Notable Children's Books - 2020

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Each year a committee of the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC) identifies the best of the best in children's books. According to the Notables Criteria, "notable" is defined as: Worthy of note or notice, important, distinguished, outstanding. As applied to children's books, notable should be thought to include books of especially commendable quality, books that exhibit venturesome creativity, and books of fiction, information, poetry and pictures for all age levels (birth through age 14) that reflect and encourage children's interests in exemplary ways.


According to ALSC policy, the current year's Newbery, Caldecott,  Belpré, Sibert, Geisel, and Batchelder Award and Honor books automatically are added to the Notable Children's Books list.

According to the ALSC Notable Children’s Books Committee manual, these categories loosely represent the following:  Younger Readers – Preschool-grade 2 (age 7), including easy-to-read books; Middle Readers – Grades 3-5, ages 8-10; Older Readers – Grades 6-8, ages 11-14; All Ages – Has appeal and interest for children in all of the above age ranges


DRAFT FINAL - In the interest of sharing the 2020 list as quickly as possible, we have posted it here before the final round of proofreading and fact-checking. After the final check,  the "DRAFT FINAL" designation will be removed. 

YOUNGER

Across the Bay. By Carlos Aponte. Illus. by the author. Penguin Workshop. (Belpré Illustrator Honor Book)

Art This Way. By Tamara Shopsin. Illustrated by Jason Fulford. Phaidon. 
An interactive board book to help foster art appreciation in young children.

At the Mountain's Base. By Traci Sorell. Illus. by Weshoyot Alvitre. Penguin/Kokila. 
A lyrical story of a Cherokee family bonding through song and weaving as they celebrate a family member’s service in the military.

B Is for Baby. By Atinuke. Illus. by Angela Brooksbank, Candlewick. 
The letter B is cleverly featured in this story of a baby’s day in her African village.  

The Balcony. By Melissa Castrillón. Illus. by the author. Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman. 
A whimsical, wordless picture book that shows a young girl making her new house a home.

Bear Came Along. By Richard T. Morris. Illus. by LeUyen Pham. Little, Brown. 
A bear’s river journey accumulates a number of other animals, resulting in an amazing ride. (Caldecott Honor Book)

The Bell Rang. By James E. Ransome. Illus. by the author. Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy.
A young enslaved girl’s daily routine is altered by her brother’s escape to freedom.

Between Us and Abuela: A Family Story from the Border. By Mitali Perkins. Illus. by Sara Palacios. Farrar.
A family visits the border fence dividing California and Mexico to share gifts with their grandmother at La Posada. 

A Big Bed for Little Snow. By Grace Lin. Illus. by the author. Little, Brown. 
In spite of Mommy’s warnings, Little Snow simply cannot resist jumping on his big, new feather bed. 

The Bluest of Blues: Anna Atkins and the First Book of Photographs. By Fiona Robinson. Illus. by the author. Abrams.
Anna Atkins’ curiosity about science led her to experiment with the new art of photography, particularly cyanotypes. 

Brown: My Alter Ego Is a Superhero. By Håkon Øvreås. Illus. by Øyvind Torseter. Tr. by Kari Dickson. Enchanted Lion.  (Batchelder Award Book)

The Book Hog. By Greg Pizzoli. Illus. by the author. Disney/Hyperion.
A beret-wearing pig who loves books as objects learns to love reading them, too. (Geisel Honor Book)

The Book Rescuer: How a Mensch from Massachusetts Saved Yiddish Literature for Generations to Come. By Sue Macy. Illus. by Stacy Innerst. Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman.
With dramatic art, this picture-book biography tells the story of Aaron Lansky’s mission to save Yiddish literature.

Carter Reads the Newspaper. By Deborah Hopkinson. Illus. by Don Tate. Peachtree.
This engaging nonfiction picture book highlights the life and determination of little-known civil rights pioneer, Dr. Carter Woodson.

Chick and Brain: Smell My Foot! By Cece Bell. Illus. by the author. Candlewick. 
Chick (a baby chicken) instructs his friend Brain (underwear-clad human with an exposed brain) in good manners. (Geisel Honor Book)

Dancing Hands: How Teresa Carreño Played the Piano for President Lincoln. by Margarita Engle. Illus. by Rafael López. Atheneum. (Belpré Illustrator Award Book)

Dinosaur Feathers. By Dennis Nolan. Illus. by the author. Holiday/Neal Porter.
This tongue-twisting, brightly illustrated poetry book introduces readers to a gaggle of dinosaurs.

Do Fish Sleep? By Jens Rschke. Illus. by Jens Rassmus. Tr. by Belinda Cooper. Enchanted Lion. (Batchelder Honor Book)

Double Bass Blues. By Andrea J. Loney, Illus. by Rudy Gutierrez. Knopf. (Caldecott Honor Book)

Field Trip to the Moon. By John Hare. Illus. by the author. Holiday/Margaret Ferguson. 
When a child is left behind on a class field trip to the moon, an unexpected adventure unfolds. 

Firefighters' Handbook. By Meghan McCarthy. Illus. by the author. Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman.
Do you want to become a firefighter?  Learn about their rigorous training in this informative picture book.  

Flubby Is Not a Good Pet! By J. E. Morris. Penguin.  (Geisel Honor Book)

Fry Bread: A Native American Family Story. By Kevin Noble Maillard. Illus. by Juana Martinez-Neal. Roaring Brook. 
A sweetly illustrated account of the cultural and historical importance of fry bread to a Native American family. (Sibert Medal Book)

Going Down Home with Daddy. By Kelly Starling Lyons. Illus. by Daniel Minter. Peachtree. 
In this picture-book homage to familial bonds, a boy contemplates the perfect way to honor his great-grandmother. (Caldecott Honor Book)

Grandpa's Top Threes. By Wendy Meddour. Illus. by Daniel Egnéus. Candlewick.
Henry uses Grandpa's favorite game, “Top Three,” to help his grandfather grieve.

Hey, Water! By Antoinette Portis. Illus. by the author. Holiday/Neal Porter.
This early nonfiction book examines how the water cycle surrounds you every day. (Sibert Honor Book)

How to Read a Book. By Kwame Alexander. Illus. by Melissa Sweet. Harper.
Bright collage illustrations and poetic imagery depict many of the countless ways to savor a book.

It Began with a Page: How Gyo Fujikawa Drew the Way. By Kyo Maclear. Illus. by Julie Morstad. Harper.
This biography for young readers recounts the life of a trailblazing Japanese American picture book artist.

Just Right: Searching for the Goldilocks Planet. By Curtis Manley. Illus. by Jessica Lanan. Roaring Brook.
An exploration of the solar system and humanity’s search for another planet that can support life.  

The Last Peach. By Gus Gordon. Illus. by the author. Roaring Brook.
Unfolding through animated dialogue comes a tale of two insects debating who gets to eat the last peach.

Let's Scare Bear. By Yuko Katakawa. Illus. by the author. Holiday.
In a humorous story influenced by Japanese oral tradition, four small animals take a turn trying to scare a big bear.

Lion of the Sky: Haiku for All Seasons. By Laura Purdie Salas. Illus. by Mercè López. Lerner/Millbrook.
A collection of haiku riddles that celebrates the cycle of the year’s seasons.

Luca's Bridge/El Puente de Luca. By Mariana Llanos. Illus. by Anna López Real. Penny Candy.
Llanos' bilingual book offers a glimpse into how some children affected by deportation find comfort in music. 

The Many Colors of Harpreet Singh. By Supriya Kelkar. Illus. by Alea Marley. Sterling.
Indian American Singh wears different color patkas to match his mood or occasion of the day. 

A Map into the World. By Kao Kalia Yang. Illus. by Seo Kim. Carolrhoda/Lerner.
A young Hmong girl comforts her new neighbor with a chalk drawing that reflects the past year’s changes.

Moth. By Isabel Thomas. Illus. by Daniel Egnéus. Bloomsbury.
Rich illustrations help describe the survival and evolutionary adaptations of the peppered moth. 

My Footprints. By Bao Phi. Illus. by Basia Tran. Capstone.
After facing school bullies, Thuy works through her emotions by using her imagination.

My Grandma and Me. By Mina Javaherbin. Illus. by Lindsey Yankey. Candlewick.
Set in Iran, this picture book honors the power of grandmothers as models of tradition, family, and love.  

My Papi Has a Motorcycle. By Isabel Quintero. Illus. by Zeke Peña. Penguin/Kokila. 
Daisy enjoys exploring her changing neighborhood from the back of her papi’s motorcycle. (Belpré Illustrator Honor Book)

A New Home. By Tania de Regil. Illus. by the author. Candlewick.
Two young children’s families help them adjust to moving from Mexico City to New York City and vice versa.

Nya's Long Walk: A Step at a Time. By Linda Sue Park. Illus. by Brian Pinkney. Clarion.
In South Sudan, Nya must carry both her younger sister and the water they collected for the long journey home. 

One Fox: A Counting Book Thriller. By Kate Read. Illus. by the author. Peachtree.
A hungry fox gets more than he expects in this suspenseful counting book.

Paper Son: The Inspiring Story of Tyrus Wong, Immigrant and Artist. By Julie Leung. Illus. by Chris Sasaki. Random /Schwartz & Wade.
As a boy, Wong Geng Yeo assumed a fake identity to immigrate to the U.S., eventually becoming a Disney artist. 

Planting Stories: The Life of Librarian and Storyteller Pura Belpré. By Anika Aldamuy Denise. Illus. by Paola Escobar. Harper. 
A riveting picture-book biography of Pura Belpré that captures her professional life and legacy. (Belpré Author Honor Book)

Pokko and the Drum. By Matthew Forsythe. Illus by the author. Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman.
When Pokko's dad sends her outside with her drum, she soon begins leading a band of forest animals.

The Proudest Blue: A Story of Hijab and Family. By Ibtihaj Muhammad with S. K. Ali. Illus. by Hatem Aly. Little, Brown.
A back-to-school book that focuses on the beauty and symbolism of a young girl's hijab.

Queen of Physics: How Wu Chien Shiung Helped Unlock the Secrets of the Atom. By Teresa Robeson. Illus. by Rebecca Huang. Sterling.
The contributions of overlooked scientist Wu Chien Shiung are celebrated here, and the many obstacles she overcame acknowledged. 

Saturday. By Oge Mora. Illus. by the author. Little, Brown.
Saturdays are when Mom and Ava do special things together, even when they don't go as planned. 

Sing a Song: How “Lift Every Voice and Sing” Inspired Generations. By Kelly Starling Lyons. Illus. by Keith Mallett. Penguin/Nancy Paulsen.
This story behind the Black National Anthem, “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” shows its impact over the generations.

Small in the City. By Sydney Smith. Illus. by the author. Holiday/Neal Porter.
While searching for his cat, a child offers advice on how to survive the big city when you're small.

A Stone Sat Still. By Brendan Wenzel. Illus. by the author. Chronicle.
A stone quietly sits as time passes, different creatures make use it of, and the world changes. 

Stop! Bot! By James Yang. Illus. by the author. Viking. (Geisel Medal Book)

Stormy: A Story about Finding a Forever Home. By Guojing. Illus. by the author. Random/Schwartz & Wade.
Beautifully illustrated, this wordless story emotionally depicts the relationship between a woman and homeless dog.

Thinker: My Puppy Poet and Me. By Eloise Greenfield. Illus. by Ehsan Abdollahi. Sourcebooks/Jabberwocky.
In narrative verse, a puppy named Thinker and his boy ponder life, play, and go about their day.

Todos Iguales / All Equal: Un Corrido De Lemon Grove / A Ballad of Lemon Grove. By Christy Hale. Illus. by the author. Lee & Low.
This bilingual picture book depicts the events of the Lemon Grove Incident, the first successful school desegregation case in the U.S.

¡Vamos! Let’s Go to the Market. By Raúl the Third. Illus. by the author. HMH/Versify. 
Little Lobo and his trusty dog Bernabé deliver goods to the eclectic and bustling Mercado. (Belpré Illustrator Honor Book)

What Is Given from the Heart. By Patricia C. McKissack. Illus. by April Harrison. Random/Schwartz & Wade.
After his neighbors lose everything in a fire, a young child finds his own way to contribute to the community’s response.

When Aidan Became a Brother. By Kyle Lukoff. Illus. by Kaylani Juanita. Lee & Low.
A transgender boy and his parents prepare for a new baby. 

When Spring Comes to the DMZ. By Uk-Bae Lee. Translated by Chungyon Won and Aileen Won. Plough. (Batchelder Honor Book)

Why? By Laura Vaccaro Seeger. Illus. by the author. Holiday/Neal Porter.
Bear answers rabbit’s many questions in a thought-provoking picture book.

MIDDLE 

All in a Drop: How Antony van Leeuwenhoek Discovered an Invisible World. By Lori Alexander. Illus. by Vivian Mildenberger. HMH. (Sibert Honor Book)

The Beast Player. By Nahoko Uehashi. Illus. by Yuta Onoda. Tr. by Cathy Hirano. Holt/Godwin. (Batchelder Honor Book) 

Because of the Rabbit. By Cynthia Lord. Scholastic.
Emma helps her father rescue a pet rabbit that supports her socialization as she transitions into public school.

The Bridge Home. By Padma Venkatraman. Penguin/Nancy Paulsen.
Determined to escape their abusive father, Viji and her sister run away and make a new home on a bridge in Chennai, India.

The Distance Between Me and the Cherry Tree. By Paola Peretti. Illus. by Carolina Rabei. Tr. by Denise Muir. Atheneum. (Batchelder Honor Book)

Each Tiny Spark. By Pablo Cartaya. Penguin/Kokila.
Emilia faces family challenges when her dad returns from overseas military service.
  
For Black Girls Like Me. By Mariama J. Lockington. Farrar.
Makeda, adopted into a white family, struggles to fit in and find herself at home and in school.

The Forgotten Girl. By India Hill Brown. Scholastic.
Two classmates discover an abandoned grave, launching a ghost story that brings the history of segregation to life.

Hector: A Boy, a Protest, and the Photograph That Changed Apartheid. By Adrienne Wright. Illus. by the author. Page Street.
The true story of the dramatic photograph of a young boy’s tragic death that became a symbol of the injustice of Apartheid.

Indian No More. By Charlene Willing McManis and Traci Sorrell. Lee & Low/Tu.
In 1954, Regina and her family move from their reservation to Los Angeles after their tribe is terminated by the U.S. government.

It Rained Warm Bread: Moishe Moskowitz's Story of Hope. By Gloria Moskowitz-Sweet and Hope Anita Smith. Illus. by Lea Lyon. Holt/Christy Ottaviano.
Spare poetry documents Moishe's struggle for survival during the Holocaust.

Lalani of the Distant Sea. By Erin Entrada Kelly. Illus. by Lian Cho. Greenwillow.
A young girl sets out to save her island of Sanlagita, which is struggling with drought and sickness. 

Let 'er Buck!: George Fletcher, the People's Champion. By Vaunda Micheaux Nelson. Illus. by Gordon C. James. Carolrhoda/Lerner.
George Fletcher’s rise to fame as a rodeo champion is recounted with colorful language, à la old Westerns, and expressive oil paintings.

Lety Out Loud. by Angela Cervantes. Scholastic. (Belpré Author Honor Book)

Pie in the Sky. By Remy Lai. Illus. by the author. Holt.
Told with heart and humor, Jingwen adjusts to a new culture and language after his family immigrates to Australia.

Scary Stories for Young Foxes. Christian McKay Heidicker. Illus. by Junyi Wu. Holt. 
Two fox kits encounter a variety of terrifying episodes in this chilling and skillfully crafted horror book for children. (Newbery Honor Book)

Some Places More than Others. By Renée Watson. Bloomsbury.
Amara copes with family tensions during a trip from her home in Oregon to visit her father’s family in Harlem. 

Stargazing. By Jen Wang. Illus. by the author. First Second.
Despite opposite personalities, Moon and Christine develop an unlikely friendship in this lively graphic novel. 

OLDER

Accused! The Trials of the Scottsboro Boys: Lies, Prejudice, and the Fourteenth Amendment. By Larry Dane Brimner. Boyds Mills/Calkins Creek.
The impeccably researched story of nine African American young men falsely accused of raping two white girls in 1931 Scottsboro, Alabama.

All the Greys on Greene Street. By Laura Tucker. Illus. by Kelly Murphy. Viking.
Olympia must navigate both the disappearance of her father and her mother's growing struggle with depression. 

Beverly, Right Here. By Kate DiCamillo. Candlewick.
After the loss of her beloved dog, Beverly runs away from home and starts a new life.  

Born to Fly: The First Women's Air Race across America. By Steve Sheinkin. Illus. by Bijou Karman. Roaring Brook.
The well-researched, compellingly written account of 20 aviators competing in the first all-female, cross-country air derby.

Games of Deception: The True Story of the First U.S. Olympic Basketball Team at the 1936 Olympics in Hitler's Germany. By Andrew Maraniss. Philomel.
This brief history of how basketball became an Olympic sport looks at the ethical issues surrounding the U.S. team’s decision to participate in the 1936 Olympics. 

Genesis Begins Again. By Alicia D. Williams. Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy.  
Painfully self-conscious about her dark skin, 13-year-old Genesis faces new challenges when her family moves to suburban Detroit and she starts a new school. (Newbery Honor Book)

I Can Make This Promise. By Christine Day. Harper.
Twelve-year-old Edie discovers a box in her family’s attic that reveals her mother’s Suquamish/Duwamish heritage.

An Indigenous People’s History of the United States for Young People. By Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz. Adapted by Jean Mendoza and Debbie Reese. Beacon.
This unflinching adaptation makes crucial history accessible for children and teens.

Infinite Hope: A Black Artist's Journey from World War II to Peace. By Ashley Bryan. Illus. by the author. Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy.
A moving memoir recounts the WWII experiences of an artistic young man through his contemporaneous writing and illustration on the front line.

Look Both Ways: A Tale Told in Ten Blocks. By Jason Reynolds. Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy.
What happens after school? These 10 interconnected stories will tell you, block by block.

Maybe He Just Likes You. By Barbara Dee. Aladdin.
Mila, a seventh-grader, experiences sexual harassment and unwanted attention from a group of classmates.

New Kid. By Jerry Craft. Illus. by the author. Harper. 
A funny, thought-provoking graphic novel that details Jordan Banks’ seventh-grade year as one of the few African-American kids in an elite suburban school. (Newbery Medal Book)

Ordinary Hazards: A Memoir. By Nikki Grimes. WordSong. (Sibert Honor Book)

Other Words for Home. By Jasmine Warga. Balzer+Bray. 
Themes of conflict, home, identity, the arts, and prejudice are interwoven in this powerful verse novel about a Syrian girl’s new life in America. (Newbery Honor Book)

The Other Half of Happy. By Rebecca Balcárcel. Chronicle.
A biracial girl explores her Guatemalan heritage and deals with family struggles, while navigating the realities of middle school. (Belpré Author Honor Book)

A Place to Belong. By Cynthia Kadohata. Illus. by Julia Kuo. Holt.
After her Japanese American parents are released from an internment camp, 12-year-old Hanako travels with her family to start a new life in post-war Japan.  

The Poison Eaters: Fighting Danger and Fraud in our Food and Drugs. By Gail Jarrow. Boyds Mills/Calkins Creek.
From formaldehyde in your milk to borax your beans comes this fun, informative exploration of the FDA and how it works to keep our food safe.

Sal & Gabi Break the Universe. By Carlos Hernandez. Disney/Hyperion. 
Sci-fi adventure and Cuban culture blend as Sal Vidón and his friend Gabi travel to parallel universes and try to survive middle school. (Belpré Author Award Book)

A Story about Cancer (with A Happy Ending). By India Desjardins. Illus. by Marianne Ferrer. Quarto/Frances Lincoln.
In this illustrated book for older children, a teenage girl waits for test results and reflects on her five-year battle with leukemia.

Strange Birds: A Field Guide to Ruffling Feathers. By Celia C. Pérez. Penguin/Kokila.
Four wildly different middle-school girls join together in social activism to protest an outdated tradition.
 
Survivors of the Holocaust: True Stories of Six Extraordinary Children. Ed. by Kath Shackleton. Illus. by Zane Whittingham. Sourcebooks/Jabberwocky.
A compelling collection of six little-known, true stories of child Holocaust survivors, told in graphic novel format.

They Called Us Enemy. By George Takei. Illus. by Harmony Becker. Top Shelf.
A graphic memoir of a Japanese American family during the internment years in California.  

This Promise of Change: One Girl's Story in the Fight for School Equality. By Jo Allen Joyce and Debbie Levy. Bloomsbury. 
A first-person, verse account of the challenges faced by the first African American students to integrate into an American high school. (Sibert Honor Book)

Torpedoed: The True Story of the World War II Sinking of "The Children's Ship." By Deborah Heiligman. Holt.
The incredible nonfiction tale of the German submarine attack on a ship carrying 100 child refugees during WWII.

Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky. By Kwame Mbalia. Disney/Hyperion.
While visiting his grandparents in Alabama, Tristan enters into a parallel universe populated by characters from African and African American traditional stories. 

Wait, What? A Comic Book Guide to Relationships, Bodies, and Growing Up. By Heather Corinna and Isabella Rotman. Illus. by Heather Corinna. Limerence.
The founder of Scarleteen.com takes a head-on approach to discussing gender, sexuality, identities, and more.

We Are Displaced. By Malala Yousafzai. Little, Brown.
Yousafzai recounts her story of displacement and introduces refugee girls world-wide, putting faces and stories to the demographics of immigration. 

Where the Heart Is. By Jo Knowles. Candlewick.
Rachel negotiates a summer of changing friendships, family financial disaster, a new job, and a growing awareness of her sexual identity.

Words on Fire. By Jennifer Nielsen. Scholastic.
Set during the nineteenth-century Russian occupation of Lithuania, Audra and her family smuggle books to save Lithuanian language and culture.

The Year We Fell from Space. By Amy Sarig King. Scholastic/Arthur A. Levine.
As Liberty’s family struggles with divorce and mental illness, her life begins to spin out of control.

ALL AGES

I Remember: Poems and Pictures of Heritage. Ed. by Lee Bennett Hopkins. Lee & Low.
Sixteen illustrators and fourteen poets come together to address themes of culture, identity, and community.

Liberty Arrives!: How America's Grandest Statue Found Her Home. By Robert Byrd. Illus. by the author. Dial.
This informational picture book introduces many people involved in Lady Liberty's journey from France to her final destination in New York Harbor. 

A Place to Land: Martin Luther King and the Speech that Inspired a Nation. By Barry Wittenstein. Illus. by Jerry Pinkney. Holiday/Neal Porter.
A look at how Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous “I Have a Dream Speech” was written and the voices that shaped its message.

Soldier for Equality: José de la Luz Sáenz and the Great War. By Duncan Tonatiuh. Illus. by the author. Abrams. (Belpré Author Honor Book)
A fascinating picture-book biography of Mexican American Jose de la Luz Saenz’s fight for equality as a U.S. soldier during WWI.
 
Thanku: Poems of Gratitude. Ed. by Miranda Paul. Illus. by Marlena Myles. Lerner/Millbrook.
Thirty-two diverse poets explore moments of gratitude found throughout the year. 

The Undefeated. By Kwame Alexander. Illus. by Kadir Nelson. HMH/Versify. 
Alexander's poetry and Nelson's illustration pair wonderfully in this stunning ode to the courage and strength of African Americans. (Caldecott Medal Book,  Newbery Honor Book)

You Are Home: An Ode to the National Parks. By Evan Turk. Illus. by the author. Atheneum.
Bold illustrations and poetic text showcase America’s famous and lesser-known National Parks.

2020 Notable Children's Books Committee

Melody R. Frese, Chair
Alexandra Bell
Christopher A. Brown
Beatrice Elizabeth Canales
Anna R. Healy
KT Horning
Marie A. LeJeune
Sharon Ann Levin
Janelle B. Mathis
Sada Mozer
Kimberly Anne Patton

Marissa Bucci, NCB Administrative Assistant

Other ALA Awards