30 Best Picture Books of 2020

Picture books kept me going this year during the pandemic. So many of them were marvelous reads, written by ownvoices authors, and powerfully showing the experiences of children in our world today. Here are my picks for the best of the year, though the list could be so much longer!

All Because You Matter by Tami Charles, illustrated by Bryan Collier (9781338574852)

“This book grounds children, showing they matter and that Black people matter, period.”

The Barnabus Project by The Fan Brothers (9780735263260)

“This is the first time that all three Fan brothers have worked on a book together. If they make things this great as a team, they should keep on working with one another.”

Being Frog by April Pulley Sayre 

Being Frog by April Pulley Sayre (9781534428812)

“It’s a picture book distinctly from a human point of view, wondering about nature and giving space for those moments of thought for both the reader and the frog alike.”

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Birrarung Wilam by Aunty Joy Murphy and Andrew Kelly, illustrated by Lisa Kennedy (9781536209426)

“The writing embraces the Aboriginal words, creating swirling and flowing lines of text that move like the river itself. Reading it aloud really lets the words sing out, evoking a place full of natural wonders.”

Black Is a Rainbow Color by Angela Joy

Black Is a Rainbow Color by Angela Joy, illustrated by Ekua Holmes (9781626726314)

“Joy’s writing is powerful, singing on the page like a hymn. She writes simply but with great imagery and drawing in references to powerful African-Americans along the way.”

The Blue House by Phoebe Wahl

The Blue House by Phoebe Wahl (9781984893369)

“The focus here is on quality of life rather than wealth, on home rather than real estate, on love rather than land.”

The Camping Trip by Jennifer K. Mann

The Camping Trip by Jennifer K. Mann (9781536207361)

“The picture book reads more like a comic book with panels and lots of speech bubbles. The Black family at the heart of the book gives it a fresh and inclusive take on being outside.”

Evelyn Del Rey Is Moving Away by Meg Medina

Evelyn Del Rey Is Moving Away by Meg Medina, illustrated by Sonia Sanchez (9781536207040)

“This is an entire world of apartments and friendship.”

Every Color of Light by Hiroshi Osada

Every Color of Light by Hiroshi Osada, illustrated by Ryoji Arai, translated by David Boyd (9781592702916)

“Illustrated with glorious paintings that show nature and the changing light, the book shimmers and shines. The changing light sweeps on the pages bringing sun shafts, pink lightning strikes, dark night, and a bright moon.”

I Am Every Good Thing by Derrick Barnes, Gordon C. James (9780525518778)

“This is a book all about empowerment, of seeing your own identity and holding it clear against what society may say about you. It’s a book that all children need, but Black boys most of all, as they are targeted and threatened by the world they live in.”

I Talk Like a River by Jordan Scott, illustrated by Sydney Smith (9780823445592)

“The words around the boy in the morning connect with his inability to speak at times, the pine trees sticking out from his lips, the crow cawing from his throat, the moonlight shining from his mouth. Each of these gives readers a new way to experience a stutter, each beautiful and haunting.”

If You Come to Earth by Sophie Blackall

If You Come to Earth by Sophie Blackall (9781452137797)

“Each item is marveled at for a bit, rather like picking up a gem and then moving on to the next amazing jewel. The entire book is a delight, looking at the earth and at humans as something to be proud of, to care for, and to adore.”

In a Jar by Deborah Marcero

In a Jar by Deborah Marcero (9780525514596)

“There’s a beautiful tension between the beauty on the page and also the normalcy of it all.”

Little Fox by Edward van de Vendel

Little Fox by Edward van de Vendel & Marije Tolman (9781646140077)

“Throughout there is a feeling of joy and marvel, such as the memory of licking drops of water off of a deer’s nose. The book is also peppered with smaller moments, blackberries, birds, and orange balls.”

Me & Mama by Cozbi A Cabrera

Me & Mama by Cozbi A. Cabrera (9781534454217)

“It’s a beautiful look at the small pieces of our days that create such deep connectivity.”

The Most Beautiful Thing by Kao Kalia Yang, illustrated by Khoa Le (9781541561915)

“Yang vividly tells the story of her childhood, inviting readers into her childhood home to see the care and love there.”

My Best Friend by Julie Fogliano

My Best Friend by Julie Fogliano, illustrated by Jillian Tamaki (9781534427228)

“A warm look at first friendships.”

My Friend Earth by Patricia MacLachlan

My Friend Earth by Patricia MacLachlan, illustrated by Francesca Sanna (9780811879101)

“Sanna’s art is bold and lovely, showing a young brown-skinned Earth playfully interacting in the world.”

Nana Akua Goes to School by Tricia Elam Walker

Nana Akua Goes to School by Tricia Elam Walker, illustrated by April Harrison (9780525581130)

“A celebration of diversity that show how openness to being different creates community.”

Nesting by Henry Cole

Nesting by Henry Cole (9780062885920)

“Expect this one to have award buzz, it’s exceptional.”

The Old Truck by Jarrett and Jerome Pumphrey

The Old Truck by Jarrett and Jerome Pumphrey (9781324005193)

“Delightfully modern and retro, this picture book is very special.”

The Ocean Calls by Tina Cho

The Ocean Calls by Tina Cho, illustrated by Jess X. Snow (9781984814869)

“A picture book about resilience, challenges and tradition.”

On Account of the Gum by Adam Rex (9781452181547)

“Hilarious, this is one you are bound to stick with until the end.”

An Ordinary Day by Elana K. Arnold

An Ordinary Day by Elana K. Arnold, illustrated by Elizabet Vukovic (9781481472623)

“Beautifully illustrated and written, this quiet book about death and life is a gem.”

Our Little Kitchen by Jillian Tamaki

Our Little Kitchen by Jillian Tamaki (9781419746550)

“Positive and kind, this is a community kitchen that everyone will want to join.”

Outside In by Deborah Underwood

Outside In by Deborah Underwood, illustrated by Cindy Derby (9781328866820)

“It’s a book that insists that we not only look outside, but acknowledge our connection to nature and the outdoors and get outside!”

Swashby and the Sea by Beth Ferry, illustrated by Juana Martinez-Neal (9780544707375)

“This picture book is a stellar marriage of story and illustrations.”

We Are Water Protectors by Carole Lindstrom

We Are Water Protectors by Carole Lindstrom, illustrated by Michaela Goade (9781250203557)

“The importance of standing up and of Native people being visible as modern members of our society is vital here.”

Why Do We Cry by Fran Pintadera

Why Do We Cry? by Fran Pintadera, illustrated by Ana Sender (9781525304774)

“This book not only supports that but explains the complexity of emotions and how they change and develop.”

You Matter by Christian Robinson

You Matter by Christian Robinson (9781534421691)

“An anthem for all of us to hold in our hearts.”

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