Best of 2020

Best of 2020

2020 was quite a year! And though it challenged everyone (maybe to our limit), the Children's staff have to admit, some pretty rad books came out over the course of this year and made everything slightly more tolerable. Take a look at our favorites and maybe you can find a new favorite, too!


Compiled by:
Ginny H.

Early Readers

The Button Book

Sally Nicholls
(Juvenile Picture Books - Ej Nic)

 

A playful group of animals find buttons, each of which has a different purpose -- from singing to tickling to sleeping! But what’s that mysterious white button do? There’s only one way to find out! Recommended for ages 3-5.

Staff member, Christa, says, "This is a playful, interactive book great for bedtime reading!"


The Camping Trip

Jennifer K. Mann
(Juvenile Picture Books - Ej Mann)

 

City kid Ernestine gets invited to go camping by her aunt and cousin. She's excited but also nervous - she's never been camping before, and there is a lot to look forward to. But camping can also be new and a little bit scary… Recommended for ages 3-5

Staff member, Claire, says, "It has a great diverse representation of a Black family and a realistic, and very relatable main character!"


Hike

Pete Oswald
(Juvenile Picture Books - Ej Osw)

 

A father and child head out on a hike, keeping a cherished family tradition alive. They observe animals, paw prints, and feathers, cross a large log bridging a small river, watch a waterfall together and climb a steep slope to a lookout point to plant a little sapling. Recommended for ages 3-5.

Staff member, Paul, says, "Beautiful and timeless story told without words. Hooray for hiking!"


Hurry Up! : A Book About Slowing Down

Kate Dopirak
(Juvenile Picture Books - Ej Dop)

 

Following a young child and their dog, this is a perfect book for not getting caught up in the commotion of a busy day. Recommended for ages 3-5.

Staff member, Christa, says, "This book came around at the perfect time. It is easy to get caught up in the hustle of daily routines. This year and this book are great reminders of the benefits to slowing down and enjoying the little things."


Prairie Days

Patricia MacLachlan
(Juvenile Picture Books - Ej Mac)

 

This picturebook reminisces a summer day on the prairies of eastern Wyoming (circa the 1940s), where the author grew up. Recommended for ages 3-5.

Staff Member Paul says, "this book is brimming with warm, vivid, poetic narration accompanied with stunningly crafted illustrations."


Swashby and the Sea

Beth Ferry
(Juvenile Picture Books - Ej Fer)

 

Old, salty Swashby lives in a quiet house by the sea...until a lively young girl moves in next door. Despite his attempts to dampen her days, they become great friends! Recommended for ages 3-5.

Staff member, Ginny, says, "I love how comical this book is as the sea thwarts Swashby’s attempts to keep his solitude and the illustrations are just beautiful!"


The Way Home For Wolf

Rachel Bright
(Juvenile Picture Books - Ej Bri)

Wolf cub Wilf is convinced that he has what it takes to lead the pack, but the adults just laugh--and when he falls behind and finds himself alone in the dark of the Arctic night he discovers that it is really important to have friends who will show you the way home. Recommended for ages 3-5.

Staff member, Christa, says, "I like this book because it has a sweet, beautiful message. Also, it rhymes!"


Younger Elementary

Home in the Woods

Eliza Wheeler
(Juvenile Picture Books - Ej Whe)

 

Marvel, her seven siblings, and her mother find a shack in the woods and, over the course of a year, turn it into a home. Based on the author's grandmother's childhood; includes historical notes. Published at the end of 2019, we couldn’t help sharing this one! Recommended for ages 6-9.

Staff member, Kathy, says, "It reminds me of stories my mother, and her mother, told me of their childhoods.  Poverty and hardship was their environment, but their memories were more often of love and adventure."


Letters From Bear

Gauthier David
(Juvenile Picture Books - Ej Dav)

 

A melancholy bear shares her adventures as she forgoes hibernation in order to travel south in search of her friend, Bird, who has migrated away. This picturebook showcases a fantastical world reminiscent of  the world built by Maurice Sendak in Where the Wild Things Are. Recommended for ages 6-9

Staff member, Paul, says, "Imaginative, touching, and weird.  My favorite illustrations of the year."


Older Elementary

Birdie and Me

J.M.M Nuanez
(Juvenile Fiction - J Nuanez)

 

Jack and her gender fluid brother, Birdie, are siblings who have to move in with their stoic and no-nonsense uncle after their eccentric uncle proves that he is not a good caretaker after their mother's sudden death. Through grieving, confronting bullies, and confronting comfort zones -- Birdie, Jack, and both their uncles learn to love and create a new sense of home together. Recommended for ages 9-12.

Staff member, Ginny, says, "I loved the way this book handles the topics with a gentle and empathetic hand, making Jack and Birdie come to life. It also features an absolutely fantastic representation of a gender fluid child.The writing style is so reminiscent of Kate DiCamillo!"


Doodleville

Chad Sell
(Juvenile Graphic Novels - J-GN Sell Doodleville)

 

Drew’s doodles have the tendency to really come to life and then become her companions. But when her art club visits the Chicago Art Institute for inspiration -- things take a surprisingly dark turn. Can she save her companions’ home, Doodleville? Recommended for ages 9-12.

Staff member, Kim, says, "I love the imaginative story in Doodleville! I spent a lot of time growing up drawing fun characters and imagining the adventures they'd get into and this book captured that feeling in a fun way! I also enjoyed seeing the variety of heroes the different kids developed; they had so many great ideas and so much love for their creations!"

 


Rick

Alex Gino
(Juvenile Fiction - J Gino)

 

Rick is nervous to start middle school with his best friend, Jeff, because there are so many unknowns! The weird scheduling of middle school, getting to know new people, the way Jeff is always talking about girls and being mean to other kids, and starting weekly bonding visits with his grandpa. While not all of it is bad, dealing with so many unknowns has Rick questioning his own identity. Recommended for ages 9-12.

Staff member, Ginny, says, "I loved the simple way this story provided a short history on LGBTQ+ rights and opportunity for learning how language, such as pronouns, can have an important weight in identity and respect towards others."


We Dream of Space

Erin Entrada Kelly
(Juvenile Fiction - J Kelly)

 

Three kids dealing with middle school problems, and family strife. Each lives in their own world, hoping for better things to come. The parents fight constantly, the sister draws schematics and dreams of going to space, her twin brother can barely control his anger, and the oldest brother is about to fail 7th grade again. Recommended for ages 9-12.

Staff member, Dana, says, "Beautifully written by a Newbery winning author!"


When Stars are Scattered

Victoria Jamieson
(Juvenile Graphic Novels - J-GN 305.9069 Jam)

Staff member, Dana, says, "Two brothers grow up in a Kenyan refugee camp without a mother or father. Faced with the opportunity to go to school, the older brother is worried about leaving his younger brother, with special needs, alone during the day. Based on the author's true story." Recommended for ages 9-12.