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Top 10+ Books To Read in 2020: Books for Kids

Do you want to raise a reader? To expose your child to the enthralling worlds that lie between the covers of a book and introduce them to the joy of discovering a new favorite story? In the words of one of our very favorite authors J.K. Rowling: “If you don’t like to read, you haven’t found the right book.” Whether your child already loves to read, or they’re still searching for that book that will spark their passion, here’s our list of the Top 10+ Books to Read in 2020 for kids!

This list includes board, picture and chapter books, and also covers a variety of genres. Board books are best for babies and toddlers from ages newborn to 2 or 3. Picture books are generally great options for toddlers and for preschool and kindergarten age children. Picture books are especially enjoyable for adults to read aloud with young kids. The chapter books on our list are generally best for elementary through early middle school age tween kids. You can filter to sort by the best book type for your kid.

Without further ado, go forth and read!

Grandpa's Top Threes book
#1
Grandpa's Top Threes
Written by Wendy Meddour and illustrated by Daniel Egneus
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-6
Thoughts from Grammy

Although you might not guess it from the cover, the illustrations in this book are quite wonderful! There is a lot to look at on each page and it all relates beautifully to what is happening in the story. The illustrations also help to convey how busy and exuberant the little boy is, especially compared with the grandpa, whose posture subtly lifts, along with his grief as the story progresses. I appreciate that while this is a book about dealing with death and grief, it isn’t sappy or even especially sad. It is a beautiful, straight-forward look at the ways we remember people we have lost and how sharing those memories with others helps to keep them alive.

A young boy’s original game coaxes a grieving grandpa to reconnect with the world in a touching intergenerational story of love and resilience. Henry loves talking with Grandpa, but Grandpa has stopped listening. Mom says to just give him time. But Henry wants to talk to Grandpa now. So Henry tries his favorite game: Top Threes. And something amazing happens: Grandpa starts talking again. Out of a tale of favorite sandwiches and zoo animals, outings and trains, emerges a moving story about love, loss, and the wonder of grannies and grandpas.

To the Sea book
#2
To the Sea
Written and illustrated by Cale Atkinson
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-6
Thoughts from Mom of Boys

The stunning illustrations in this book truly make you stop and stare as you read the delightful tale of friendship and kindness. A message of watching out for the little guy or discovering the truth about someone who is a little different are great messages weaved throughout the pages of “To the Sea.” Very easy to read with minimal text, this book is definitely one you and your little reader will want to pick up again and again.

Sometimes Tim feels invisible at school-until one day, when Tim meets Sam. But Sam isn’t just any new friend: he’s a blue whale, and he can’t find his way home! Returning Sam to the sea is hard work, but Tim is determined to help. After all, it’s not every day you meet a new friend! This picture book about the power of friendship by new talent Cale Atkinson is brought to life by charming, dynamic illustrations.

Eyes book
#3
Eyes
Written by Michael E. Smith
board book
Recommend Ages: 0-3
Thoughts from Grammy

This stunning book is total candy for the eyes! Striking, full-page close-ups of animal eyes in all their diversity with a single word per spread to name the animal. It is nice that some of the less common animals make an appearance in this book. It is fun to make the animal noises and simple enough to be one of the first books a toddler can ‘read’ to you!

A children’s book about animal eyes. Have you ever noticed the uniqueness of animal eyes. The range and beauty is astounding. This book features 10 close ups of animal faces, honing in on their eyes. Use it as a tool to teach animal sounds and expose your little ones to the beauty in the world around us.

Adrian Simcox Does NOT Have a Horse book
#4
Adrian Simcox Does NOT Have a Horse
Written by Marcy Campbell and illustrated by Corinna Luyken
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-5
Thoughts from The Book Snob Mom

This book is just beautiful: the story itself, the message, and of course the illustrations! The way that Adrian Simcox’s white horse with the golden mane emerges from the white space, again and again, is amazing and truly captures the power and reality of imagination. Reminiscent of the oft-posed question of which is better—a lie that brings a smile or a truth that brings a tear—this story lands soundly on the side of the beauty of imagination and our power to create our own world.

A classic in the making, this heartwarming story about empathy and imagination is one that families will treasure for years to come.

Adrian Simcox tells anyone who will listen that he has a horse—the best and most beautiful horse anywhere.

But Chloe does NOT believe him. Adrian Simcox lives in a tiny house. Where would he keep a horse? He has holes in his shoes. How would he pay for a horse?

The more Adrian talks about his horse, the angrier Chloe gets. But when she calls him out at school and even complains about him to her mom, Chloe doesn’t get the vindication she craves. She gets something far more important.

Written with tenderness and poignancy and gorgeously illustrated, this book will show readers that kindness is always rewarding, understanding is sweeter than judgment, and friendship is the best gift one can give.

Pokko and the Drum book
#5
Pokko and the Drum
Written and illustrated by Matthew Forsythe
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

From E.B. White Read Aloud honor artist Matthew Forsythe comes a picture book about a magical drum, an emerald forest, and the little frog who dares to make her own music.

The biggest mistake Pokko’s parents ever made was giving her the drum. When Pokko takes the drum deep into the forest it is so quiet, so very quiet that Pokko decides to play. And before she knows it she is joined by a band of animals —first the raccoon, then the rabbit, then the wolf—and soon the entire forest is following her. Will Pokko hear her father’s voice when he calls her home?

Pokko and the Drum is a story about art, persistence, and a family of frogs living in a mushroom.

  1. Black Is a Rainbow Color - A child reflects on the meaning of being Black in this moving and powerful anthem about a people, a culture, a history, and a legacy that lives on. Red is a rainbow color. Green sits next to blue. Yellow, orange, violet, indigo, They are rainbow colors, too, but My color is black . . . And there’s no BLACK in rainbows. From the wheels of a bicycle to the robe on Thurgood Marshall’s back, Black surrounds our lives. It is a color to simply describe some of our favorite things, but it also evokes a deeper sentiment about the incredible people who helped change the world and a community that continues to grow and thrive. Stunningly illustrated by Caldecott Honoree and Coretta Scott King Award winner Ekua Holmes, Black Is a Rainbow Color is a sweeping celebration told through debut author Angela Joy’s rhythmically captivating and unforgettable words.

  2. Abe's Honest Words - The Goodfather - Between the poetic story by award-winning author Doreen Rappaport and remarkable illustrations by Caldecott Medal winner Kadir Nelson, this biography of Abraham Lincoln is a must have for any personal library. As with Rappaport’s other biographical children’s books, Honest Abe’s Words offers a unique contribution to an already thoroughly documented life. The caliber of this title matches the caliber of the man whose life and actions it details.

  3. Wherever You Go - Readerly Mom - This book is a gem! The illustrations are so sweet (and I have two big time bunny lovers, so they’re extra enthusiastic about the rabbits in this). The text is well-written, rhyming (which we love), and meaningful. The sentiments expressed, about heading off into the world and experiencing all that life has to offer, are beautiful. It’s a lot like Oh the Places You’ll Go, but with a very different artistic flavor.

  4. The Proudest Blue - The Book Snob Mom - This book is absolutely stunning—the illustrations, the message… everything. You’ll feel uplifted and inspired reading it, with all the warm fuzzies.

What Is Given from the Heart book
#10
What Is Given from the Heart
Written by Patricia C. McKissack and illustrated by April Harrison
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8
Thoughts from The Book Snob Mom

This is a beautiful book! The illustrations are phenomenal and the message is one that sinks deep into the soul—the joy that comes from giving not from our plenty but from our own lack.

This final, magnificent picture book from three-time Coretta Scott King Award winner and Newbery Honor author Patricia McKissack is a poignant and uplifting celebration of the joy of giving.

“Misery loves company,” Mama says to James Otis. It’s been a rough couple of months for them, but Mama says as long as they have their health and strength, they’re blessed. One Sunday before Valentine’s Day, Reverend Dennis makes an announcement during the service— the Temples have lost everything in a fire, and the church is collecting anything that might be useful to them. James thinks hard about what he can add to the Temple’s “love box,” but what does he have worth giving? With her extraordinary gift for storytelling, McKissack—with stunning illustrations by Harrison—delivers a touching, powerful tale of compassion and reminds us all that what is given from the heart, reaches the heart.

The Snatchabook book
#11
The Snatchabook
Written by Helen Docherty and illustrated by Thomas Docherty
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-6
Thoughts from The Book Snob Mom

The charming rhyming text and sweet yet spunky illustrations of The Snatchabook were created by a husband and wife team—how cool! Together they weave a FANTASTIC story about a love of reading and friendship that teaches kindness, understanding, empathy, and forgiveness… all while being absolutely enjoyable! This is sure to become an all-time favorite—it is one of ours!

Where have all the bedtime stories gone? A delightful addition to the picture book canon about the love of reading One dark, dark night in Burrow Down, a rabbit named Eliza Brown found a book and settled down…when a Snatchabook flew into town. It’s bedtime in the woods of Burrow Down, and all the animals are ready for their bedtime story. But books are mysteriously disappearing. Eliza Brown decides to to stay awake and catch the book thief. It turns out to be a little creature called the Snatchabook who has no one to read him a bedtime story. All turns out well when the books are returned and the animals take turns reading bedtime stories to the Snatchabook.

McToad Mows Tiny Island book
#12
McToad Mows Tiny Island
Written by Tom Angleberger and illustrated by John Hendrix
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8
Thoughts from Mr. Staccato

I wrote this book off when I first read it, but my son immediately took to it. He asked to read it over and over again. I found that with each iteration I actually enjoyed the book more and more (which is untrue of many books). The story follows a cheerful McToad who goes to great lengths to mow Tiny Island each Thursday. To reach the island he must transport his lawnmower by airplane, boat, helicopter, and train which seems like a great deal of effort, but not for McToad who seems to enjoy every minute of the journey.

McToad likes Thursdays. Why? Because on every other day of the week, McToad mows Big Island, but on Thursdays, McToad mows Tiny Island. To do so, he puts his mower on the back of a truck, which drives to a train, which goes to a helicopter, which flies to a boat, which uses a crane to put the lawn mower onto Tiny Island. There McToad mows and drinks some lemonade, and before you know it, it’s time to turn around and go back home. But first, the mower has to get lifted by a crane, to get put back on a boat, which is lifted by a helicopter, and . . . well . . . you get the idea.

Kindness Rules! book
#13
Kindness Rules!
Written and illustrated by Sabrina Moyle and Eunice Moyle
board book
Recommend Ages: 0-3
Thoughts from The Book Snob Mom

I love the illustrations in this book, along with the message and content. Each pair of facing pages tells the main point in one succinct rhyme but then there are other little speech bubbles chiming in with other helpful bits of behavioral wisdom, which is a fun little addition. One note: While the artistic handwritten lettering is absolutely adorable, it would make it a little hard for beginning readers.

Manners don’t come naturally to everyone! But did you know that elephants are known for their impeccable etiquette? It’s true! This hilarious guide to good manners offers many fun teaching moments for kids and their parents—it covers all the basics for the preschool set, from saying “please” and “thank you” to sharing and being kind to others. Filled with bright, adorable illustrations in Hello!Lucky’s inimitable style, young children will love learning about manners with this delightful, sturdy board book.

This Little Artist book
#14
This Little Artist
Written by Joan Holub and illustrated by Daniel Roode
board book
Recommend Ages: 3-5
Thoughts from Mom of Boys

I love these little books! It is even teaching me something new, which makes me grateful it has good subject matter for my little ones! Did you know Frida Kahlo painted mainly from her bed because she was ill? Can we do hard things as well? Great book.

Painting, shaping, making art. With creative joy, hands, and heart. Little artists have great big imaginations. In this follow up to This Little President, This Little Explorer, This Little Trailblazer, and This Little Scientist now even the youngest readers can learn all about great and empowering artists in history! Highlighting ten memorable artists who paved the way, parents and little ones alike will love this creativity primer full of fun, age-appropriate facts and bold illustrations.

  1. A to Z Menagerie - Step right up to Suzy Ultman’s alphabet menagerie! This unique multisensory reading experience features a die-cut letter to trace and a satisfying pull-tab reveal for each letter of the alphabet. In addition, Suzy Ultman fills each page with a diverse and colorful collection of illustrated first words to find and identify. An alphabet book unlike any other, this feast for the eyes and the imagination teaches young readers hand-eye coordination, prediction skills, and rich vocabulary. Learning from A to Z has never been this charming!

  2. When Grandma Gives You a Lemon Tree - The Goodfather - The illustrations and story are very clever, both in describing what not to do when your Grandma gives you an undesired gift, and in showing what good can come from being gracious in receiving an unexpected gift and mixing in a little ingenuity and hard work.

  3. Where Is My Pink Sweater? - Follow Rudy as he searches for his favorite pink sweater in this interactive board book. Rudy is looking for his favorite pink sweater. It’s a little small—he’s growing out of it—yet he can’t help but treasure it! The nine jiving llamas haven’t seen it, and neither have the eight prima pigerinas. Lift the flaps and peek through the die-cuts as Rudy follows a trail of pink yarn from his bedroom to the kitchen to the backyard and everywhere in between. This sweet, adventurous story is filled with bold and humorous illustrations, plus a fun counting element along the way.

  4. King of the Tightrope: When the Great Blondin Ruled Niagara - In 1859, Jean-Francois Gravelet, known as The Great Blondin, walked across the Niagara River on a tightrope. What kind of man would do something like that? And more importantly, how do you become that man? At the age of four, Jean-Francois Gravelet walked across his first balance beam. Later, he took to the tightrope like a spider to its web, and with his family troupe, he climbed toward stardom. Though his feats became more and more marvelous, he grew bored. That is, until he visited Niagara Falls and imagined doing something that no one else had ever accomplished. To cross the raging river, The Great Blondin needed an engineering process, determination, and a belief that what he could imagine, he could accomplish. In 1859, with all of the work completed, Blondin would step out onto the most dangerous tightrope walk he’d ever faced. Author Donna Janell Bowman’s trademark in-depth research gives readers a clear and exciting look into the accomplishments of The Great Blondin, as well as the hard work, determination, and meticulous mathematic and scientific planning it took to cross Niagara Falls on a tightrope. Adam Gustavson’s detailed illustrations turn this book into an experience that will inspire readers of all ages.

The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles book
#19
The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-12
Thoughts from B is for Bookworm

If I could, I’d rate this book higher! This has been my favorite chapter book for the past year, and is the perfect book to ignite and strengthen a reader’s imagination, all while going on an incredible, courageous journey.

The Whangdoodle was once the wisest, the kindest, and the most extraordinary creature in the world. Then he disappeared and created a wonderful land for himself and all the other remarkable animals — the ten-legged Sidewinders, the little furry Flukes, the friendly Whiffle Bird, and the treacherous, “oily” Prock. It was an almost perfect place where the last of the really great Whangdoodles could rule his kingdom with “peace, love and a sense of fun”— apart from and forgotten by people. But not completely forgotten. Professor Savant believed in the Whangdoodle. And when he told the three Potter children of his search for the spectacular creature, Lindy, Tom, and Ben were eager to reach Whangdoodleland. With the Professor’s help, they discovered the secret way. But waiting for them was the scheming Prock, who would use almost any means to keep them away from his beloved king. Only by skill and determination were the four travelers able to discover the last of the really great Whangdoodles and grant him his heart’s desire. Julie Andrews Edwards, star of stage and screen, has written a unique and beloved story that has become a modern classic. The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles is sure to continue to delight readers everywhere. This edition includes a new foreword by the author.

The Tale of Despereaux book
#20
The Tale of Despereaux
Written by Kate DiCamillo and illustrated by Timothy Basil Ering
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 9-12
Thoughts from B is for Bookworm

“The Tale of Despereaux” is a well-loved favorite, and for good reason! Kate DiCamillo is a wonderful author, and I loved this book and “Because of Winn-Dixie” growing up. This is a tale of love, adventure, and forgiveness that you’ll want to read again and again!

A brave mouse, a covetous rat, a wishful serving girl, and a princess named Pea come together in Kate DiCamillo’s Newbery Medal–winning tale.

Welcome to the story of Despereaux Tilling, a mouse who is in love with music, stories, and a princess named Pea. It is also the story of a rat called Roscuro, who lives in the darkness and covets a world filled with light. And it is the story of Miggery Sow, a slow-witted serving girl who harbors a simple, impossible wish. These three characters are about to embark on a journey that will lead them down into a horrible dungeon, up into a glittering castle, and, ultimately, into each other’s lives. What happens then? As Kate DiCamillo would say: Reader, it is your destiny to find out.

With black-and-white illustrations and a refreshed cover by Timothy Basil Ering.

The Star Thief book
#21
The Star Thief
Written by Lindsey Becker
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-12

The constellations come to life in this imaginative fantasy adventure debut. Honorine’s life as a maid at the Vidalia mansion is rather dull, dusting treasures from faraway places and daydreaming in front of maps of the world. But everything changes when she catches two brutish sailors ransacking Lord Vidalia’s study, and then follows a mysterious girl with wings out into the night…. Suddenly, Honorine is whisked into the middle of a battle between the crew of a spectacular steamship and a band of mythical constellations. The stars in the sky have come to life to defend themselves against those who want to harness their powers. Much to her surprise, Honorine is the crux of it all, the center of an epic clash between magic and science, the old ways and the new. But can this spirited young girl bring both sides of a larger-than-life fight together before they unleash an evil power even older than the stars?

Half Upon a Time book
#22
Half Upon a Time
Written by James Riley
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-12
Thoughts from B is for Bookworm

I love that Half Upon a time is a more modern, beautiful tangle of all of the fairy tale stories we know—or thought we knew. With a few fun twists, you won’t want to put the book down! Jack and May are on the run from the Hunstman and have so many adventures along the way. I didn’t want to put this book down. :)

In the village of Giant’s Hand Jack’s grandfather has been pushing him to find a princess and get married, so when a young lady falls out of the sky wearing a shirt that says “Punk Princess,” and she tells Jack that her grandmother, who looks suspiciously like the long-missing Snow White, has been kidnapped, Jack decides to help her.

New Kid book
#23
New Kid
Written and illustrated by Jerry Craft
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-12
Thoughts from The Goodfather

I liked the story’s lessons about not judging people based on stereotypes but instead getting to know them and the unifying impact of serving others.

Perfect for fans of Raina Telgemeier and Gene Luen Yang, New Kid is a timely, honest graphic novel about starting over at a new school where diversity is low and the struggle to fit in is real, from award-winning author-illustrator Jerry Craft.

Seventh grader Jordan Banks loves nothing more than drawing cartoons about his life. But instead of sending him to the art school of his dreams, his parents enroll him in a prestigious private school known for its academics, where Jordan is one of the few kids of color in his entire grade.

As he makes the daily trip from his Washington Heights apartment to the upscale Riverdale Academy Day School, Jordan soon finds himself torn between two worlds—and not really fitting into either one. Can Jordan learn to navigate his new school culture while keeping his neighborhood friends and staying true to himself?

    Did you enjoy our children's book recommendations? Did we miss one of your favorites? Let us know in the comments below!