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
Language: English

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
Language: English

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
Language: English

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.

Double Bass Blues

Drawing of young boy playing a stand up bass.
Age Level: 6-9
Language: English

Nic is an aspiring musician whose life spans two different worlds--his suburban school where he wows his friends in orchestra, and the busy city streets of his home where he's jostled by the crowd. Nic makes his way home from a busy day at school with a double bass on his back, the symphony of his surroundings in his heart, and a sweet surprise for the reader at the end of his journey. This is a sweet, melodious picture book about how dedication, music, and family can overcome any obstacle.

Fry Bread: A Native American Family Story

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

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! 

Genesis Begins Again

Profile of a black woman with slashes of different skin color shades on her cheek.
Age Level: 9-12
Language: English

There are ninety-six things Genesis hates about herself. She knows the exact number because she keeps a list. Like #95: Because her skin is so dark, people call her charcoal and eggplant—even her own family. And #61: Because her family is always being put out of their house, belongings laid out on the sidewalk for the world to see. When your dad is a gambling addict and loses the rent money every month, eviction is a regular occurrence.

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

Illustrated by: Rafael López
Age Level: 6-9
Language: English

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
Language: English

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
Language: English

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
Language: English

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.

New Kid

Drawing of a boy in a sweatshirt and backpack writing in a notebook.
Age Level: 9-12
Language: English

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.

Other Words for Home

Age Level: 9-12
Language: English

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
Language: English

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: English

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.

Queen of Physics: How Wu Chien Shiung Helped Unlock the Secrets of the Atom

A woman in a lab coat sits in front of books and physics symbols float around her.
Illustrated by: Rebecca Huang
Age Level: 3-6
Language: English

When Wu Chien Shiung was born in China 100 years ago, most girls did not attend school; no one considered them as smart as boys. But her parents felt differently. Giving her a name meaning “Courageous Hero,” they encouraged her love of learning and science. This engaging biography follows Wu Chien Shiung as she battles sexism and racism to become what Newsweek magazine called the “Queen of Physics” for her work on beta decay.

Sal and Gabi Break the Universe

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

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
Language: English

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.

Someday We Will Fly

A drawing of an acrobat balancing on two chairs with tanks and planes behind her.
Age Level: 12-14
Language: English

Warsaw, Poland. The year is 1940 and Lillia is fifteen when her mother, Alenka, disappears and her father flees with Lillia and her younger sister, Naomi, to Shanghai, one of the few places that will welcome them. There they struggle to make a life; they have no money, there is little work, no decent place to live, a culture that doesn't understand them. And always the worry about Alenka. How will she find them? Is she still alive? Meanwhile Lillia is growing up, trying to care for Naomi, whose development is frighteningly slow from malnourishment.

Stargazing

Drawing of two children looking at stars and one kid is holding a book.
By: Jen Wang
Age Level: 9-12
Language: English

Moon is everything Christine isn't. She’s confident, impulsive, artistic . . . and though they both grew up in the same Chinese-American suburb, Moon is somehow unlike anyone Christine has ever known.

The Black Flamingo

A boy dressed in black feathers holding a black flamingo and surrounded by pink flamingos.
By: Dean Atta
Age Level: 16-18
Language: English

Michael is a mixed-race gay teen growing up in London. All his life, he’s navigated what it means to be Greek-Cypriot and Jamaican — but never quite feeling Greek or Black enough. As he gets older, Michael’s coming out is only the start of learning who he is and where he fits in. When he discovers the Drag Society, he finally finds where he belongs—and the Black Flamingo is born.

The Book Rescuer: How a Mensch from Massachusetts Saved Yiddish Literature for Generations to Come

Drawing of a large group of people surrounding by a man with a beard and a book.
By: Sue Macy
Illustrated by: Stacey Innerst
Age Level: 6-9
Language: English

Over the last forty years, Aaron Lansky has jumped into dumpsters, rummaged around musty basements, and crawled through cramped attics. He did all of this in pursuit of a particular kind of treasure, and he’s found plenty. Lansky’s treasure was any book written Yiddish, the language of generations of European Jews. When he started looking for Yiddish books, experts estimated there might be about 70,000 still in existence. Since then, the MacArthur Genius Grant recipient has collected close to 1.5 million books, and he’s finding more every day.

The Bridge Home

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

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
Language: English

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.

The Undefeated

Drawings of the faces of many black figures.
Illustrated by: Kadir Nelson
Age Level: 6-9
Language: English

Originally performed for ESPN's The Undefeated, this poem is a love letter to black life in the United States. It highlights the unspeakable trauma of slavery, the faith and fire of the civil rights movement, and the grit, passion, and perseverance of some of the world's greatest heroes. The text is also peppered with references to the words of Martin Luther King, Jr., Langston Hughes, Gwendolyn Brooks, and others, offering deeper insights into the accomplishments of the past, while bringing stark attention to the endurance and spirit of those surviving and thriving in the present.

They Called Us Enemy

Drawing of a boy looking at reader while in line to enter a "relocation center.".
Illustrated by: Harmony Becker
Age Level: 9-12
Language: English

George Takei has captured hearts and minds worldwide with his captivating stage presence and outspoken commitment to equal rights. But long before he braved new frontiers in Star Trek, he woke up as a four-year-old boy to find his own birth country at war with his father's -- and their entire family forced from their home into an uncertain future.

What Is Given from the Heart

A woman holding a boy with a hand over his heart.
Illustrated by: April Harrison
Age Level: 6-9
Language: English

"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?

White Bird: A Wonder Story

Drawing of girl in a flower field and a white bird flies above her.
Age Level: 9-12
Language: English

In R. J. Palacio's bestselling collection of stories Auggie & Me, which expands on characters in Wonder, readers were introduced to Julian's grandmother, Grandmère. Here, Palacio makes her graphic novel debut with Grandmère's heartrending story: how she, a young Jewish girl, was hidden by a family in a Nazi-occupied French village during World War II; how the boy she and her classmates once shunned became her savior and best friend.

With the Fire on High

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

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
Language: Spanish (Bilingual Eng/Sp)

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!