25 Best Middle Grade Books of 2020

What an amazing year for middle grade books! Here are my picks of the best of the year:

Before the Ever After by Jacqueline Woodson (9780399545436)

“Told in Woodson’s dynamic verse, this book is stunningly written with a focus on ZJ himself and his present situation but also flashbacks to his father before he started having symptoms.”

Clean Getaway by Nic Stone

Clean Getaway by Nic Stone (9781984892973)

“But it is the history of this family itself that makes the book special. Laced with guilt, memories and anger, the story is unique but also universal, though it likely has more sparkle than most family tales.”

Daring Darleen, Queen of the Screen by Anne Nesbet

Daring Darleen, Queen of the Screen by Anne Nesbet (9781536206197)

“There is so much to love here! Nesbet creates the daring and inventions of early film-making in this middle-grade novel.”

Dress Coded by Carrie Firestone

Dress Coded by Carrie Firestone (9781984816436)

“Firestone’s writing is fiery and offers a call to action, positively showing what can happen when you stand up.”

Echo Mountain by Lauren Wolk

Echo Mountain by Lauren Wolk (9780525555568)

“One never knows what world will be revealed by a new Wolk novel, but readers can always be confident in a book that is extremely well written, robustly researched, and filled with unforgettable characters.”

Efren Divided by Ernesto Cisneros

Efren Divided by Ernesto Cisneros (9780062881687)

“The book is timely, speaking directly to situations that children across our country face every day if their parents are undocumented. The level of fear and dread that ICE has for these families, the danger of being deported, and the risks of returning to their families is all captured here.”

Fighting Words by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley (9781984815682)

“Bravo! One of the best of the year, if not one of the best of all time.”

From the Desk of Zoe Washington by Janae Marks

From the Desk of Zoe Washington by Janae Marks (9780062875853)

“Marks writing is delectable. She moves seamlessly between writing about Zoe’s interest in baking and her time spent in a professional bakery helping out and then the mystery and drama of Marcus’ crime and his potential innocence.”

A Game of Fox & Squirrels by Jenn Reese

A Game of Fox & Squirrels by Jenn Reese (9781250243010)

“Reese entwines fantasy elements into this book that shows the deep consequences of abuse on a young person.”

Get a Grip, Vivy Cohen by Sarah Kapit

Get a Grip, Vivy Cohen! by Sarah Kapit (9780525554189)

“The character of Vivy is particularly strong. Her struggles with autism show how it impacts her life but doesn’t prevent her from doing things.”

The Girl Who Speaks Bear by Sophie Anderson

The Girl Who Speaks Bear by Sophie Anderson (9781338580839)

“Deep, fascinating and warming, this children’s novel is honey and an herbal salve for its readers.”

Ikenga by Nnedi Okorafor (9780593113523)

“Super heroes, Nigeria, magic and adventure make for a unique and splendid read.”

Isaiah Dunn Is My Hero by Kelly J. Baptist

Isaiah Dunn Is My Hero by Kelly J. Baptist (9780593121368)

“Baptist’s writing is child-centered and clarion clear. She demands that readers see Isaiah as more than a statistic, as a full human being, worthy of attention and help.”

Land of the Cranes by Aida Salazar

Land of the Cranes by Aida Salazar (9781338343809)

“An important and powerful call to see Latinx people held in border camps as humans first and always.”

The List of Things That Will Not Change by Rebecca Stead

The List of Things That Will Not Change by Rebecca Stead (9781101938096)

“Stead’s writing is deft and clever. She writes with so much empathy for children and a deep understanding for the puzzling situations they face in their lives.”

Loretta Little Looks Back by Andrea Davis Pinkney, illustrated by Brian Pinkney (9780316536776)

“Told in three distinct voices that speak directly to the reader, this novel takes a direct look at the systemic racism that has created such privilege for some and injustice for others.”

Once Upon an Eid edited by S. K. Ali and Aisha Saeed

Once Upon an Eid: Stories of Hope and Joy by 15 Muslim Voices edited by S. K. Ali and Aisha Saeed, illustrated by Iman Rasheed (9781419740831)

“At their heart though, each one is a positive force about seeing possibilities anew, finding ways to connect with one another, and pure joy.”

Prairie Lotus by Linda Sue Park

Prairie Lotus by Linda Sue Park (9781328781505)

“This is a book that un-erases people from history.”

Rick by Alex Gino

Rick by Alex Gino (9781338048100)

“Gino’s writing is a delightful mix of depth and lightness. They keep their tone light throughout the book and yet explore deep subjects of bullying and identity.”

Show Me a Sign by Ann Clare LeZotte

Show Me a Sign by Ann Clare LeZotte (9781338255812)

“This ownvoices novel is a rich glimpse into the world of the deaf community and its long history in the United States.”

Trowbridge Road by Marcella Pixley (9781536207507)

“From the foundations of a fallen house where magic blossoms to the shelter of a large tree that can be scrambled up and down, this is a neighborhood seen through the eyes of two creative children who create their own reality together to care for one another.”

We Dream of Space by Erin Entrada Kelly

We Dream of Space by Erin Entrada Kelly (9780062747303)

“A deep and magnificent middle-grade novel.”

What Lane? by Torrey Maldonado (9780525518433)

“Maldonado has written a powerful story that unflinchingly shows the racism inherent in our society, the differences between the ways that white children and Black children are treated, and the dangers faced by Black teens in particular.”

When You Trap a Tiger by Tae Keller

When You Trap a Tiger by Tae Keller (9781524715700)

“Keller’s novel for middle grade readers explores the complexity of stories both in terms of folklore but also stories of previous generations in a family and the difficulties they faced in other countries and in traveling to the United States.”

Wink by Rob Harrell

Wink by Rob Harrell (9781984815149)

“Harrell’s book is downright hilarious, never allowing the book become too full of the harrowing nature of having a rare cancer and the impacts of the treatment.”

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