Best of 2020: Children's Books

Updated: October 22, 2021

The best books of the year, as selected by Los Angeles Public Library staff. Perfect for holiday gift-giving! More books for children are at LAPL Kids Path.


Book cover for All of a sudden and forever : help and healing after the Oklahoma City bombing
All of a sudden and forever : help and healing after the Oklahoma City bombing
Barton, Chris
Call Number: x 322 B293

Grades 2 - 5

This emotionally powerful book explores how the survival of an American elm tree became a symbol and a promise of healing after a horrible tragedy.

Book cover for Becoming Muhammad Ali: A Novel
Becoming Muhammad Ali: A Novel
Patterson, James
Call Number: x

Grades 4 - 8

Before Muhammad Ali was a prize winning boxer, he was Cassius Clay, a kid growing up in Louisiville, Kentucky struggling with some of the same issues that many kids struggle with: family, school, racism, learning disabilities and more. Told in alternating verse and prose chapters, learn about Cassius' childhood and rise to fame.

Book cover for The blackbird girls
The Blackbird Girls
Blankman, Anne
Call Number: x

Grades 4 - 7

This beautiful haunting novel follows Valentina and Oksana in 1986 as they wake up to an exploding reactor in Chernobyl, where their fathers work. Soon, Valentina and Oksana, who have always been enemies go to stay with Valentina’s estranged grandmother. Oksana must come to terms with all the lies her parents told her, while Valentina must keep her grandmother’s secret.

Book cover for Consent (for kids!) : boundaries, respect, and being in charge of you
Consent (for kids!) : boundaries, respect, and being in charge of you
Brian, Rachel
Call Number: x 170 B849

Graces 2 - 5

A thoughtful, empowering, inclusive, and - yes - entertaining discussion of a sensitive topic. Should be required reading for all kids and their adults.

Book cover for Echo Mountain
Echo Mountain
Wolk, Lauren, 1956-
Call Number: x

Grades 4 - 7

After losing almost everything they own in the Great Depression, 12-year-old Ellie’s family moves from town to the mountains of Maine to literally carve out a life for themselves in the wilderness. After a tragic accident that leaves her father in a coma, Ellie, her mother, sister, and brother are left to cope and care for one another as well as discover friendship and acceptance with others. You will want to sip and savor Wolk's masterful writing, while at the same time hurriedly turning the pages to find out what happens.

Book cover for Feathered Serpent and The Five Suns: A Mesoamerican Creation Myth
Feathered Serpent and The Five Suns: A Mesoamerican Creation Myth
Tonatiuh, Duncan
Call Number: x 398 T663-1

Grades 1-4: Tonatiuh gives new life to Mesoamerican creation stories in this exciting adventure tale. The illustrations glow with light and rich color as Quetzalcoatl, the feathered serpent, travels through the underworld on his quest to create human beings.

Book cover for A girl like you
A girl like you
Murphy, Frank, 1966-
Call Number: xz

Grades K - 2

An uplifting picture book that celebrates diversity, empowerment and the many achievements girls can do. It implores girls to take action by offering positive suggestions on many topics like trying new things, speaking up, volunteering, being proud and brave. Can be used for Women's History Month, and for motivating girls.

Book cover for Hike
Oswald, Pete
Call Number: xz

Grades Pre-K - 2

A father and child wake up early and leave the city for an all-day hike in the nearby mountains. They observe all kinds of nature and wildlife, including bugs, birds, a waterfall and even a patch of snow, which are documented through photos and journaling. This nearly wordless book is a delightful journey of discovery and togetherness that young and old alike will enjoy.

Book cover for In a jar
In a jar
Marcero, Deborah
Call Number: xz

Grades Pre-K - K

A little boy bunny Llewellyn likes to collect things in jars, such as the memories of winter, and the cherry light at sunset. He collects them with his best friend Evelyn, until one day she has to move away. The two learn they can continue their friendship through sending each other the experiences and things they collect in jars. This is a beautiful book with intricate illustrations, perfect for one-on-one sharing.

Book cover for The Oldest Student: How Mary Walker Learned to Read
The Oldest Student: How Mary Walker Learned to Read
Hubbard, Rita L.
Call Number: x 92 H1824Hu

Grades K - 3

Mary Walker, born into slavery in 1848, had to wait a long time before tackling the challenge of literacy. She was 116 years old when she was declared the oldest student in the nation. Proof positive that it is never too late to accomplish something amazing.

Book cover for One Little Bag: An Amazing Journey
One Little Bag: An Amazing Journey
Cole, Henry
Call Number: xz

Grades Pre-K - 3

Beautifully illustrated wordless tale of a boy who miraculously uses the same paper lunch bag for a multitude of purposes, for at least two decades. Based on the author/illustrator’s own experience

Book cover for Overground railroad
Overground railroad
Cline-Ransome, Lesa
Call Number: xz

Grades K - 3

All aboard! A young girl and her parents catch a train heading out of South Carolina to New York City, during the 1930s, in what is known as the Great Migration. The beautiful illustrations expertly capture the journey north, as a family leaves their life of sharecropping for better opportunities. Filled with information, emotion, and hope, this book is great as a read aloud or shared one-on-one.

Book cover for The paper kingdom
The paper kingdom
Rhee, Helena Ku
Call Number: xz

Grades Pre-K - 2

When Daniel's babysitter cancels, he must go to work with his parents, who are night janitors at a large office building. While Daniel is initially upset when he sees the huge mess that his parents need to clean up, they turn the experience into an adventure, complete with dragons and a paper king. This is a magical tale that honors hard-working parents.

Book cover for Prairie lotus
Prairie lotus
Park, Linda Sue
Call Number: x

Grades 5 - 8

Ms. Park, who is Korean, wrote this semi-autobiographical book because she grew up reading the Laura Ingalls Wilder books and always felt slighted when Asians were mentioned. She wanted to write a book about the Asian experience during this American period. Because Korean immigrant did not come to American until later, she portrayed the main character as half Chinese. Hannah is 14 years old and has moved from California to the Dakota territory, where she is viewed as "less" because she is Chinese. She never bows to this mistreatment and realizes that she cannot stop people from thinking in certain ways. However, she will not allow anyone to make her settle for less than she deserves. Even though this book takes place in the 1880's, the social commentary is just as relevant today.

Book cover for Show Me a Sign
Show Me a Sign
LeZotte, Ann Clare
Call Number: x

Grades 4 - 7: Eleven-year-old Mary, who is deaf, uses a unique form of sign language to communicate, as do almost all the residents on Martha’s Vineyard in the early 1800s. This was considered completely normal, until a stranger came to study the islanders’ inherited deafness, upending Mary’s life as she knows it. A multi-layered work of historical fiction featuring a fascinating main character in an absorbing setting.

Book cover for Snapdragon
Leyh, Kat
Call Number: x GN

Grades 5 - 9: Snapdragon befriends her town's crotchety old witch, Jacks, after Jacks rescues Snap's dog from a car accident. Snap thinks that witchcraft isn't real and Jacks is just an eccentric old lady, but she soon learns that there's more magic and mystery in the woods—and her own past—than she ever suspected.

Book cover for Three Keys: A Front Desk Novel
Three Keys: A Front Desk Novel
Yang, Kelly
Call Number: x

Grades 4 - 7: The second book in this wonderful series continues, following Mia Tang as she works at her family’s hotel and deals with her teacher, community racism, classism, and the love for her friends and family.

Book cover for The time of green magic
The time of green magic
McKay, Hilary
Call Number: x

Grades 4 - 7

There's just a touch of magic in this dreamy novel, which is mostly about a blended family learning to understand each other and start a new life together. The book has the old-fashioned quality of some of McKay’s other stories, but Abi and her siblings feel like real, contemporary kids.

Book cover for What will these hands make?
What will these hands make?
McClure, Nikki
Call Number: xz

Grades K - 3

From a child's teacup to a thriving community, this sumptuous picture book, illustrated with McClure's renowned paper cut artwork, explores all the beautiful things a pair of hands can make.

Book cover for You matter
You matter
Robinson, Christian
Call Number: xz

Grades Pre-K - 3

Multi-talented Robinson’s latest masterpiece is at the same time playful and powerful. A colorful and inclusive cast of characters with hugely varying vantage points is represented, including tiny bugs, tall trees, large dinosaurs, and even the sun. People young and old, near and far, first and last are reassured throughout with a straightforward and comforting message: You Matter. Widely appealing for all.

Book cover for Your name is a song
Your name is a song
Thompkins-Bigelow, Jamilah
Call Number: e-Book

Grades K - 3

A lovely reminder of the importance of honoring everyone’s name and identity. When a young girl is frustrated because no one can pronounce her name correctly on the first day of school, her mother reassures her of the power and beauty of names from many languages and cultures.

Book cover for Your place in the universe
Your place in the universe
Chin, Jason, 1978-
Call Number: x 523 C539

Grades K - 3

Full of wonder and Chin’s signature grandeur, four eight-year-old children learn about distance and measurement through realistic, well-researched and understandable examples. The children encounter the tallest animal (giraffe), tallest tree (California Redwood), and highest peak (Mount Everest) on Earth before they reach the moon, the galaxy and beyond! Both fascinating and informative.