As I started my career as an elementary school librarian, I had access to almost any middle grade book I could wish to read, as well as a good reason to prioritize middle grade literature. And y’all, I’m so glad I did. I’ve fallen in love with MG books all over again, and I like them SO MUCH MORE than I ever liked YA. Which is saying something, because I read and enjoy plenty of YA.
I can’t begin to express to you how poorly this list represents some of the AMAZING MG books I’ve read this year. Narrowing it down to ten was easy in June, when I started this list, but as I went through the year and watched book after book get knocked off, I fully appreciated just how wonderful the MG literature being written right now really is.
So for those of you with kids or who want to dive back in to MG literature, here are my Top 10 of 2020.
Please note that this is books I personally read in 2020, NOT books published in 2020.
1. Amina’s Voice by Hena Khan
The writing is so lovely, the characters fully realized, and the story so full of hope. Maybe my favorite MG book ever.
2. New Kid by Jerry Craft
Definitely the best graphic novel I’ve ever read, New Kid tackles complex themes like code-switching, colorism, and implicit bias in a way kids can understand and connect with. Plus the artwork is phenomenal.
3. Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin
Looking for diverse fantasy? Don’t look further. Told as a Chinese folk-tale, the story of Minli is sweet, touching, and bound to teach you something.
4. Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson
How did I connect so much with a book about roller derby? Don’t know, but this graphic novel is EXCELLENT. Both smart and funny.
5. The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill
Leave room on your bookshelf next to Howls Moving Castle, because The Girl Who Drank the Moon is a whimsical fantasy novel that can be enjoyed by literally anyone.
6. Lafayette! by Nathan Hale
History + Humor + Graphic Novel + light Hamilton references = GOLD
7. The Magic Misfits by Neil Patrick Harris
Are you looking for a found family adventure about magic (the real-life kind) written by Neil Patrick Harris? Stupid question, of course you are. Just as delightful and affirming as you would expect.
8. Me, Frida, and the Secret of the Peacock Ring by Angela Cervantes
This is a mystery novel set against the backdrop of a Mexican-American girl learning about her heritage and art. Utterly brilliant. (Also the cover artist used an Oxford Comma, so that’s a win)
9. A Wolf Called Wander by Rosanne Parry
The spiritual successor to Call of the Wild and White Fang, kids of all stripes will enjoy this survival tale about a wolf, complete with a non-fiction afterward and GORGEOUS illustrations.
10. Aru Shah and the End of Time by Roshani Chokshi
The first Rick Riordan Presents novel really captures the humor and excitment of the original Percy Jackson series. Demigods and newcomers alike will love this feminist take on Hindu stories.