to be featured.

Say Her Name | Zetta Elliott

Say Her Name
by Zetta Elliott and Loveis Wise
A collection of nearly 50 beautiful poems celebrating Black women, resilience, and strength. Many are heartbreaking but also empowering. A visually gorgeous book that is accessible and appealing to upper elementary school readers, middle school readers, and beyond.

Shirley Chisholm Is a Verb eBook by Veronica Chambers - 9780593111079 |  Rakuten Kobo United States

Shirley Chisholm Is a Verb!
by Veronica Chambers and Rachelle Baker
Learn about the life of Shirley Chisholm, the first Black woman in Congress and the first Black woman to seek the nomination of a major party for President of the United States. An inspirational biography emphasizing many verbs that can be applied to Shirley Chisholm’s life and career.

Amazon.com: Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You: A Remix of the National  Book Award-Winning Stamped from the Beginning (9780316453691): Reynolds,  Jason: Books

Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You
by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi
Adapted from Ibram X. Kendi’s Stamped from the Beginning by the incomparable Jason Reynolds. An absolutely necessary read. If you somehow haven’t picked this book up already, do so immediately. The audio is particularly outstanding (performed by Reynolds).

The Talk: Conversations about Race, Love & Truth: Hudson, Wade, Willis  Hudson, Cheryl: 9780593121610: Amazon.com: Books

The Talk: Conversations about Race, Love, & Truth
by Wade Hudson and Cheryl Willis Hudson
A beautiful collection of thirty short stories, poems, letters, and essays from an amazing group of diverse authors and illustrators about how they talk to young people, most often their children, about race. There is so much to unpack here–it isn’t really possible to write decent summaries of some of these stories, as they each have so many layers and nuances. An excellent book to read together as a family, one story at a time. A title I will be recommending to teachers, parents, librarians, and more.

Amazon.com: This Book Is Anti-Racist: 20 Lessons on How to Wake Up, Take  Action, and Do The Work (9780711245211): Jewell, Tiffany, Durand, Aurelia:  Books

This Book Is Anti-Racist
by Tiffany Jewell and Aurelia Durand
Visually appealing with an excellent eye for graphic design, this book teaches about racism and prejudice, provides specific ways to take action and respond to racism, and explains how to be an ally even when the grown-ups in your life aren’t. Part guide, part workbook, and filled with detained endnotes, a bibliography, and suggested further reading. Pair this with Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You.

True or Poo?

True or Poo? A Kid’s Guide to Animal Facts & Fakes
by Nick Caruso and Alex G. Griffiths
This easy to read picture book is filled with very important animal questions and their answers. Did you know that wombats have cube-shaped poop? This isn’t because of the shape of their—well, you know. Their poop is shaped further up their intestines, and then dries out and hardens before it…exits.  But wombat poop is not the only the only mystery explored in this book. Do birds keep their nests clean by eating their babies’ poop? Do rabbits eat their poop? Do camels really store water in their humps? Can horses vomit? Can you see penguin poop from space?

Work It, Girl: Michelle Obama: Moss, Caroline: 9780711245174: Amazon.com:  Books

Work It, Girl Series
by Caroline Moss and Sinem Erkas
The Work It, Girl biography series is a ton of fun. While the content isn’t deep or overly thorough, these books provide a great introduction to famous individuals. Their physical design makes them particularly appealing, with well organized layouts and gorgeous paper cut illustrations. Look out for the books featuring Michelle Obama, Mae Jemison, and Beyoncé.

Your Place in the Universe: Chin, Jason: 9780823446230: Amazon.com: Books

Your Place in the Universe
by Jason Chin
An eight-year-old is about five times as tall as this book–but an ostrich is taller than two eight-year-olds standing on each other’s shoulders! But of course an ostrich isn’t as tall as a giraffe, which isn’t as tall as an oak tree. But even the tallest tree–a redwood–is dwarfed by the Eiffel tower. The tallest skyscraper is tiny compared to Mount Everest–but even Mount Everest doesn’t reach outer space. I’ve heard a lot about this book, and I understand why! Chin blends a picture book about size with an epic nonfiction story giving us a glimpse of our place in the universe.

2020 Favorite Kids Chapter Books

It’s book list season! I’ve read a lot this year, and I am excited to highlight my favorite releases of 2020. I’m thrilled to share my 2020 Favorite Kids Chapter Books.

For me and my library, juvenile chapter books are designed for kids in grades 3-5. First chapter books are shelves separately (books for kids just moving on from beginning readers). These are often called “middle grade” books (not to be confused with books for middle schoolers, which would be in our teen section).

These lists are personal. The kids chapter books that stand out for me may not be your favorites–and that is okay! We each have our own reading preferences. Also, I very well may have missed some great titles that were released over the last year–so make sure to check out all of the great lists all over the internet, and please share your favorites in the comments!

2020 Favorite Kids Chapter Books

American as Paneer Pie | Book by Supriya Kelkar | Official Publisher Page |  Simon & Schuster

American as Paneer Pie
by Supriya Kelkar
Lekha is one of only a few diverse kids in her school, and she is determined to do everything she can to blend in. But when Avantika moves into her neighborhood (coming all the way from India), everything changes. Unlike Lekha, Avantika stands up to the bullies at school. Lekha just wants everyone to like her, but that becomes harder when she has to make choices about friendships and when a statewide them-vs-us election campaign takes center stage in her community. Lekha’s character is refreshingly honest, with her reactions to peer pressure and her questions about her identity feeling genuine. A must read!

Becoming Muhammad Ali eBook by James Patterson - 9780316498180 | Rakuten  Kobo United States

Becoming Muhammad Ali
by James Patterson and Kwame Alexander
Before he became Muhammad Ali, Cassius Clay was a kid, just like most kids–struggling to focus in school and dealing with bullies. His world changes when he starts training as an amateur boxer. Told in duel perspectives, this fun but powerful read shows Cassius discovering the confidence and strength that led to him becoming a star.

Before the Ever After: Woodson, Jacqueline: 9780399545436: Amazon.com: Books

Before the Ever After
by Jacqueline Woodson
ZJ’s football star dad isn’t his hero–he’s just ZJ’s beloved dad. Lately, ZJ’s dad struggles to remember things and sometimes gets really angry. ZJ’s mom explains that the memory loss has to do with all the head injuries and hits ZJ’s dad took during his professional football career. The doctors can’t seem to help, and ZJ is scared of losing his dad forever. This is an incredible book, told in verse, where, with raw emotion, ZJ shows that the “ever after” isn’t always happy and life isn’t always okay.

9 Spring Books We Can't Wait To Read - Essence

Black Brother, Black Brother
When they first started at their private middle school, most of their classmates didn’t recognize that Donte and Trey were brothers. Trey takes after their white dad, with light skin. Donte takes after their black mom, with dark skin. After getting sent to the principal for something he didn’t do, Donte is suddenly in jail, suspended from school, and has a court date. Donte decides to confront the racism at his school on the school’s turf–fencing. After some convincing, Donte has a fencing coach, and eventually a team, that teach him how to fence, how to work together, and how to live with and fight against the racism he is surrounded by. A good story that will appeal to sports fans (with a great introduction to fencing).

Amazon.com: Diana and the Island of No Return (Wonder Woman Adventures)  (9780593174470): Saeed, Aisha: Books

Diana and the Island of No Return
by Aisha Saeed
Princess Diana is thrilled that it is time for Themyscira’s annual festival, but this year, everything goes wrong. A boy sneaks onto their island and successfully puts the Amazons under a sleeping spell. Everyone is asleep except Diana and her best friend, Sakina, who agree to travel to his home to save his people, in exchange for the antidote that will save their families. Diana’s first trip off Themyscira is filled with danger as she faces down a lava river, hypnotized minions, and a demon determined to capture Diana alive. Fast-paced and filled with adventure, this serves as a wonderful origin story for Wonder Woman. I’m glad to see a diverse voice brought into Diana’s story, and I’m very happy to recommend this to young readers. A great readalike for Diana Princess of the Amazons by Shannon Hale or Shuri by Nic Stone.

Farah Rocks Fifth Grade: Darraj, Susan Muaddi, Mannaa, Ruaida:  9781496583390: Amazon.com: Books

Farah Rocks Fifth Grade
by Susan Muaddi Darraj
Farah is so excited to turn in her applications to the exclusive Magnet Academy Middle School. It seems like her dreams are about to come true, until Farah meets new girl Dana Denver. Dana is mean. Farah can ignore the bullying, but Dana is downright cruel to her younger brother, and Farah doesn’t want to leave him behind when she goes to a new school. Farah decides to take care of this herself, but the adults at school won’t listen, and Farah becomes convinced that the only way she can help her brother is by not attending the Magnet School next year. This is a great story, perfect for readers transitioning out of first chapter books looking for a school story that digs a little deeper than friendship struggles.

Keep It Together, Keiko Carter: Florence, Debbi Michiko: 9781338607529:  Amazon.com: Books

Keep It Together, Keiko Carter
by Debbi Michiko Florence
Keiiko is ready to tackle seventh grade with her two best friends by her side. But Audrey and Jenna don’t seem to be getting along. Keiko is sure it will all work out, but…things don’t get better. Keiko wants to talk to her mom, but her mom hasn’t been home much lately. Can Keiko keep everyone happy on her own? This was excellent. Keiko coming to terms with her friend’s cruelty and Keiko’s character development felt raw and honest. This felt like a Real Kid figuring out what makes a good friend, not a quick solution to a messy problem. Florence explores so many great relationships without dipping into drama for drama’s sake, while adding a perfect sprinkling of middle school romance.

King and the Dragonflies: Callender, Kacen: 9781432883270: Amazon.com: Books

King and the Dragonflies
by Kacen Callender
Teenage boys don’t suddenly die of heart attacks–but that is exactly what happened to King’s older brother. While he desperately misses his brother, King is also mad–a few months before he died, Khalid told King he shouldn’t hang around with local boy, Sandy Sanders. Because Sandy was gay, and “You don’t want anyone to think you’re gay too, do you?”. King listened to his brother and stopped talking to his best friend. Now, Sandy is missing, and King discovers not just Sandy’s hiding place, but the reason Sandy ran away in the first place. King isn’t sure what to do anymore–about the secrets he holds, what he is learning about his own identity, or his growing feelings for his best friend. Heartbreaking, poignant, and sweet. Callender does an amazing job creating this small town world, digging into King’s fears and emotions, and the added complexity of being both black and queer. Lovely, quiet, and impactful.

The Land of the Cranes: Salazar, Aida: 9781338343809: Amazon.com: Books

Land of Cranes
by Aida Salazar
Betita’s father doesn’t pick her up from her after school program one day, and Betita has a bad feeling that proves to be true–her father was arrested by Immigrations Customs Enforcement (ICE) and deported back to Mexico. Soon, the rest of her family are also trapped at a detention camp. While Betita desperately tries to keep hope through her drawings, poetry, and stories, the inhumane treatment and abuse towards herself, her pregnant mom, and her new friends makes hope nearly impossible. A heartbreaking novel in verse that captures the horrific conditions many families face in ICE detention camps. Beautiful writing by author Salazar keeps the reader immersed in Betita’s voice, feeling her emotions rise and sink with each new horror. While there is a bit of hope at the end, this is a hard, though necessary, read.

The List of Things That Will Not Change: Stead, Rebecca: 9781101938096:  Amazon.com: Books

The List of Things That Will Not Change
by Rebecca Stead
Bea’s parents keep telling her that nothing will change since they got divorced. But things do change–like when her dad announces he is getting married to his boyfriend, Jesse. Bea is thrilled that she is going to get a new stepsister, and Bea is sure that Sonia will immediately become Bea’s best friend. But Sonia isn’t perfect, and nothing is as Bea imagined. This is a wonderful story, filled with so much love and hope (and a kid with a great relationship with her therapist).

Nina Soni, Former Best Friend eBook by Kashmira Sheth - 9781682631799 |  Rakuten Kobo United States

Nina Soni, Former Best Friend
by Kashmira Sheth
Nina knew her place at school—right next to her best friend Jay. But after a terrible accident, her best friend has broken up with her, and Nina knows she will be alone forever. In the midst of her best friend crisis, Nina somehow forgot about her Personal Narrative Project—today is Friday, and this most important assignment is due Monday! Luckily, a class lesson about Alexander Fleming leads Nina to the perfect solution—she needs to make a scientific discovery. A weekend is plenty of time—assuming her little sister’s birthday party goes exactly as planned. That’s bound to happen—right? Another great series for kids transitioning out of first chapter books.

Not Your All-American Girl: Shang, Wendy Wan-Long, Rosenberg, Madelyn:  9781338037760: Amazon.com: Books

Not Your All-American Girl
by Wendy Wan-Long Shang
Lauren and Tara are best friends who try out for the school musical together. Lauren knocks her audition out of the park, but Lauren is assigned to the ensemble, while Tara is cast as the lead. Why? The drama teacher feels that half-Chinese, half-Jewish Lauren doesn’t look like an “All-American Girl.” Heartbroken, Lauren tries to make the best of it, but eventually she just can’t bring herself to sing anymore. Why bother when she can never be a star? This book! Lauren’s voice rang true for me. I felt the heartbreak in her character and eventually her determination to succeed. The 80s backdrop created a vivid image of Lauren’s day-to-day life, with her bickering, loving, live-in grandmothers adding humor while also helping Lauren find the motivation to keep trying. Lauren’s intersectionality–as both Chinese and Jewish–helps make this book stand apart from similar works.

Once Upon an Eid by S.K. Ali

Once Upon an Eid
by S.K. Ali
A collection of delightful short stories from amazing Muslim writers all celebrating the wonder of Eid. Some are fantasy, some feel historical, some deal with friendship drama, and other focus on family, but every story connects the reader with the joy of Eid. A wonderful collection to read in one sitting or to space out over time, and a great introduction to some fantastic authors.

Brandy Colbert's 'The Only Black Girls in Town' Handles Racial Matters With  Love

The Only Black Girls in Town
by Brandy Colbert
Alberta is used to being the only black girl in her small ocean town in California. Alberta loves her life, but when the bed and breakfast across the street is bought by a black family with a daughter her age, Alberta is thrilled. Alberta is sure that she will be best friends with Edie, but Edie misses Brooklyn and isn’t so sure about small town life. While their friendship isn’t as immediate as Alberta dreamed, they still bond, especially after discovering a box of journals in Edie’s attic. Who do they belong to? Why were they left behind? This was a ton of fun with the perfect mix of small town life, friendship drama, questions about growing up, and mystery. While a lot happens to Alberta over the book, nothing ever felt rushed and each plot element wove together with the next (much like how life works).

Paola Santiago and the River of Tears | Read Riordan

Paola Santiago and the River of Tears
by Tehlor Kay Mejia
Paola Santiago and her two best friends, Emma and Dante, know the rule: stay away from the river. Pao’s mother is constantly warning her about La Llorona, the wailing ghost woman who wanders the banks of the Gila at night, looking for young people to drag into its murky depths. Hating her mother’s superstitions, Pao organizes a secret meet-up to test out her new telescope near the Gila, since it’s the best stargazing spot. But when Emma never arrives and Pao sees a shadowy figure in the reeds, it seems like maybe her mom was right. Pao has always relied on hard science to make sense of the world, but to find her friend she will have to enter the world of her nightmares, including unnatural mist, mind-bending monsters, and relentless spirits controlled by a terrifying force that defies both logic and legend. A wonderful, spooky, fantasy-filled read begging for many equally awesome sequels.

A Place at the Table (9780358116684): Faruqi, Saadia, Shovan, Laura: Books  - Amazon.com

A Place at the Table
by Saadia Faruqi
Sara doesn’t have friends at her new school, her teachers can’t be bothered to pronounce her name right, and now her mom will be at school all the time, leading a new South Asian cooking club. Elizabeth is so excited to learn to cook at her school’s new cooking club, especially since her mom is struggling with depression after Elizabeth’s grandmother died. Sara and Elizabeth aren’t friends, but when Elizabeth needs a new cooking partner, Sara steps in. They gradually realize they have more in common then they might have first thought, starting with their need to convince their moms to take the U.S. citizenship test seriously. Having two authors really helped with voicing and authenticity. The diversity and cultural touches are excellent, and the book also carries strong themes of friendship (and food!) that will resonate.

Prairie Lotus: Park, Linda Sue: 9781328781505: Amazon.com: Books

Prairie Lotus
by Linda Sue Park
Hanna has spent much of her life moving from place to place, but wherever they go, no one looks like Hanna. Hanna is half-Chinese, half-white. While everyone seems willing to accept her white father into their community, they are always weary of his Asian daughter. Hanna desperately wants to go to school, become a dressmaker at her father’s clothing store, and make a friend. These dreams seem impossible as Hanna deals with the racism and prejudice in her new town in Dakota territory. Hanna starts school, but the rest of the townspeople pull their children from the classroom. Every time Hanna almost makes a friend, their parents quickly whisk them out of Hanna’s life. Hanna’s perseverance and endless strength make this book a winner. Linda Sue Park was inspired by the Little House books, and this is a great book to hand to readers who enjoy historical fiction and to families looking for those Laura Ingalls Wilder titles.

Shuri: A Black Panther Novel (Marvel) (1): Stone, Nic: 9781338585476:  Amazon.com: Books

Shuri: A Black Panther Novel
by Nic Stone
Shuri is a science genius and a master of technology…but she is also a teenager, and a princess. Wakanda is in trouble—the special heart-shaped herb that gives the black panther powers to the Chieftan of Wakanda has been dying. While Shuri is sure her brother will stay on the throne, Wakanda’s challenge day is rapidly approaching, and if he does lose, his successor won’t be able to absorb the black panther’s power. All the adults are busy preparing for challenge day and dealing with unrest in Wakanda’s bordering countries, so it’s up to Shuri to figure out what is going on. Shuri and the girl her mother hired to be her best friend—K’Marah—head out on a quest across and beyond Wakanda to figure out what is happening and how to stop it—and they meet quite a few familiar heroes along the way. 

Something to Say: Ramée, Lisa Moore: 9780062836717: Amazon.com: Books

Something to Say
by Lisa Moore Ramee
Eleven-year-old Jenae doesn’t have any friends, and that is fine with her. But all of that gets turned upside down when new student Aubrey won’t leave her alone. His bright red hair, humungous smile, and constant chatter pop up wherever Jenae goes. Their school is a bit of a community hotspot right now. John Wayne Junior High has been named after the famous actor for years, but some people in her community want to rename the school Sylvia Mendez Junior High, after a child (and later adult activist) at the center of an anti-segregation case back in 1947. Jenae does her best to ignore the protestors and counter-protestors. But after she and Aubrey are partnered together for a class debate on that very subject, Jenae learns more about past and potential namesakes, and what something that might seem small—like a name on a building—can really mean.

Amazon.com: Stand Up, Yumi Chung! (9780525554974): Kim, Jessica: Books

Stand Up, Yumi Chung!
by Jessica Kim
Yumi has always been shy, and she doesn’t feel like she fits in at her private school. Behind that wall of shyness, Yumi longs to be herself—she wants to perform stand-up comedy on a real stage. Yumi spends hours writing jokes and perfecting her comedy routine, waiting for the day when she can hear an audience applaud just for her. Yumi is stunned to discover that her favorite YouTube star is running a comedy camp for local kids down the street from her parent’s restaurant. Yumi just wants to take a peak, but is quickly mistaken for a missing student—Kay Nakamura. Yumi is swept into a world of improv and new friends—and she doesn’t correct the mistaken identity. Yumi loves practicing comedy, but everything starts to spiral as she desperately tries to keep her story straight.

A Thousand Questions: Faruqi, Saadia: 9780062943200: Amazon.com: Books

A Thousand Questions
by Saadia Faruqi
Mimi is not excited about her summer vacation with her mom in Karachi, Pakistan. She would much rather be visiting her dad, who left when she was really young. Sakina works in the household of Mimi’s grandparents, and she isn’t that excited about the new guests coming to visit. Mimi seems all too American–with her poor manners, and her inability to understand basic Pakistani culture, including why Sakina, a girl Mimi’s age, is working in a kitchen all day instead of going to school. Sakina would love to go to school, but most kids her age from her background don’t, and, before she would even be considered, she would need to improve her English. Even if she gets accepted, she can’t imagine that her family can afford to lose her income. The girls strike a deal–Mimi will help Sakina with her English, as long as Sakina hangs out with Mimi, giving Mimi someone to talk to.

Tristan Strong Destroys the World (A Tristan Strong Novel, Book 2) (Tristan  Strong, 2): Mbalia, Kwame: 9781368042383: Amazon.com: Books

Tristan Strong Destroys the World
by Kwame Mbalia
Tristan Strong has only been home from his last Alke adventure for a few weeks. He is tired and possibly hearing things, but he also longs for the friends he made in that other world, filled with African American folk heroes and African gods and goddesses. But when two spirits appear in his own world, and soon after his grandmother is abducted by a terrifying new villain, Tristan and Anansi must return to Alke to save Nana and everything he loves. This book is everything I want to recommend to readers–fast-paced adventure, humor, great characters, and, on top of all of that, a diverse cast by an own voices author. But there is a touch of magic here, perfected between Mbalia’s writing and Amir Abdullah audio performance, that makes this series one of my favorites, ever.

Ways to Make Sunshine (A Ryan Hart Novel, 1): Watson, Renée, Mata, Nina:  9781547600564: Amazon.com: Books

Ways to Make Sunshine
by Renee Watson
Meet Ryan. Ryan loves to invent recipes and hang out with friends, but everything is a bit different now that her dad has a new job. Money is tight, and her family has to move to a new house that doesn’t really feel like home. But if anyone can bring sunshine to their family’s life, it’s Ryan. A wonderful readalike for fans of Ramona Quimby and kids transitioning from first chapter books to longer titles.

What Lane? by Torrey Maldonado

What Lane?
by Torrey Maldonado
Stephen is mixed—he has a white mom who sees him as biracial and a black dad who sees Stephen as black. Stephen loves Miles Morales and Into the Spiderverse, and he also loves to watch Stranger Things. He has black friends. He has white friends. And generally those friends never mix. Stephen is starting to notice how his white best friend Dan can do things that Stephen can’t. Dan can sample cookies at the grocery store without buying them. Dan can playbox while walking down the street. These same actions get Stephen in trouble—sometimes with threats to call the police. Stephen starts to talk to his dad and his black best friend, Wes, and they tell him that there are things that their white friends can do that they can’t. Stephen gets mad because that sounds a lot like telling Stephen to stay in his lane–and Stephen doesn’t want to belong to just one lane.

Woke: Young Poet's Call to Justice by Mahogany L. Browne with Elizabeth  Acevedo and Olivia Gatewood, illustrated by Theodore Taylor III, foreword  by Jason Reynolds | A Kids Book A Day

Woke: A Young Poet’s Call to Justice
by Mahogany L. Browne
Explore this outstanding collection of poems, all by women, that inspire, engage, and require action as the authors reflect on standing up for what is right, addressing discrimination, racism, body positivity, ableism, prejudice, and more.

I know there are always books that I miss each year, and some of the 2020 kids chapter books I’m excited to explore soon are below!

2020 Favorite Graphic Novels

It’s book list season! I’ve read a lot this year, and I am excited to highlight my favorite releases of 2020. I’m thrilled to share my 2020 Favorite Graphic Novels.

I love graphic novels! I wasn’t a graphic novel reader until library school, but I have dived into this genre–graphic novels consume most of my reading (only beat by maybe picture books). The mix of text and illustrations creates such a unique experience that is different from reading a chapter book. At my library, we shelve graphic novels together in their own area. These circulate extremely well–I review this section for condition and circulation each year, and at most I find a handful of titles that have only checked out three times. Many books check out ten times or more (even during a pandemic year!). Some of our most popular series include Dog Man, Baby-Sitters Club, Amulet, and anything written by Raina Telgemeier.

These lists are personal. The graphic novels that stand out for me may not be your favorites–and that is okay! We each have our own reading preferences. Also, I very well may have missed some great titles that were released over the last year–so make sure to check out all of the great lists all over the internet, and please share your favorites in the comments!

2020 Favorite Graphic Novels

Amazon.com: Almost American Girl: An Illustrated Memoir (9780062685094):  Ha, Robin, Ha, Robin: Books

Almost American Girl

by Robin Ha
Gr. 7+. Robin never expects her family’s vacation to Huntsville, Alabama to turn into a permanent move–all of her friends, her belongings, and her life are back in Seoul, Korea. Robin doesn’t understand English, but suddenly she is dropped off at a new American school where she struggles to keep up. Home isn’t any better–her stepfamily doesn’t seem to like her, and Robin does not want to talk to her mother after she forced them to move. This memoir explores the very real struggles of trying to adjust to life in a new country.

Anti/Hero: Quinn, Kate Karyus, Lunetta, Demitria, Gil, Maca: 9781401293253:  Amazon.com: Books

by Kate Karyus Quinn & Demitria Lunetta and illustrated by Maca Gil
Gr. 3-5. Piper and Sloane don’t travel in the same friend groups at school. Piper is filled with energy and loves sports; Sloan much prefers getting nearly perfect grades in her classes. Their lives at home are very different too, with Piper living with her loving Abuela, while Sloan is determined to come up with the extra money to help her struggling single mom pay the bills. But they both have their own secrets, and when they end up on the opposite sides of a heist gone wrong, a fancy piece of tech causes them to switch bodies. Can they work together to figure out how to get their lives back?

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Aster and the Accidental Magic
by Thom Pico
Gr. 3-5. Aster expects moving to the middle of nowhere to be super boring. Her parents are busy with some work project and her house is just surrounded by hills and more hills. When Aster starts to wander those hills, she discovers birds and trees and sheep and…magic? When Aster runs into a mysterious old woman herding dogs, Aster starts to realize things are a little strange. But when Aster discovers a trickster spirit in the forest who gives Aster three wishes…well, things are about to get really interesting and a whole lot more fun.

Beetle & the Hollowbones | Book by Aliza Layne, Natalie Riess, Kristen  Acampora | Official Publisher Page | Simon & Schuster

Beetle & the Hollowbones
by Aliza Layne
Gr. 4-6. Beetle just wants to sneak out of her homeschooling to hang out with her best friend, the quiet Blob Ghost. Blob Ghost hangs out at the local mall, which he is forced to haunt due to….something neither of them can figure out or discover. When Beetle’s old best friend, Kat, returns to town for some witch training with Beetle’s aunt, Beetle wants to spend even less time at home with the perfect Kat. Things grow even worse when Blob Ghost’s mall might be torn down. If they can’t figure out what tethers Blob Ghost to the mall, when the mall is destroyed, Blob Ghost will be too. Forever.

Cat's Cafe: Tarpley, Matt: 9781524855048: Amazon.com: Books

Cat’s Cafe
by Matt Tarpley
Gr. 5+. Meet the adorable patrons of Cat’s coffee shop. Each has their own troubles–from anxiety to coffee addiction–but no matter what the situation, Cat is always ready to lend a supportive ear. Absolutely adorable and filled with love, friendship, and acceptance.

City of Secrets: Ying, Victoria: 9780593114490: Amazon.com: Books

City of Secrets
by Victoria Ying
Gr. 4-5. Ever Barnes protects the Switchboard Operating Facility, an amazing building that connects the people in his city, but also holds its own secrets. Hannah, the daughter of the switchboard building’s owner, finds Ever intriguing, and with the help of an employee, Lisa, she manages to track him down and convince him he needs a friend. Soon, the two realize their lives are more tangled than they could have imagined, with Ever being chased by menacing assassins, Hannah’s dad keeping his own secrets, and their co-conspirator Lisa being much more than they thought. In fact the whole city has its secrets—and it’s up to the kids to figure them out, fast.

Class Act: Craft, Jerry, Craft, Jerry: 9780062885500: Amazon.com: Books

Class Act
by Jerry Craft
Gr. 5-8. New Kid was my dream Newbery winner, and the sequel does not disappoint. Readers get more detailed glimpses into the lives of Jordan, Liam, and especially Drew, with even a touch more character development from Andy. Drew takes center stage here, with a different perspective on his classmates than Jordan. So many real issues are discussed in ways that never feel preachy, with Craft’s appealing artwork balancing humor and reality (race, bullying, class differences, microaggressions, friendship, and more).

Consent (for Kids!): Boundaries, Respect, and Being in Charge of YOU:  Brian, Rachel: 9780316457736: Amazon.com: Books

Consent (for Kids!): Boundaries, Respect, and Being in Charge of YOU
by Rachel Brian
Gr. 3-6. Learn all about consent, body autonomy, how to set boundaries, and ways to respect others in this amazing, colorful guide. Think about your own behavior and how you need to practice consent every day. Perfect beginning guide for kids and families.

Corpse Talk: Groundbreaking Women: DK: 9780744023572: Amazon.com: Books

Corpse Talk: Groundbreaking Women
by Adam & Lisa Murphy
Gr. 4-7. Join your host (and author) Adam Murphy in a talk show starring the corpses of astonishing women throughout history. Each star receives a two-page spread following the style of a typical talk show (including the standard puns and bad jokes) before another spread or two detailing an element of their time or life, such as the layout of the building Anne Frank lived in, an overview of Mongolian wrestling moves, or an explanation of the golden ratio. Features 17 women from an Egyptian pharaoh to empresses, queens, pirates, con artists, and more.

Amazon.com: Dancing at the Pity Party (9780525553021): Feder, Tyler: Books

Dancing at the Pity Party
by Tyler Feder
Gr. 8+. Follow Tyler’s journey with her mom–from her mom’s first oncology appointment through her cancer treatment and to life after her mom’s death. Filled with so, so much emotion, but I particularly appreciate that the voice here is young. So heartbreaking, but also filled with moments of humor and joy that will resonate.

The Deep & Dark Blue – Niki Smith

The Deep & Dark Blue
by Niki Smith
Gr. 4-7. A political coup that leaves their beloved grandfather murdered causes twins Hawke and Grayson to run for their lives. They hide among the new trainees in the Communion of Blue, taking on new identities as Hanna and Grayce. While they try to piece together what atrocities led to their home burning to the ground, the twins also learn more about themselves. Hawke longs to return to his old life, but Grayce realizes she wants to stay in this world that lets her be herself.

Diana: Princess of the Amazons (Wonder Woman): Hale, Shannon, Hale, Dean,  Ying, Victoria: 9781401291112: Amazon.com: Books

Diana: Princess of the Amazons
by Shannon Hale & Dean Hale and illustrated by Victoria Ying
Gr. 3-4. Diana loves her life on Themyscira, but lately she has been feeling more and more alone. She really wants another kid to play with, but that is impossible–or is it? When Diana makes her own wish on some clay, and it turns into a living girl her age, she is delighted. But also confused. Her new friend is great, but they aren’t the nicest, and sometimes they encourage Diana to do things Diana is pretty sure are wrong. What has Diana created?

Amazon.com: Displacement (9781250193537): Hughes, Kiku: Books

by Kiku Hughes
Gr. 7+. When on a family vacation to San Francisco, Kiku suddenly finds herself dramatically body-swapped with a young woman at a Japanese-American internment camp during World War II. Kiku slips in and out of the modern day and the past, not sure what is happening. Eventually, she realizes that her time in the past is connected with her late grandmother, Ernestina, who was forced to live at the very camp Kiku keeps time-traveling to.

Amazon.com: Dog Man: Grime and Punishment: From the Creator of Captain  Underpants (Dog Man #9) eBook: Pilkey, Dav, Pilkey, Dav: Kindle Store

Dog Man Grime and Punishment
by Dav Pilkey
Gr. 2-4. Yes, I know you are aware of Dog Man, but I am a huge fan of this series, and this particular book left me teary eyed. Dog Man has all kinds of villains to defeat in this book, and he needs the help of all of his friends. Petey has moved through quite a redemption arc, and this book gets quite serious with a deep conversation about forgiveness and loss between Petey and Lil Petey over the actions of Petey’s father and the death of Petey’s mother. Please don’t write these books off as something slapstick or just a Captain Underpants spinoff–there is so much heart here, in this world of living spray and cloned kittens.

Dungeon Critters: Riess, Natalie, Goetter, Sara: 9781250195470: Amazon.com:  Books

Dungeon Critters
by Natalie Riess & Sara Goetter
Gr. 3-5. Meet the Dungeon Critters: Juniper – The healer. Nervous in large crowds. Loves botany. Terrible at lying. Looks eerily similar to the reclusive Duchess Helena von Fancypaws. Rose – Arson loving cat. Doubles as a defense attorney when needed. May have a tiny crush on Juniper. Prince Chirp – Heiress to the throne of the [redacted] Kingdom. Impulsive. Hates to apologize. Tends to not think before acting. Avoids responsibility. Goro – Gentle giant. Generally quiet, but when he speaks, his words are profound. These four, with the occasional assistance of other creatures who are quickly forgotten (even by the four main characters), are determined to discover the nefarious plot of the (maybe?) evil Baron Foxworthy.

Amazon.com: Flamer (9781627796415): Curato, Mike, Curato, Mike: Books

by Mike Curato
Gr. 8+. Aiden is just trying to survive another summer camp with his Boy Scout Troup. It’s the summer between middle school and high school, which is a particularly big jump for Aiden, because he decided to leave his Catholic middle school to attend public high school (his first time attending a public school). Aiden got picked on a lot at his old school and by his fellow Boy Scouts here at summer camp. They call him gay–among other terms–because his voice and behaviors often seem feminine. But Aiden is confident he isn’t gay because gay boys like other boys. Plus, gay boys get made fun of. Gay boys can’t serve mass in Catholic church. Aiden can’t be gay because being gay is unsafe.

Go with the Flow: Schneemann, Karen, Williams, Lily: 9781250305725:  Amazon.com: Books

Go with the Flow
by Lily Williams & Karen Schneemann
Gr. 5+. Friends Abby, Brit, Christine, and Sasha are tired of their school’s administration. Money can always be found for the football team, but pads and tampons can never be found in the bathrooms. After Sasha gets her period at school and is short on supplies, Abby, Brit, and Christine adopt her into their friend group, and pull Sasha into a world of friendship and activism to make sure everyone who menstruates is treated fairly.

InvestiGators by John Patrick Green

by John Patrick Green
Gr. 2-4. Mango and Brash are both alligators and detective agents of the organization SUIT. Prepared for anything with their Very Exciting Spy Technology, these two investigators travel by toilet and sewer to solve crimes all over their city. They are on their first mission as a team to find out what happened to the missing Chef Mustachio. But after an explosion at the Science Factory, they are now trying to solve two mysteries at once. Plenty of laughs and so, so many puns will keep you at the edge of your seat.

Lightfall: The Girl & the Galdurian: Probert, Tim, Probert, Tim:  9780062990471: Amazon.com: Books

Lightfall: The Girl & the Galdurian
by Tim Probert
Gr. 4-5. Bea is happy with her magical life as the adopted granddaughter of the renowned Pig Wizard. One day, when walking in the woods, Bea meets Cad the Galdurian—a thought to be extinct species. Cad thinks that the Pig Wizard can help him find his people, but when the two of them return to Bea’s home, the wizard is nowhere to be found, leaving behind just the all important Endless Flame and a mysterious note. Soon, Bea and Cad are off on an adventure across the kingdom to track down the wizard. The further they travel, they more they realize that something is very wrong—Bea’s guardian may be in trouble and much of the world is slowly being clouded in eternal darkness

Long Way Down | Book by Jason Reynolds, Danica Novgorodoff | Official  Publisher Page | Simon & Schuster

Long Way Down
by Jason Reynolds and illustrated by Danica Novgorodoff
Gr. 7+. Will’s older brother was shot and killed outside of their apartment building. Will is determined to follow the rules passed down to him by his brother: (1) no crying, (2) no snitching, and (3) get revenge. Will has his older brother’s gun and, early the next morning, starts down their building’s elevator to get revenge on the person he is sure is his brother’s killer. But this elevator trip is like no other, with each floor revealing a new ghost from Will’s past, all with something to say.

Amazon.com: Max Meow Book 1: Cat Crusader (9780593121054): Gallagher, John:  Books

Max Meow: Cat Crusader
by John Gallagher
Gr. 2-4. Max was just a regular cat in Kittyopolis until he accidentally bites a radioactive space meatball. Suddenly Max has super powers—flying, strength, and more–and becomes the Cat Crusader. But Max’s new superpowers make him cocky, and he quickly leaves his best friend behind in his quest to save the world.

Measuring Up: LaMotte, Lily, Xu, Ann: 9780062973863: Amazon.com: Books

Measuring Up
by Lily LaMotte and illustrated by Ann Xu
Gr. 4-6. Cici just moved from Taiwan to Seattle with her family. She isn’t so sure about their move, especially since she will be missing her grandmother’s 70th birthday. Since she can’t go to A-ma, Cici decides to win the $1000 grand prize in a cooking competition to pay for A-ma’s plane ticket to come visit Cici in the United States. Cici loved to cook in Taiwan–she cooked with her A-ma a lot. So this should be easy–right?
The problem is, Cici only knows how to cook Taiwanese food, and that isn’t going to work for every round of the competition. Can Cici find a winning recipe? And just maybe, can she make a new friend along the way?

Amazon.com: Mellybean and the Giant Monster (9780593202548): White, Mike:  Books

Mellybean and the Giant Monster
by Mike White
Gr. 2-4. Lovable pup Mellybean loves to play games, even if her three cat housemates prefer to nap while their humans are away. While preparing to bury a shoe in the backyard, Melly discovers that her hole is a bit deeper than she could have imagined. She slips through into a magical world filled with kings, knights, and even a humongous rabbit named Narra. Narra isn’t so fond of humans, as they spend their time hunting her for the gold that flakes out of her eyes. But Melly is sure not all the humans in this magical world are bad–maybe they just haven’t yet discovered the power of a Good Sit.


My Video Game Ate My Homework
by Dustin Hansen
Gr. 3-4. Dewey is prepared to ace his science project by making the world’s coolest volcano, but everything goes wrong when his friend’s new video game system swallows his project. Literally. They turned on the games virtual reality software, and the game sucked his homework into a portal. And the only way to get it back? Dewey and his friends must enter the game, get new identities—and powers—and win.

Primer: Krajewski, Thomas, Jennifer Muro, Lusky, Gretel: 9781401296575:  Amazon.com: Books

by Jennifer Muro & Thomas Krajewski and illustrated by Gretel Lusky
Gr. 8+.  Ashley has a dark past, as the child of a supervillain who used to help her dad with his crimes. In her latest foster home, she discovers her guardians have a secret–special body paint that give the wearer superpowers. Of course Ashley has to try them out, but when the news catches her performing her superhero act, a lot of people are suddenly very interested in Ashley.

Amazon.com: Real Pigeons Fight Crime (Book 1) (9780593119426): McDonald,  Andrew, Wood, Ben: Books

Real Pigeons Fight Crime
by Andrew McDonald & Ben Wood
Gr. 2-3. Have you ever looked at a pigeon? Watched it do pigeon things? Pigeons might act kind of strange, but that’s because they are busy fighting crime and saving the world. This team of pigeons will use their disguise skills, superstrength, and more to solve extremely important mysteries such as where have all the bread crumbs gone? Who is kindnapping the city’s bats? And why is there chaos at the local food truck fair?

Science Comics: Crows: Genius Birds: Vanderklugt, Kyla: 9781626728028:  Amazon.com: Books

Science Comics: Crows: Bird Geniuses
by Kyla Vanderklugt
Gr. 8+. There are many wonderful non-fiction graphic novel series, and Science Comics is an excellent place to start. Each volume introduces a different topic: dinosaurs, the solar system, bats, cats, robots, and more, with at least four or five new books published each year. Crows is a particularly fun addition to the series, where your main character—a crow—teaches a local pet dog all about what makes crows special as the two team up to track down some especially delicious treats. Learn about how crows are able to make their own tools, lead complex social lives, never forget a human face, and more.

Séance Tea Party: Yee, Reimena: 9781984894151: Amazon.com: Books

Seance Tea Party
by Reimena Yee
Gr. 4-6. Lora feels left out as all of her friends seem to be growing up without her. Lora doesn’t want to grow up, and she is thrilled to discover a new (though also old) friend living in her house. Ghost girl Alexa is around Lora’s age, haunting Lora’s house, and just looking for a friend. The two become inseparable even as Lora begins to grow up on her own, and Alexa grows more and more curious about the past that she can’t remember.

Amazon.com: The Sewer Rat Stink (Geronimo Stilton Graphic Novel #1)  (9781338587302): Stilton, Geronimo, Angleberger, Tom, Angleberger, Tom:  Books

The Sewer Rat Stink
by Tom Angleberger & Elisabetta Dami
Gr. 2-4. You might think you know all about Geronimo Stilton, but I promise you have never seen him like this. In this all new interpretation of this familiar face, Geronimo is determined to solve another mystery. A horrible, stinky smell is taking over New Mouse City. No mouse can live like this-in fact everyone is moving out fast. Geronimo and Hercule head into the sewers beneath their home to investigate where this stench is coming from and who exactly is buying up all of the houses and businesses that have been deserted as people move out of town.

Amazon.com: Sherlock Bones and the Natural History Mystery (9780358311850):  Treml, Renee: Books

Sherlock Bones and the Natural History Mystery
by Renee Treml
Gr. 2-4. The royal blue diamond—the world’s largest gemstone—is missing from the State Natural History Museum! It’s up to museum resident Sherlock Bones to take the case. Sherlock Bones is, well, bones. He’s a tawny frogmouth skeleton on display at the museum, assisted by his trusty sidekick, a stuffed blue Indian ringneck parrot named Watts.
The game is afoot as these two must figure out who is stealing important items from the museum and how the thieves are getting away with it. Is their new assistant, Grace—a very real racoon with a craving for chocolate—an innocent bystander or guilty of the crime? If they can’t find the missing gem, the museum may be forced to close—meaning Bones and Watts will be packed away into storage.

Shirley and Jamila Save Their Summer (Shirley & Jamila): Goerz, Gillian:  9780525552864: Amazon.com: Books

Shirley & Jamila Save Their Summer
by Gillian Goerz
Gr. 4-6. Jamilia is getting ready for a lonely and boring summer living in a new neighborhood, until she meets longtime resident Shirley. Shirley’s a little strange and extremely perceptive, but Jamilia takes her up on her offer to get Jamilia out of science camp this summer. Soon, Jamilia is drawn into Shirley’s side job—as the neighborhood kid detective. A friendship and crime-solving partnership is born, starting with the case of the pet gecko that went missing from the local swimming pool.

Snapdragon: Leyh, Kat: 9781250171115: Amazon.com: Books

by Kat Leyh
Gr. 4-7. When Snapdragon goes searching for her dog, they meets the local Jacks doesn’t seem to be a real witch, but she sure is different—she collects roadkill, cleans their skeletons, and sells them online. Snap finds this creepy but also a little fascinating, and when Snap finds a group of abandoned baby opossums, they immediately go to Jacks for help. But the more Snap gets to know Jacks, the more Snap realizes that Jacks may have some real magic after all.

Twins by Varian Johnson


by Varian Johnson & Shannon Wright
Gr. 4-6. Twins and best friends Maureen and Francine have always done the exact same things—until they start middle school, when Fran is determined to set herself apart form her sister. Before she knows it, Maureen’s hurt feelings spiral into anger—and suddenly the girls are running against each other for Class President. Friendship lines have been drawn—but can either twin really win if it means hurting the other?

Yen Press Announces Svetlana Chmakova's “The Weirn Books"

The Weirn Books: Be Wary of the Silent Woods
by Svetlana Chmakova
Gr. 4-6. Allis goes to a special school for children who are weirn–kids who have a supernatural astral attached to them or other special abilities. Her friends notice a light at the creepy old schoolhouse where a bunch of children disappeared a few decades before–and suddenly, kids start disappearing again. Allis and her friends are determined to figure out what happened, and rescue everyone trapped inside that haunted house.

Witches of Brooklyn: Escabasse, Sophie: 9780593119273: Amazon.com: Books

Witches of Brooklyn
by Sophie Escabase
Gr. 4-5. Effie has lost her mom, her old home, and everyone she knows. She is dumped on the doorstep of two mysterious aunts she’s never met. The women are odd—working as herbalists and acupuncturists, creating all kinds of mysterious concoctions in the basement. Effie is just becoming comfortable with her new home and making a few new friends at school, when things take a particularly odd turn. Effie’s pop idol, musician Tily Shoo, arrives needing help. Effie learns that her aunts are well-known witches, and their magic might be the only thing that can save Tily. But as they all struggle to solve this mystery, they discover that Effie might have inherited some magic of her own.

The Worry (Less) Book: Feel Strong, Find Calm and Tame Your Anxiety by  Rachel Brian - Books - Hachette Australia

The Worry(Less) Book: Feel Strong, Find Calm and Tame Your Anxiety!
by Rachel Brian
Gr. 3-6. Everyone feels worried or anxious sometimes–but this book is here to help! Use this guide to practice identifying your anxiety and understanding how you can make sure it doesn’t control you, so you can always find your calm again.

2020 Favorite First Chapter Books

It’s book list season! I’ve read a lot this year, and I am excited to highlight my favorite releases of 2020. I’m thrilled to share my 2020 Favorite First Chapter Books.

For me and my library, first chapter books are designed for kids moving on from beginning readers but not quite ready for middle grade chapter books. These books are often part of a series with familiar characters and situations, lots of humor, and repetition from book to book. Some contain illustrations that reflect the story being told, while others are all text. Most of the time, these books are around 80-100 pages. These include popular series such as Magic Tree House, Geronimo Stilton, Mercy Watson, My Weird School, Desmond Cole Ghost Patrol, and more.

These lists are personal. The first chapter books that stand out for me may not be your favorites–and that is okay! We each have our own reading preferences. Also, I very well may have missed some great titles that were released over the last year–so make sure to check out all of the great lists all over the internet, and please share your favorites in the comments!

2020 Favorite First Chapter Books

Amazon.com: 13th Street #1: Battle of the Bad-Breath Bats (HarperChapters)  (9780062947796): Bowles, David, Clester, Shane: Books

13th Street: Battle of the Bad-Breath Bats

by David Bowles and illustrated by Shane Clester
Cousins Malia, Ivan, and Dante make a wrong turn on their way to a local water park, and they end up on the spooky, never-ending 13th Street. How will they make it home? A fun new series filled with mystery and giving just enough of a scare for lower elementary students.

The Perfect Pet (Ana & Andrew): Platt, Christine: 9781644942635:  Amazon.com: Books

Ana & Andrew: The Perfect Pet
by Christine Platt and illustrated by Junissa Bianda
Ana and Andrew get to pick out their very own pet! But first, they need to do the research to find the best pet for them and then pick out the best name! The Ana & Andrew books are fantastic, everyday adventures of a pair of African American siblings living near Washington, D.C. While the specific activities in each book are things familiar to many kids growing up, author Christine Platt does a wonderful job of highlighting elements of the African American experience.

Amazon.com: The Amazing Life of Azaleah Lane (9781515844648): Smith, Nikki  Shannon, Lobo, Mari: Books

The Amazing Life of Azaleah Lane
by Nikki Shannon Smith and illustrated by Mari Lobo
Azaleah can’t wait to make a diorama of her favorite animal habitat after a class field trip to the National Zoo. But when she gets home, her little sister insists Azaleah needs to help her find her missing stuffed animal. When the mystery drags on, Azaleah isn’t sure she will have time for her project. The Azaleah series features colorful illustrations, inquisitive Azaleah, and a wonderful family. Check out this title and the sequels.

Astrid and Apollo and the Starry Campout: Bidania, V.T., Lee, Dara Lashia:  9781515861225: Amazon.com: Books

Astrid and Apollo
by V.T. Bidania and illustrated by Dara Lashia Lee
Meet Astrid and Apollo, members of a Hmong family living in Minnesota. They love to have fun, and have various everyday adventures across the first four books in their series. Check these out for delicious food recommendations, an encouraging and nurturing family, and some maybe-new-to-you Hmong vocabulary.

The Best of Iggy: Barrows, Annie, Ricks, Sam: 9781984813305: Amazon.com:  Books

The Best of Iggy
by Annie Barrows and illustrated by Sam Ricks
Iggy isn’t a bad kid–he has just done some bad things (which he is mostly, sometimes sorry for). Sometimes there are extenuating circumstances to consider when bad decisions are made…and sometimes poor decisions are just poor decisions. This was surprisingly delightful! I meant to just read a few chapters but instead quickly read the whole book in one sitting. Lots of laughs in this one!

Dave the Unicorn: Welcome to Unicorn School (Dave the Unicorn, 1): Bird,  Pip, O'Connell, David: 9781250256348: Amazon.com: Books

Dave the Unicorn: Welcome to Unicorn School
by Pip Bird and illustrated by David O’Connell
Mira is SO EXCITED to start Unicorn School, but instead of being paired with a regal unicorn, her new unicorn BFF is smelly, doughnut-loving, constantly-farting Dave. Don’t think too hard about the logistics of the magical unicorn school–instead focus on the humor and school drama that will appeal to kids starting to transition from first chapter books to longer titles.

Amazon.com: Escape from the Roller Ghoster (11) (Desmond Cole Ghost Patrol)  (9781534464902): Miedoso, Andres, Rivas, Victor: Books

Desmond Cole Ghost Patrol: Escape from the Roller Ghoster
by Andres Miedoso and illustrated by Victor Rivas
Desmond and Andres are invited to the cool new amusement park–but all isn’t as it seems. The park is haunted, and its up to the Ghost Patrol to figure out how to make the rides fun for everyone. If you haven’t read Desmond Cole yet, go pick up the first book immediately! These are fun, just spooky-enough reads for grades K-2.

Amazon.com: Paws for a Cause: A Branches Book (Diary of a Pug #3)  (9781338530094): May, Kyla, May, Kyla: Books

Diary of a Pug: Paws for a Cause
by Kyla May
The local animal shelter can’t afford new toys, so Bub and his owner Bella raise money with a pet wash. But Bub is absolutely NOT a fan of water. This cute series is visually similar to Owl Diaries, but Bub brings his own spunk to his stories (particularly his rivalry with the local squirrel).

Slush Puppy Love (Diary of an Ice Princess #5) - Kindle edition by  Soontornvat, Christina. Children Kindle eBooks @ Amazon.com.

Diary of an Ice Princess: Slush Puppy Love
by Christina Soontornvat
Lina wants to get the perfect present for her best friend’s birthday. Claudia really wants a dog, and Lina can use her magic to bring a hypoallergenic dog to life! But the snow puppy turns out to be a bit more trouble than the girls imagined. I can not stop praising this series–there are so few magical series featuring diverse characters, and these are filled with snow, magic, and friendship.

Isadora Moon Has a Sleepover: Muncaster, Harriet: 9780593126202:  Amazon.com: Books

Isadora Moon Has a Sleepover
by Harriet Muncaster
At her first sleepover, Isadora makes a cake with her best friend for their school baking competition. Isadora uses her magic to make the cake extra special, but Isadora starts to doubt if it is really fair to submit their magical cake at their human school. Another great Isadora Moon book that explorers an ethical question in an age-appropriate way. (Plus lots of vampire-fairy fun.)

Amazon.com: The Newest Princess (Itty Bitty Princess Kitty Book 1) eBook:  Mews, Melody, Stubbings, Ellen: Kindle Store

Itty Bitty Princess Kitty: The Newest Princess
by Melody Mews and illustrated by Ellen Stubbings
Itty Bitty Kitty is about to become the new princess of Lollyland! Everything seems wonderful, until Itty Bitty learns about all the things that might change now that she is a princess. Maybe Itty isn’t the right person for this job. So much cuteness in one series, and a lovely message about kindness and friendship in each book too.

The Magnificent Makers #1: How to Test a Friendship: Griffith, Theanne,  Brown, Reggie: 9780593122983: Amazon.com: Books

Magnificent Makers: How to Test a Friendship
by Theanne Griffith and illustrated by Reggie Brown
Best friends Violet and Pablo discover a riddles that pulls them and new classmate Deepak into the Maker Maze. They need to work together to solve science puzzles, so they have a chance to return again. A great mixture of STEM, diversity, and friendship in this new series. I appreciate that they add a new friend to their group with each book.

Amazon.com: Mia Mayhem and the Super Family Field Day (9) (9781534477209):  West, Kara, Hernandez, Leeza: Books

Mia Mayhem and the Super Family Field Day
by Kara West and illustrated by Leeza Hernandez
Mia Mayhem finally gets to see her superhero parents in action when her Program for In Training Superheroes (the PITS) hosts a family field day. Mia knows everything is for fun, but she really would like to win that trophy. I adore the Mia Mayhem series so much–not only do they feature a diverse (super) lead, but her superhero friends are a vibrant cast too.

Amazon.com: Mindy Kim and the Yummy Seaweed Business (1) (9781534440098):  Lee, Lyla, Ho, Dung: Books

Mindy Kim and the Yummy Seaweed Business
by Lyla Lee and illustrated by Dung Ho
Mindy Kim wants to fit in at her new school. Her seaweed snacks win over her classmates, and soon Mindy and new friend Sally start selling the snacks to raise money for a new pet. Mindy Kim may be my favorite new first chapter series of the year! Mindy is adorable, and the books follow her everyday adventures while sprinkling in her Korean heritage.

Kingston the Great Dane (My Furry Foster Family): Florence, Debbi Michiko,  Demmer, Melanie: 9781515870920: Amazon.com: Books

My Furry Foster Family: Kingston the Great Dane
by Debbi Michiko Florence and illustrated by Melanie Demmer
The Takano house has a new (GIANT) foster pet: Great Dane Kingston! Kingston looks a bit more like a cow than a dog, and he definitely doesn’t realize how big he is. Will the Takano family be able to find the perfect home for such a large dog? Kaita and her family’s foster pet adventures are so much fun! Make sure to check out the full series to meet all kinds of amazing animals.

Our Friend Hedgehog: The Story of Us: Castillo, Lauren: 9781524766719:  Amazon.com: Books

Our Friend Hedgehog: The Story of Us

by Lauren Castillo
Hedgehog lives with his best friend, Mutty, on a tiny island. Everything is swell, until a storm comes and blows poor Mutty away. Hedgehog is distraught, but determined to do what she can to find her friend including setting off on an adventure filled with new friends. This is a gentle, lyrical story of friendship and courage in a magical wood filled with new friends ready for small, but grand, adventures.

Sadiq and the Perfect Play: Nuurali, Siman, Sarkar, Anjan: 9781515872870:  Amazon.com: Books

Sadiq and the Perfect Play
by Siman Nuurali and illustrated by Anjan Sarkar
Sadiq can’t wait to put on a play with his friends–but Sadiq isn’t the best at sharing responsibility. After Sadiq makes a few too many decisions on his own, everyone is annoyed and no one wants to perform anymore. Another wonderful Sadiq adventure, filled with a great conversation on friendship and being a leader.

Amazon.com: Sasha and Puck and the Brew for Brainwash (The Elixir Fixers)  (9780807572573): Nayeri, Daniel, Lourenço, Estrela: Books

Sasha and Puck and the Brew for Brainwash
by Daniel Nayeri and illustrated by Estrella Lourenco
Sasha does her best to make sure their town believes her father’s “magical” potions really work. But when one of his potions leads to them losing their shop, Sasha knows that she must pull out all of the stops to save the day. Check out this wonderful series blending science, magic, and fantasy–and quite a few laughs.

Amazon.com: Sparkleton #1: The Magic Day (HarperChapters) (9780062947918):  Glass, Calliope, Mengert, Hollie: Books

Sparkleton: The Magic Day
by Calliope Glass
Unicorn Sparketon can’t wait for his magical powers–he is convinced he will get wish-granting powers like the rest of his family. His big sister agrees to use her powers to give Sparkleton wish-granting powers for just a day–but all of Sparkleton’s wishes turn out all wrong! Lots of humor, colorful illustrations, and so much unicorn magic!

I know there are always books that I miss each year, and some of the 2020 first chapter books I’m excited to explore soon are below!

Amazon.com: Hand-Me-Down Magic #1: Stoop Sale Treasure (9780062878250):  Haydu, Corey Ann, Uribe, Luisa: Books

2020 Favorite Beginning Readers

It’s book list season! I’ve read a lot this year, and I am excited to highlight my favorite releases of 2020. I’m thrilled to share my 2020 Favorite Beginning Readers.

For me and my library, beginning readers are those books designed to teach kids how to read. These books typically have short sentences focused on vocabulary building and repetition, with illustrations that reflect the story being told. Typically, these books fall between guided reading levels A-L, and they include popular series such as Elephant & Piggie and Fly Guy as well as the various leveled reader texts from different publishers.

These lists are personal. The beginning readers that stand out for me may not be your favorites–and that is okay! We each have our own reading preferences. Also, I very well may have missed some great titles that were released over the last year–so make sure to check out all of the great lists all over the internet, and please share your favorites in the comments!

2020 Favorite Beginning Readers

Astrid and Apollo and the Starry Campout: Bidania, V.T., Lee, Dara Lashia:  9781515861225: Amazon.com: Books

Astrid and Apollo
by V.T. Bidania and illustrated by Dara Lashia Lee
Meet Astrid and Apollo, members of a Hmong family living in Minnesota. They love to have fun, and have various everyday adventures across the first four books in their series. Check these out for delicious food recommendations, an encouraging and nurturing family, and some maybe-new-to-you Hmong vocabulary.

Baloney and Friends (Baloney & Friends, 1): Pizzoli, Greg, Pizzoli, Greg:  9781368054546: Amazon.com: Books

Baloney and Friends by Greg Pizzoli
Baloney and friends get into all kinds of shenanigans in three hilarious short stories. Perfect for fans of Elephant & Piggie.

Beach Day! by Candice Ransom: 9781524720438 | PenguinRandomHouse.com: Books

Beach Day!
by Candice Ransom and illustrated by Erika Meza
A family spends the day at the beach playing in the water, building sandcastles, and riding rides at the nearby park. Great for kids just learning to read.

Amazon.com: Cheer Up: An Acorn Book (Unicorn and Yeti #4) (4)  (9781338627695): Burnell, Heather Ayris, Quintanilla, Hazel: Books

Cheer Up
by Heather Ayris Burnell and illustrated by Hazel Quintanilla
Unicorn and Yeti’s adventures continue as the two friends work to cheer each other up in three short stories. I love the bright, colorful illustrations and appealing characters in this series, along with the focus on kindness and friendship.

Party Problems (Emma Every Day): Reid, C. L.: 9781515873112: Amazon.com:  Books

Emma Every Day
by C.L. Reid and illustrated by Elena Aiello
Emma is one of my new favorite beginning reader characters. Emma is Deaf and uses a cochlear implant and sign language while going on everyday adventures. Written by a deafblind author. Make sure to explore the whole series.

I Want to Sleep Under the Stars! | Disney Books | Disney Publishing  Worldwide

I Want to Sleep Under the Stars by Mo Willems
Zoom Squirrel dreams of sleeping under the stars. Like the good friends they are, the rest of the squirrels are determined to help! But is their enthusiasm a little too much? This book won me over to the Unlimited Squirrels fun, even if these don’t share the same magic as Elephant and Piggie.

Amazon.com: See the Cat: Three Stories About a Dog (9781536204278):  LaRochelle, David, Wohnoutka, Mike: Books

See the Cat: Three Stories About a Dog
by David LaRochelle and illustrated by Mike Wohnoutka
While this probably isn’t the best choice for very new readers (who may get confused by the disassociation between the pictures and text), this meta reader will be well loved by more experienced readers who can enjoy the humor. Dog’s illustrations don’t match up with the words the narrator is saying…leading to a very indignant dog.

Amazon.com: Ty's Travels: Zip, Zoom! (My First I Can Read) (9780062951106):  Lyons, Kelly Starling, Mata, Nina: Books

Ty’s Travels: Zip, Zoom!
by Kelly Starling Lyons and illustrated by Nina Mata
Ty’s Travels is tied with Emma Every Day for my absolute favorite brand new beginning reader series of the year! A much needed set of own voices readers, these books follow Ty’s adventures with various types of transportation. Learn about Ty’s excitement to get his own scooter…followed by his disappointment when riding it is a bit harder than he imagined.

What About Worms!? (Elephant & Piggie Like Reading!) (Elephant & Piggie  Like Reading!, 7): Higgins, Ryan T., Willems, Mo: 9781368045735:  Amazon.com: Books

What About Worms!? by Ryan T. Higgins
I am this tiger. Please, watch out for worms. They are everywhere. They are slimy. They ruin everything. Avoid when possible. So much delightful humor sure to be winners with fans of Elephant & Piggie.

Amazon.com: Who Needs a Checkup?: An Acorn Book (Hello, Hedgehog #3)  (9781338281446): Feuti, Norm, Feuti, Norm: Books

Who Needs a Checkup? by Norm Feuti
The newest title in the Hello, Hedgehog! series follows Harry’s first visit to the doctor. I love the colorful, familiar characters in the new Acorn books, and the Hedgehog series does not disappoint with its exploration of familiar experiences that may seem a little scary to young readers.

Amazon.com: Yasmin the Soccer Star (9781515858867): Faruqi, Saadia, Aly,  Hatem: Books

Yasmin The Soccer Star by Saadia Faruqi
Even though this series has been released for a few years, no beginning readers list is complete without a Yasmin title. In this story, Yasmin’s class is excited to play soccer–well everyone is excited except Yasmin. Soccer looks a little dangerous, and Yasmin isn’t sure how she feels about trying a new sport.

Black Lives Matter: A Non-comprehensive Book List for All Ages

If you have spent any time reading this blog, you know that I am not the best posting partner. But after sharing my resources with Annamarie (Scaffolding Anti-Racism Resouces, A Plan for Movement Worksheets, Student Voice) and reading her post, I felt like I should contribute more than a weekly post of “here are some good books I’ve read”.

Let’s be real, I am a white woman. I am not maligned because of the color of my skin. I do not face adversity, I am not profiled, and I am not judged or harmed because of the amount of melanin I have. I may have grown up in a “black and Hispanic” neighborhood, I may be considered an ally, but I am not a person of color and will never know the same struggles. My skin tone has given me an advantage all of my life even if I hadn’t always been conscious of that fact.

My story is not one that needs to be focused on.

But stories teach people. And written words can sometimes reach people better because they refuse to listen or cannot hear other’s truths over their own. So while my goal was to contribute more to this blog than a list of books…..I’m still going to give you a list of books.

Black Lives Matter: Books for All Ages

Picture Books & Readers:




And just because Isa’s (a student in my community) words are so powerful I wanted to include her spoken word poem again: