Award-Winning Books: 2020

The following books were recognized by a variety of book/media awards in 2020, including the Caldecott Medal, the Pura Belpré Award, the Walter Award, the Coretta Scott King Book Award, the Stonewall Book Award, the Asian/Pacific American Librarians Association Award for Literature, the Sydney Taylor Book Award, and the Schneider Family Book Award.

The featured titles include books for children and young adults.

A Good Kind of Trouble

drawing of a girl from behind and she has a pink backpack with patches on it.
Age Level: 9-12

Twelve-year-old Shayla is allergic to trouble. All she wants to do is to follow the rules. (Oh, and she’d also like to make it through seventh grade with her best friendships intact, learn to run track, and have a cute boy see past her giant forehead.)

But in junior high, it’s like all the rules have changed. Now she’s suddenly questioning who her best friends are and some people at school are saying she’s not black enough. Wait, what?

Across the Bay

Drawing of a boy running down the street with a cat and carrying a Puerto Rican flag.
Illustrated by: Carlos Aponte
Age Level: 3-6

Carlitos lives in a happy home with his mother, his abuela, and Coco the cat. Life in his hometown is cozy as can be, but the call of the capital city pulls Carlitos across the bay in search of his father. Jolly piragüeros, mischievous cats, and costumed musicians color this tale of love, family, and the true meaning of home.

Dancing Hands: How Teresa Carreño Played the Piano for President Lincoln

Illustration of girl playing piano while flowers rise above her.
Age Level: 6-9

As a little girl, Teresa Carreño loved to let her hands dance across the beautiful keys of the piano. If she felt sad, music cheered her up, and when she was happy, the piano helped her share that joy. Soon she was writing her own songs and performing in grand cathedrals. Then a revolution in Venezuela forced her family to flee to the United States. Teresa felt lonely in this unfamiliar place, where few of the people she met spoke Spanish. Worst of all, there was fighting in her new home, too—the Civil War.

Fry Bread: A Native American Family Story

Fry Bread: A Native American Family Tradition
Illustrated by: Juana Martinez-Neal
Age Level: 3-6

What is fry bread? It’s food, shape, sound, art, history, and more — so much more. It is a tradition shared by a member of the Mekusukey Seminoles. A varied group of children and elders are depicted contributing to the recipe as the text describes its complex role in American history. Additional information is appended to create a book that can be used in both simple and complex ways.

Video bonus: See Juana Martinez-Neal talk about her illustrations for this book in our preview of our new interview with her! 

Just Ask!: Be Different, Be Brave, Be You

Illustrated by: Rafael López
Age Level: 6-9

Feeling different, especially as a kid, can be tough. But in the same way that different types of plants and flowers make a garden more beautiful and enjoyable, different types of people make our world more vibrant and wonderful. In Just Ask!, United States Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor celebrates the different abilities kids (and people of all ages) have. Using her own experience as a child who was diagnosed with diabetes, Justice Sotomayor writes about children with all sorts of challenges--and looks at the special powers those kids have as well.

Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up with Me

Drawing of a girl looking over a boy's shoulder.
Illustrated by: Rosemary Valero-O'Connell
Age Level: 14-16

Author Mariko Tamaki and illustrator Rosemary Valero-O’Connell bring to life a sweet and spirited tale of young love in Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up with Me, a graphic novel that asks us to consider what happens when we ditch the toxic relationships we crave to embrace the healthy ones we need.

Laura Dean, the most popular girl in high school, was Frederica Riley's dream girl: charming, confident, and SO cute. There's just one problem: Laura Dean is maybe not the greatest girlfriend.

Lety Out Loud

Photo of a girl laying on her stomach and writing with a dog next to her.
Age Level: 9-12

Can Lety find her voice before it's too late?

Lety Muñoz's first language is Spanish, and she likes to take her time putting her words together. She loves volunteering at the Furry Friends Animal Shelter because the dogs and cats there don't care if she can't always find the right word.

My Papi Has a Motorcycle

Illustration of a girl riding on the back of her dad's motorcycle.
Illustrated by: Zeke Peña
Age Level: 6-9

When Daisy Ramona zooms around her neighborhood with her papi on his motorcycle, she sees the people and places she's always known. She also sees a community that is rapidly changing around her.

But as the sun sets purple-blue-gold behind Daisy Ramona and her papi, she knows that the love she feels will always be there.

With vivid illustrations and text bursting with heart, My Papi Has a Motorcycle is a young girl's love letter to her hardworking dad and to memories of home that we hold close in the midst of change.

Other Words for Home

Age Level: 9-12

Jude never thought she’d be leaving her beloved older brother and father behind, all the way across the ocean in Syria. But when things in her hometown start becoming volatile, Jude and her mother are sent to live in Cincinnati with relatives. At first, everything in America seems too fast and too loud. The American movies that Jude has always loved haven’t quite prepared her for starting school in the US — and her new label of “Middle Eastern,” an identity she’s never known before.

Pet

Drawing of a girl standing in a city of small buildings.
Age Level: 12-14

There are no monsters anymore, or so the children in the city of Lucille are taught. Jam and her best friend, Redemption, have grown up with this lesson all their life. But when Jam meets Pet, a creature made of horns and colors and claws, who emerges from one of her mother's paintings and a drop of Jam's blood, she must reconsider what she's been told. Pet has come to hunt a monster, and the shadow of something grim lurks in Redemption's house.

Planting Stories: The Life of Librarian and Storyteller Pura Belpré

Drawing of a woman and four children sitting on a stoop reading and flowers grow around them.
Illustrated by: Paola Escobar
Age Level: 6-9
Language: Spanish

When she came to America in 1921, Pura carried the folk tales of her Puerto Rican homeland. Finding a new home at the New York Public Library as a bilingual assistant, she turned her popular retellings into libros and spread story seeds across the land. Today, these seeds have grown into a lush landscape as generations of children and storytellers continue to share her tales and celebrate Pura's legacy. This portrait of the influential librarian, author, and puppeteer reminds us of the power of storytelling and the extraordinary woman who opened doors and championed bilingual literature.

Sal and Gabi Break the Universe

Drawing of boy and trying to hold together the broken letters of the title.
Age Level: 9-12

This brilliant sci-fi romp with Cuban influence poses this question: What would you do if you had the power to reach through time and space and retrieve anything you want, including your mother, who is no longer living (in this universe, anyway)?

How did a raw chicken get inside Yasmany's locker?

Soldier for Equality: José de la Luz Sáenz and the Great War

Drawing of two children and a man look up as they are surrounded by barbed wire and explosions.
Age Level: 6-9

José de la Luz Sáenz (1888–1953) — or Luz — believed in fighting for what was right. Although he was born in the United States, he and his family experienced prejudice because of their Mexican heritage. When World War I broke out, Luz volunteered to join the fight. Because of his ability to quickly learn languages, he became part of the Intelligence Office in Europe. However, despite his hard work and intellect, Luz often didn’t receive credit for his contributions. Upon his return to the US, he joined other Mexican-Americans whom he had met in the army to fight for equality.

The Bridge Home

Drawing of children running across a bridge at sunset.
Age Level: 9-12

Four determined homeless children make a life for themselves in Padma Venkatraman's stirring middle-grade debut.

The Other Half of Happy

Illustrated mosaic of images of flowers, water drops, sea life.
Age Level: 12-14

Quijana must figure out which parts of herself are most important, and which pieces come together to make her whole.

This is a heartfelt poetic portrayal of a girl growing up, fitting in, and learning what it means to belong.

One-half Guatemalan, one-half American: When Quijana's Guatemalan cousins move to town, her dad seems ashamed that she doesn't know more about her family's heritage.

One-half crush, one-half buddy: When Quijana meets Zuri and Jayden, she knows she's found true friends. But she can't help the growing feelings she has for Jayden.

With the Fire on High

Illustration of a young woman surrounded by oranges, mangoes, and flowers.
Age Level: 14-16

Ever since she got pregnant freshman year, Emoni Santiago's life has been about making the tough decisions — doing what has to be done for her daughter and her abuela. The one place she can let all that go is in the kitchen, where she adds a little something magical to everything she cooks, turning her food into straight-up goodness. Even though she dreams of working as a chef after she graduates, Emoni knows that it's not worth her time to pursue the impossible.

¡Vamos! Let's Go to the Market

Illustration of fox in hat and bandana pulling a wagon with a dog and boxes in it.
Age Level: 3-6

Bilingual in a new way, this paper over board book teaches readers simple words in Spanish as they experience the bustling life of a border town. Follow Little Lobo and his dog Bernabe as they deliver supplies to a variety of vendors, selling everything from sweets to sombreros, portraits to piñatas, carved masks to comic books!